If you think the time has passed for older instruments with only an IEEE-488-bus interface, or GPIB connection, think again. You can put together a simple bus converter for under $100. Commercial USB-to-GPIB adapter start at about $US 500, so I’d build my own. It’s easier than you think.
The April 2011 issue of elektor magazine (www.elektor.com) includes a five-page article that describes how the author used a Prolific PL2303 USB-to-serial “bridge” controller and a Renesas R8C/13 16-bit microcontroller to build his own bus converter. If you don’t subscribe to elektor, you can buy the April 2011 issue for $US 7.80. The bus converter takes advantage of a ready-to-use board sold through the elektor Web site. This board provides the PL2303 and R8C/13 MCU. You add the microcontroller code–available for free–and an IEEE-488 cable and connector.
The author of an earlier project created the small MCU circuit board for a curve-tracer project, but because it provides 18 uncommitted digital I/O pins and a USB interface, it easily adapted to the IEEE-488-bus-converter project. The assembled board costs $US 88 (part no. 080068-91 on the elektor Web site). An arrow in the image below points to the MCU-USB board as it attaches to the curve-tracer circuit, which you don’t use in this project. (Photo courtesy of elektor magazine.)
The article notes you also will need the Renesas “Flash Development Toolkit 3.4 Basic” and it provides two links, but I could not locate this software in either place. The software takes the compiled code created in the HEW and downloads it into a variety of Renesas MCUs. I did locate later versions of the Flash toolkit at: http://www.renesas.com/products/tools/flash_prom_programming/fdt/download_search_results.jsp. I recommend you use the latest version of this toolkit and the HEW software. You also might like a regular subscription to elektor magazine.–Jon Titus
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
The IEEE Computer Society has named the top 10 trends for 2014. You can expect the convergence of cloud computing and mobile devices, advances in health care data and devices, as well as privacy issues in social media to make the headlines. And 3D printing came out of nowhere to make a big splash.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.