“The whole Arduino phenomenon has been great for the electronics sector, as it is allowing hobbyists as well as experienced full-time engineers to create exciting new designs,” says Fred Dart, founder and CEO of FTDI Chip.
“All of us at FTDI wanted to reflect this sense of inclusivity with our NerO product. By promoting it through the KickStarter crowdfunding platform, we can get the electronics engineering community as a whole involved. We felt that giving people the chance to engage in the project from the very beginning would be a much more interesting approach. That is why FTDI is financing this project in a totally different way from how we do with our other development projects. Uptake has been great so far too. As a result, there will no doubt be further opportunities for us to follow this route again in the future.”
The biggest change from the regular Arduino is in the power supply circuit, where the LDO is replaced with a switching dc-dc converter.
According to FTDI, many contemporary embedded system designs will need quite a substantial amount of current in order to power all the constituent elements – as well as running a TFT display there might be the need to drive a motor, illuminate LEDs, or maintain a WLAN datalink.
This can easily add up to 400 or 500mA and in some cases it might be closer to 1A. With a standard UNO board (and many clones) the LDO regulator will dissipate a sizeable quantity of heat at when handling this sort of current, pushing the units’ temperature over 90°C to 100°C, according to FTDI, which can lead to reliability problems.
An on/off switch allows the unit to be powered up or down as needed.
NerO is supplied with FCC and CE certification. It has a 16MHz ATmega328 microcontroller with Optiboot bootloader. FTDI’s FT231XS takes care of USB connectivity. The board has a micro-USB connector rather than the bulkier type B used on UNOs.
As per UNO, NerO has 14 digital interface pins plus six analogue inputs. The status and PWR LEDs are located at the edge of the PCB so they are visible when an Arduino shield has been attached.
“With NerO we wanted to take a whole new approach from how we normally initiated our development projects,” explains Dart. “although I have personally helped to support over 50 KickStarter projects in the past, this is the first time we have used this platform to bring one of our own products to market. This will allow professional and amateur engineers to play a part in the project. Everyone is very excited by the prospect and believe this product has the ability to shake up the Arduino sector, by exhibiting some real differentiation.”
The FTDI NerO will have a unit price of $19.75, and backers will benefit from a 25% discount.
Following the launch, NerO schematic and PCB design will be made available as open source hardware under OSHW terms. NerO will be manufactured in Europe.