Welcome to UltiBlink.com!
We all know and love Arduino platform for its user-friendliness. It is the best microcontroller educational platform out there, providing the means to start programming stuff instantly. However, if you want to light a lot of LEDs with an Arduino, you soon find out that you are in fact limited by the 6 PWM outputs. If you need to drive more than two RGB LEDs, you have to buy some additional boards or chips, search for the needed libraries, read some datasheets, compare the different solutions, and basically dig rather deep into the electronics theme.
The UltiBlink project was designed to be an out-of-the box solution giving you the means to start using multiple RGB LEDs immediately, getting the full advantage of the Arduino IDE without the need to explore the market for additional modules, circuits or parts.
The UltiBlink project consists of three parts:
- Hardware. The LED driving part of the UltiBlink centers around the DM634 line of LED drivers. I find these chips to be the most suitable for the hobbyist/maker crowd. They may lack the power and finesse of the industrial drivers like the ones from Texas Instruments, but they are affordable and very easy to connect and program. The UltiBlink boards themselves come in two varieties: Core boards and Expansion boards. Expansions carry only the LED drivers setup and can be used with your usual Arduino (or any other microcontroller setup). Core boards have an Atmega328 microcontroller and are barebone Arduino variations with LED drivers installed. Only the essential components are present; the most notable omission is the voltage regulation circuitry, so they need a 5v power supply and do not have any 3.3v outputs. This was done to make the boards as simple as possible so that anyone could easily use the circuit in their own devices. Core board needs an external programmer, an ISP or an UART one. The usual Arduino can act as an ISP programmer.
- Software. The universal Arduino library covering the full range of DM63x LED drivers is present at GitHub. In addition, I intend to make board-specific libraries that will make it even easier to run each particular UltiBlink product. These specific libraries will be able to take into account the particular boards layouts, shapes and capabilities providing the user with easy access to basic animations and effects.
- Knowledge base and community. Communication is the most important part of this project. I intend to bring together a small crowd of makers who like bright colors and want to make the most of the LEDs. I’ve written some articles on Instructables, but, while these texts get a fair number of reads and likes, I don’t have enough feedback. What are the people interested in? What should I do next? Can we imagine some project together? It would be great if the community will be able to provide me and others with interesting challenges.
UltiBlink is aimed at people with some Arduino experience and minimal solder skills (although soldered, breadboard-compatible boards are also available). UltiBlink is an open project, meaning that all the software and board schematics are (or will be) available for download. I will also include some single-sided board layouts to make at home. Basically, the UltiBlink boards are intended to be used as LED driver prototyping boards, to be replaced with your original ones once you know what you intend to do.