PCBs Finally Underway

PCB designs were finally sent off to Gold Phoenix yesterday, a bit of a delay as I had been wanting to complete a couple of other designs to fill up the panel before sending off.  Three different designs, Strobit RFM12B core, Experimental 2.4Ghz core and a prototype personality (think arduino prototype type shield) have now been merged using gerber merge into a 10” x 14.5” panel.  Hopefully they should be back early next week.


Strobit Board – some minor tweaks

Ok not quite finished, but almost there!  I’ve had to make a few minor changes.  I’m glad I’ve taken the time to learn and play around with Eagle 3D, it had highlighted some potential clearance problems.  Rather than rush things I’ve decided to take a bit of time modelling than fork out my $$$ and get some prototypes made only to find these problems down the track and could have avoided.  Granted Modelling is not a silver bullet, and I guess I could be here forever, but now I’m a lot happier.


  • Moved SMA antenna connector back from front edge of the PCB as it was hanging over slightly.  This connector is optional at assembly.  The pad can be used to solder on a wire antenna instead.
  • Changed switched power side on the switch, The switched side of the On/Off switch was very close to ground plane coming under the switch so had the potential to short, now is nice and clear.  I’ve also added some more ground plane clearance around the switch contacts just to be on the safe side.
  • Added solder jumpers for LEDS, probably don’t want these enabled if a personality board is on, but it gives you the option to use them or not, and re-use the I/O if required.
  • Moved vias and tracks away from standoffs.


  • I think I really need to isolate the 2 power sources from each other, i.e. the Power from the USB and VBAT, so I’m looking at putting in a BAT54C barrier diode.  Just need to research it a bit more.
  • Still don’t know what to do with the ICSP connector.  I will probably leave it there with the option of putting it on at assembly.  I’m pretty sure that it will clear any personality board with a bit of care.  Modelling the personality board is my next step.



These are components I’ve created for Eagle3D.

You may also want to check out the tutorials on how to create your own components.  http://blog.everythingrobotics.com/tutorials/eagle3d-tutorials/using-google-sketchup-to-create-components/


HopeRF RFM12B SMD 433Mhz/915Mhz RF Module


Microchip MR24J40MA FCC Approved 2.4GHZ 802.15.4 RF Module


Sparkfun SMA PCB Edge


PJ-326 3.5mm Jack http://www.switchcn.com/


900Mhz GSM SMA Antenna attached to PCB SMA Connector



Strobit Eagle3D Library (19/03/2009) Download



These are provided AS-IS and may contain bugs and or discrepancies and may not be to scale.

If you find any bugs or problems or make enhancements please feel free to contact me so I can update the downloads.

Step 4

Tweaking the Settings

Now we have added the component into Eagle3d we need to tweak and fine-tune the settings.

  1. Now render your PCB, more than likely a couple of problems will show up.  The first is your component is very small.  so we need to tweak the scaling from within the component file we recreated in the previous steps.

    Very Small component shown. (click to enlarge)
    07/08/09 update: (Thanks for the tip Jeremy)

    > Jeremy wrote:
    > Hey. I read over your tutorial on making Eagle3d components in Google
    > Sketchup, and I wanted to thank you for saving me a considerable
    > amount of time. I also found something you might have missed. Sketchup
    > records units in mm
    > (millimeters) but when su2pov plugin is run, it converts all the mm
    > into inches (1mm -> .03937 inch). The problem is that Eagle3D
    > interprets the numbers in the .inc files as in mm. So the best way to
    > fix the problem is to scale up your drawing in Sketchup by 25.4 times
    > (thus counteracting the plugin’s unit conversion).

  2. To scale the component scroll down to near the end of the file where you should see something like this
       2: #object {MRFceJeaMA
       3: matrix < 0.1,0.0,0.0,
       4: 0.0,0.1,0.0,
       5: 0.0,0.0,0.1,
       6: 0.0,0.0,0.0>
       7: }
  3. tweak the settings that have numbers in them, the following worked for me
       1: // Scale
       2: #object {MRFceJeaMA
       3: matrix < 2.55,0.0,0,
       4: 0.0,2.50,0.0,
       5: 0.0,0.0,2.55,
       6: 0.0,0.2,0.0>
       7: }
  4. Now the component should be close to the right size, but the offset is off.triggr-020
  5. We now need to get the correct offsets, which is a bit ht and miss, but I found the following works best.
  6. Locate the component in the generated POV file (step 8 above)
  7. Change the translate values just after the macro name as shown below, the hit and miss comes in by taking a guess in what direction and value to use.
       1: #ifndef(pack_U2) #declare global_pack_U2=yes; object {MRF24J40MA()translate<-5,0,0> rotate<0,0.000000,0>rotate<0,-270.000000,0> rotate<0,0,0> translate<61.569600,0.000000,15.240000>}#end        //MRF24J40MA FCC Approved module U2 MRF24J40MA MRF24J40MA
  8. We are heading in the right direction, so keep changing until it all lines up on that axis.


  9. looks like we are right on here, onto the next axis


  10. to change the next axis offset we need to modify the last value in the translate function
       1: MRF24J40MA()translate<-9,0,-5>
  11. Just about there


  12. finally looks right


  13. Now we have found the values we need to put them in the 3dusepac.dat file or else the next time we run the ulp script we will loose these settings
  14. In the line we added added to the 3dusrpac.dat file we need to add the values we have just fount to positions 15 and 1 7 as shown below.
       1: MRF24J40MA:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:-9:0:-8:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0:MRF24J40MA(::
  15. If this file is changed we need to re-run the ulp script to re-generate the POV file, then check that your values are there and renders correctly.triggr-020
  16. The same process can be followed if the component is not rotated correctly.  such as shown below


  17. change this value in the POV file to tweak the rotation side of things. change the value show below (-180)  in this example the value that works for me is 90  once again this value must be updated in the 3dusrpac.dat file in position 14.
       1: {MRF24J40MA()translate<-9,0,-8> rotate<0,0.000000,0>rotate<0,-180.000000,0>
  18. Remember to re-run the ULP script to regenerate the POV file.Happy component creating !!!!!
<<Step 3

Step 3

Integrating into Eagle3D

Now we have converted the file to work in Eagle3D we now need to tell Eagle3D how to use it.

  1. Add your include file to the user.inc file
    #declare __user_inc = true;
        #include "MRF24J40MA.inc"
  2. Now open and add the following to the end of 3dusrpac.dat (found in the Eagle3D install directory)
  3. To find the PACKAGE_NAME, first go back to your PCB editor in Eagle, click the info button, then click on the component we have just created the library for.image
  4. Replace PACKAGE_NAME with the Package variable. In this case it is MRF24J40MA Note that this is always in caps!
  5. Next, we need to replace MACRO_NAME with the exact macro name we added to the file in step 2. In this example it’s MRF24J40MA.
  6. The line should now look like this
  7. Now run the Eagle3D ulp script and create the the POV file for the PCB.image
  8. Open the POV file and scroll down until and check that the component has been added to the file (line 3 below)
       1: #ifndef(pack_S1) #declare global_pack_S1=yes; object {SWITCH_SECME_1K2_RH()translate<0,0,4> rotate<0,180.000000,0>rotate<0,-180.000000,0> rotate<0,0,0> translate<41.910000,0.000000,1.727200>}#end        // S1  SWITCH-SPDT-SMD
       2: #ifndef(pack_U1) #declare global_pack_U1=yes; object {QFP_TQFP_32_080MM("ATMEGA168V","ATMEL",)translate<0,0,0> rotate<0,0.000000,0>rotate<0,-45.000000,0> rotate<0,0,0> translate<26.670000,0.000000,16.510000>translate<0,0.035000,0> }#end        //TQFP-32 U1 ATMEGA168V TQFP32-08
       3: #ifndef(pack_U2) #declare global_pack_U2=yes; object {MRF24J40MA()translate<0,0,0> rotate<0,0.000000,0>rotate<0,-270.000000,0> rotate<0,0,0> translate<61.569600,0.000000,15.240000>}#end        //MRF24J40MA FCC Approved module U2 MRF24J40MA MRF24J40MA
       4: }//End union
  9. Now render your PCB, more than likely a couple of problems will show up.  The first is your component is very small.  so we need to tweak the scaling from within the component file we recreated in the previous steps.
<< Step 2 Step 4 >>

Step 1

Exporting Sketchup Objects to POV

  1. You first need to install the su2pov plugin as per the documentation.  Once installed you will see the plugin available from the plugin menu within sketchup. (click for larger image)


  2. I use the the following settings for the SU2POV plugin.image

  3. Select ‘GO’ from the plugin menu.
  4. The POV file is then created, open it up in povray.  You should be able to render it direct from this file so you can at least get a sense of what it will look like rendered on the PCB. (click for larger image)MRF24J40MA

    Note: Some errors were reported when I first tried to render the scene straight from the export line in the POV file.  It appears that this problem is related to the default Radiosity settings generated by the plugin, these are not used in the newer versions of POV.  The su2pov plugin is for pov3.2.  I safely deleted the Radisity section from the generated file.  (update: I have since found that if you change the Radiosity settings to ‘Final’ under the plugin render options this problem does not happen). Eagle3D ultimately handles all the radiosity settings anyway, but this is so we can view the test file in POV.

  5. Now that we have successfully rendered the file in POV we now need to incorporate it into Eagle3D.
Step 2 >>

Basic Triggr Personality

Ok here is the 1st basic trigger personality board.


  • x4 LEDs for visual indication.
  • x2 Push Button Switches, one tied to input for manual triggering/testing, the second independent, could be used for channel or function selection, both could used in conjunction with LEDS for advanced function selection.
  • 1 Strobe output. 400V Max (so will work with older type strobes)
  • 1 protected TTL trigger input. 
  • Small prototype area.
  • Low profile, All large components are mounted underneath.

Still a little cleaning up required but basic functionality is there.

Still TO DO:

  • Change MOC3023 to SMD footprint, I don’t really want the possibility of a large strobe voltage right where a thumb might be.

Basic Triggr Personality PCB


Follow me on Twitter / Strobit Update

I know I’m a bit slack in updates on the blog.  If you haven’t noticed I now have a twitter account  http://www.twitter.com/madeinoz so you can follow what I’m doing when it’s not getting updated here.

However since the blog is way over due for an update here is what’s been happening in a nutshell.

Strobit Trigger:

I have finally gotten off my butt and done a redesign (hah and you thought the project had died a slow death, it may have stalled slowed, but certainly not dead!)

Features worthy of note in the new design (in no particular order):

  • 3V design, will run from x2 AA Alkaline or single CR123A 3V battery.
  • Fairly compact board, 30mm x 70mm. (without battery)  slightly lalonger on 2.4ghz design due to antenna.
  • Onboard on/off switch to save batteries when not in use.
  • FTDI 3.3v breakout cable port for connecting to either RS232 or USB using the FTDI cable.
  • Onboard ISCP port for programming.
  • Personality daughter boards.  Will allow users to create their own hardware modules, i.e. sound trigger, light trigger, LCD UI, or whatever they like etc
  • Atmega168V processor, low cost, low voltage design = longer battery life.
  • Can run Arduino bootloader, so developers have access to Arduino development libraries.
  • I’ve designed 2 different boards.  One using the RFM12B module at either 433Mhz or 915Mhz.  The second board I’m going to try a 2.4GHZ design using Microchips FCC certified MRF24J40MA 802.15.4 module, this is purely experimental so I don’t have any testing done yet, but I have some of these modules and would like to try them out, also being FCC certified will be an added benefit.  (not to mention I’ll be using these for a mesh sensor network project I have planned around the house)
  • RFM12B board design has external SMA antenna.
  • Base PCB board designs are done and I’m fairly happy with them so far, I’m just finishing a basic personality modules which I can used for testing and maybe another one so I can make up the  max designs I can have on a single panelized board (may as well get the most designs I can get fabricated when I send it off to GoldPheonix).  I’ve done some initial Eagle3D runs to get an idea of the boards and so I can post them on the blog, but I really need to learn how to create components in Eagle3D as it leaves unknown components blank, i.e. the RF modules and therefore looks incomplete.  (anyone that can help me here please contact me)

Still To Do:

  • Panelize boards
  • Send to GoldPheonix for PCB fabrication.
  • Assemble and test.

I’ve also been playing with learning Alibre, a fantastic 3D design package (they have a free version) so I can get some ideas for building enclosures design for these boards.





Strobit M8 Files

Jans Gentsch has made his compact version of the Strobit Triggr available to the community, his version, the Strobit M08 based on AVR design can be found here.   Please note that there are a couple of things that need doing to the PCB, if you get a chance to implement Jans design, please post back any changes to me so I can make them available.

Hello Stephen,

I’ve attached the Eagle-Design-Data as well as the source code. I haven’t found time to do anything on those since my post, so the are not in the best state. There are a few Problems with the board design:

Transmitter – There is a connection missing between the processor and NIRQ of the transmitter-module (the transmitter module doesn’t have a fifo, so that the nirq-line is needed to clock out the data). I just added a piece of loose wire during assembly.
Receiver – NIRQ isn’t connected as well, so I am constantly polling, not really a power saving design. however I am still running on the first set of batteries so it’s not like they are being drained empty immediatly.
IO-Board – Thr optocoupley was meant to sit on the bottom side but I got confused. It has to sit on top now.

Getting everything into the housing was a major challenge.

The source code has been developed using avr-gcc and the eclipse ide.
As it stands only the most basic function, tiggering, is working. The control flow will have to be reworked in order to add the rest of the functionality. And of course my “magic” trigger id should be changed.

Have fun!

Alle the best


You will need Eagle PCB to view/edit the schematics and PCB files, found here –http://www.cadsoft.de/

The firmware is written using winavr found here – http://winavr.sourceforge.net/

StrobIt Board

Ok I have finally had a little bit of time to work on things (will be short lived as I’ve just bought a house and moving in the next couple of weeks Aghh!!).

Things are getting very close to reality after many design changes, the very nearly final Strobit Trigger base board, aka a modified Ardiuno BT board, with the Bluetooth removed and now fitted with the RFM12B SMD Tranceiver module and an external SMA antenna connector. The Eagle 3D side of things still needs work as some components are not shown and the inductor for the DC-DC converter is incorrect, but you get the basic idea right!

Why have I gone to a non-dedicated trigger board?

Well a couple of reasons, initially to cover myself from any patent issues that might have arrisen had I used a dedicated wireless triggering device, but mainly to allow better expandability. Why have a dedicated trigger with all the fruit and only use half of it, this way dedicated boards can be used, i.e. standard trigger, or sound/light trigger, sequences etc. Another reason is that the Ardruino is very well established and supported in the open source community, especially when it comes to the firmware libraries etc, it’s already been done. also I can use these in my robotics hobby as well, not just for photography.

Ok onto the board features:

  • Fairly compact same size as ArduinoBT
  • Standard Arduino Pin headers, so should be able to use with existing shields.
  • Will operate from as low as 1.2V, so should work from x1 NIMH AA easily enough.
  • RFM12 Tranceiver, up to 300m range (as per datasheets, although it does depend on the datarate)
  • SMA connector so you can connect an external antenna for better reliability and range, or remove the SMA connector and use a piece of wire as the antenna.

What is left to do?

  • Well the design is pretty well done, I want to get some prototypes made so I will be sending it off very shortly for fabrication.
  • Different variations of shields need to be done, first one being stock standard strobe type of triggr, input and outputs, then others as needed