Many engineers need to connect a device to a computer via a USB port. But they don’t want to work with a big USB stack when they need only basic control of I/O pins and peripherals. A new device–the IO-Warrior56 chip from Code Mercenaries–easily connects to a USB port on a host computer and operates like a device in the standardized USB human-interface device (HID) class. Because the chip’s designers created the IO-Warrior56 IC as a generic HID device, the protocol-handling occurs within the chip and requires no programming by product designers.
Now available on a “breakout board,” the chip offers six 8-bit I/O ports, two additional I/O lines, and communications with SPI and I2C ports. The board lets engineers and designers easily and quickly experiment with the chip’s many functions. The Saelig Company (www.saelig.com) sells the small IO-Warrior56 board for $US 50 each or $US 30 (qty 100). A Development Starter Kit costs $US 99. For information, visit: www.saelig.com/product/IC2006.htm.
With its 50 I/O lines, the IO-Warrior56 board can simultaneously control an 8-bit LCD driver IC, drive a serial 8-by-64 matrix of LEDs, input data from matrix keyboards (8-by-8), and furnish the SPI and I2C ports mentioned above. The USB 2.0 connection operates at Full Speed (12 Mbits/sec) and the chip updates or reads the I/O pins at a rate of 1000 updates/sec.
The module acts like five USB endpoints that a host computer and your application software “see” as virtual COM ports. Sample code provides starting points for your own programs and a 23-page manual describes the means used to communicate with and control I/O pins and ports. Software support is available for MacOS (ver 10.2 and up), Linux (Kernel 2.6), and Windows (2000, XP, Vista, Windows 7). For the manual and software, visit Code Mercenaries at: www.codemercs.com.
This IC should give mechatronics engineers a simple way to add USB-based control to a design. They could use the IC to control peripheral devices and communicate with other equipment that doesn’t require a high data rate and doesn’t transfer large blocks of information. The many I/O lines also would make the chip a good choice to handle internal equipment tests and diagnostics via a dedicated USB channel separate from heavily used Ethernet or other USB connections. –Jon Titus