Kickstarter Update #11:

Today I’m thrilled to announce that the Modulo Controller is getting a major upgrade! It will now have a much faster and more powerful microcontroller, the ARM-based Atmel SamD21.

 

This new chip is 4 times faster, has 8 times the flash storage, and has 12 times the RAM of the ATmega32u4 used in earlier prototypes.

The new Atmel SAMD21 based controller
The new Atmel SAMD21 based controller

The SamD21 also happens to be the same chip used in the new Arduino Zero, which means the Modulo controller will still work great with Arduino and will be well supported by the DIY electronics community.

Check out the specs below.

Other Changes

A while back I mentioned a number of other changes I was working on. Some of these changes worked out, but a lot didn’t. The hardware design process can be frustrating and challenging at times, but a great product can’t be created without taking risks!

New Connectors

I switched to different connectors, both for connecting Modulos to the base and for cables that connect bases together. The new connectors are both easier to assemble and more compact. This turned out to be a great change.

Size and Shape

I tried making several changes to the size and shape of both the base and the modulos themselves. My goal was to allow modulos to be soldered directly to the base for more permanent connections, as well as to make enclosures easier to attach.

It was hard to tell from the CAD drawings, but once I held the new boards in my hand they were obviously quite a bit bulkier than the originals. Worse still, the cutouts on the base made it less rigid so it no longer had the great solid feel of the original Modulo prototypes.

The compactness and solid feel of Modulo are some of its strongest features, so I decided to do away with these changes and go back to the original size and shape.

You can see these differences below. The new designs are on the top and the old ones (which I’m now going back to) are on the bottom.

Going back to the original, smaller, size and shape.
Going back to the original, smaller, size and shape.

Modulo Protocol

I tried creating a new version of the Modulo Protocol that would have made it possible to use different (and in some cases cheaper) microcontrollers on the Modulos themselves. It may have also paved the way for wireless links between Modulo bases.

Unfortunately, some unforeseen obstacles prevent this approach from working as well as I hoped. The original protocol is simple, robust, and efficient so after trying other approaches I feel great about sticking with what I had before.

What’s Next

We have begun purchasing components, starting with key parts that are difficult to source like the oled display and the illuminated knob.

Even though I’ve gone back to the original form factor, the switch to new connectors meant that the circuit board layouts still had to be redone from scratch. I’ve completed that work but it takes some time to build the prototypes, test them, and address any problems that were introduced. I’m now working through that, one modulo at a time.

As always if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please send me a message or create a new post on community.modulo.co!

Erin