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New offices for Tinkerforge

written by admin, on Jul 13, 2015 1:47:00 PM.

As you may have already heard we relocated to a new place in the last two weeks. The move was overdue, since our old offices were way too small for a long time already.

We apologize for any late email replies or long deliver times. The renovation of the building and the relocation of all of our stuff was way more time-consuming then we anticipated. Everything will be completely set up again at the end of this week. Then we will be able to work with full efficiency again ;-).

Our new address is:

Tinkerforge GmbH
Zur Brinke 7
33758 Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock
Germany

A small walktrough of our new offices directly after the relocation (German commentary):

Starter Kit: Camera Slider

written by admin, on Jun 17, 2015 1:36:00 PM.

With the new Starter Kit: Camera Slider you can move video and photo-cameras on a slider to make attractive recordings. Moving time-lapse recordings with a DSLR or arbitrary video-camera movements are the main applications of the kit. The kit can also be used for completely different purposes where linear motion is needed (see end of the video below).

The movements are done with a stepper motor, that can be controlled with a demo application. It is possible to automatically make movements from and to specified positions with a desired speed and acceleration. It is also possible to do time-lapse recordings with the software. You can configure the distance and time between shots. With the API of the Stepper Brick it is easy to integrate the camera slider into your own projects.

MakerBeams are used for the construction of the frame and the cart. This means that it is easy to add your own mounting brackets or to extend the length of the frame to up to 3m. Together with the RED Brick, a Step-Down Power Supply and our HDMI touchscreen you can make the camera slider autonomously controllable through the touchscreen. Only an additional power supply (e.g. a battery) is needed.

If your camera does not allow to start records through USB, you can also use an Industrial Quad Relay Bricklet together with an external trigger. Possible hardware modifications, a construction guide and much more information can be found in the documentation. The kit is available for 247.95€ in our shop.

Sneak Preview: 11 new Bricklets

written by admin, on May 27, 2015 6:39:00 PM.

Rejoice! New Bricklets are coming!

In the last weeks we have been working on 11 new Bricklets. Below you can find the layout of the panel that is used for the first Bricklet production. In a second production we will use one panel per Bricklet.

http://download.tinkerforge.com/_stuff/multipanel.jpg

The new Bricklets are a Accelerometer Bricklet with 3-axis Accelerometer and a new Moisture Bricklet that uses a capacitive method to measure moisture (to avoid corrosion). The new Load Cell Bricklet can be used together with load cells to build custom scales. With the Laser Range Finder Bricklet it is possible to measure distances up to 40 meter with an accuracy of 1cm. The Bricklet can be used to measure a precise distance from a drone to the ground. Additionally we will offer a Industrial Dual Analog In Bricklet that is capable of measuring voltages very precisely. The new Analog In Bricklet on the other hand is a low-cost way to measure voltage. A new version of the Analog Out Bricklet will have the ability to create output voltages of up to 12V (instead of the maximum of 5V that the old Analog Out Bricklet could supply). An advanced version, the new Industrial Analog Out Bricklet is also available. It can produce 0-10V as well as 4-20mA output. Together with the Industrial Dual 0-20mA Bricklet it should now be possible to use all of the actors and sensors that are used in industry with 0-10V or 0-20mA interface. The Dust Detector Bricklet uses the Sharp GP2Y1010AU0F sensor. It measures the amount of dust that is present in the air. Another upgrade will be given to the Ambient Light Bricklet. The new version can measure illuminence much more precisely. With the RS232 Bricklet it is possible to talk to devices that use RS232 (for example to control a heating system).

An assortment of Bricklet prototypes that was available for a photo can be seen below:

http://download.tinkerforge.com/_stuff/new_bricklet_prototypes.jpg

The circuit boards for the mass production are currently in production, they will be ready in approximately 3-4 weeks. There will also be even more hardware in the near future. Stay tuned!

New Accessories from Tinkerforge

written by admin, on May 22, 2015 3:32:00 PM.

In the past we often had customers that asked us for suited motors and power supplies for our products. It wasn’t always easy for us to give good advice in that regard. It did take a while, but we now have different stepper- and servo-motors, a 24V/4A power adapter and miscellaneous other accessories in our shop.

24V/4A power adapter

The search for a suitable power adapter turned out to be pretty difficult. The power adapter should be able provide 24V with at least 4A. With this specification it is possible to power stepper motors as well as the Step-Down Power Supply. The Step-Down Power Supply has a maximum input voltage of 27V which is not exceeded by the 24V of the power supply. Another requirement was, that the power adapter is (out-of-the-box) usable with our standard black 2-pin connector. Most power supplies are only available with a barrel connector or as cable with center rail (24V) and outer insulation (GND). Both are not easy to use with our standard connector, we just need two stripped cable ends.

The last and most important requirement was of cause the quality of the output voltage. We tested many different power supplies and many (mostly cheap) power supplies had a ripple of up to 4V! We tested different power supplies in with regards to voltage stability, performance, short-circuit behavior and heating:

http://download.tinkerforge.com/_stuff/power_supply_testing.jpg

In the end we did find a 24V/4A power adapter that is still affordable. It had the most stable output voltage of all of the tested power supplies (+/- 500mV). It is short-circuit protected and it does not get super hot under full load. We ship the power adapter with two stripped cable ends. The cable ends can be inserted into our standard connector without any tools.

Stepper motors

We now have two stepper motors with fitting shaft couplings in our product range:

As a standard motor we offer a 200-step per revolution Nema 17 (42mmx42mm) stepper motor with a strong 0.43Nm torque and detachable cable.

http://download.tinkerforge.com/_stuff/stepper1_w_brick_600.jpg

The motor can be used together with the above mentioned 24V power adapter and only uses a per-phase current of 0.85A to reach the maximum torque. This means that our Stepper Brick remains cool during operation, an external cooling is not necessary. The 5mm shaft of the stepper motor has a flat section, such that the shaft couplings can’t slip.

As a second motor we have a 200-step Nema 17 stepper motor with high quality planetary gears with a gear reduction of 27:1.

http://download.tinkerforge.com/_stuff/stepper2_w_brick_600.jpg

For a full revolution you need 5400 steps of the motor. The motor can reach a torque of 5.94Nm and it can thus be used in applications where precision and/or high strength is necessary. The 8mm shaft of the motor also has a flat section and it can be connected to a 5mm or 8mm shaft with the offered shaft couplings.

Servo motors

Currently we offer two different servos from HiTec for the Servo Brick:

http://download.tinkerforge.com/_stuff/servo_hitec_HS_311_w_accessories_600.jpg

The HS-311 is a cheap standard servo with resign gears and torque of up to 35Ncm.

http://download.tinkerforge.com/_stuff/servo_hitec_HS_645MG_w_accessories_600.jpg

The HS-645MG does have 96Ncm of torque and it uses metal gears.

We will add more accessories to our shop in the future, stay tuned!

Server Room Monitoring with many hosts

written by admin, on Apr 17, 2015 6:05:00 PM.

The Starter Kit: Server Room Monitoring allows to monitor temperature, humidity and illuminance. It can be used with nearly any programming language. If the kit is used together with the RED Brick, there is no programming necessary at all to receive emails if a measured value exceeds a predefined maximum or minimum value. The value range can be configured with the help of simple sliders. To date it was only possible to use locally installed sensors.

With the newly released version 2.2.4 of the Brick Viewer it is now also possible to evaluate sensors from other hosts!

Master Brick

Every sensor that can be reached by a RED Brick through the local network can be administered. You can now use several Starter Kit: Server Room Monitoring and control them with one RED Brick. It is also possible to add additional sensors to PCs or with Ethernet- and WIFI Extensions. They just have to be in the same network as the RED Brick.

One additional improvement of version 2.2.4 of the Brick Viewer is, that we removed all of the callbacks for Bricks and Bricklets from the Brick Viewer source code. The usage of callbacks in the Brick Viewer did lead to unexpected behaviors for users. If a user program did run in parallel to the Brick Viewer and the Brick Viewer deactivated a callback, the user program did not receive any data anymore. For many users this was often not easy to understand, they thought that there program or the Brick/Bricklet was faulty. With the new version these problems now belong to the past!

RED Brick now with openHAB and Nagios

written by admin, on Mar 11, 2015 5:30:00 PM.

The evolution of the RED Brick goes on! Today we released RED Brick image version 1.6 and Brick Viewer version 2.2.3. Alongside lots of small improvements there are several big news. In the following we will explain them in detail:

Master Brick 2.1 with high stack connectors

http://download.tinkerforge.com/_stuff/brick_master21_12mm_vs_9mm.jpg

Thus far the IMU and Master Brick did use 9mm stack connectors, while all other Bricks (DC, Servo, Stepper, RED) used 12mm stack connectors. The idea was to make sure that all of the modules use as little space as possible. Unfortunately there are some cases now, where the height difference between the Bricks is problematic. For example, we would need two different front panels for the Starter Kit: Server Room Monitoring to support the RED Brick (12mm distance to Ethernet Extension cut-out) as well as the Master Brick 9mm distance to Ethernet Extension cut-out).

For that reason we decided to change all of the top Brick connectors to height 12mm. With this change each Brick will have the same height, which will make the development of cases a lot easier. For the mounting kits we will also only need the 12mm spacers (although for some cases 9mm spacers will still be needed). Currently the IMU Brick is the only Brick with 9mm stack connectors. It will be changed to 12mm in the next production run too.

New Service: openHAB

openHAB is an open source solution for home automation that supports a lot of products from different manufacturers. It is possible to view measurements with a web interface or a smartphone app (e.g. room temperature). It is also possible to control thermostats or lamps and similar. Additionally the a user can define rules that allow an autonomous control. A distinctive feature is that incompatible products from different manufacturers can interact through openHAB. A list of currently supported products can be found here. The Tinkerforge building blocks are of course supported too ;-).

openHAB is now directly available on the newest RED Brick image. If the service is activated, the RED Brick can be used as a control station for home automation. The configuration of openHAB can be done through the Brick Viewer with the help of configuration files.

It is for example possible to control the Starter Kit: Weather Station with a RED Brick through openHAB. To demonstrate this, we added an openHAB example to the documentation of the kit. All of the important functions are implemented with the help of openHAB: The measurements are shown on the LCD (through rules) and the backlight can be toggled through the openHAB interface. This example can be used as a good starting point for openHAB, you should be able to easily integrate products from other manufacturers, such as smart lamps or remote control mains switches.

Starter Kit: Weather Station openHAB example screenshot

New Service: Nagios

Nagios is now pre-installed on the RED Brick, too. As openHAB it can be enabled as a service in Brick Viewer. Nagios is a software that can be used to monitor server installations. With the appropriate hardware you can monitor temperature, fans, load and many more measurements. If problems occurs, Nagios can for example send email notifications.

If you wanted to use Nagios on an old RED Brick image, you would have to install and configure it manually. With the new image it is possible to do the configuration via mouse click. To configure Nagios you can define rules. Each rule consists of a sensor (Bricklet) and a critical- or warning-range. If a measurement is outside of the defined range, the state of the sensor will be seen as either “warning” or “critical”. For each rule it is additionally possible to declare whether and with which state a notification email should be send. Typical monitoring tasks can be automated with a few clicks in the Brick Viewer!

Starter Kit: Server Room Monitoring: Screenshot of Nagios Brick Viewer Service Tab

In the new Brick Viewer version only Bricklets that are available locally (localhost) of the type Ambient Light Bricklet, Humidity Bricklet, PTC Bricklet and Temperature Bricklet are supported. The next Brick Viewer version will also support sensors that are connected to external PCs. To update to the new version you will only need to update the Brick Viewer, which will be available in approximately two weeks already.

Additionally to the possibility to send emails, it is also possible to use the web interface that Nagios provides. The web interface is also available on the RED Brick:

Starter Kit: Server Room Monitoring: Screenshot of Nagios web interface

If you want to use Nagios as it is normally done, you can easily use an SSH connection or the Console tab of the Brick Viewer and do the configuration through the classical configuration files. If you have created a configuration with the Brick Viewer you can easily add your own configuration files in parallel. They will not interfere with each other.

Together with the Starter Kit: Server Room Monitoring we now have a complete solution that allows to realize distributed server room monitoring without the need to do any programming or software installation. You only have to extend the kit with a RED Brick (the kit can now be ordered including a RED Brick). If you want to deploy several kits (to monitor servers at different places) you only need one kit with RED Brick. It can retrieve measurements from all of the other kits too!

Update of the Starter Kit: Server Room Monitoring

Many customers of the Starter Kit: Server Room Monitoring did order it together with a Humidity Bricklet. This makes a lot of sense, since humidity is supposed to be in a defined range inside of a server room. If the air is to dry, the risk of an electrostatic charge increases significantly. Thus we added the Humidity Bricklet to the default configuration of the kit. Additionally it is now possible to directly order a RED Brick together with the kit (see above).

To be able to utilize the RED Brick we modified the case. The back side now has a big cut-out that allows to connect USB devices to the RED Brick. Conceivable USB devices are webcams, GSM dongles or WIFI adapters. The cut-out for the Ethernet Extension had to move 3mm (from 9mm to 12mm), to now support the RED Brick, as well as the new Master Brick (see above). All of the currently open orders will be shipped with the new front panel. Please write us an email if you need the old front panel (if you have Master Bricks with 9mm height that you want to use). We still have lots of 9mm front panels in storage

Starter Kit: Server Room Monitoring  with RED Brick

The documentation of the Starter Kit: Server Room Monitoring has been extended by an example for the usage of the RED Brick together with the Nagios service.

RED Brick Image 1.4 available!

written by admin, on Jan 30, 2015 7:08:00 PM.

We released the new RED Brick Image Version 1.4 today. It is super awesome, we highly recommend that you update!

The new features in the new image can be used with Brick Viewer Version >= 2.2.2.

Downloads: RED Brick Image 1.4, Brick Viewer 2.2.2

Services

Fast Image and the Full Image are merged into one image. The differences between these images, for example the start of a desktop environment, are implemented as services which can be independently activated. You can now turn services on and off with the Brick Viewer and switch back and forth between the Fast Image and the Full Image on the fly.

If you turn all of the services off (equivalent to the old Fast Image) the RED Brick will now boot incredibly fast! It only takes 10.7 seconds for the RED Brick to completely boot up and being available in Brick Viewer. To achieve this speed we had to switch from sysvinit to systemd, which proved to be a huge improvement!

http://download.tinkerforge.com/_stuff/brickv_red_brick_services.jpg

Import/Export

Additionally you can now import and export your programs from the RED Brick with the Brick Viewer. If you download the new Brick Viewer first, you can even export your programs from the old Image Version 1.3. Update the image afterwards and import your programs back again in Image Version 1.4! With this it will be really easy to update to new image versions.

http://download.tinkerforge.com/_stuff/brickv_red_brick_export.jpg

Access Point

If you have one of our WIFI USB Adapters there is another awesome feature. You will be able to turn the RED Brick into an Access Point with just a few clicks. You can then for example directly connect to the RED Brick web interface or to the Brick Daemon on your RED Brick with a smart phone or similar. No external network equipment needed!

http://download.tinkerforge.com/_stuff/brickv_red_brick_access_point.jpg

Since we got the feedback that some of the compilers and interpreters on the RED Brick are too old, we also switched from Debian Wheezy to Debian Jessie and removed the dependency to the Raspbian repository. For example Python is now available in version 3.4 instead of 3.2. This also means that hard to fix package dependency problems occurring because of incompatibilities between the Debian wheezy and the Raspbian repository are now gone! You will now be able to apt-get anything from the Debian repositories without doing any harm ;-).

Happy New Year from Tinkerforge

written by admin, on Jan 1, 2015 9:25:00 PM.

We wish all of you and your families a happy, healty and tinker-heavy 2015!

MakerBeam has reduced their prices for 2015. We will of course pass the price cuts to you, the prices in our shop have already been adjusted. The Starter Kit: MakerBeam is now available in a convenient storage box and it costs less then 100€ now!

http://download.tinkerforge.com/_stuff/starter_kit_makerbeam.jpg

The end of the year 2014 was pretty stressful for us. The sales launch of the RED Brick shortly before Christmas resulted in a huge amount of orders, that we were able to completely ship before Christmas. During the holidays a big a amount of orders did accumulate again, we will be able to ship all of the currently open orders on either Friday or next Monday.

The complexity of the RED Brick with all of its features, such as support for many programming languages, stack communication, support for Ethernet Extension, network manager etc. did result in a first image release with some bugs. All of the big blunders should be fixed in the current image (1.3).

Altogether, the year 2014 was a very successful year for us. We were able to release lots of new products and kits. The highlight was of course the RED Brick. We never before had a product with such a huge development effort behind it. In 2015 we plan to enhance the RED Brick a lot. Beside the possibility to configure a WIFI access point on the RED Brick with the help of the Brick Viewer, we would like to support GSM sticks and do lots of more usability enhancements. We also already have some prototypes of Bricks and Bricklets ready that need to be tested and refined. Additionally we plan to add lots of new accessories to our shop.

Thank you for the fantastic year 2014 with you! Stay tuned for for an even better 2015!

New Master Bricks and Merry Christmas

written by admin, on Dec 24, 2014 4:54:00 PM.

We released a new version of the Master Brick last week, the first customers should have already received them! Because of all of the excitement in the last two weeks we forgot to officially introduce it :-).

http://download.tinkerforge.com/_stuff/brick_master21.jpg

The Master Brick 2.1 has several small improvements compared to the predecessor (Master Brick 2.0):

  • Bugfix: You can now flash the Brick again with an Ethernet Extension present in the stack, this wasn’t possible in version 2.0.

  • I2C Bus: I2C is used as a bus for communication between Bricks and Bricklets, e.g. to read out the EEPROMs of the Bricklets. The longer the bus is, the harder it is for us to ensure a stable communication between Bricks and Bricklets. With a Master 2.0 and four Bricklet connectors, the maximum bus length was 4x2m = 8m. To increase the electromagnetic immunity, we split the I2C bus into four different buses with an I2C hub.

  • USB: The USB interface is now equipped with an ESD protection IC and an EMI filter.

Next year we want to update more of the existing Bricks/Bricklets and there will also be many new ones!

We wish all of you and your families a merry, quite and tinker-heavy Christmas!

http://www.tinkerforge.com/en/doc/_images/Bricks/brick_master21_bottom_600.jpghttp://www.tinkerforge.com/en/doc/_images/Bricks/brick_master21_top_600.jpg

Status update: Shipping at Tinkerforge

written by admin, on Dec 17, 2014 12:52:00 PM.

Thank you for all of the orders! The announcement of the RED on last Friday and the articles from Golem and Heise (German) did lead to a rather large shipping backlog.

All currently open orders will be shipped this week. Generally we will be shipping up until December 23rd.

We did prepare very well this time, but could nevertheless not keep pace with the orders. Currently we are working at full speed to process the backlog. Thank you for your patience!

Since we frequently got this question: We will ship up until (including) December 23rd. So you do have some more time left to order if you want Bricks and Bricklets underneath your Christmas tree. If you order from outside of Germany, the only shipping option that can guarantee a shipment before Christmas is FedEx. Orders with DHL or Deutsche Post as shipping option may not arrive before Christmas.

http://download.tinkerforge.com/_stuff/red_brick_flashing_10sd.jpg

One of our tasks is to flash the ordered SD cards. You can take a look at our flashing setup in the image above. It uses a USB 3.0 hubs with 10 USB 3.0 card-readers each. This setup is currently running around the clock.

HDMI cables and some of the cases will be delivered subsequently.

Edit: Miraculously, new plastic arrived already today. So there won’t be a shortage of cases!

In beforehand we did speculate about the composition of the orders. One question was, how many accessories will be bought together with the RED Brick on average. We did misjudge the amount of necessary HDMI cables. We estimated an order rate of 25%, but in reality about 85% of all RED Brick orders include an HDMI cable. We already ordered new HDMI cables, but our supplier also seems to have a backlog. We do have a similar problem with our cases. Our laser cutter, that is used to cut the cases, is also in continuous operation. Our former big stock of plastic is drawing to a close and new plastic will not arrive before Christmas. We likely won’t have enough plastic here to produce all of the necessary cases. So we have to deliver some of them subsequently.

Don’t panic if your package is missing an HDMI cable or a case, they will be delivered separately as soon as possible (see delivery note)!

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