2018/02/22 (Some of these photos are very old and not representative of what we are currently doing. When I get a chance I will update it).
The photos are just added here with some text or links and basically just shows you some of the things we do.
10 AMP PSU designed for CNC machines. The PSU provides an unregulated DC output of up to 40V (depending on your transformer). It also provides auxiliary 5V and 24V at up to 2A peaks. For safety the circuit includes a relay circuit for an emergency switch as required by most CNC installations.
Video overlay cards. This card is a highly integrated solution and includes the CPU and video overlay on the same chip. It comes in either a 16MB or 32MB RAM version with 1MB Flash. The latest version includes RS232 (PC standard) and numerous I/O pins custom configured for each issue. If has been successfully tested on both black/white and colour PAL and NTSC. The card overlays gray scale, programmable from white to black, over the video. It is important to note that the video stays unaltered and passes through without any digitization... a very important requirement, as digitization reduces quality.
Examples of the video overlay on a B/W CRT screen. The API has a simple Font generator but it is completely customizable by the end user.
This is an old version of a monster of an 4 port Access Control system. Although complex and fragile looking the ports are nearly idiot proof. The FPGA provides CPU and search engine capabilities. It was designed with 32 MB of RAM and 1MB of flash but could be easily expanded with an SD or MMC memory card. Without the memory expansion you have up to 10 000 cardholders, but with memory expansion this increases to about 1 000 000. The FPGA provides a DMA memory search that would be able to find any card RFID number in less than 70ms. The controller interfaces to the outside world with either Ethernet (direct to an available port), RS485 and RS232 (2x). The RS232 ports provides on the spot configuration as well as an interface to GSM/GPRS (for remote systems) and ISM RF links (for lightning sensitive applications). The output ports are short circuit proof and semi-isolated. A short on any channel can be detected by the CPU and handled, while the other 3 ports operate normally. Each output can be activated by switch reducing the need to run around with a test card (or locking yourself in a room). Reader inputs (Wiegand) can withstand just about any miswiring, like shorts and connection to PSU. The general inputs are optically isolated. The is also a real-time clock for general use or when the communications to the main PC is disconnected. The client has a choice between a 3V lithium battery or 3.3V SuperCap to sustain clock data when power is down. The main power supply (not shown) has its own CPU monitoring currents and voltages on 4 different nodes as well as an intelligent lead acid battery charger. The logic provides diagnostics informing the client of a possible battery failure by following a diagnostic procedure testing the battery while AC power is available. The control section is fully TCP/IP compliant and, on an Ethernet or GPRS connection, provides Telnet and HTTP interfacing. You can physically log in to the unit (login and password) with a web browser like IExplorer and operate and interrogate the single controller over the LAN (or remotely). All this said I must add that this device is heavily complicated and requires specialized IT personnel to install and maintain. For this reason this project has not taken off. If you think you can handle it then let us know so we can start it up again.
The device above is quite the opposite of the monster 4 port access controller. We call it the Reader-Controller. It has several useful features. Firstly it is a fully contained controller WITH the reader built in, hence the name. BUT it is also fully wireless, thus no network cables. If you have installations where lightning strikes often and then kills half your hardware then this is the system for you. You only need to provide local power. The unit has a few I/O lines for tamper and push button out as well as an isolated 3 wire relay output for the lock. The output is also short circuit protected (unfortunately no CPU intervention). The entire device is epoxied in a hard Poly-urethane enclosure, thus completely waterproof (as well as idiot proof). The software currently supports up to 250 readers, 800 cardholders and 454 offline transactions. Due to a supply problem on both components and enclosures this project was stopped last year. We are in the process of changing the CPU to a new more modern version which will allow us to increase the features (like short circuit detection, time frames etc...) as well as more data storage. It has become apparent that the 800 max cardholders number has stopped installers from buying in on this product as some large installations require thousands of cardholders. Most of them don't want to have to say to a client that they cannot quote because they are a few cards over the limit. The new version will try and make provision for at least 3200 (and more offline transactions). Some people also asked for 13.56MHz reading capabilities but we currently think that the 125kHz cards are still cheap enough to compete with that market.
In the future we plan, by Q3, to have a completely network-less reader with a simple USB interface. This solution will be ideal for residential complexes. If you want a cheap product sooner than what we are planning then let us know.
We use a lot of Altera FPGAs. Some of the products are sold for the clients to be able to program the FPGAs themselves. The full license for the software can cost you around $3000 per year (ex simulators and advanced compilers) but you can easily download the limited web edition software for free or get it from me on DVD (when you buy a FPGA board). The only problem then is how you program the chips. Altera easily charges $150 USD for a programming cable and if you live outside the USA then the shipping costs are added.
The printer port cable above is a simple version of their ByteBlasterMV and sells for R150 (approx $15 USD). Although we do not have a USB version available we can get a USBBlaster compatible version for about R1000 ($100USD). But, along with a cheap FPGA development board the printer port is one of the cheapest options to get started.
The board above has a Altera Cyclone1 CPU, 128BK of SRAM, 1MB of flash, RTC, WDT, onboard power supplies (only add 12V), relay outputs, 2 8bit DAC outputs, 2 inputs and CS8900 Ethernet chip option. This board has provided us, on numerous occasions, logic analyzer functionality with Altera's SignalTap software. In fact we have been thinking of releasing a board with basically just an FPGA, PSU and an expansion port for logic analysis. We have obtained sample clocks of up to 260MHz sampling 16 bits at a time and debugged military equipment running at 20MHz to 30MHz. So before you go and buy the top of the range Logic Analyzer equipment you must consider this option.
The setup above is a complete vehicle tracking system. A newer version is in the immediate horizon eliminating the whip antenna for space critical conditions. The current design has motion detection. It goes to sleep for extended periods of time reducing battery consumption and starts up when the vehicle starts moving again. It also includes a 6V lead-acid battery charger which you can optionally use with 2 lugs on the power connection cable.
The product above is also a tracking system., with one catch: It has to last for 2 years on a single battery charge! The circuit was designed to go into sleep mode for extended periods of time and transmit the location data when active. The circuit uses a measly 24uA, at room temperature, when inactive. This includes all power consumption for the CPU, GSM and GPS including data retention. The entire unit is sealed off to make it waterproof. Most of the magic actually happens on the underside of the circuit and not shown for IP reasons.
Another "dead in the water - ready to be resurrected" project, due to too many hands in the pool. This circuit was detail designed by Rual Dedekind in 2004/2005 and provides 4 channels of light sequencing. In the current form the product is done and functional. At the time of completion the client started with extra requirements and the IP rights started to become an issue. The main attraction and drawback is in the way the device is programmed. Everything is done via 4 switches. The ideal would be to program it on a laptop and then download it over a serial cable. This idea was stretched to RF... and then we lost interest. If someone wants this project to come alive again then let me know. BUT we will only look at it if we can move larger volumes, e.g. 200+ units per month.
Below are 2 pictures of a PSU of which the client asked us to remove the description.
Version 2 of the PSU.... Version 3 is on its way.
For those who are interested... we know a supplier who has surplus FastTrack Modems, based on the Wavecom Q26. You can get these (probably 2000 units left) for a very good price, as they were bought before the economic crash of 2008, BUT they need to move before end of February 2009. The one shown uses a little GPS card to form a single tracking system that fits in your hand.
If you want a soldering station I would urge you to buy a Magnum product. Not only are these products cheaper than other well known brand names but they are very reliable and easy to use. The one soldering station we bought in 1998 ran for 16 hours per day and only malfunctioned in 2006 after the thermocouple was damaged by us. This is one of those products you can buy as a student and hand it over to your grandchild when you retire. I know the owner personally and can assure you he is a perfectionist. Many people have emailed me to buy a soldering station. We don't have an agency. You can use the link (upper right) to get to their web site.
The picture above is an example of a USB adaptor. This one was manufactured by Jacques Begomi and is a USB to RS422 converter. We are slowing adding a few of our own converters as it seems that RS232 on a PC is dying out. We are currently manufacturing a USB to RS232/RS485 and SPI/I2C converter for a client in George, in the Cape. As part of the www.re-package.com range we are looking at most of these common interfaces.
This is one of several designs for a company called SKData, in George in the Eastern Cape. We now specialize in SiLabs 8051 devices. This card uses a F310 chip and is custom made for a robotics arm that is used to plant a tree. The tractor system includes +- 80 circuit boards and automatically plants 6 trees at once. The rest of the photos will be added later.
www.re-package.com has a range of products to make your development easier. These are normally difficult to obtain or difficult components to mount, made available on a PCB that fits onto Vero prototyping board or breadboard. You have CPU choices ranging from a 8 bit 8051, 2Kbyte ranging to 100MHz 8051 with plenty of I/O. We currently only do one GPS but in March 2009 a new Leadtek device is being released resulting in very high specs but low cost receivers. Although we have several GSM modems we currently only have the Siemens MC55i on a module. We manufacture a generic 2A SMPS PSU that can be ordered in standard voltages like 3.3V and 5V but can also be ordered custom or without the voltage dividers included.
We currently have a few popular chip carriers available (SO8, SO14, SO16 and SOJ16). The header pins are supplied unsoldered to make shipping cheaper and easier.
What we are trying to achieve is to help people avoid soldering these types of devices by hand, especially for XDM prototypes and novice beginners... and people with bad eyes and coordination.
This test dumped 1.5A continuous for days into this resistor without any problems. We have opted not to sell linear regulators, such as LM317, as these get too hot and are available in easy solder-able TO220 packages.
This little module carries both the modem and push-push SIM holder. All the I/O is available on the header pins. The important I/O lines (RS232 comms) are also available on a 10 pin header. Basically just add 3.6V (from the PSU above), add a SIM and antenna and send an SMS or GPRS packet.
The F310 CPU modules are very cost effective solutions to get into the microcontroller game (+-R99). You do need a EC3 programmer (roughly R500) but then you are set for all the devices in the range. The F319A module is prefect as a development board as well as a standalone component. I have found that most of our clients use large, easy to solder components (like power transistors, 3mm LEDs, connectors, relays etc...) and DIP components like PICs. But unfortunately Microchip's products have a weird CPU architecture that most people believe is only useful for flashing an LED. SiLabs's 8051 range gives you access to USB, 24 bit ADCs, RF (coming soon), high speed (100MHz, 70 MIPS) etc..., but only comes in SMD QFP and QFN packages. If you are lucky you can buy it in a SOIC14 package that you can solder on one of our carrier boards, but most people still battle. The module above comes without the crystal (the only reason why it is through hole) and can be anything from low MHZ to 25MHz. The CPU can sustain 70% of the clock frequency in MIPS and performs most of the instructions in 1 or 2 clock cycles. You also don't need to worry about the programming port as all the correct programming resistors and caps are standard on the board. You can also directly solder power and RS232 (you need a MAX3232 to adjust the levels) to the board and be up and running in no time. But the best that you can use the module as is, as a component by just adding female headers to your 'motherboard'. We already have F305, F310 and F120 modules in stock. We are planning F350 (24bit ADC) and F930 (Ultra low power 50nA sleep mode with RTC).
This F305A module contains a 3x3mm F305 controller. The extra components implements a single CapSense circuit as per Silabs's application note. The 2.54mm spacing for a breadboard defined the width of the board as it could have been a lot smaller. We did this as a gimmick as you can use this as a touch switch for practical or educational purposes, and it costs only R49! But we have already sold about half the stock soon after we built them up.
This is the form we get and assemble the PCBs. This is the panel for the F305A module above. We manufacture 54 boards at a time.
These are the panels for the SOx carriers. You can either buy them separate (much more expensive) or per sheet. When you buy them per sheet you will notice that the boards and panel sides are designed for pick and place machines (including 1mm fiducials). This means that you can supply SOx components on 100mils spacing, in bulk, if you want. Most of the time you will only use this to quickly prototype with a SO8 to SO16 component. BTW, each carrier also has a power pad. Some components require you ground their power pad or it is used to conduct heat.
This device is proving to interest quite a few people. This module gives you access at USB slaves, especially USB Flashdrives. You can now interface your new 4GB flashdrive to your latest 8051 microcontroller, open files, create files etc... Just imagine building a cheap logging device with 1GB to 16GB of storage. This device is still a bit pricy at roughly R350 (in volume) but if you compare the options, like buying a PC104 CPU card (with a USB master) and loading e.g. Windows CE (plus license) then R350 is dirt cheap.
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