Portable Electronics Kit

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Introduction

This project describes my system for storage, portability, and rapid prototyping of projects that won’t fall apart.  The approach features modularity, standardized parts, and rapid transition from breadboard to sturdy prototype.

Storage

I have a small work area with limited storage.  Essentially all parts and components for my projects are kept in this cabinet which slides under the work table to the left.   Parts and components are further subdivided into plastic storage boxes like the ones in the open drawer.  An important feature of the storage boxes is that the majority of them are the same size and fit into a carrying case for portability.  This allows me to pull the boxes I need from storage and put them into a carrying case whenever needed without further packing and unpacking.

Carrying Case

The carrying case is shown below.  I have two of them but to date have only needed to take one when travelling.

Top

The top compartment of the carrying case stores items needed for soldering and wiring.

· Soldering Iron

· Solder

· Solder Wick

· Solder Sucker

· Solder Paste

· Flux Pin

· Painter’s Tape

· 22 AWG Wire

· 30 AWG Wire

· Heat Shrink

 

Bottom

The bottom of the case is used for storing frequently used tools.

· Screwdriver Set

· S ide Cutters

· Wire Stripper

· Digital Multimeter

· Wall Wart USB

 

First Drawer

The first drawer (plastic storage box) has a mix of commonly used passive and active components.

· Transistors and MOSFETs

· LDO Regulators

· Motor Driver

· Diodes

· Resistors

· Capacitors

 

Second Drawer

This drawer stores parts for whatever project I am currently working on.  Lately I have been investigating the ATSAMD21 and am putting together a test board.  I keep the parts for active projects in one of the plastic boxes and can easily carry it with me if desired.  There is also a small breadboard with commonly used through hole parts like LEDs, momentary switches, etc. 

I use SMD on most projects now and have started to standardize.  For example, I use 0805 resistors and capacitors normally and plan to standardize on other parts.  In the kit there are also some SMD to 0.1 inch pitch adapters that can be used on a breadboard or on the prototyping PCB.

      · Project Components

o ATSAMD21 ARM on PCB

o Crystal

o Assorted Passives

o Adafruit Feather Express

     · Small Breadboard & Assorted Components

o Jumpers

o Potentiometer

o Buttons

o LEDS

o 330 Ohm Resistors

     · Breadboard Power Board

     · Assorted Prototyping PCBs

 

Third Drawer

This is the most interesting in my opinion and something I don’t see others commonly do.  I use breadboards a lot but don’t like to stop there. If a circuit or quick project is interesting I like to make it more permanent so it can be shown to others and carried about without fear of it falling apart.  The prototyping board and enclosure shown below is my answer.

· MSP430G2553 Proto Boards

· MSP430G2553 Proto Enclosure

· MSP430G2553 Proto Components

o MSP430G2553 Microcontroller

o Associated Capacitors

o Associated Resistors

o Buttons

o LEDs

o Power Switch

o 2x4 User Headers

o BoosterPack Headers

· Programming LaunchPad

· Programming Jumper with Pogo Pins

· Nokia 5110 LCD

· 2 xAAA Battery Package

 

MSP430G2553 Proto PCB

 

The PCB is one I designed and had made at a cost of less than $2 US each in China.  The microcontroller is a Texas Instruments MSP430G2553 in a TSSOP package which I have been using for some time.  The microcontroller and other parts add another $3 or so which means a board can be put together for about $5.

The headers at the top of the board are spaced to accept a Texas Instruments BoosterPack.  There is also an on/off switch, two user buttons, a LED, and an eight pin user defined female header at the top.  The crystal is optional.  There are two prototyping areas, one in the middle, and one that matches a small breadboard footprint at the bottom.  This means that something prototyped on a breadboard can be moved to the PCB pin for pin, and permanent connections made quickly.  There are also headers to attach a Nokia 5110 monochrome LCD if desired. 

MSP430G2553 Proto User Interface

This photo gives a better view of the buttons, LED, and user header.  The through holes behind the user header can be connected to any pin on the microcontroller or to the prototyping area and give access to outside the enclosure.

MSP430G2553 Proto Enclosure

The PCB was designed to fit inside this Hammond plastic enclosure.  I have cut a hole in this one with hand tools for the Nokia screen and also have another on hand without an opening.  PCBs can be exchanged quickly so an enclosure for every project is not necessary.  The LCDs can also be removed from the header and reused.

MSP430G2553 Proto Example

Finally, here is a video demonstrating how easy it is to flash the board and install it in the enclosure.

Summary

Getting organized, standardizing, and making things portable so I can demonstrate and work elsewhere has been a big help, especially given the small space I work in at home. Having the prototyping PCB and a readily usable enclosure adds permanence, portability, and some polish to quick projects at a low cost.  I have plans to upgrade to a more powerful processor and improved screen in future.