iCEBreaker V1.0 Crowd Supply Campaign

#1

Hey everyone!

In this topic I would like to keep you up to date with the status of the iCEBreaker FPGA crowd supply campaign.

Do not worry if you don’t want to follow the forum and are afraid if you will miss something by only reading the campaign updates. All the important information will be included in the campaign updates, so you will not miss anything. The topic here is meant as a more in depth and more frequent update channel for those that are interested in the details.

So what happened since the campaign ended? First I needed to catch up on a few things after coming back from Europe, and I think I am mostly caught up now. Second thing I wanted to get done is to set up the wiki and the forum for iCEBreaker. Now that this is done we will finally move on to early bird hardware assembly and part ordering. Although I will also spend time expanding the wiki content and posting things in this forum. I think creating a community and talking about our projects and plans is as important as receiving the hardware.

On the hardware front, we are getting ready to assemble the early bird backer tier of the iCEBreakers. We have the V1.0c revision PCBs that will be used for that tier, and most of the parts. I still have to go through all the parts and make sure I have them all in stock, and if not order the remaining missing parts. Although I always try to keep a very good count on everything there is always a possibility for an error. :wink:

A few of you have requested to wait for V1.0d of the board. If you also want to wait for the updated board please send us an email through the crowd supply page.

I have also sent out quote requests to LED panel manufacturers to finalize the sourcing of the 64x64 P2 LED panels. We are still waiting for the final offers to come in, and we will order them as soon as the campaign money reaches our bank account. These panels will likely take 30 days to arrive at our HQ as they are bulky and have to be sent from China on a container ship.

That would be it for today. Let me know if you have any questions in this thread, and I will try to answer them as well as I can. Also feel free to start your own topic in the forum telling us about the projects you are planning to do. I am sure there will be others that are interested and might have suggestions.

Talk to you soon,
Piotr

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#2

Hey Everyone!

This is the same update as the one that went out to all the backers of the Crowd Supply Campaign. Some of you here might not be subscribed there or might want to comment on things included in the update. So here is a copy of the update. :smiley:

It’s been a while since our last update. Sorry that it took so long. We promise to do better in the future.

Early Bird Tier Part Purchases

The main reason why we haven’t posted an update recently is because we’ve been trying to get as much done as possible before the beginning of the Chinese New Year celebrations. We did manage to get a big chunk of the parts ordered that we needed for the early bird tier production except for the Pmod PCBs. The factories in China had different cut off dates for when their factory would be closed for the holiday and we ran out of time before people left. Now that the holiday is over we’ve started to get shipping notifications for orders that were on hold during that time, so things are moving again!

The Pmod PCBs for the Early Bird tier production have shipped as of February 14th! So we will be getting into production very soon.

LED Panel Issues

As part of the Early Bird tier fulfillment preparations we also ordered LED Panels right before the Chinese New Year. After receiving the panels from China we were met with a surprise. It turned out that the new panels we got not only have different mounting brackets on the back but a fully different chips on the back of the panel. The earlier panels were using ICN2037 shift registers that behave normally and you can just shift data into. The new panels are using FM6126 shift register chips instead.

The new chips require an init sequence that configures and enables the shift registers. If you are interested in the details you can read this amazing issue thread on Henner Zeller’s GitHub.

led-panel-DCHY-P2-644-1515-VP-sch

It took us several days to figure out what exactly was wrong with the panels and what needed to be done. At the end we got them to work thanks to some reversing and the above mentioned GitHub issue. We know how to drive them and we have a working state machine to initialize the panels (Yes we will add the init sequence to tnt rgb_panel design too, don’t worry. If you
get those panels you will be able to run Sled demos on FM6126 panels. :wink: ). That said because the LED Panel kit is meant to be a simple target that you can develop your own HDL for, as a learning experience and exercise, we think we will have to find the older ICN2037 panels that do not require initialization to send out to everyone. We are not comfortable sending these new panels to you as part of the crowdfunding campaign. We will offer the FM6126 panels for purchase through the 1BitSquared website if you want to use them with the existing HDL designs that include the init function or if you are up for a challenge. :smiley:

We are currently still talking with LED Panel suppliers to make sure we get the correct panels with the ICN2037 shift registers. More updates on this coming soon.

Regular Tier Part Purchases

This part is taking way longer than we expected or ever experienced before. On February 14th we finally had a breakthrough with our part reseller, and we are waiting for the part quote to come back. It turns out that Outlook decided to quarantine the emails we were sending them. After a bunch of phone calls we finally figured out what was going on and things are now moving forward.

Not wasting time

While all this logistics stuff was going on we were not wasting any time.

We have developed two new Pmod designs that you will be able to get through our 1BitSquared stores in the future.

Single Pmod RGBI DVI

After looking and playing around with the 3bpp DVI Pmod our friend tnt(Sylvain Munaut) pointed out that it should be possible to easily modify the circuit to support one additional bit that selects a low and high intensity color set for each pixel.

cga-xmas-jingle-disk-screenshot

If you were born sometime in the 80’s or earlier you might remember the CGA graphics system. It was providing 16 colors where 8 were low intensity and 8 were high intensity.

rgbi-cga-color-palette

Our solution is not exactly CGA because we do not have the brown color but just low intensity yellow instead.

rgbi-color-palette

The wiring is pretty simple, where each of the color pins still only drives 3 inputs of the DVI driver chip. We want to limit the amount of pins we have to drive to avoid drive issues at higher screen resolutions and clock speeds.

dvi-4bit-sch

Single Pmod LED Panel Driver

Another idea from Sylvain was to decrease the pin usage on the iCEBreaker when you want to control LED Panels. In collaboration with the good folks in our Gitter Channel we have developed and improved a single Pmod circuit.

To achieve that we needed to save at least 6 signal pins. We were able to do that with two changes.

Firstly, instead of driving the RGB0 and RGB1 signals separately we have added a D-FlipFlop to store one set of RGB data at the falling edge of the input clock. Basically Double Data Rate (DDR) the RGB data to the panels. This saved us 3 pins on the Pmod.

led-panel-single-ddr-sch

Secondly, instead of driving the five Address lines directly, we introduced a ripple counter that only needs a clock and reset signals. This saved us another 3 Pins.

led-panel-single-addr-counter-sch

The changes to the LED Panel drive design on the FPGA should not be very big. But it opens up an extra Pmod on the iCEbreaker to either drive another chain of LED panels or use for some other input or output Pmod!

The prototypes of the Pmods are now on their way to us and we will let you know how things progress. :slight_smile:

Forum is live!

Last but not least we have finally installed and launched an iCEBreaker forum.

Piotr is posting some smaller project updates and what he is working on there to complement his updates on Twitter.

We invite you all to join our forum and ask your questions and exchange knowledge there. If you are one of the lucky ones that already got their hands on an iCEBreaker tell us about your projects and what you’ve built!

That would be it

Again thank you to everyone for your support and patience, we can’t wait to get all the rewards out to everyone!

Thank you to those who backed our campaign and to those that decided to pre-order an iCEbreaker kit after the campaign was over.

We promise we will do our best to keep you up to date more often. We are moving ahead on assembling early bird rewards and will update you when early bird shipping starts.

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#3

Hey Everyone!

Welcome to the March update.

Some delays

As you might know we were hoping to have started shipping the Early Bird tier hardware by now. Unfortunately we are slightly behind schedule and what a month it has been.


First of all we had an unforeseen snow storm here in the Pacific Northwest that resulted in several days without power and almost a week without internet. The snow took down a lot of trees and the city had trouble dealing with all of the damage to get the power back on. But at least we had pretty snowy views out of our office window for several days. We spent some of this time working on getting our taxes ready and when we met with our tax guy he said most people did the same thing and they were swamped with paperwork much sooner than they anticipated.

Early Bird Tier Production

Our Pick and Place machine needed some care and attention. For a PnP machine to function you need compressed air and our compressor started making a horrible loud rattling noise. It was rattling so hard that it started to walk across the floor. We took the compressor in to a local power tool repair shop in the hope that they would be able to fix the issue quickly. After a week at the repair shop they called us to pick it up just to find out that during the repair the guy broke off the drainage spigot for the air tank, it took them another week to order and replace the part. After we got the compressor back to the shop it was running and sounding slightly better but was still not entirely fixed. It was clear something had broken inside the motor that we wouldn’t be able to access. So we ended up ordering a new compressor motor and mounted it ourselves. Now it’s running smoothly and the PnP machine is working again.

We now have a batch of assembled 7 segment LED Panel Pmods, and DIP-Switch Pmods. Piotr was diligently posting updates on every step of the production on Twitter and Instagram.

  • Solder paste application
  • Part placement
  • Reflow
  • Partial panel breakout
  • Hand soldering the through-hole components onto the boards
  • Final PCB breakout
  • Testing each board by hand with an iCEBreaker

You can follow all the progress we made in this thread on twitter.




Next steps will be:

  • iCEBreaker assembly, so that we can start shipping out all the early bird tiers that contain iCEBreakers and 7 Segment LED and DIP-Switch Pmods.
  • HDMI Pmods
  • LED Panel Pmods

Piotr will keep you up to date on the progress through Twitter and Instagram.

LED Panel headaches

As you might remember from the previous update, we ran into some issues with the LED Panels that we ordered for the Early Bird tier fulfillment. They sent us displays with the wrong chip. We placed an order with a manufacturer that is promising to send LED Panels with the correct chip that we have requested. We are now waiting for their shipment to arrive so we can start shipping them out with the Pmods. This is also why we are scheduling the production of the LED Panel Pmods last, as they depend on the LED Panels themselves.

General tier part purchasing

In other news we finally received the correct and final price quotes from our suppliers. We ordered all of the smaller parts and most of the connectors. We are still waiting for a final confirmation to place the really big order that will contain the iCE40 FPGA and the FTDI chips that are the most expensive single parts of the project. We expect to place those orders later this week. Then we will just have to wait for the parts to be manufactured and delivered to us.

USB low level debugging

The open source FPGA and iCEBreaker community is also hard at work creating
interesting content. This time our friend Sylvain Munaut created a new design
for the iCEBreaker for USB debugging. He describes several ways of debugging
USB in a really well put together video that among other things includes a new
solution using the iCEBreaker. Check out the video here:

Conferences

Piotr will be attending and presenting at a few conferences in the coming months. We’re always excited to meet other makers at events and spread the word about open source electronics.

So if you are coming to any or all of these events please make sure to find Piotr and say hello! :smiley:

That’s it for now

We still have a long road in front of us but we are making progress every day. Early bird pledges will be shipping soon. Thank you all for your patience and interest in open source FPGA.

If you have any questions or suggestions make sure to drop by our Gitter channel or start a thread in our Forum. Talk to you soon!

Cheers,
Piotr and Danika

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