Far more than will admit, amateur electronic builders tend to have a prototype that looks more like a Rube Goldberg cartoon than something designed by Hewlett Packard (when they were building). Me, too. There’s just a lot of wires, connectors, rigged-up jigs, and so forth when you’re trying to get a circuit to work like it’s ‘sposed to. And, put a microcprocessor or small PC board into the mix, aye yai yai!
There are breadboards, even sophisticated ones, that help with this. And, there are design boards to facilitate with some PIC development as well as ones that help with Arduino or Raspberry Pi projects. That’s good. But I’ve seen nothing like a workbench platform for most all of these with hardware and software hooks to keep Rube Goldberg in Collier’s Magazine. Until now.
George Zafiropoulos KJ6VU of the Ham Radio Workbench Podcast team has put together what he calls the Benchduino. George has an Internet group on the project at Groups.io here. You can follow the beta development there by joining. But you can get more meat on the bones by listening to a recent episode of the HRW podcast on the Benchduino. If you build using microprocessors, you will not be disappointed.
This product will be BIG for builders. You can download the interim documentation file here. Here’s what it looks like, taken from the website page. There are multiple add-on boards to connect to Arduino Mega, Raspberry Pi Zero, PIC – 40 pin 18F series processor, Adafruit Feather, Xbee data radio socket (built-in). George has pre-loaded shopping carts for necessary parts at Digi-Key for various boards. To channel the comedian Martin Short: I must say, I must say!
Taken from the HRW website page:
The BenchDuino is a development platform for building projects based on the Arduino, Raspberry Pi and PIC microcontrollers. The platform defines a common foot print for processor and expansion boards to make it easy to expand the functionality of the system. The BenchDuino motherboard includes many commonly used peripherals which can be connected to the CPU pins with jumper wires or plug in shunts. The BenchDuino is an open platform and we encourage the development of plug-in CPU and expansion boards.https://www.hamradioworkbench.com/benchduino.html
Now, this is quite dramatic for prototype development using various microprocessor boards. But the pièce de résistance, IMHO, comes via the header on the top edge of the Benchduino as shown in the photograph above. Need several pieces of test equipment, including a logic analyzer, to check out whether your code makes the light blink (or whatever)? Use the Analog Discovery 2 USB-based test workbench directly connected to the Benchduino! I love mine, including the latest add-on Impedance Measurement Board (~$20). The HRW Podcast has a $100 off discount code for the AD2 product through their website which takes you to Digilent.
So, in brief, your project doesn’t have to be a Rube Goldberg cartoon that you’d just not like your builder buddies to see before it’s completed. Your project may not get Bob’s Your Uncle status upon first execution, but it will likely be Bob’s Cousin with the Benchduino and the Analog Discovery 2. The latter has multi-platform free software for the hardware which makes it a Swiss Army Knife of test equipment.
I’m buying my Benchduino boards from the Ham Radio Workbench booth at Hamvention this year. George is giving a Forum talk / demo on the Benchduino too. (Digilent will also be at Xenia with the HRW discount. Get the Impedance Analyzer Board while you’re at it.) Let George know you’re coming via Twitter: @kj6vu