This year Virtuabotix will be releasing its fourth generation of Versalino controllers, and hopes to change the way electronics are designed in the future. Virtuabotix designed the Versalino Architecture to solve problems that current students, designers, and engineers face in the field.
Colorado Springs, CO July 29, 2014
Virtuabotix is excited to announce that later this year it will be releasing its fourth generation of Versalino microcontrollers. Anyone who has been knee deep in the Arduino development platform has encountered that time where one Arduino Shield uses the same pins as another shield they needed for a project. These individuals typically find themselves using jumper wires or de-soldering pins altogether just to get things working. This was just one of the design problems that Virtuabotix faced when designing the Versalino as the new Open Source Electrical Engineering solutions for customers.
In a world where an increasing number of inventions are dependent on embedded technologies to work, there are very few hardware layouts that are considered standard. This is particularly problematic in the open source world, because many designs are for personal/proprietary projects. These proprietary designs tend to be difficult to wire to existing microcontrollers.
Virtuabotix set out to solve this problem with first revision of the Versalino Uno (Now approaching its fourth generation). Virtuabotix started out developing products around the Arduino Uno, but quickly encountered the problems that come with having no design standards, and of requiring the use of every pin on a microcontroller to operate a simple shield. Beyond the board to board conflicts, there was the required board size for a vertical stacking design that made an Arduino shield so large that it dramatically increased the cost to produce boards. Additionally, the use of vertically stacked shields made it impossible for the Arduino platform to be reduced in size and remain compatible with a shield. Each time the size of the Arduino has been reduced its pin layout and shield compatibility have been completely lost.
The Versalino Architecture solves the four main problems in modern electrical engineering and design with current technologies. The first is to eliminate the need to use more board space than required for a particular device. The second is to eliminate the ability for Versalino loadboards and Arduino shields to use the same pins as each other. The third is to ensure compatibility with a system as its shape and size are changed over time. The fourth is to reduce cost per unit of each microcontroller board so that it is possible to use a development board for small production runs of a new product.
Though there were many revolutions of the design, ultimately what was born from those goals was the Versalino Uno, and subsequently the Versalino Nano. The first change was that the pins on the Atmega328 were re-organized into two, 13-pin Versalino Buses, designed to be identical in function but to connect loadboards horizontally instead of vertically. This solved the board size, pin usage problems, and the ability of a Versalino board to change its shape and size at will. Each Versalino bus was designed to have three Analog Ports, three Pulse Wave Modulation ports (PWM), three general purpose input/output pins (GPIOs), regulated voltage, ground, and raw input voltage. This gave the ability of a Versalino loadboard to do most anything needed on a microcontroller regardless of which bus it used.
Finally, we looked at making changes to the system by significantly reducing its size, and the cost per unit for not only the Versalino board itself, but the loadboards that would later be used on it. This included eliminating the built in USB. By removing the built in USB and designing the board to be programmed with the Versalino FTDI programmer, or similar FTDI programmers, it made it possible for the Versalino to be used in many more projects that did not require each unit to have built in USB to Serial communication. For example, a class of 12 that teaches children about robotics and electronics would only need to have a single programmer and 12 Versalino Uno boards to conduct the lesson. Using the Arduino platform would require that same classroom to pay for a USB interface for each of the 12 students, drastically increasing cost and the level of difficulty to develop a project around the Arduino.
Over the last 3 years, more and more projects and classrooms have come to see the benefits of the Versalino in their designs and educational projects alike. Virtuabotix intends to continue its efforts to expand the Versalino Architecture into many other areas of Electrical Engineering and Open Source hardware, and looks forward to the opportunity to innovate more ways to improve how the world solves hardware problems in the future.