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Teaser for Nano String Controller

Started by corey872, April 28, 2014, 09:48:54 AM

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I was curious what would happen if we took a fully optioned Micro String Controller and hit the 'delete' key on everything which wasn't mission critical to operation.  Instead of a fully functional, feature rich, option-ready controller like the ┬ÁSC, what if a person wanted an absolute 'bare bones', low power controller with just the minimum essential functionality to make nodes blink, what would that look like?

The result is the Nano String Controller - nSC:

Overall dimensions are just 0.525 x 0.325 inches or very close to 1/2" long x 5/16" wide.  No ICSP (programming) header - the PIC will be loaded with firmware during assembly, no test mode, no mosfet driver output.  Multiple voltage regulators are replaced by one 3.6V regulator which runs the PIC at its max rated voltage and will still be slightly above the floor of what the nodes need.  Controller-to-node distance is expected to be only a few feet (similar to SSCV1), but considering the controller is only 0.325" wide and Cat 5 wire bundle is about 0.225" diameter, you can place it right at the node and it won't really be noticeable.

I did save one luxury - on the back side, there was just enough open space to squeeze in one SMT LED for PIC signaling - so you still have an indication of power, PIC 'on line' and data flow!

If there is enough interest, this may see the 'light of day' as well.  Though if not, it can stay a workbench curiosity... it certainly has a lot of company there!



Wow! that looks cool.

Since the micro SC is around $8-9?, is the nano like $4-5?

to me it is really price that would drive me to give up some uSC features (like the mag switch auto test).

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How would you load the firmware if needed.  I've had a couple pics I've had to reload firmware for one reason or another that was loaded at the factory.  That would be my only concern.  Otherwise that's pretty cool.


I'm all about options and this would be another great one.  Shoot, I'd get some just to have them on hand.  You never know when something like this would come in very handy.


It definitely has some potential in elements like icicles or drip tubes, those are for next year. LOL

I could just see, now where did I install that controller????;D


sean - There are quite a few variables which go into price, especially when we look at components, boards and assembly, etc - and all those have various price breaks at various points.   If you get to a point where price breaks are met across all three, then the price can swing quite a bit.  Then there are all the static things like shipping, taxes, set-up fees, etc which are relatively consistent.  Overall, I would say $4-$5 is a good point to target.  I would have to dig deeper into the numbers to refine more.

twooly - I will ponder programming some more. Right now, a person could use 'heroic measures' to access the PIC pins directly, but there is no 'standard method' like a pin header... for obvious size reasons.  I don't really have a feel for how often a PIC 'looses it's mind'.  I think 'reprogram the PIC' is often a first option in troubleshooting because it's quick and easy to do and with "SSCs" there is no way to tell if the PIC is working or not.  But how often is it really the firmware vs something else?

With the micro and nano, you at least have the option of a LED which signals PIC activity, so that should cut down on reprogramming just for the sake of it. 



I myself have had 2 devices I've had to reflash that did fix it, why I'm sure there is more to it but I know my problems were resolved with a reflash.  One was a SSC and the other was an Aether.  I agree probably not a huge problem just wanted to note it at least.  I'd hate to see 2 years later people having a stack of hardware they can't put firmware on :)


That is a good point.  I will have to look into it a bit more, but I think if a person was willing to power the controller through the normal means (Cat 5 to hub), then the PIC would have power and we might be able to program with just 3 pins, the MCLR, program clock and program data.  Could probably squeeze those along one end.

Another question - what are thoughts if this controller had only 5 wire pads... power, ground, data A, data B as inputs and a data output?  This would mean having to run it in the "T" configuration we discussed earlier - the main power would not flow through the board, it would only 'tap in' to those wires and pull off a few dozen mA for the controller.


I prefer flow through, and a touch longer to get some programming pads. I'd be ok if they were on the bottom side or something that you could clip to or rest the pins from the programmer against to redo the firmware.  I have also had some just wig out from the SSC side and need the firmware re-done.  I ALWAYS check the read checksum when done too, so it's not like it didn't take it originally.

I've got a whole bunch of small tubes I want to repurpose into pixicles (48) of them at 1/2" diameter.  SO having this tiny helps in that.  But I would have to bring a data wire up the tubes and back out anyways.

BUT I would likely just use the uSSC anyways, I like to have lights that I can see so I know it's working!



My initial gut feel is that the micro will be small enough, but this rough price point would be a real "sell" for me.  I realize I need to do whatever is reasonable to keep costs in check....  Using the nano would help out in this ballpark.  This blinky flashy gig can definitely be expensive.

Thanks for obtaining feedback on a potential product.


Hope we see some evolution in the nodes next! They drive the costs big time

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