V2 Case Almost Finished!

Hello! It’s Alabaster with a long-overdue update.

I’m so close to done. There’s not much left for me to do. It’s taken me so long for so many reasons, and I’d like to talk about that a little before I mention my progress.

At BronyCon, I mentioned to those who asked that the case would be done mid to late August, and that never happened. I wanted to figure out a way to make the case nicer than the last one, and was having a hard time finding a way to do that. I’m not an expert designer, everything I know is self-taught for the most part. I tend to find myself in a position where I’m just not skilled enough to design the things I think of, and I try and work around that. On top of that, there’s the fact that 3D Printing isn’t always exact. I could design two parts that fit together perfectly, and have them not fit when printed. It’s a constant cycle of printing things, and making adjustments to things by a tenth of a millimeter.

The problem I had with the V2 case was the way the lid would attach to the case. Andon and I threw a ton of ideas at each other, but I was having a hard time replicating them in a way that my printer could keep up with. In the end, I’m fairly happy with what I was able to do, and I’d like to hope that everyone else will be too.

Here is what the case looks like in it’s entirety, right now. Mind you, I haven’t smoothed out all the edges, and I haven’t finalized anything yet.

Front view of the assembled design file

Front view of the assembled design file

Rear view of the assembled design file

Rear view of the assembled design file

I have a few photos of the printed and assembled case. Taking these pictures, I noticed a bunch of little errors that I may have missed otherwise. I’ve made note to change about 15 things, and I’ll go do those as soon as this gets posted.

View post on imgur.com

View post on imgur.com

View post on imgur.com

In the end, you can see I was able to successfully make the lid better. I made a real, working hinge! Inside the hinge is a 1mm diameter metal rod keeping it all together. It’s pretty simple to look at, but I had to reprint it several times before it all fit correctly more than 60% of the time. The only thing I have left to do for the case is make a latch on the front. I have a few ideas on how I want to do that, and that shouldn’t take me too long to figure out. More than likely I’ll end up using the same idea as the v1, except just a tiny bit in the front or the two front corners. We’ll see what works best while not looking like garbage! I really wanted to bring in some external parts for the latch, as well as the hinge, but that’s not going to happen, sadly.

As always, feel free to reach out to me on Discord, or at my email alabaster@matchfire.net


Never Finished Means Always Improving

When I set about to design the Verison 2 of the DigiBadge, I had no expectations that this would be the final end-of-the-line product. I expected to learn a lot, to experiment a lot, and to be able to do a lot more. So far, I have exceeded my expectations.

With that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and ‘Announce’ the Version 3 badge. It won’t be as radical a change as the V1 was from the V2, but there will be significant changes. I’ve talked before about adding the SPI Flash card to it, for some persistent data storage. This was initially going to be part of a Version 2+, but things have changed enough to warrant it being called the Version 3.

In addition to the flash memory storage, there will also be a more pins freed up, starting with a change to the control stick input. Initially, I had the control stick running through a bunch of resistors to a single analog input, with each direction being a different resistance. I couldn’t get that working and ended up using five direct inputs instead. The Version 3 will revisit this single analog input, freeing up four other pins. Another pin will be freed by tieing the screen’s Reset pin to the board’s Reset, but then that pin will be immediately taken by the SPI Flash’s CS line. I’ll be trying to break out these pins in the board, but space is limited, so I may not be able to do so.

Speaking of space, though, this leads me to the most significant change. The Version 2 uses two AAA batteries. Why? Well, because 3v is a perfectly acceptable voltage to run pretty much everything at. And it provides decent enough battery life, too. But two AAA batteries are large. Huge, even. They take up about 2/3 of the back of the PCB. I did some thinking, did some checking, and it’s easily affordable to change this.

In series, two batteries provide double the voltage at the same capacity. Two AAA batteries have roughly 1200 mAh of capacity… but so does one, just at 1.5v instead. So, I thought – Maybe I could include a boost regulator. After a bit of searching, it turns out that yes, I can, without much additional expense either. This will do two significant things. One, it’ll provide a nice, solid power state for the board at all times until it dies. This means no more screen dimming. No more worrying about the SD card going below its proper voltage threshold. Two, it’ll allow a lot more of the battery to be used. Currently, the Version 2 badge drops below useful power at about 2.7 volts, or 1.35 volts per cell. Realistically speaking, there’s a TON of power left in the battery – Maybe somewhere between 3-4x as much. The voltage regulator I’m currently looking at goes down to 0.8 volts. While it will use more power, I don’t expect to see much of a difference in expected lifespan.

The Version 3 will fit into the same case as the Version 2, which is why I mentioned those size restraints above. However, I AM working on something for the more adventurous among you: The return of the ‘Hacker’ Badge.

The Hacker Badge will be a significant change from the Version 3’s normal layout. It’ll be larger. A bit larger. It’ll feature the same components, but in a different manner. First, the nav stick will be moved to the front. Second, every pin that can be broken out will. There will be the FTDI connector, along with an ISCP header and headers for the digital pins and analog pins that are free, aproxamately 4-5 of each. It’ll have a different power switch, which will make Alabaster a lot happier in designing a case for it.

There are also a few other devices I’ve been working on, most notably the Super badge which I’ve covered before. I’ve also designed a breakout board for the SPI flash which I’m using, and an I2C controller for a MUX chip, mostly just because I can.

I’ll keep you guys updated with how things go!