The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

A place to document your own projects.

The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby corecode » Wed May 09, 2012 9:20 am

Hi,

I'm a new member to the DP forum, but a long time user of the products. Last month I ran into Ian at the Shenzhen Mini Maker Faire while I was participating at the SF Noisebridge China Geektour. Several people in Shenzhen and in Shanghai suggested that I should post about my project here, because the DP forum seems to be one of the most active electronics forums out there. So there we go.

The MC HCK is a small, cheap, and powerful MCU platform. Why yet another, I hear people ask. This is why:

Small. The Arduino is huge. It is just way bulky for many purposes. Also you can't breadboard with it. Ok, now there is the Pro Mini or the Teensy. Yes, that's the form factor I want. Small form factor allows more use cases.

Cheap. Well, there you have it. Every Arduino sets you back about $20. The mbed costs way more. Ok, the MSP430 Launchpad costs $5, but then it is... well, the Launchpad. But $5 sounds good. At $5, you don't have to ponder anymore whether your silly idea is really worth it. $20 might be too much to measure when the postman delivers letters (plot it over the year?). Or instead, you decide to take apart your Arduino rig that was used to count how often you open the fridge door, and use it for the mailbox instead; you all know the drill -- $20 makes you stingy ("frugal"). $5 always goes. Low price fosters creativity.

Powerful. Because, sometimes, an AVR is just a bit slow. And really, getting an obscenely expensive FTDI cable every time you want to interface your microcontroller with a PC? Then all this serial console business, 10 different FTDI COM/ttyUSB ports... So what we need is enough computing power and easy interfacing with PCs. Modern ARM MCU with integrated USB transceiver! With a bit of supplied library code, implementing a USB device is a breeze. HID, mass storage, serial port. Easy interfacing with the PC. Powerful modern MCUs allow for easier development and usability.

The MC HCK board provides some more features for those of us who are not afraid of soldering the odd component on a board. I've included a footprint for a LiPo charger IC, so that you can easily convert it to an autonomous unit, and if you populate the footprint for the SPI flash IC, you can store up to 8MB of data for true autonomous sensor applications.

The MC HCK is not a product that I designed to make money. I want a small, cheap and powerful microcontroller platform to be available for all of us for easy hacking and building. But somebody's got to bite the bullet and go through with it and build and sell it. If it has to be me, so be it, if somebody else will do it instead of me, even better.

To decide in depth if you like it or hate it, look at its current documentation at https://github.com/mchck/mchck/wiki (sorry, can post the canonical mchck point org address as new user) and maybe subscribe to the mailing list. I'd love to hear feedback from you, especially (constructive) criticism. What did I do wrong, what do you think could be done better? Let me know what you think!

Thanks,
simon
Last edited by corecode on Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
corecode
Newbie
Newbie
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed May 09, 2012 8:40 am

Re: The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby davr » Wed May 09, 2012 11:04 am

I think this will be a great project...my favorite Arduino clone is PJRC's Teensy, due to it's low price, form factor, built in hardware USB, and that it 'just works'. (The fact that it's closed source is a little disappointing, but I can put up with it). I'm looking forward to the MCHCK being released, especially if you can piggyback off of the maple IDE to make it extra easy for noobs to get started.
davr
Newbie
Newbie
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed May 09, 2012 11:00 am

Re: The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby dolabra » Wed May 09, 2012 3:50 pm

I like it. I have an STM discovery board and never got very far with it because I couldn't really get past the toolchain issues. What compiler are you guys using?
dolabra
Full Member
Full Member
 
Posts: 234
Joined: Tue Sep 06, 2011 6:45 pm

Re: The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby corecode » Wed May 09, 2012 4:18 pm

I have used https://github.com/esden/summon-arm-toolchain on Linux for both STM32L and NUC120. I had to muck a bit with the linker scripts, but got a smooth compile in the end.
corecode
Newbie
Newbie
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed May 09, 2012 8:40 am

Re: The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby spanner888 » Wed May 09, 2012 8:23 pm

corecode wrote:At $5, you don't have to ponder anymore whether your silly idea is really worth it.


I'm hooked at $5 plus heaps of features, but combine that with "locally organised" bulk buys to keep the shipping fees down or even get free shipping from some suppliers and then it is $5 DELIVERED ANY WHERE WORLDWIDE, which is amazing.

I have been living through the re-using just about everything for the next project scenario for the last couple of years, and have just started to step into this area of numerous cheap dedicated hardware for a project. It really changes your approach and attitude and allows more freedom to experiment - you do not have to be so cautious with that one single precious expensive item any more and the bonus is, as you say, the projects you build can now be permanent and thus have a long useful life instead of just disappearing!
spanner888
Developer
Developer
 
Posts: 87
Joined: Mon Oct 11, 2010 8:08 pm

Re: The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby ian » Thu May 10, 2012 3:14 am

Hey simon,

It was great to meet you and see your project. Thanks for stopping by.

Cheap is always good, and it looks like there's plenty of interest. Even a $7 (current estimate) price is great. I'll post this up on the blog too.
User avatar
ian
Crew
Crew
 
Posts: 10803
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:14 am

Re: The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby corecode » Thu May 10, 2012 6:20 am

Thanks Ian! Indeed, it was great and inspiring to meet you and the SeeedStudio crew. Until the next Maker Faire!
corecode
Newbie
Newbie
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed May 09, 2012 8:40 am

Re: The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby nicksydney » Sat May 12, 2012 4:32 am

corecode wrote:I have used https://github.com/esden/summon-arm-toolchain on Linux for both STM32L and NUC120. I had to muck a bit with the linker scripts, but got a smooth compile in the end.



There is a WikiPedia page complete with information on how to build the toolchain for ARM Cortex-M series
nicksydney
Newbie
Newbie
 
Posts: 12
Joined: Sat May 12, 2012 4:28 am

Re: The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby Squonk » Sun May 13, 2012 3:40 am

Just one advice: make sure the PCB thickness is 2mm, so the printed USB connector will perfectly fit into the PC USB socket, 1.6mm PCB thickness is not sufficient.
Squonk
Jr. Member
Jr. Member
 
Posts: 94
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 3:23 pm

Re: The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby torwag » Sun May 13, 2012 7:48 am

I like this project.
Some thoughts as feedback
1. As mentioned by squonk, have the right PCB thickness. 1.6 mm might fit but might create disconnections just by looking at it ;). I have some of this ultra-slim memory sticks which have the same problem. You have to constantly press them down to guarantee a stable contact. This is really a pain.

2. Maybe people like to get rid of the USB plug after finishing the development process. This would save some space and the USB connection is still available via the headers. Maybe you could design some sort of predetermined breaking line in case people would like to use a clipper to get rid of the USB plug. Make sure this works out with the PCB tracks too.

3. I think space is very limited, but if you find a smart way to have a screw hole somewhere people could easily fix the board to an enclosure body.
torwag
Jr. Member
Jr. Member
 
Posts: 93
Joined: Thu Dec 08, 2011 4:13 am
Location: Sendai, Japan

Re: The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby corecode » Sun May 13, 2012 2:19 pm

(1) yes, that's the plan. 2mm is too expensive for prototyping though, but the final version will be 2mm.

(2) You should be able to cut away the USB tab, at least that was my plan. Do you see any trouble with the current version?

(3) Yes, space is really tight. I don't see any place, except for maybe on the tab.
corecode
Newbie
Newbie
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed May 09, 2012 8:40 am

Re: The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby Squonk » Sun May 13, 2012 2:43 pm

corecode wrote:(1) yes, that's the plan. 2mm is too expensive for prototyping though, but the final version will be 2mm.


FYI, Seeed Fusion PCB Service is not charging more for 2 mm compared to 1.6 mm.
Squonk
Jr. Member
Jr. Member
 
Posts: 94
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 3:23 pm

Re: The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby corecode » Sun May 13, 2012 3:34 pm

If I select 2mm, I get $60. How do you order so that you get the same price?
corecode
Newbie
Newbie
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed May 09, 2012 8:40 am

Re: The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby Squonk » Mon May 14, 2012 2:46 pm

corecode wrote:If I select 2mm, I get $60. How do you order so that you get the same price?

Sorry, I had prototypes made with 1.2 mm thickness at the exact same price, so I thought they were all at the same low price. But you are right, they are charging much more for 2 mm!
Squonk
Jr. Member
Jr. Member
 
Posts: 94
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 3:23 pm

Re: The MC HCK! Small, cheap, powerful MCU platform with USB

Postby Squonk » Mon May 14, 2012 3:10 pm

Another suggestion: add some kind of protection:
  • ESD/EMC protection on the USB side (STF203-22)
  • Resetable fuse for overcurrent (better than fry the USB host...)
  • USB device cable shield protection (first link, second link, third link); the best I have seen is a 1 Mohm resistor // 10 nF-500V cap between shield and ground, plus a 120 ohm ferrite bead on VBUS
For an neat example, please check the Versaloon board schematic.

However, I don't know if this sophistication is compatible with your low budget... It would make your design bulletproof, though!

I like the Sparkfun staggered holes: I adopted it in several of my designs!
Squonk
Jr. Member
Jr. Member
 
Posts: 94
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 3:23 pm

Next

Return to Project logs