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Arduino Prototyping with Fritzing

December 13, 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve written about Arduinos so I thought I’d share a project that I’m working on right now. It’s somewhat similar to the Reverse Geocache box that everyone was going nuts over a while back but yet very different. I must point out that I had already started developing it before I found the Reverse Geocache box, I’m not sure how I missed it when everyone was going nuts about it but I was glad to find it because I got some good ideas from it and some of the copy cat builds out there.

This project is also a lockbox, but it does not have a GPS for it to unlock at certain locations, rather it unlocks at certain time periods. The project will be housed in an old cash box I’ve had since I was a kid, and will make use of a DS1302 clock chip to track the time, a servo to unlock the box, a button to query the system to unlock, and a simple piezo buzzer for audio feedback. At this point I am undecided on adding an LCD panel, but I do have an old Nokia screen that I pulled out of my first cell phone. I also need to set up some sort of charging port or just drill a hole for the power adapter to plug into the side of the Arduino, but I’ll worry about that later.

Even though the Protoshield makes things quick and easy I still wanted to draw it out first as up until now the most I’d ever done was create simple circuits with one component at a time. I decided to try out Fritzing as it was free and worked in Linux, though I didn’t expect much with it being in Alpha. Turns out it’s a really solid program that makes designing circuits a breeze.

Here’s a sketch I made of the Arudino + Protoshield, a buzzer, servo, DS1302 clock chip and a crystal. I was quite surprised it had all of the components I needed, with the exception of the clock battery and holder which were strangely absent and the crystal was of a different design than what I had to work with.

I had been playing with it for a couple of nights before I even started playing with the Schematic and PCB screens but couldn’t stop playing with them once I noticed the Autoroute button. The designs aren’t always 100% aesthetically pleasing but it does an impressive job and I love how you watch it figure it out step by step. The Schematic screen will be especially handy later on down the road when I finalize the design and build a bare bones Arduino with just the necessary components.

In the past I’ve tried a few other programs such as Eagle and found myself lost. I’m overwhelmed with options and for someone who’s new to the electrical engineering side of things it’s quite scary. Fritzing manages to keep it simple while giving you the power to do what you need to do without all that other crap interfering. Fritzing is an absolute must have if you are doing any sort of work with either the Arduino or Picaxe platform.

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