Saturday, April 20, 2013

PCBs are in!!!

So I finally received the PCBs for my remote application controller project. Again I ordered these from Sparkfun's It took about 3 weeks total from payment to my door. I paid about $45 total for 1 board of each, but I guess there must have been extra room on the panel or something because they sent me 2 of the receiver (large board) and 4 of the transmitter (tiny board)! I can't really complain about that. The quality is pretty good, not the best I've ever seen, but not bad for the price you pay. Thanks BatchPCB!

Next to do is order the parts and solder these things up! Then software time and debugging... Stay tuned!

Friday, March 29, 2013

PCB Ordering Time for my Remote Appliance Controller Project

So I finally managed to find the time to finish up the first prototype design up this project. If you want to know more what it's about read the previous posts below.

Anyways, I decided to go with's BatchPCB service. I've heard only good things about it and it seems hard to beat the price so I figured I would give it a try. If you're unfamiliar with the outfit, it is a low cost prototype PCB service run my the famous Sparkfun. It costs $2.50 / sq. in. for a 2-layer board or $8 / sq. in. for 4-layer boards (plus a 1 time per order $10 setup fee). The way they manage to offer these low prices is by panelizing the different PCB designs that their customers submit and when a panel is full they send it off to a fab house that they do business with. The disadvantage is that your design will usually wait a little while until the panel fills up. However, it's hard to beat the prices for single quantities. My first board below only cost around $5! The second was was $20 because it is quite larger, but it's still quite a good deal.

I will post again when I receive the boards with pics and then hopefully soon after that I can start assembly and MCU program development.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Remote appliance controller update

So an update on the remote appliance controller project. I have been busy with school and work so I didn't have a lot of time to work on it over the last couple of weeks. However, this weekend I got a change to lay out the second board (transmitter/remote control).

Here is the transmitter board I just layed out:

The challenge of this is that this board is really small. The mistake I made with the first board is I didn't choose an enclosure first. For this board I chose a small enclosure and create the mechanical outline of the board first. Then the challenge was to route everything. This board is only about 2.25 x 1.25 in! To make things worse it has a battery holder (which is mounted on the bottom) so that prevented me from putting any vias other than ground in that area.

As I mentioned I didn't choose a enclosure before designing the receiver board, so I had to find a bigger one and modify the board to fit it:

Just to get a perspective on the size of these things:

Now I just need to check everything over well and I think I will order these boards from's I've never used their service but it seems like a pretty good deal for small quantity boards. Check back soon for updates!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Remote Appliance Controller

Well recently my mom asked if I could build an electronic device for her. Out in her shed my step dad built some mangers for our dogs (one of my dogs just passed away unfortunately) in order to keep them warm during the winter. They have woodchips, insulation and haat lamps over them to keep them warm. Every time my mom wants to turn it on or off she has to go all the way out to the shed. My plan is to build a device that will allow her to remotely control the lights (and radio they have plugged in for the dogs).

So far I have worked on the controller/receiver board and am almost done with the PCB design. I have altium at my job and they let me use it when I want so I decided to do this project in altium in order to get a better handle on it.

This design uses a transformerless power supply. I decided to use a TI MSP430 microcontroller and a Microchip MRF49XA transceiver chip that I plan to run at 433 MHz. All it needs now is some mounting holes and a proper antenna (probably going to do some kind of onboard trace antenna).

I will post the transmitter PCB soon and the schematics for both.