Design & Development
Do you have an idea? We can work with you from prototype to finished product. SparkBright can also design hardware and firmware for inclusion in your own products or equipment.
Our microcontroller (MCU) design skills include:
- Telemetry, radio control or data links – 2.4Ghz wifi solutions providing secure, reliable and robust radio links.
- Displays – mono or colour LCD displays are a relatively inexpensive way of adding a smart user interface or data display to a project.
- Stepper Motor control – our newest area of expertise is building modules and firmware to control and orchestrate precision CNC motion, animatronics, automatons, robots, vending machines. SparkBright recently invested in a lathe to facilitate machining of leadscrews and associated bearings, sliders etc.
- MODBUS – this is an older but widely used industrial communications protocol, commonly used in HVAC systems and the Beckman Coulter HIAC ROC PC9001 online laser particle counter. We thoroughly understand the MODBUS protocol and have several stock designs.
- Intuitive user interfaces – using an LCD display, a rotary encoder (an infinitely rotating jogwheel dial), one or two buttons and some clever code, it is possible to create a very intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) that allow users to set parameters, scroll through data, interact with peripherals etc.
- Data transfer – using microcontrollers to talk to various peripherals, e.g. printers, displays EEPROM memory chips, other microcontrollers.
- Data Logging – EEPROM memory chips are inexpensive and offer vast, non volatile memory. Coupled with a sensor (e.g. temperature, humidity, pressure, light, mass, depth, GPS, accelerometer etc.) and perhaps a radio telemetry link, we can design custom dataloggers/data recorders.
- Interfacing to USB – we have in-depth experience of creating custom modules that can interface via USB with PCs/computers or other USB-equipped consumer electronics.
- Pulse width modulation (PWM) control – PWM provides a very efficient way of controlling things like LED brightness, DC motor speed, solenoid speed/position, even DC voltage if you add a simple buck regulator stage.
- Servo control – many people think of servos being controlled by RC receivers. In fact you can control one servo from one I/O pin. One of our own projects-in-development involves coordinating many servos from a single mcu to produce complex undulatory locomotion.
Some more recent electronics projects:
Hydraulics manufacturerThis firm manufactures hydraulic components and systems for commercial and heavy industrial applications. SparkBright is delighted to have been working with them for several years on various projects including wireless remote control, voltage monitoring and valve control.
Oil & Fluid MonitoringSparkBright designed & developed a series of complex modules that interface with the Beckman Coulter HIAC PC9001 laser counter for oil or other fluids. Our modules provide a LCD display and intuitive user interface; communicate by MODBUS with the particle counter; manage the apparatus’ power and various electromechanical peripherals; log a stream of sensor data into non-volatile memory; and, provide a USB interface for stored data to be downloaded to a PC.
Aircraft DynamicsThis Ohio based firm designs & produces equipment for military, fire & rescue, industrial and energy-utility applications. We supplied them with battery indicators for one of their product lines.
MIVAThis Austrian organisation supplies transport and humanitarian solutions to developing countries. We were very proud to provide them with battery voltage monitors (BVMs) for the UNICEF Mobistation, which is a complete, portable IT system.Images ©UNICEF Innovation 2013
SmartronixBased in Hollywood MD, USA, Smartronix provides information technology and engineering solutions for the defence sector. We are pleased to have them as an ongoing client for a custom made device.
Miniportworld BVWe supply this customer with battery charge indicators for their flotilla of themed electric boats, which they operate across Europe (Netherlands, Belgium and Germany). Miniportworld provides children with a full sailing experience, allowing them to become captains of real boats in a safe and fun marine environment.
Paramount PicturesWe were very excited to supply custom engineered units to Paramount for use by their special effects team in the 2013 film World War Z, directed by Marc Forster and starring Brad Pitt. Our units were the core of 'zombie packs' used in filming on location in Malta. These packs receive a remote control pulse and produce an accurately timed (and variable) output pulse to fire an air-cannon loaded with 'blood and gore'; allowing zombie actors to be blown-up remotely and on cue.
Battery fuel gaugeSparkBright were asked to design and produce a battery fuel gauge for a prototype electric bicycle. The unit was designed to be flush mounted and featured an engraved alloy touch sensor (providing on/off control) set into a circular black fascia. The firmware controlling the LEDs included rapid fade-up/fade-down effects making for a functional and aesthetically pleasing unit. Sadly however, the electric bicycle design never saw the light of day.
Private clientIn 2012 we completed design work and an initial production run of a key fob sized timer for a certain application. The brief was for a small, efficient and accurate timer that provided audible and visual signals of elapsed time. Through clever design we achieved zero quiescent current with just a single interface button providing start/stop/reset functions.
Transitioning from PTH to SMTA client asked us to take a PTH (pin through hole) design and produce it using SMT (surface mount technology). Originally measuring 58mm x 46mm, the redesign brought the motorcycle Servo Throttle Valve (STV) emulator down to just 32mm x 13mm - a reduction of 85%. A much smaller (and less expensive) enclosure can now be used, the smaller size is more attractive to the end user, and the product is now significantly less expensive to post.