Robotics PC Interface Prototype
Here is a photo of our new PC interface board
This board is based on the PIC18F4550 micro-controller. It uses all through-hole components, which are larger and easier to solder. Once the design is complete we will be offering the board fully assembled, or as a kit. We will also be offering only the empty circuit board, and just the pre-programmed micro-controller.
We are planning to make a similar board based on the surface mount version of this micro-controller. The parts for that board are much smaller, so the overall board will be smaller. That model will only be offered fully assembled.
This micro-controller has 33 I/O Ports. Which means you can connect up to 33 devices directly to it. We plan on making each port user configurable to be either a digital input, digital output, analog input, or servo controller output. That means one user may use it to control 33 servos, another user may configure it to have 8 digital inputs connected to bumpers or switches, 8 digital outputs connected to LED’s and such, 1 analog input connected to a temperature sensor, and 16 servos. Not all 33 ports will be able to be set to all four possible types. For instance only 12 of the ports would be able to function as analog inputs.
So far we have not found any major problems with the design of the board. We found a few minor problems. The mounting holes are too small to use the standard screws used in PC, so we will make them a little bigger. Some of the components are a bit too close to each other and will need to be spaced out a little.
We have alse changed the design a bit. This board has two jacks to accept dc power plug from a wall transformer. That will be changed to a terminal block that can accept wire instead of a plug.
We are still working on the software for both the micro-controller and the PC. For the PC software will be for Microsoft Windows, but we may add Linux version later on. The board will work with Linux or Macs now, but you would have to write the software to handle the USB communication between the PC and the board.
This board will be advertised on the next issue of Robot magazine which hits the streets in the middle of January 2009, so that is a pretty tight schedule for us, as there is still a lot to do.
I hope to add a video to this post shortly, as soon as we can get the board able to control a few things.