The Evolution of Electronic Prototyping


Figure 1: Solderless breadboard (source: Wikipedia)

The breadboard…. A relic from days long past, at least that’s what you hear many people say. Everyone remembers their university class, generally an “Electronics 101” type of class, where they were asked to build some sort of circuit on a breadboard (mine was an adder) and demonstrate its correctness to the professor. Oftentimes, you would end up with a jumbled mess of wires that made the Christmas lights box look organized.

Figure 2: Messy breadboard

Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but it was always exciting to create an electronic circuit with your very own hands. But the days of easy to handle DIP packages, through-hole diodes, capacitors and resistors and fairly slow circuits speeds are rapidly entering the history books.

 

Figure 3: Through-hole vs. surface-mount technology (source: Wikipedia)

Integrated circuit (IC) design has moved on to surface mounted packages, smaller pin pitches and higher speeds to achieve ever more performance from your electronic devices. These types of technologies have all but made the breadboard obsolete in modern electronics design.

So how do we as students, hobbyist, makers and designers evolve our prototyping techniques with these advancing technologies? The answer has arisen in the form of the mighty evaluation board! Their names vary from place to place, but they all exist to serve the same purpose: to allow engineers to bring our ideas to life. These are prebuilt, assembled printed circuit boards (PCBs) utilizing the latest technologies and ICs. They generally bring signals out to headers, test points, connectors, etc. to allow users to interface with the various devices on the board.

At TI there are two ecosystems that allow engineers to rapidly evaluate the hundreds upon thousands of devices in our portfolio:

The first ecosystem is evaluation modules or EVMs. You can find these at the device product page, TI Store, or the respective EVM tool folder. These boards are designed to allow the evaluation of a specific device and highlight its features so that you can decide whether or not it is the right fit for your application.

Figure 4: Texas Instruments EVM (Evaluation Module)

The second is the TI LaunchPad and BoosterPack ecosystem. Similar to the popular Arduino and its numerous shields, the LaunchPad and BoosterPack ecosystem is based on a simple mother/daughter board concept. The motherboard (the base platform), what we call a LaunchPad, holds an MCU and the various hardware components required to work with that MCU (programming, debugging, power). It also has several headers that bring out the various signals from the MCU. The headers follow a formal standard that allows for a daughterboard, what we call a BoosterPack, to be connected to the LaunchPad. The LaunchPad can then interface with whatever circuits are on the BoosterPack. This concept allows you to utilize different LaunchPads with each BoosterPack and vice versa. The different combinations of LaunchPads and BoosterPacks are literally endless…

Figure 5: Texas Instruments LaunchPad + BoosterPack

To describe the numerous different projects and applications I’ve seen a LaunchPad and BoosterPack being used for would take more time than I have today, but you can check out a few of these links to see some of the numerous creations.

Since I work in the Motor Applications Team at Texas Instruments I wanted to show off a few of our own BoosterPacks and how they have helped various designs come to life in the world of motors. Our family of BoosterPacks includes the BOOSTXL-DRV8301, BOOST-DRV8711, and BOOST-DRV8848.

Patrick Fisher from Central Queensland University prototyped with and designed a sensorless Quadcopter ESC (electronic speed controller) based off of the BOOSTXL-DRV8301.

Figure 6: InstaSPIN-FOC Quadcopter

An engineer right here at Texas Instruments utilized the BOOST-DRV8711 to directly drive a high performance bipolar stepper motor.

Figure 7: High Performance Bipolar Stepper Motor

A team of students at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) designed a BLDC Ebike based around the BOOSTXL-DRV8301.

Figure 8: BLDC Ebike

An engineer in our own Motor Drive group hooked up his model train and a standard speaker to the BOOST-DRV8848.

Figure 9: Model Train

Lastly, you can see the BOOST-DRV8711 driving a motorized slide rail for a camera.

Figure 10: Motorized Slide Rail

These are just a few examples of the numerous projects out there and I hope others will continue to share their projects with us. If you have questions concerning your own design or want to learn more about TI Motor BoosterPacks feel free to post on the blog’s comments section or you can visit the TI Motor Driver Forums. For more information on how TI spins motors you can check out the TI Motor Drive & Control Home Page.

To order your BoosterPack today at 20% off, use the following codes:

BOOSTXL-DRV8301: GB44NU 

BOOST-DRV8711DB399H

BOOST-DRV8848EB22F4

The coupon codes are good for a limited time only. Only one coupon code may be used per TI account.

Nick

Nick Oborny, Motor Applications Team, Texas Instruments