I2C IO Card for ESP-12E I2C Base Card

The I2C IO Card for ESP-12E I2C Base Card is another expander card for the ESP-12E I2C Base Card Project. This PCB is an address-selectable I2C module with two relays and six (6) GPIO pins, all driven from a single PCF8574 running at 3v. The relays are optically isolated, and generous mains isolation cutouts were provided to reduce the possibility of mains voltage tracking. A jumper to enable/disable the i2c pullup-resistors is also provided on the PCB.

The relays are powered from a single LDO regulator, accepting 12v DC from the 2x20pin female header on the bottom of the card. 3.3v and ground should also be applied to the card at the 2x20pin header.

It is worth mentioning that this circuit does not contain level converting circuitry and that the i2c bus thus runs at 3.3v to be compatible with ESP chips.

It is possible to use the card with other processors if the appropriate level converters are used on the i2c bus.

The Schematic

Manufacturing the PCB


Over the past eight years, PCBWay has continuously upgraded their MANUFACTURING plants and equipment to meet higher quality requirements, and now THEY also provide OEM services to build your products from ideas to mass production and access to the market.


The PCB for this project has been manufactured at PCBWay.
Please consider supporting them if you would like your own copy of this PCB, or if you have any PCB of your own that you need to have manufactured.

PCBWay

If you would like to have PCBWAY manufacture one of your own, designs, or even this particular PCB, you need to do the following…
1) Click on this link
2) Create an account if you have not already got one of your own.
If you use the link above, you will also instantly receive a $5 USD coupon, which you can use on your first or any other order later. (Disclaimer: I will earn a small referral fee from PCBWay. This referral fee will not affect the cost of your order, nor will you pay any part thereof.)
3) Once you have gone to their website, and created an account, or login with your existing account,

4) Click on PCB Instant Quote

5) If you do not have any very special requirements for your PCB, click on Quick-order PCB

6) Click on Add Gerber File, and select your Gerber file(s) from your computer. Most of your PCB details will now be automatically selected, leaving you to only select the solder mask and silk-screen colour, as well as to remove the order number or not. You can of course fine-tune everything exactly as you want as well.

7) You can also select whether you want an SMD stencil, or have the board assembled after manufacturing. Please note that the assembly service, as well as the cost of your components, ARE NOT included in the initial quoted price. ( The quote will update depending on what options you select ).

8) When you are happy with the options that you have selected, you can click on the Save to Cart Button. From here on, you can go to the top of the screen, click on Cart, make any payment(s) or use any coupons that you have in your account.

Then just sit back and wait for your new PCB to be delivered to your door via the shipping company that you have selected during checkout.

ESP-12E I2C Base Card

As a follow-up on the ESP-12E Card, today we will look at the prototype base card that this was designed to slot into – The ESP-12E I2c Base Card.

Initial Features ( To be expanded in future versions )

4 x 40Pin Expansion slots, with access to 12v, 3.3v and Gnd on each slot.
2 x “IRQ” pins per slot ( serviced by a single PCF8574 )
I2C bus access on each slot (3.3v )
UART Header
Reset and Flash Header
GPIO Header ( Direct access to the ESP-12E GPIO Pins )
Analog Input Header (a Single input – A0, as per ESP-12E limitation)
Buck Converter Power Supply Module, capable of up to 2A of current

ESP-12E I2C Base Card – Top view

The Schematic

Schematic

The PCB – some pictures

ESP 12-E Card with Base Board

Manufacturing the PCB


Over the past eight years, PCBWay has continuously upgraded their MANUFACTURING plants and equipment to meet higher quality requirements, and now THEY also provide OEM services to build your products from ideas to mass production and access to the market.


The PCB for this project has been manufactured at PCBWay.
Please consider supporting them if you would like your own copy of this PCB, or if you have any PCB of your own that you need to have manufactured.

PCBWay

If you would like to have PCBWAY manufacture one of your own, designs, or even this particular PCB, you need to do the following…
1) Click on this link
2) Create an account if you have not already got one of your own.
If you use the link above, you will also instantly receive a $5 USD coupon, which you can use on your first or any other order later. (Disclaimer: I will earn a small referral fee from PCBWay. This referral fee will not affect the cost of your order, nor will you pay any part thereof.)
3) Once you have gone to their website, and created an account, or login with your existing account,

4) Click on PCB Instant Quote

5) If you do not have any very special requirements for your PCB, click on Quick-order PCB

6) Click on Add Gerber File, and select your Gerber file(s) from your computer. Most of your PCB details will now be automatically selected, leaving you to only select the solder mask and silk-screen colour, as well as to remove the order number or not. You can of course fine-tune everything exactly as you want as well.

7) You can also select whether you want an SMD stencil, or have the board assembled after manufacturing. Please note that the assembly service, as well as the cost of your components, ARE NOT included in the initial quoted price. ( The quote will update depending on what options you select ).

8) When you are happy with the options that you have selected, you can click on the Save to Cart Button. From here on, you can go to the top of the screen, click on Cart, make any payment(s) or use any coupons that you have in your account.

Then just sit back and wait for your new PCB to be delivered to your door via the shipping company that you have selected during checkout.

iPCB-DFM – Intelligent PCB DFM

(Design for Manufacturability) Gerber Software Analyser

Free to Use for all PCBpartner.com Users

PCBPartner.com recently decided to release their own DFM software, which I believe they developed in-house and use themselves every day, to their customers, in order to enable their customers to design better PCBs and increase the overall quality and service satisfaction.

In this article, I will give the software a quick look and feel, and show you some of its features, while at the same time admitting upfront, that it is quite complex, and that I am also not quite well acquainted with it myself, having only a few days to play with it up to now.

What is DFM?

DFM (Design for manufacturability) analysis of incoming Gerber files is a standard and important process in any PCB factory. iPCB-DFM’s purpose is to perform this process automatically to find potential production issues with your PCB design, saving time and effort for you the PCB designer, and the PCB manufacturing engineers who are going to produce your PCB. Based on 25 years of PCB manufacturing experience, we have a massive collection of PCB DFM rules built into this software, allowing it to analyze up to 24 kinds of specifications.

It also has powerful features such as quick panalization, PCB simulation and direct Gerber editing, and can even help you count how many SMD pads are in your design!

Why do you need iPCB-DFM?

If you’re an electronic engineer, you don’t want to send your PCB Gerber files for manufacturing without checking that your design and file formats match your factory’s production capability; If you are a purchasing manager without much knowledge of PCB manufacturing processes, this tool can help you better understand the specifics of the PCBs you are ordering, making it much easier to communicate with your PCB suppliers.

What Features does this DFM have?

Gerber file view supports Gerber274x, Excellon, ODB++ and IPC-2581 formats
-Measuring
-Layer management
-Auto recognize layers (silkscreen, solder mask, copper, solder paste, inner layers)

-PCB simulation:
generate a simulated preview of your PCB, updated in real-time by different colour settings and surface finishes, and supporting high-resolution PNG output format.



DFM Functions

1 Layer
2 Dimension
3 Minimum trace space
4 Minimum trace width
5 Hole diameter
6 Drill slot
7 Through-hole annular ring
8 Hole distance
9 Hole to trace
10 Copper to edge
11 Special holes
12 SMD size
13 Via in pads
14 Test Point
15 Component solder pads number
16 Via density
17 Surface finish area (%)
18 Routing length of travel
19 Grid wiring
20 Solder mask
21 Fiducial Point
22 SMD pad size
23 SMD pad space
24 BGAs

Gerber Edit

1 Add elements
2 Delete elements
3 Move elements
4 Copy elements
5 Adjust circuit angle
6 Rotate elements
7 Edit trace
8 Mirror
9 Positive and negative switch
10 Break trace
11 Shape edit
12 Single, rectangular marquee, polygon selection

Panelization
Quick panelization
– set a panelization style, tooling bar width and board space,
one click to generate a panalized board in seconds in Gerber format.
Advanced panelization – allows you to adjust tooling hole, v-cut, fiducial mark, solder mask for fiducial mark, drill holes on tooling bar, etc.

What does it need to run?

For the foreseeable time forward, the software only runs on Microsoft Windows. It apparently supports from Windows XP right up to Windows 11, but I only had success on Windows 10, ( I don’t have Win 11).

This was also done in a VM running in Oracle Virtualbox on an Ubuntu 22.04 LTS host. (My main operating system)
Specifications for the VM were 4Gb RAM and a 50Gb Hard Disk. I have also tested it with 8Gb, but it did not make any real difference to the performance.
(This is most definitely NOT related to the DFM software, but more likely to be attributed to a certain heavy resource-consuming operating system (Win 10 – which as most of us know by now, is super slow whatever you give it to run on)

Installation

Installation is straightforward and quite easy, as we can expect from any Windows software these days

Getting Started

The software starts up pretty quickly, but the gets a bit of a slowdown with a login prompt tying back to PCBPartner, where you have to enter your login credentials. This can take a bit of time to actually appear.

I am hopeful that this process will in time be streamlined as I believe that the number of users on the system will grow quite fast…

Let us look at some pictures of the UI and Menu Systems

The software also comes with a very detailed Helpfile in .pdf format

My thoughts on all of this

This is an extremely complex piece of software. It is also extremely powerful, and can thus be very very useful to all of us. The learning curve is extremely steep, but I do believe that it will be possible to learn and use it effectively.

As a Linux user, I would also like to see a Linux version, or at least an in-browser version, similar to a well-known EDA software package. The days that software should be confined to one operating system should be behind us ( at least in my personal view, I find it very frustrating that most other commercial CAD, CAM and EDA packages are actively forcing us to stay with one of the slowest operating systems available )

I also want to thank PCBPartner for giving me the opportunity to review and take this for a test drive. I would only have wanted to be more adept at actually getting value out of a great piece of software, but I believe that I will definitely get better at it over time.

Robotic Toy Car – Part 6

Today we will look at the remote control unit for the Robotic Toy Car – Part 6.
The project is close to being completed, and as such, there are quite a lot of final things that need to be taken care of.

One of these will definitely be the final coding, which I will release in the final part of the project, so with that in mind, let us take a look at the remote control unit.

Remote Control Unit, designed to be used with ESP-Now

I have decided to do something completely different from standard remote control units, being that I will use ESP-Now, a protocol developed by Espressif.
ESP-Now runs on the Wifi hardware of the ESP8266 or ESP32 and is basically a peer-to-peer protocol, that does not require Wifi but can co-exist with it on the same device. Outdoors, ESP-Now has a range of about 100m, which should work very well for my intended use.

The Remote control, as designed, will have 4 dedicated buttons: forward, reverse, left and right, divided into two groups to make two-handed control easier, similar to a standard game controller. No input on either of the two groups will result in stopping the vehicle, in the case of forwards and backwards, and centring the steering, in the case of the left-right axis.

a 3D Rendered Image of the PCB, motion axis on SW1 and SW2, steering axis on SW3 and SW4

As I always try to make my designs somewhat reusable for other purposes, I have also broken out most of the unused GPIO pins to header pins, with also adding a jumper on GPIO16 to make deep-sleep wakeup mode possible., You can also re-use the switch pins for other purposes, just remember to first remove the 10k pull-up resistors at R14, R15, R16, and R17…

SW4 -> R16 , SW4 = GPIO4
SW3 -> R17 , SW3 = GPIO5
SW2 -> R15 , SW2 = GPIO13
SW1 -> R14 , SW1 = GPIO12

GPIO16 can be reused as well, just remove the jumper, but remember that it is pulled up through a LED and a 470ohm resistor…



There is no USB-to-serial converter onboard, I have been having quite a lot of headaches with them over the last few months, with almost all CH340G chips that I have purchased, being fake, or dead-on arrivals that don’t work… Sending them back to the suppliers, unfortunately, results in unpleasantries, because even placing them in verified working circuits, still proves them to be not working… This is however not an issue, as it is quite easy to upload the board with an external adapter.

The Schematic

Schematic Diagram

Manufacturing the PCB


Over the past eight years, PCBWay has continuously upgraded their MANUFACTURING plants and equipment to meet higher quality requirements, and now THEY also provide OEM services to build your products from ideas to mass production and access to the market.

The PCB for this project has been manufactured at PCBWay.
Please consider supporting them if you would like your own copy of this PCB, or if you have any PCB of your own that you need to have manufactured.

PCBWay

If you would like to have PCBWAY manufacture one of your own, designs, or even this particular PCB, you need to do the following…
1) Click on this link
2) Create an account if you have not already got one of your own.
If you use the link above, you will also instantly receive a $5USD coupon, which you can use on your first or any other order later. (Disclaimer: I will earn a small referral fee from PCBWay. This referral fee will not affect the cost of your order, nor will you pay any part thereof.)
3) Once you have gone to their website, and created an account, or login with your existing account,

4) Click on PCB Instant Quote

5) If you do not have any very special requirements for your PCB, click on Quick-order PCB

6) Click on Add Gerber File, and select your Gerber file(s) from your computer. Most of your PCB details will now be automatically selected, leaving you to only select the solder mask and silk-screen colour, as well as to remove the order number or not. You can of course fine-tune everything exactly as you want as well.

7) You can also select whether you want an SMD stencil, or have the board assembled after manufacturing. Please note that the assembly service, as well as the cost of your components, ARE NOT included in the initial quoted price. ( The quote will update depending on what options you select ).

8) When you are happy with the options that you have selected, you can click on the Save to Cart Button. From here on, you can go to the top of the screen, click on Cart, make any payment(s) or use any coupons that you have in your account.

Then just sit back and wait for your new PCB to be delivered to your door via the shipping company that you have selected during checkout.


Robotic Toy Car – Part 5

In this almost post we look at the power distribution PCB for the almost completed Robotic Toy Car. I had many interesting issues to solve here, especially since I did not design my own Lipo battery charger circuit, but used a very useful little commercially available unit instead, the MH-CD42

Based on a relatively difficult chip to get information on, the module is basically an integrated Lipo charge/discharge module, with a built-in boost converter that provides 5v at a maximum of 2A current. What makes it special is the ability to simultaneously provide current and voltage, as well as charge the attached LiPo cell at the same time, when connected to an external charger.

It does, however, in my view at least, also have a few serious flaws, the most irritating of these being that it will completely discharge the attached LiPo cell even when completely switched off…

I have thus tried to stop this issue from occurring by adding a switch in line with the Lipo Cell, a quite obvious solution, but it should not have been needed if the chip functioned as intended… ( As far as I can gather, the module was originally designed to be used in USB power banks. This makes the flaw even more serious, as a self-discharging power bank really defeats the purpose)

Enough of that though, when it does work, it works great. just remember that you can not apply more than 5.5v DC to the charging input of the module.

The completed Power Distribution and charging module

The Schematic

There is actually not a lot going on here, as everything is already on the supplied module. I have just added a charging port, additional power headers for 5v output and ground, as well as direct access to the LiPo Cell output, and a switch header to cut off power to the MH-CD42 when it is not in use.

The PCB

The PCB was manufactured as a 2-layer FR-4 board. The entire top layer is used as a ground plane, and the bottom layer was used for the 5v and Vbat traces, which were made as big as possible to allow for the high current ( up to 2A ) that the unit can supply to a load.

The TOP later of the PCB is a complete ground plane.
The BOTTOM Layer caries only power traces for 5v and VBat
a 3D Render of the PCB, showing header pins and other connections

It is also worth mentioning that the VBAT pins are NOT 3.3v ( Remember that the LiPo cell can run from 4.2v down to 3.0v depending on the charge. These headers were only placed on the board to provide direct access to the LiPo cell, for use with for example an ADC input or for connection to a dev board that is already fitted with a buck converter or a suitable LDO voltage regulator.

The Actual PCB, as received from PCBWay
Top Layer of the PCB
Bottom Layer of PCB

Manufacturing the PCB


Over the past eight years, PCBWay has continuously upgraded their MANUFACTURING plants and equipment to meet higher quality requirements, and now THEY also provide OEM services to build your products from ideas to mass production and access to the market.

The PCB for this project has been manufactured at PCBWay.
Please consider supporting them if you would like your own copy of this PCB, or if you have any PCB of your own that you need to have manufactured.

PCBWay

If you would like to have PCBWAY manufacture one of your own, designs, or even this particular PCB, you need to do the following…
1) Click on this link
2) Create an account if you have not already got one of your own.
If you use the link above, you will also instantly receive a $5USD coupon, which you can use on your first or any other order later. (Disclaimer: I will earn a small referral fee from PCBWay. This referral fee will not affect the cost of your order, nor will you pay any part thereof.)
3) Once you have gone to their website, and created an account, or login with your existing account,

4) Click on PCB Instant Quote

5) If you do not have any very special requirements for your PCB, click on Quick-order PCB

6) Click on Add Gerber File, and select your Gerber file(s) from your computer. Most of your PCB details will now be automatically selected, leaving you to only select the solder mask and silk-screen colour, as well as to remove the order number or not. You can of course fine-tune everything exactly as you want as well.

7) You can also select whether you want an SMD stencil, or have the board assembled after manufacturing. Please note that the assembly service, as well as the cost of your components, ARE NOT included in the initial quoted price. ( The quote will update depending on what options you select ).

8) When you are happy with the options that you have selected, you can click on the Save to Cart Button. From here on, you can go to the top of the screen, click on Cart, make any payment(s) or use any coupons that you have in your account.

Then just sit back and wait for your new PCB to be delivered to your door via the shipping company that you have selected during checkout.

Compact Remote Alarm Transceiver – Part 1

As part of my experiments with LoRa and the easy to use ATMega328P, I have recently designed quite a few LoRa based projects. In this final 2 part series, I will look at two additional projects, part of a Remote Alarm Transceiver, where I experimented with a changing a few things:

– Using LM317G adjustable voltage regulators.
– Replacing my standard N-MOS based logic level converters with a dedicated chip.

Remote Alarm Transmitter
LoRa Remote Alarm Transmitter – with Onboard Relay putout and two sensor inputs

How does this differ from my other LoRa Based projects?

The PCB presented above does in fact not really differ a lot from any of my existing LoRa based projects.
However, there are a few subtle changes, mainly experimental changes, brought on by factors such as component availability and an attempt to reduce component counts and board size.

The first of these changes is using the LM317G voltage regulator, in the place of my usual LM1117 3.3 and 5.0 LDO regulators.

The LM317 is an old device, It has been on the market for a long time. It can supply up to 1.5A of current, and a single device can be configured to supply a wide range of different voltages by just changing two resistors. This seemed quite attractive to me, as it is getting quite difficult to reliably get quite a few components on time, and with decent pricing in the post-Covid-19 world.

The second major change would be moving away from my existing N-Mos based Logic converter setup, where I used the BSS138 and 10K resistors as logic converters. This setup works perfectly, but it has the drawback of requiring quite a lot of components. for example:

To provide logic conversion to an RA-02 module, with access to all the IO Lines (GPIO0-5 included) required 12 BSS138 Mosfets and 24 10k resistors. This is quite a lot of components. A dedicated logic converter chip would thus be a much more attractive solution.

Driver circuitry for sensor Inputs, consisting of a simple transistor input, and an optically isolated Relay output completes the circuit.

Using the LM317

LM317 Typical use circuit - Fixed Voltage

The output voltage of the LM317 is typically set using two resistors, with a suitable current rating, using the following Formula

VOUT = 1.25 * ( 1 + R2/R1 )

It is also common to use a variable resistor at R2, to have fine control over the output voltage. This is due to the fact that stock resistor values do not always give you the exact voltage you require. You should also take into account that using a 5% resistor will be less accurate than a 1% resistor.

The grid below is a list of common stock resistor values for R1/R2, with the resulting voltage produced.

R1 vs R2 Grid for use in selecting fixed output voltage

R2\R1150180220240270330370390470
681.821.721.641.601.561.511.481.471.43
821.931.821.721.681.631.561.531.511.47
1002.081.941.821.771.711.631.591.571.52
1202.252.081.931.881.811.701.661.631.57
1502.502.292.102.031.941.821.761.731.65
1802.752.502.272.192.081.931.861.831.73
2203.082.782.502.402.272.081.991.961.84
2403.252.922.612.502.362.162.062.021.89
2703.503.132.782.662.502.272.162.121.97
3304.003.543.132.972.782.502.362.312.13
3704.333.823.353.182.962.652.502.442.23
3904.503.963.473.283.062.732.572.502.29
4705.174.513.923.703.433.032.842.762.50
5605.925.144.434.173.843.373.143.042.74
6806.925.975.114.794.403.833.553.433.06
8208.086.945.915.525.054.364.023.883.43
10009.588.196.936.465.885.044.634.463.91
120011.259.588.077.506.815.805.305.104.44
150013.7511.679.779.068.196.936.326.065.24
180016.2513.7511.4810.639.588.077.337.026.04
220019.5816.5313.7512.7111.449.588.688.307.10
270023.7520.0016.5915.3113.7511.4810.379.908.43
330028.7524.1720.0018.4416.5313.7512.4011.8310.03

As you can see from the table above, using stock resistors, the output voltage is reasonably accurate, but it is quite obvious that you will need a potentiometer to get exact values.
Another issue will definitely be heat dissipation. In my PCB design, I have used the SOT-223 package of the component, with a PCB heatsink, built directly into the layers. With the LM1117 LDO regulators, these work extremely well.

Logic Level Conversion

In this design, I used my standard Logic Level conversion circuit, comprised of a BSS138 N-Mos with two 10 k resistors. This circuit, although a bit cumbersome with lots of components if you need many logic converters, is very stable, and functions extremely well.

Conclusion

This circuit was designed as a two-part prototype, with the goal of experimenting with different voltage regulators, and in part 2, with a single chip 8 channel logic converter. As such, I do not feel comfortable releasing the full schematics to you at this stage, do so anyway in the interest of learning. The circuit works, but there are many issues with the regulators:



– Overheating at input voltages above 8.0v
The PCB heatsink will have to be improved, or even a different package for the LM317 with the possibility to attach an external heatsink.

– The voltages do not seem stable, especially on the 3.3-volt side.

Manufacturing the PCB

PCBWay

This PCB was manufactured at PCBWAY. The Gerber files and BOM, as well as all the schematics, will soon be available as a shared project on their website. If you would like to have PCBWAY manufacture one of your own, designs, or even this particular PCB, you need to do the following…
1) Click on this link
2) Create an account if you have not already got one of your own.
If you use the link above, you will also instantly receive a $5USD coupon, which you can use on your first or any other order later. (Disclaimer: I will earn a small referral fee from PCBWay. This referral fee will not affect the cost of your order, nor will you pay any part thereof.)
3) Once you have gone to their website, and created an account, or login with your existing account,

4) Click on PCB Instant Quote

5) If you do not have any very special requirements for your PCB, click on Quick-order PCB

6) Click on Add Gerber File, and select your Gerber file(s) from your computer. Most of your PCB details will now be automatically selected, leaving you to only select the solder mask and silk-screen colour, as well as to remove the order number or not. You can of course fine-tune everything exactly as you want as well.

7) You can also select whether you want an SMD stencil, or have the board assembled after manufacturing. Please note that the assembly service, as well as the cost of your components, ARE NOT included in the initial quoted price. ( The quote will update depending on what options you select ).

8) When you are happy with the options that you have selected, you can click on the Save to Cart Button. From here on, you can go to the top of the screen, click on Cart, make any payment(s) or use any coupons that you have in your account.

Then just sit back and wait for your new PCB to be delivered to your door via the shipping company that you have selected during checkout.

Special Limited Offer – Get your PCB for only $1

PCB for only $1

Every once in a while, we get an opportunity to take advantage of an exceptional deal. Recently, the friendly people at PCBPartner.com reached out to me with another great deal… “Get your next PCB for only $1!”

You will get the following:
10 FR-4 PCB, 1 or 2 layers, with Green Soldermask, in dimensions not exceeding 100mmx100mm, Manufactured and delivered to your door for only 1 (one) $USD.
This promotion will be valid until 31 May 2022, with AIRMAIL shipping included.

Promotion from PCBPartner

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PCBPartner.com is owned and operated by Kinji Group, established in 1997. We have over 20 years of experience in PCB manufacturing, PCB design, component manufacturing and distribution, PCB assembly and PCB CAD software development.

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Promotion from PCBPartner

Easy to use CAN-BUS Module with Relay, LiPo Battery Backup

Can Relay Module running on battery power

CAN-Bus allows us to add a lot of devices to a single bus (theoretically up to 127, with a practical limit of about 110). It was logical to decide to use CAN-BUS for communication between my LoRa-CAN Module and remote nodes in my ongoing farm telemetry system. In a previous project, I introduced the LoRa-CAN Gateway, which will be used to send/receive messages from the master control unit, the SX127x-RA-02-Module.

Today, I will focus on the design of the node device, an Arduino compatible CAN Relay Module PCB, with a built-in, CAN Controller and Transceiver ( MCP2515 and TJA1050 ), and the option to be powered from a LiPo battery (18650 or Single 3.7v Lipo cell), with charging provided by an MH-CD42 Module, similar to that used in the SX128x project mentioned above. The Module can also be powered directly from up to 12v DC by placing Jumper H2 in the V-REG position…

As mentioned in a previous project, the MH-CD42 module can provide up to 2A of current to charge a battery and provide 5V DC on a direct bypass circuit to power the rest of the circuit while the battery is being charged. This feature makes it ideal for my intended use, as I would only be needing battery power at night when the off-grid solar powered inverter is not actively charging the main batteries, and providing 220v AC.

Can Relay Module Top view

The CAN Relay Module PCB was designed to be as compact as possible, with a total footprint of the standard Arduino UNO. As space was at a premium, and to ensure that there are the absolute minimum additional components that will consume power when operating from the battery, I have not included any USB-to-Serial converters onboard. Firmware can be uploaded with an AVRASp, USBASP, Arduino as ISP or even an external USB-to-Serial converter ( providing that you load a bootloader into the Atmega Chip).

Can Relay Module side view

All of the unused GPIO pins on the ATMEGA chip is broken out into headers, with the exception of D10 ( which is used as CE/SS on the MCP2515 CAN controller), D9 which is connected to the Interrupt from the MCP2515, and D4, which is used to control the onboard Relay.

Can Relay Module with LiPo cell and MH-CD42 Module

The MH-CD42 Module, and LiPo or 18650 Battery are completely optional, The device can function without these, by moving the H2 jumper to the VREG position as already mentioned above. This will divert the DC Voltage(Up to 12v) from the DC input adapter to the build-in 5v LDO voltage regulator to power the device.

If you place the H2 Jumper in the VBAT position, you need to install the MH-CD42 module to provide power to the rest of the PCB, as well as keep the LiPo battery or 18650 Cell charged…

Please NOTE:

When the MH-CD42 module is in use, the total DC input voltage through the DC input adapter SHOULD NOT exceed 5.5v DC! This is a limitation in the operating parameters of the MH-CD42 module. Not paying attention to this will result in damage to the MH-CD42 Module.

You could also power the module with REGULATED 5v DC, directly from any 5v header pin. Please note that in this case,

1) The battery won’t be charged.

2) The LDO regulator will not be in operation.

The Microcontroller

The CAN Relay Module can use any of the ATMEGA8a/88/168/328 AVR microcontrollers, as the pinout is identical. I believe this is an advantage, especially with the current chip prices, where my last quote for an ATMEGA328P-AU was 69$USD!!!! This is in comparison to the 4 to 5 USD each for an ATMEGA8a or ATMEGA168 ( We must also remember though that the 328p is very well known, and thus have higher demand. The 8a/88 or 168 are less well known, have much less memory and flash area, and will thus be cheaper. A word of action though, I had strange issues with I2C on the Atmega8a with Mini core, to such an extent that I2C does not work at all?

If you plan to use I2C on this board, install a 328p right from the start, and save yourself a lot of headaches!

Can Relay Module Schematic Page 1

This is the Relay driver circuit. As you can see, it is optically isolated, and active LOW. This means that you have to pull D4 LOW to energise the relay. Also note that, although the relay is optically isolated from the microcontroller, the coil is NOT galvanically ISOLATED. The load, which is magnetically switched, will be truly galvanically isolated, providing of course that you don’t do something silly like using a common ground to the PCB as a common on the relay…

Can Relay Module Schematic Page 2

This is the Processor and Power-supply schematic. The circuit is basically a standard Arduino Nano, with modifications for the CAN Controller on the next schematic page. Note that the MH-CD42 is not shown on the schematic. The VBAT net connects directly to the VIN pin on the unit, with the BAT net connecting to the positive of the battery. VOUt-5v from the module goes directly to the 5v net. All grounds are commoned.

This is the CAN Controller and Transceiver circuitry. The MCP2515 connects directly to the SPI bus on the microcontroller via D13, D12 and D11, with D10 as CE/SS and D9 as Interrupt or IRQ. It is important to note that although the MCP2515 is a 3v capable device, the TJA1050 Can transceiver is 5v only. This prevents us from running the PCB at 3v unless, of course, we change the TJA1050 out for a 3v capable device…

CODE

The board has been extensively tested with Cory J Fowler’s mcp_can Arduino Library. It works very well indeed.

As I am currently working on the final integration of the two modules, I am not yet ready to publish my final code, showing the operation between the CAN-Bus and LoRa-to-CAN Gateway device in this post. Once I am happy that all issues are definitively sorted out, I will publish my code.

This PCB was manufactured at PCBWAY. The Gerber files and BOM, as well as all the schematics, will soon be available as a shared project on their website. If you would like to have PCBWAY manufacture one of your own, designs, or even this particular PCB, you need to do the following…
1) Click on this link
2) Create an account if you have not already got one of your own.
If you use the link above, you will also instantly receive a $5USD coupon, which you can use on your first or any other order later. (Disclaimer: I will earn a small referral fee from PCBWay. This referral fee will not affect the cost of your order, nor will you pay any part thereof.)
3) Once you have gone to their website, and created an account, or login with your existing account,

4) Click on PCB Instant Quote

5) If you do not have any very special requirements for your PCB, click on Quick-order PCB

6) Click on Add Gerber File, and select your Gerber file(s) from your computer. Most of your PCB details will now be automatically selected, leaving you to only select the solder mask and silk-screen colour, as well as to remove the order number or not. You can of course fine-tune everything exactly as you want as well.

7) You can also select whether you want an SMD stencil, or have the board assembled after manufacturing. Please note that the assembly service, as well as the cost of your components, ARE NOT included in the initial quoted price. ( The quote will update depending on what options you select ).

8) When you are happy with the options that you have selected, you can click on the Save to Cart Button. From here on, you can go to the top of the screen, click on Cart, make any payment(s) or use any coupons that you have in your account.

Then just sit back and wait for your new PCB to be delivered to your door via the shipping company that you have selected during checkout.

CAN-to-LoRa gateway using RA-02, MCP2515 and ATMEGA328P

ATMEGA328P Module with integrated LoRa and CAN-BUS

INTRODUCTION

In my quest to perfect my LoRa telemetry system, I have gone through quite a few prototypes by this time. This post will focus on the next node design. Due to the fact that the area where I will deploy the system is quite large, but with roughly square boundary fence-lines, I decided to try and reduce the number of LoRa Radio nodes needed to cover the entire area. This opened up the opportunity to utilise CAN-BUS to attach sensor-only nodes to a Radio node and have them report status on exception as well as on requests from the radio node.

The device will thus function as a LoRa-to-CAN-BUS Gateway, with some local automation to control the transmission of data to the master station. This concept can also be adapted for use in other areas, such as home -automation, or an industrial setting.

At the heart of the device, I have stuck with the versatile ATMEGA328P, which, current chip shortages excluded, and current high prices excluded, are a very inexpensive chip, with lots of well-tested libraries, and a relatively low learning curve, largely due to its very wide use in the Arduino ecosystem.

The LoRa component is handled by the RA-02 or even RA-01H module, from AI-Tinker (not sponsored). This device, as we have seen in the previous prototypes, requires the use of logic level converters, due to the fact that it only accepts 3.3v logic levels. While I could get rid of those if I powered the ATMEGA328P from 3.3v, it would give rise to two problems, of which one will still force the use of level converters…

I chose to run the ATMEGA328P at 16Mhz, which basically forces me to use 5v to power the chip. The second reason is not so obvious unless you read a few datasheets very thoroughly…

The CAN-Bus component is handled by the MCP2515 Standalone SPI-to-CAN Controller, as well as the TJA1050 CAN Bus transceiver.

This is where things get interesting… The MCP2515 can operate on 3.3v, but the TJA1050 is a 5v only device. I could thus in theory use logic level converters only between the MCP2515 and the TJA1050, while running the rest of the circuit on 3.3v…

Given that I would rather run the ATMEGA328P on 16Mhz, as well as the fact that my LoRa Radio Module circuit, with its logic level converter circuitry, works extremely well, I decided not to change that, and keep the CAN Bus running at 5v all the way through, as I would still have to use a 5v regulator on the PCB anyway just for that purpose.

IO connections for LoRa and CAN BUS modules

You can order this PCB directly from PCBWay, by clicking here

Both of the two integrated components ( Lora and CAN ) are SPI devices. This means that they share common SCK, MISO and MOSI lines ( provided on the ATMEGA328P by pins D13, D12 and D11 respectively. The individual SPI device is then further selected for operation by the use of a CE pin, one unique pin per device, which is pulled low by the MCU to indicate to the device that it should pay attention to the data being transmitted on the SPI bus…

Both LoRa and CAN makes use of other pins as well, LoRa needs a Reset pin, connected to D9, a CS/CE Pin on D10 as well as a hardware interrupt pin, connected to D2. ( Note that this is for use with Sandeep Mistry’s LoRa Library. The Radiolib library would require an additional pin, usually connected to DIO1 on the LoRa module. The device does not provide access to those pins in its current layout, so you can only use it with the Sandeep Mistry library, for now at least… )

The CAN module uses a CE/CS pin at D4, with an IRQ pin on D6, which, although not a hardware interrupt pin, does have PCINT functionality.

Pins D10, D9 and D2 are not broken out for user access. although I decided to give access to D4 and D6, as well as the SPI bus, D11, D12, D13, to allow interfacing with logic analysers, or adding other SPI devices to the bus…

This brings us to a very interesting point… Does the two SPI devices actually play nice together? and what do I mean by “playing nice together”?

To answer that question, we are forced to first look at a bit of theory, as well as understand the fundamental differences between SPI and I2C…

The Difference between SPI and I2C

Most of us will be quite familiar with I2C, as it is a very common protocol used to connect sensors to a microcontroller. It consists of only two IO lines, SDA for data, and SCL for the clock. Each device on the bus has its own built-in address, like in the case of a PCF8574 IO expander, this address can be selectable between 0x20h and 0x27h. All of the devices share these common data lines, and will only respond when specifically addressed by the master controller… Unless you accidentally put two devices with the same address on the same bus, (if that would even work), there is no way that the wrong device would respond to any request for data…

SPI on the other hand, operates on a completely different principle, making it quite a few times faster than I2c, with data being simultaneously sent and received by the active device… SPI is also known as a four-wire protocol. Each device has a minimum of 4 data lines, namely SCK ( clock), MOSI ( for data transmitted FROM the Master TO the slave device ), MISO ( for data transmitted TO the master FROM the slave device) and a CE or CS ( Chip select ) pin.

SCK, MISO and MOSI are COMMON to all devices, meaning it is shared between all of them. CE/CS is a unique pin for EACH device, meaning that if you had four SPI devices on a bus, you would have to have four individual CE/CS pins!

A device will, or rather should only respond to data on the SPI-BUS IF the master pulls its respective CE/CS pin LOW. It should now very quickly become clear to you that this can become a very very complex mess, very quickly.

Let us take a very good example. the ST7789 SPI display module, has a cheap version, commonly sold on Ali-express, as we ll as other online stores. This particular module, I assume in a bid to make it easier to use, has the CE/CS pin internally pulled down to ground by default… So what about that, you may ask? What is wrong with that, as it saves you an IO pin?

It is in fact very wrong, a fact that you will very quickly discover if you ever tried using one of those displays on an SPI bus together with other SPI devices… Nothing will work, or only the display will work ( if you are lucky)

But why?

Pulling CE/CS LOW, signals to the chip that it should respond to instructions on the common SCK, MISO and MOSI lines. having the pin internally pulled LOW, thus forces that chip to always respond, even when it should not. Thus contaminating the entire SPI-BUS with garbage…

The answer to the question

After that very long-winded explanation, which is still extremely basic, it is time that we get back to our original question:

Does the Sx127x ( RA-02 ) Module and the MCP2515 Can Controller play nice on the same bus? The answer is not straightforward, as it comes down to which libraries you use…

Remember that the library must pull down the CE/CS pin of the device that it wants to communicate with. Some libraries wrongly assume that they are the only ones in use, and ignores the simple fact, that they should release the CE/CS pin AFTER EVERY transaction, to free up the bus for other devices to use it as well…

After extensive testing, I can however say that Sandeep Mistry’s LoRa Library, as well as the mcp_can library, does indeed play nice together. These two libraries do not keep the individual CE/CS pins pulled LOW, and allows the spi bus to be shared.

This is not the case with the ST7789 Module discussed above, where the hardware actually pulls the pin ow the entire time…

Taking a closer look at the PCB

Let us take a closer look at the PCB. The Ra-02 Module ( LoRa ) dominates most of the left-hand side of the PCB, with the ATMEGA328P on its right. The RA-02 is surrounded by the level converters, using the BSS138 N-Channel Mosfet, and 10k resistors (Q1 to Q6, R1, R2, R3, R4, R5, R6, R8, R9, R10, R11, R12, R13)

C1 and C2 are bypass capacitors for the Ra-02 module

In the bottom left corner, we have a hardware reset button, to reset the ATMEGA328P, with a yellow jumper (H1) next to it. This jumper controls the 120ohm ballast resistor (R17) for the CAN bus. Removing the jumper will remove the ballast. Directly below that is the CAN connecter, marked as U5, with CH as CAN-H, and CL as CAN-L ports.

U3 and U4, together with R18, R19, X2, C16, C17 make up the CAN components on the PCB. Decoupling is provided by C6, C7, C8 as well as C9 and C12 ( Includes the ATMEGA328P’s decoupling as well )

An ICSP programming header is provided above U1 ( ATMEGA328P) for use with USPASP, AVRASP or Arduino as ISP and similar.

No USB to serial converter is provided on the board, Serial upload is possible is loaded with an Arduino bootloader for the Arduino NANO ( to make use of all the analog inputs). RxD, TxD and DTR pins are broken out on opposite sides of the PCB, as well as access to 3.3v, 5v and GND pins.

A DC power socket is provided. it can accept up to 12v DC, although I would recommend not to go over 7.2 volts, to not stress the LDO regulators, at the back of the PCB ( LDO1, and LDO2) too much.

You can order this PCB directly from PCBWay, by Clicking here

in the picture above, I have connected a USB-to Serial converter, as well as CAN-BUS to the device.

Schematic Diagram

The detailed schematic diagrams are provided below:

Sheet 1 (above) takes care of the ATMEGA328p and it supporting circuitry, as well as the power supply via LDO regulators.

Sheet 2 (below) takes care of the Logic Level converters, RA-02 (Sx1278) LoRa Module, and CAN-BUS controller and transceiver circuitry.

Software and Firmware

In order to test this module, I made use of the mcp_can library by Cory J Fowler, for the CAN-Bus part,

as well as Arduino-LoRa by Sandeep Mistry

A combined example utilising both LoRa and CAN at the same time, will be released with the next part of the project, namely the CAN-Relay Module

This PCB was manufactured at PCBWAY. The Gerber files and BOM, as well as all the schematics, will soon be available as a shared project on their website. If you would like to have PCBWAY manufacture one of your own, designs, or even this particular PCB, you need to do the following…
1) Click on this link
2) Create an account if you have not already got one of your own.
If you use the link above, you will also instantly receive a $5USD coupon, which you can use on your first or any other order later. (Disclaimer: I will earn a small referral fee from PCBWay. This referral fee will not affect the cost of your order, nor will you pay any part thereof.)
3) Once you have gone to their website, and created an account, or login with your existing account,

4) Click on PCB Instant Quote

5) If you do not have any very special requirements for your PCB, click on Quick-order PCB

6) Click on Add Gerber File, and select your Gerber file(s) from your computer. Most of your PCB details will now be automatically selected, leaving you to only select the solder mask and silk-screen colour, as well as to remove the order number or not. You can of course fine-tune everything exactly as you want as well.

7) You can also select whether you want an SMD stencil, or have the board assembled after manufacturing. Please note that the assembly service, as well as the cost of your components, ARE NOT included in the initial quoted price. ( The quote will update depending on what options you select ).

8) When you are happy with the options that you have selected, you can click on the Save to Cart Button. From here on, you can go to the top of the screen, click on Cart, make any payment(s) or use any coupons that you have in your account.

Then just sit back and wait for your new PCB to be delivered to your door via the shipping company that you have selected during checkout.

I2C IO Module with 4 Relay Outputs and 4 Galvanic Isolated Inputs

Sometimes we need extra Inputs or Outputs on a device, or for use with a project. To implement it properly we also need a lot of additional electronic components to properly isolate these inputs and outputs, with the signals they switch, from our own project, because, let us be real, electronics and electrical devices in the real world do not all work with Arduino or ESP32/ESP8266 save voltages ( 5v and 3.3v ).

I will also tell you about a very special deal to get PCBs of your own made for only one (1) USD ( Including shipping with DHL )! No, I am not joking, and I am not crazy either… More on that later in the post…


It is thus extremely important to have a module that can effectively interface with inputs of 5.5v up to 32v DC ( optically Isolated up to 3000v ), and relay outputs, also optically isolated at 3000v. ( Note that the optical isolation voltage does not mean you can input that voltage level into the chip! It means that it can isolate the electronics on the safe side of the isolator from a voltage spike of up to that voltage!).

I also love using I2C, as it allows me to add modules onto an existing data bus while using only 2 GPIO lines on the MCU!

The module I am presenting to you today was designed to be operated from 5v DC. That includes the I2C data lines (SDA and SCL). If you need to interface to a 3.3v microprocessor, like an ESP32 or ESP8266, or even the new RP2040 or an STM32, you need to use a logic level converter.

The PCB uses the popular PCF8574 8 channel IO expander, which is extremely easy to use, and where you can connect up to 8 devices in a chain ( 16 if you use the PCF8574AT variant as well.. Meaning eight of each variant) This surely adds up to quite a lot of IO lines at a cost of only 2 GPIO on your MCU!

The Circuit diagram is below, and I will discuss each part briefly.

Schematic – Page 1

This is the Galvanic Isolated Input schematic. Each input operates at a voltage of 5.5v to 32v DC. Complete Galvanic Isolation between the Module and the remote input is in effect. Please note that you have to supply a remote ground from the device that provides the input. DO NOT connect the PCB Module ground to an isolated ground pin. This may still work but renders the galvanic Isolation for that input completely useless.


Relay Driver Schematic

This is the Relay driver schematic. Each relay output is driven through an optocoupler, as well as a transistor. Although this arrangement does not provide complete galvanic Isolation of the relay coil, it does protect your MCU from any voltage spikes caused by back-emf when the relay is de-energised. The Relay contacts themselves, being magnetically actuated by the coil, are in themselves Galvanically Isolated from the rest of the PCB.

I2C Control Schematic

Finally, we have the I2C IO Expander schematic, with a 5v LDO regulator, capable of providing up to 600mA of current to the PCB. The PCF8574 Chip’s address is selectable with DipSwitch SW1 so that you can use multiple PCBs at the same time if you should choose to do so. The only note on that is that you should not connect the 5v lines of each individual PCB together. You should also only connect the GND and SDA, SCL lines back to the MCU.

Raw PCB Layout

Earlier on in the post, I promised to tell you about a very special deal…

Well, here it is, as well as some details about the sponsor of this very exciting deal…

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We’re confident once you try us out, we’ll become your PCB Partner. And if not? Well, you’ll have scored some free PCB! So why not take us for a spin, you’ve got nothing to lose.

We, MakerIoT2020.com, have decided to give it a go and send this particular PCB to PCBPartner.com for manufacturing. So far, while we are still waiting to receive the PCB, ( Weekends happen 🙂 ), We are very happy with the ease of use of the online ordering system provided.

We would also like to point out that this special order will only be available until the end of March 2022,
as well as that there are a few conditions:

Promotion ends  March 31st 2022
Each new customer can enjoy free PCB on their first order
This promotion applies to
1-2 layers of FR4 PCB, up to 100x100mm, 10pcs, with Green Solder Mask
4 layer of FR4 PCB, up to 50x50mm, 10pcs, with Green Solder Mask
1 layer Aluminum PCB, up to 100x100mm, 10pcs
This PCB promotion cannot be used with other discounts or other promotional activities



For a full list of conditions, and countries that may participate in this offer, please click on the link here

Let us have a look at the entire ordering process..

Once you click on the PCBPartner.com link, you will be taken to their website, where you should sign up, which is free and easy… We used our Google.com account details and were ready to order in seconds…

PCBPartner Start Page

You can now Login with your new credentials ( after registering using this special link ). Then click on the FR4 button to start the order process…

FR4 PBC Quote Form – Before uploading your Gerber Files

Enter the specific details for the manufacturing of your PCB, and upload your Gerber files.

After uploading your Gerber Files.

Continue selecting options for your PCB order…
Make sure to select DHL shipping, to take advantage of the special 1USD option, and click on the ADD to Cart Button…

Quote added to your shopping cart.

You will now get a message that your enquiry has been submitted successfully.

Click on the “Under review” button, to see your quote status… In my case, it took about 5 minutes for the review to pass, and be able to checkout and pay for the order…

PCB order under review

Once the review has passed, you will see a pending payment,

Payment Pending

You may now click on the “Proceed to Payment” option

Add your shipping address, and choose your payment option.

At this moment in time, only two payment options are supported, Paypal ( as well as Debit and Credit cards) and Direct Bank Transfer. I believe more options will be made available in future..
Checkout with Paypal

In my case, I chose Paypal and paid by Debit card.

Enter your card details
After Payment.

After payment was made successfully, you can also check on the status of your order…

Review your order status

You can also review your order at any stage before or after payment, as well as get progress reports of the manufacturing process.

PCB Order Status.

In conclusion, I would like to say that it was quite easy to order and make payment. The Website is easy to use, and everything is clear and easy to understand. The PCB was well manufactured and seems to be quite good quality