Parts List for MSP430 Digital Readout

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
MSP430 Launchpad requires almost no additional parts
When selecting a microcontroller [board] for the digital readout project I overlooked the Launchpad in favor of an Arduino board. Earlier this year, though, a reader asked me to help him with a project that required reading a scale running 1.5V. While looking for a suitable hardware to read those scales I decided to try one of the MSP430 Value Line Launchpad kits I had sitting in the closet and realized that MSP430 microcontroller works very well for interfacing with Grizzly iGaging scales as well. First of all the MSP430 Launchpad board is much cheaper than an Arduino, selling for $10, including shipping, at TI’s store (until recently it sold for an incredible $4.50). Second, the microcontroller runs at 3.3V and has built-in pull down resistors, so there is no need for any additional resistors. Finally, it will let me easily add support for 1.5V “chineze calipers” in future.
When my new X3 mill arrived from Grizzly I fitted it with a DRO controller using the new MSP430 design. After initial testing and debugging I posted the source code to the Downloads section but never got around to writing decent build instructions. Recently several readers emailed me directly and left comments on the blog asking to post detailed build instructions for the unit. In the next couple of posts I will go through the parts list, assembly and firmware in detail, while building a unit.

Required Parts

MSP430 Launchpad V1.5
has some subtle differences

As I mentioned before, the Launchpad requires virtually no additional parts, besides the scales, a Bluetooth module and some sort of enclosure.

Quite obviously you will need a MSP430 microcontroller. The code I’m using is designed for the MSP430G2553 version of the chip, the main reason being the presence of hardware UART implementation and a larger number of pins. This also happens to be the chip that comes installed in the current version of MSP430 Launchpad board.

Linvor BT Transceiver
mounted on a carrier board

To communicate with the Android application you will need a serial-to-Bluetooth adapter (AKA Bluetooth modem). A Linvor HC-0x module from eBay works quite well as is now readily available from US sellers. Please keep in mind, though, that there are several different version of the Linvor module. They all look almost identical but come with different firmware. Version HC-03 and HC-05 can be used either as a master or a slave while HC-04 and HC-06 are preset from the factory into one of those modes. When shopping for an adapter for this project please make sure you get a slave device, preferable mounted on a carrier board (as shown in the picture).

To power the whole thing you will need a 5V power supply. The easiest way is to go to your local thrift store and buy a phone charger (one that comes with a mini USB connector). I get mine at a Goodwill store nearby for about $3/piece as there seems to be an unending supply of Motorola-branded chargers.

Finally you will need some wires to connect the pieces together. If you don’t have neat spools of wire hanging over you workbench (or some other similar setup) simply cut open an unneeded USB cable and you’ll be set.

If you are on a strict budget this is all you will need. The total cost of the whole build adds up to $27.96. If you already have a phone charger and a cable to scavenge you’ll spend even less. Finally, if you forego the carrier board for the linvor module you can get the expenses to under $20.

Bill of Materials

TI MSP430 Value Line Launchpad kit $9.99
Bluetooth Transceiver $12.99
or Serial-to-USB adapter $9.99
Sacrificial USB Cable $1.99
USB Phone Charger $2.99

Optional Parts

Although not strictly required
Sparkfun USB Breakout boards
make the job a bit neater

Unless you want to simply cut the USB cables supplied with the iGaging scales and solder them directly into the board, you will need to get a set of suitable connectors. I personally prefer 4-pin DIN, like the ones found on S-Video cables, connectors as they are readily available locally and provide mechanically-reliable connection. In other words they don’t fall out of the sockets at a most inconvenient time. If cutting cables is not your idea of fun pass time you’ll need 3 mini USB sockets. One approach is to use the Sparkfun’s “Mini USB Breakout Boards”. They are quite inexpensive and almost alway in stock at sparkfun.com. Alternatively DigiKey sells a pre-made cable “Mini USB Buccaneer” for around $9 that is a bit easier to mount to the enclosure than the breakout boards. Since I already have a set of the breakout boards I will stick with them but will include instructions for both approaches.

The total cost of this build (excluding the scales and the enclosure) is as follows:

Bill of Materials

TI MSP430 Value Line Launchpad kit $9.99
Bluetooth Transceiver $12.99
Three of Sparkfun’s Mini USB Breakout Boards $13.39 (including shipping)
Sacrificial USB Cable $1.99
USB Phone Charger $2.99

Grand Total - $41.35

Even More Parts

The parts listed above will yield a perfectly acceptable DRO controller but the controllers I use in my garage have a few more upgrades that are worth mentioning.

The controller I use in the garage has some upgrades.
Although the price is more than doubled,
the unit is much more rugged and noise-tolerant

The first one has to do with the fact that iGaging scales, in essence, read only the relative position and the “0” point is the point where the scales were first powered up. A short period of time after the power to the scales is cut off they lose their position and start from “0” next time they get “juice”. Since I often work on a given part for several evenings or even weeks (and “memorize” a number of positions in process) losing the workspace reference was more than a minor annoyance. The solution to this problem was to provide backup battery power to the scales when the controller is turned off. The whole mod requires a battery holder for two AA or AAA batteries and two diodes: one to stop the 3.3V from going into the batteries when the board is powered up and one to prevent the batteries from powering the board and the modem.

Second, to reduce the electrical noise and voltage drops I added a decoupling capacitor between Vcc and Ground across each of the three female connector, and a 2200uF electrolytic capacitors across the power supply.

Bill of Materials

Battery Holder $3.99 (or less)
Capacitors $5 (or less)

Neither of the extra mods is required. On the other hand I had some issues with the first [Arduino] version that seemed to be caused by the electrical noise around my old X2 mill. Although I haven’t tried this hardware without the mods so I can’t really be sure that they made the difference, the unit has been working very reliably and hasn’t had any glitches.

Conclusion

A basic DRO controller using MSP430 Launchpad board can be built for around $45 or less (with some careful shopping). Alternatively, for a bit under $60 you can have one with battery backup for the scales and better noise protection.

In the next post I will provide detailed build instructions, so please stay tuned.

66 comments :

  1. Great info here Yuriy! I like the idea of the backup battery to keep the memory alive for days.

    Thanks for doing this.

    Scot

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  2. Any chance of a USB version instead of Bluetooth?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The upcoming version will support some USB devices (not the Launchpad, unfortunately). It should be out in a few weeks.

      Thank you

      Delete
    2. I also look forward to a wired (USB) version.
      In the meantime I'll put together a Lauchpad device.

      Have you published the source code for the Launchpad with Linvor BT yet? If not, please do so, I've just ordered all the bits required :)
      Joe

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    3. Joe,
      The source is posted in the Downloads section but in a day or two I will be posting an updated version. I'll publish an updated version and the "TI-TXT" file this weekend.

      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
    4. Hi Yuriy,
      looking forward to the updated version. Thank you.
      All my parts for the MSP430 DRO have now arrived and I'm keen to put it together :)
      Any chance of a build instruction post?
      Cheers,
      Joe

      Delete
    5. Joe,
      Please take a look at the firmware source code; the basic connections are described there.
      Otherwise I'm trying to post the build guide in a day or two...

      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
  3. Will this implementation be able to use a combination of cheap chinese scales (two) as well one IGauging sale? I actually cancelled my Arduino order this morning when I looked at you blog an saw this discussion. I already have 2 Chinese scales on my X and Z mill axis'. I intend to order a Grizzly 24" Igaging scale for the Y.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gernoff,
      The current version won't but I'm working on it. I have a similar combination on the lathe, so there is a good incentive to get it working soon...
      (That is the main reason I switched to MSP430)

      Thank you

      Delete
  4. Do you take donations? You should.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What makes this Launchpad so special? Arduino can run at 3.3V. Arduino can read 1.5V with a simple level shift circuit.
    Ardiano

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yuri
    Nice project.
    I really want one for myself but building one is beyond my abilities. I'm a truck driver and don't even own a soldering iron. How much do you want to build one for me?
    Wes

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    Replies
    1. Wes,
      Honestly, I don't want to go into business building these. With that said I have two assembled Arduino-based units and [possibly] one using MSP430. If you want to cover the cost of parts and shipping, please drop me an email (ycroosh at gmail.com).

      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
    2. No problem.
      Do they include scales?
      Wes

      Delete
  7. Yuri, the TI-MS430 went together very easy (much easier that the Arduino) and is working great. Could a 2032 coin battery (or 2)be used in place of the AA battery shown above?

    Frank
    adamsfl@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Frank,
      Yes, a 3.3V coin battery is fine but you don't want to exceed 3.6V.

      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
  8. Someone please humor me to answer a few silly questions I can't find after reading this entire blog:

    1) Does either controller supply power to the scales so they don't need batteries?
    2) It seems the MSP430 controller setup can use chinese caliper scales (these I have already - they look just like the igaging scales but they don't have the wires). But does either current or future application support it?
    3) MSP430 controller also has potential to support glass scales?
    4) It seems if one was building a new controller, MSP430 has the most advantages. Is there a valid reason to go with the Arduino controller?
    thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OK, I'll try :)

      1. Yes, both controllers do; iGaging scales get the power from the display unit, so the controller has to provide 3.3V to the transducer when the display is gone.
      2. They are VERY different, actually. iGaging scales get their clock from the display unit/controller whereas the "caliper scales" provide their own clock. Moreover, they use 1.5V power supply vs. 3.3V iGaging scales use. I'm working on a new controller but its still in early "proof of concept" stage.
      The application supports ANY scales as long as the controller sends the data in the right format. There is a "CPI" setting that you can use to set it to all different transducer resolutions.
      3. Yes (potentially), but it needs additional hardware (level shifter, since pins are not 5V-tolerant).
      4. it depends... for iGaging scales it's almost a wash: Arduino costs a bit more and needs a few extra resistors but it's available everywhere (I can get one from three places within 5 miles of my house) and the software is easy to deal with. MSP430 is less expensive, has more potential for growth (which you might not care about) but has spotty availability from TI store (and the third parties sell all different versions without indicating which chip you'll get...)

      Hope this helps
      Yuriy

      Delete
  9. Is there a primer for the software for the Ti Launchpad and the files here?? The Ti community software front end looks like IDE for arduino and wants a sketch. The code here is a hex file and a txt - what do you load that into. I pulled the Ti software and thought I built the Yuri files but could not figure out how to upload it to the launchpad. IMO this Launchpad design is lousy compared to the Arduino setup.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mike, give Texas Instruments SmartRF Flash Programmer a go.



      Frank

      Delete
  10. Yuriy,
    The "Sparkfun BlueSMIRF Gold board" is no longer available with the external antenna. When you search for it on SparkFun, you get a page showing it's discontinued. You can get the "Silver" board which doesn't include an external antenna. There are YouTube video's on how to add an external antenna, but I'm going to try this without the external antenna.

    If necessary, I'll add one later.

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  11. Mark,
    I've noticed that SparkFun discontinued that item (unfortunately). An internal antenna will do just fine for the range. The only [huge] advantage of using an external antenna is the ability to enclose the controller in a metal box to shield it from the noise. Other than that BlueSMIFT boards are awesome and I don't think you will have any issues with reliability of the BT link.

    Thank you
    Yuriy

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hey Yuriy,

    Great project, thanks for sharing it. I had MSP430 laying around, I ordered it back when TI launched it (no pun intended) for $4.99, including shipping.
    It was a great deal for that money.

    I played with it for a while and then it went in to the box. When I found your app in the PlayStore, I found this web site.
    Mine is housed now in die cast aluminum enclosure, similar to yours. I went with cheap BT module, ordered from DX online store. At the same time I ordered an external antenna and small coaxial pigtail, I soldered coaxial directly in to the pcb and interrupted on board antenna. Measured just with mt Samsung tablet, signal strength is 5-6dBi stronger.
    Cheap alternative to the BlueSMIFT board. I will by mounting it on my CT-129 mini mill (equivalent to Grizzly's G0704 mini mill).

    Thanks again!
    Roman

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  13. Hi Yuriy, Great project!
    You said: "Second, to reduce the electrical noise and voltage drops I added a decoupling capacitor between Vcc and Ground across each of the three female connector"

    What value of capacitors did you use?

    Thanks,

    Jeffery

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeffery,
      I used 0.1uF ceramic caps but anything in this range should work...

      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
  14. Would I be able to one usb break out board and an external usb hub for this project?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jason,
      It just uses usb type connectors. It is not a usb device like you would attach to a computer so no, a usb hub will not work. You will have to get the usb breakout boards to connect the scales to the TI micro-controler board.

      Jeffery



      Jeffery


      Delete
  15. Thank you for the quick reply. I am looking to build one of these and just doing some research to get it in the smallest case possible (Still looking for that as well). Im thinking I will use a single DB15 breakout board and then heat shrink all 3 of my lead cables into one DB15 connector. This will give me the added strain relief of the thumb screws. Do you see this being a problem?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For up to three axes you can even use a single DB9 connector, actually. There is no issue either way. I've seen some people simply solder the wires into the board...

      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
  16. Jason, I put one (T.I.) in a WalMart Travel Soap/pill container (less that $2.00) just to see how small I could get it. Works great, easy to hide out of the way.

    Frank

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  17. Jeffery

    I have 2 questions:

    1. I plan to use this setup on my Harbor Freight lathe and I was wandering if you have found a RPM sensor that could be hooked up in the same manor and represented on the screen along with the X-Y information?

    2. I would like to make a donation to help cover your time and efforts, please let me know how I can get it to you.

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jason,
      I am adding tachometer support to the new app version and will post a few simple circuits that you should be able to build for a few bucks. I don't know what the timing will be, but I'm hoping to post an updated version by the end of December.

      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
  18. Sorry - That post was meant for Yuriy

    ReplyDelete
  19. Please don't forget about the donation question. This is really awesome work and I would like to donate to the effort.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jason,
      Please email me at ycroosh at gmail.com :)

      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
  20. I ordered the DB15 in anticipation of adding the RPM encoder :) It never hurt to have spare wires to work with.

    Thanks again

    ReplyDelete
  21. Im in the process of ordering the parts to make a unit. As mentioned above they no longer sell the Sparkfun BlueSMIRF Gold board with the external antenna. they do have a Gold board unit for the same price though. Will this one work if I follow the building instructions to the letter Or will it require modifications?

    https://www.sparkfun.com/products/12582

    ReplyDelete
  22. Yes, it will work just fine. The big advantage of an external antenna was the possibility to use metal enclosure. With this one you'd need to use a plastic box. By the way, the cheap "HC-0x" (AKA Linvor) modules have been performing very well so far, so you don't need to spend a fortune on Bluetooth module...
    Thank you
    Yuriy

    ReplyDelete
  23. Wondering could a USB bluetooth and the USB plug removed & that radio used?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You mean to connect each scale wirelessly? No. The module uses UART and the scales output their position using something similar to SPI protocol...

      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
    2. Actually meant to bypass the resistor in the USB plug & use that as a cheaper radio but I have no idea what happened to my typing. I think from what I've read so far the answer is no tho.

      I was thinking of using the USB plug to make the radio removable since I plan on building three of these to cut cost. I'm both cheep & poor so cutting corners where I can.

      Delete
  24. Yuriy,

    This is a great project. Thanks for your efforts and for sharing this with the world. I am having one problem with my controller. I'm using the Launchpad build (with MSP430G2553) with a bluesmirf silver. My problem is that my tablet (Tab 3) will not connect to it for more than 1 second... it connects, then immediately disconnects... every time. Interference is probably not an issue in my location. Any thoughts on why the issue may be?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Harry in Maryland

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Harry,
      Is the tablet dropping the connection to the BT module or does the app say "Disconnected"?
      Also, have you checked the troubleshooting section on the project page? It might help you eliminate some of the common culprits.
      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
    2. Yuriy,

      Thanks for the quick reply. I looked at your troubleshooting section and was a bit intimidated by the dropped connection section which addressed the symptoms I had. Thankfully, I did not need to dig too deep. I swapped out the RN-42 Bluesmirf for a RN-42 parallex Bluetooth module and everything worked fine. Not sure what the problem was/is with that board, but I'm in business now. Again, thank you for sharing this openly. It's a great project and app.

      Harry in Maryland

      Delete
    3. Harry,
      Someone told me that the new BlueSmirf boards come with 57K BAUD rate preset. The firmware assumes 9600, so there could be a disconnect (i.e. the transceiver will be receiving junk from the scale interface board). If you're not using the board, would you lend it to me for a few days so I can troubleshoot what's going on there?
      Please email me at ycroosh at gmail dot com.
      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
    4. Yuriy, my BlueSmirf came set to 115200 baud. Set it to 9600 and everything works great. Also change the name to TouchDRO and the password for access.


      Delete
  25. Yuriy, absolutely great projects! I was hoping you could expand specifically on how to go about incorporating the battery back up to the stock build of the MSP430 controller build as you mention the use of two diodes and a decoupling capacitor. What were the parts you used, and if you are willing could you give specific direction on adding these components to the project? Thank you, I really enjoy the site.

    Eric in Iowa

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    Replies
    1. Eric,
      The parts are in the mail. Once they show up (probably tomorrow), I will post instructions for the battery backup. Meanwhile, the only real issue here is getting the right diodes: standard diodes have hight voltage dropout, so this setup required Schottky diodes, such as BA85, etc.
      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
  26. Is it possible to come up with something that would work with the US$12.99 MSP430F5529 USB LaunchPad Evaluation Kit, which appears to come with a configurable USB, a bucketload of extra features and the potential to grow the system into something quite useful (ie. connect it to stepper motors for CNC).

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi, I just stumbled across your website and find it really interesting.
    My question is regarding the IGaging scales (or similar), do they come without the readouts? I cannot find ones that don't and if they come with readouts, why not just use those?
    If you have a source of scales without readouts, I would appreciate knowing about them as your approach has a lot of benefits but I don't want to waste money on readouts that wouldn't don't use

    Eric (Melbourne Australia)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eric, no one, that I am familiar with, sells the scales without the readouts. The reason for using an android tablet instead of the readouts is because you get all of the information on one screen and you can save coordinates (and zero points) and all kinds of fun things (not to mention the size of the numbers, for us old guys). Just think of the discarded readouts as "Bonus parts". Also, Yuri said he was going to include an RPM function (in the firmware) at some future date, probably using a hall sensor.

      Your only other cheap alternative would be to use calipers for your scales and they are not nearly as easy to set up (mount) and use as the iGaging scales. Also good ones would cost almost, if not more than, the iGaging scales. Besides, everyone needs a drawer full unused/worthless electronic dodads.

      MisterFixIt1952

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the reply, I do agree with everything you said, I already have a cupboard full of electronic doodads collected over 30+ years, just trying to be a tightarse by not having to start a second cupboard full, having said that, who knows when they may come in useful.

      cheers...

      Eric

      Delete
  28. Do you have any recommendations for the two diodes, decoupling capacitors and the 2200uF electrolytic capacitors you speak of ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For the diodes I would use anything with low voltage dropout (if possible), otherwise any diode will do. I used 0.1uF ceramic decoupling capacitors and any 2200 uF electrolytic cap for the "buffer", but that's not critical at all. If you feel like it, you can use a super capacitor instead of the battery really...
      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
    2. Yuriy, I appreciate your quick response, but I feel like a blind man in a field full of holes. I need much more specific answers, like detailed instructions. Go here do this kind of thing.

      Delete
    3. OK, I'll try :)
      1. Go to Google and search for "0.1 uf axial ceramic capacitor" (without quotes). If you're in the USA (or somewhere Amazon can ship to), this link will likely come up: http://www.amazon.com/0-1uF-Through-Ceramic-Capacitor-Axial/dp/B00K30MS5M. Either buy from Amazon or find the same things somewhere else.
      2. Search for "2200uf electrolytic capacitor". Same story, either buy it from Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/2200uF-Radial-Mini-Electrolytic-Capacitor/dp/B0002ZP49A) or find one locally.
      3. Sam thing for "axial low voltage drop diode". I didn't see on on Amazon but find one that looks reasonable and get 2 pieces.

      You really can't screw this up. The voltage and current involved are very low, so you can't under-spec it etc.axial low voltage drop diode. Capacitor sizes are not critical, and ANY diode will work. Low voltage drop diode will give you more wiggle room when it comes to the battery voltage as the batteries discharge, but I've seen iGaging scales retain their position all the way to 1.6V...

      Hope this helps.
      Yuriy

      Delete
  29. Yuriy, I am well on the way with this build. I am using 1micron magnetic scales with 9 pin D connectors. In this case is it still advisable to fit the 0.1uf capacitors. In this case they would be between pins 2/4 (0v/gnd) and Pin 7 (+5v). I have commoned all the gnd and 0v pins together on the Veroboard where I have assembled the voltage divider.

    I have loaded t your code onto the MSP430 and tested that the Bluetooth module works and I get x0, y0, z0 in Blueterm. Is there any other testing that can be done before finally connecting the scales. I do not want to risk destroying my scales.

    Many many thanks,

    Colin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Colin,
      As long as you are sure that you haven't reversed the polarity and don't connect 120V to the 5V USB Vcc there isn't too much risk involved.
      The 0.1 capacitor is there to get rid of some power supply noise. You can't have too many capacitors between Vcc and the ground, but chances are your scale has some in the head as well. Proper DRO scales are designed to work in really noisy environments...

      Regards
      Yuriy

      Delete
  30. Great Stuff , Got my bit just got to work out how it all goes togeather , what did you use for the box with all your bits in it and ( size ) my smaller board( Bluetooth Transceiver Module) like the one in your parts list is blue and has 4 pins yours shows 3 , how does the Ariel mount ? will you be placing a wiring diagram up to show what goes where ? a little hard to see in the box .

    Regards ............Johnny

    ReplyDelete
  31. Yuriy, thanks for the great idea. Also thanks for introducing me to the msp430 - I've been programming PLCs and PACs for 30 years and am about to retire. The msp430 opens up another hobby for me - I'm thinking of different things to do with it. I ordered all of the parts last week, including the Sparkfuns USB breakout boards. When I received the 3 iGaging scales I discovered that one of them has a Mini-B USB plug, while the other two have Micro-B plugs. I guess I'll need to figure out a plan B.

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hi Yuriy,
    I built my Launchpad version several months ago with iGaging scales. The whole system has worked flawlessly, from day one. I vaguely recall that you had a link to a site or perhaps a paypal link where people could go to contribute money to help you support the site and fund additional improvements. I can't find that link now. Can you guide me? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi,
      I took down the donation link. I'm selling the boards now, so I felt that asking for donations would be a bit hypocritical. I'm glad that it worked well for you, though.
      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
  33. I'm very impressed with this write up and program. I now have everything to start building a DRO for my Igaging scales. Just curious, you had made mention about instructions for the buccaneer installation, I'm I missing it? I'm not using the actual buccaneers USB but I'm using three case mount two screw 2.0 USB sockets with pigtails that I pulled from an old gateway. Would it be the same installation? Thanks and keep up the great work!
    James

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  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. James,
      The first post on the project home page covers connection to TouchDRO boards. The info is relevant to the DIY build as well.
      There are some photos on the forum (under Gallery).
      Thank you
      Yuriy

      Delete
  35. Thank-you for the quick response. Do you believe it is necessary to include the bypass capacitors between Vcc and Ground using the buccaneer style USB plugs? If so, soldering one at the board would be about the only option. Thanks again,
    James

    ReplyDelete