uRADMonitor campaign update 2

(This is a part 2 to my last campaign update post)

The KIT1 has arrived!

Assembled uRADMonitor KIT1.
Assembled uRADMonitor KIT1.

I could not help myself from soldering it immediately, and it worked! My new device is beeping along nicely, without any big trouble.

So what did I get? A small brown box, containing a lot of antistatic bags, and a manual. The manual is made in black on white, while there are some hints that it was printed on a full color printer. The links on page 9 are printed in blue 😛

So on to the baggies: one containing the PCB, one with the SBM-20, one with a paper with most of the parts, one with the larger parts, one with the ATMega, the usbASP(v2 as per the manual), the screen, network breakout, and the two bags with the network card, and the usb power cable with a really small transformer, probably for USA use.

Most of the parts of the kit.
Most of the parts of the kit.

Soldering the parts was relatively easy, the only issues were due to my inexperience in soldering.

The small parts.
The small parts.

The silkscreen does not mention the parts, so at first I started writing a map of where parts are supposed to come, and what parts on the paper would get what designation. Strangely the PN2907’s weren’t mentioned on the list (p5), but they were the only ones, so I could fill in the blanks 🙂

From there on I continued soldering the parts according to height, so I would do the flattest ones first. Working my way up, I anticipated not that much trouble, but noticed again how much harder through hole soldering is than surface mount, especially for beginners, thanks to the course I did with Kliment. Thanks again for the course!

In the end there was just one stupid mistake in  re-seating the screen upside down before switching it on for the first time, but luckily it did not break. As I saw my mistake immediately, all went perfectly from then on.

The BME280 is already setup, but there are some additions needed for it in the  firmware. Radu told me he will add them himself, so when he adds them to the GitHub repo, the device can be reflashed and use the information from the added sensors. For this I will also need a file from Radu, to make sure my login to the central database stays secure. I am still using the device offline, as it will move a lot in the beginning, and it is not even close to its final destination. It would be very nice if I could connect the device to my own network only first, to not clutter the DB. For now I have no logging, and can only see the info on the device itself. I will investigate further. I have an Sparkfun OpenLog lying around, maybe that could do the trick for now, and maybe I could even add a GPS that way to make it fully mobile.

In other news, the BME680 did finally arrive. Thank you Bosch! Production on the model D will be able to continue as soon as the parts arrive at the factory.

Also a new fixed/mounted outdoor measurement device is announced, the model A3. This seems to be a model incorporating the same improvements as seen in the model D, but I have to look into it more closely to see what changed.

I just got a mail from Radu asking me to show pictures of my soldering. No winning entry from me, I dislike some joints, but here is the result 🙂

KIT1 soldered (badly)

I will try to touch it up soon, and remove the flux, but it seems 18y whiskey is not strong enough to dissolve it. It can go back to dissolving my mind though 😛 I will try to find my isopropyl alcohol for better results.

I have more pics, and more information from the project to talk about, but the weather is too nice to fill my day with typing, so now it is onto the next task, potting plants 🙂 I will tell about my experiences with the KIT1 some more in a next installment. For now I am very happy with the kit, and will try to make an enclosure soon.


uRADMonitor campaign update

A few days ago I was looking for information on the current state of the uRADMonitor project and IGG campaign, there were some updates, but not the ones I searched for. So I decided to mail him, and was immediately greeted with lots of information. As my answers were numerous and well detailed, I decided it would be good to tell others about the things I learned.

First off, as it is still mostly Radu’s one man show, I understand it is a lot of work to handle all the production issues, programming the firmware, site and handling all interest. It is not always easy to keep information available to all people who want it. I think he does a real good job considering the task he set himself, and the results he’s getting!

Devices overview

There were three products to get with this campaign,

Model A  Stationary outdoor Gamma radiation monitoring device

KIT1 (Solderable and Assembled version) Open Source version based on Model A, with screen and some extra options like battery connector for mobile use

and Model D Mobile sensor station with a lot of sensors in a mobile enclosure

It might be good to first explain the progress on each of the models:

Model A

Model AThis was the known-and-tested option, so they were on hand, and were sent out in January as anticipated. The new production brought some upgrades to model A as well, including an extension port for UART, I2C and speaker as well as firmware improvements (HW version 109 and FW version 116).


KIT1 board - top

Chinese New Year happened, and was not accounted for. This slipped up the timeline a lot, but the boards are under way now, and all the components are all available and ready. A extension header was added during the wait. It is now possible to add an BME280/BMP180 to the kit yourself. These are just the standard breakouts available from all kinds of suppliers, and could potentially use all the sensors that use this UART/I2C connection.BME280 BMP180

The PCB’s have arrived this week, so testing and assembly can start. When this goes well, they will be sent out soon. The end is near. Support for the extra sensor information is ready and will be added to the local firmware on Github soon. The hardware iteration (1.1.103) has already been added, together with pictures and instructions (see the pcb-1.1.103 folder).

The newest version has the added header, as you can see in this picture:

KIT1 extension header

Model D

Model D iterations - bottom This device cost a lot of extra work, as it is a new product, and a lot of changes had to be made to make room for the stretch goals. Adding the internal antenna, GPS and SD card support added a lot of complexity to the hardware design and the firmware. This even made it necessary for an upgrade in the controller, twice. It started out with the ATMega128 in the models for the Hackaday Prize 2015, and now the ATMega 2561 is included to make room for all the hardware and firmware additions and improvements. This is also where a lot of ongoing work is done at this time, finalizing the firmware code, including the user interface. There was a total of 4 PCB iterations on making this product, as you can see in the pictures. Model D iterations - top

So at the moment the waiting game is on for the brand new BME680 sensor, when that arrives production can start. Testing and calibration would still have to be done, and this adds some time too. Things are under way, the delay is difficult, but the time is well spent adding the stretch goals to the firmware.

Radu: “Regarding the software, it really needs to be fully functional, as subsequent updates are possible, but only for those having a programmer and the right toolchain (need some technical skills to do that). There will be OTA updates somewhere in the future, but there’s still a long road to get there as it requires non-trivial implementations both in firmware and on server side.”

My projected campaign timeline

All Model A’s are sent out.
The blocker for KIT1 is the board, this should arrive this week. The design is tested, and no problems in testing are expected. If all goes as planned all KIT1 perks can be shipped this month.
The model D could take some time as not all the parts have arrived, and the firmware is still being finalized. Once the parts are complete, production should be ready in about two weeks, and testing can start. This means the Model D will take at least a month from now, and that is when all testing goes well.

Delays are common on crowdfunding projects, but can be expected. The delays are not nice, but it is good to know that Radu is doing all he can to send us the best devices possible. On the positive side, we’ll get some extra features in both hardware and software. The projected timelines in the post are mine, not his.

Can you still get a uRADMonitor now?

The initial goal is to produce 60 model D units, and only 44 are sold yet, so there is still room to get one just after the IGG units are sent out.
The Model A is still available for immediate shipping.
KIT1 is approaching the finish line, and units will also be available for immediate shipping starting April 2016.
They are still orderable at IGG, and it is always possible to send Radu an email to order them directly.

How can you help the uRADmonitor project grow?

There are a lot of things the community can do to help. The obvious would be to get a sensor, but there are other things as well.

  • Radu needs information on environment sensors that he could add to the measurement devices.
  • If you program, it would be good to see improvements to the KIT1 firmware.
  • Or if you’re in mobile apps you could help with the uRADMonitor Android app – not yet announced but apparently happening (source)
  • Are you a writer? The models could all use a nice manual.
  • If you are good at design, there could be a project designing flyers to explain what is happening when someone is using the Model D to make mobile measurements, or what the uRADmonitor project is about.
  • Are you a web designer? Then maybe there is something to help with for the frontend of www.uradmonitor.com.
  • If you are a teacher, there could be a set of instructions to teach students about the measurements that are possible, with or without the uRADmonitor devices, to keep tabs on the environment.
  • Do you like building games? Why not try to make a game using the measurements that can be done (not just how to find Chernobyl).
  • Translators, you know what can be done :)There are lots of possibilities, and Radu could use all the help he can get.

    I hope this answers most of your questions, if you have more, do not hesitate to ask him. Reach him directly on mail:  radhoo.tech@gmail.com.

    This covers mainly what I was able to learn communicating with Radu, it is easy to like this project with all the support he offers contributors and people new to the uRADMonitor project. It is no wonder his project is already so successful.

    I’m very interested in the progress the project makes, and how big the potential benefits are going to be.