Imran's personal blog

June 14, 2012

A new idea to me in electronics

Filed under: Uncategorized — ipeerbhai @ 9:24 pm

Hi All,

I wasn’t sure if I should post this here or in my blog.  This isn’t really about easymaker, and is more general than that.  Though I’ll probably implement this idea as its own product, and might use it in EasyMaker.

I’ve been thinking heavily about the cabling problem in EasyMaker.  I’ve also been thinking about CNC machine, 3d Printer, Hexapods, and other robots.  I know there’s the Arduino project( which is boot-loader/API/IDE for the ATmel microcontroller line — you can  make something like the Arduino out of any MCU ).  The Arduino project has created this stackable board concept they call shields.  When people build things, robots, they stack these shields together, and viola, a new robot is born.

But there’s a bunch of problems with the shield concept.  The biggest is centralization.  Some things want their processing distributed.  Whether that’s a master MCU controlling daughter MCUs, or whether that’s a an MCU controlling a motor, reading sensors, etc…  People get around this distribution problem with wires.  This works great — but the problem is that wires don’t have connectors.  So, people use pin headers or they use screw terminal, and you end up with a wiring mess.  Wiring ends up being tedious and expensive, and boards end up needing to host everything — just to solve the interconnect problem.

The folks at MIT have an idea of using a network to distribute the interconnects.  This is kind of cool — it makes cost more modular and the like.  Bu it’s not consumer ready.  They assume everyone can manufacture their own PCBs as needed.  A few folks have consumerized this idea — the Bug Labs folks and JRKerr come to mind.  Actually, I should say the MIT folks have copied the idea.  I believe JRKerr was doing this well before it was an idea at MIT.  I’m not actually sure who came up with the idea, but MIT is where I got my understanding of it from.  This is not a new idea in electronics — it’s new to me.  I hadn’t thought of it before.

But it’s been brewing for days in my mind.  I’m slowly beginning to get excited by it.  I’m beginning to wonder how Arduino and this idea can come together.  I think it’ll enable a new class of robot to come into existence, and lower the costs of existing robots.  I’ll begin percolating this in my mind further, and see how it mashes together.

I guess it’s odd to be excited about an interconnect — but to me, this is a revolutionary idea.  You see, I can now think of additional things in terms of modules.  I might even be able to standardize a layout.  This could be the beginning of something huge.  Or it could be stupid.  I don’t know yet.  I see the potential, but I don’t see the problems yet.  The idea is so simple — that I wonder why it’s not already everywhere…

Anyway, thanks for reading!



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