Meet BOB, and See the Benefits of Open-Source Breakout Boards

By Max Maxfield |

Easy-to-use BOBs (breakout boards) shorten your time to market.


If you are intending to create a mass-produced product, then surface-mount technology (SMT) components -- anything from discrete devices (resistors, capacitors, etc.) to motor drivers to microcontrollers -- are the way to go. As compared to lead through hole (LTH) components, systems using surface mount devices (SMDs) are much smaller and lighter, thereby resulting in smaller, lighter circuit boards, which is a key factor when creating volume-limited products like cameras.

The big downside to SMDs is when it comes to prototyping. It is possible to hand-solder some SMDs with larger pitches, but finer-pitch devices would bring most of us to our knees.

This is one reason I really appreciate the folks at Microchip Technology because, in addition to various SMT package options for their microcontrollers, they continue to offer dual in-line (DIL) lead through hole equivalents.

(Source: Microchip Technology)

Quite apart from the fact that I grew up with 0.1" pitch LTH chips and I'm comfortable with them, they are ideal for prototyping using 0.1" pitch stripboard or solderless breadboards.

Now, some manufacturers only offer SMT versions of their components, but they accommodate folks creating prototypes by providing pre-populated breakout boards. Take the guys and gals at Silego (now Dialog Semiconductor), for example. I love their GreenPAK (GPAK) chips, which I always think of as being teeny-tiny mixed-signal FPGAs, but these little scamps are way too small for me to work with by hand. However, I can work with their GreenPAK DIP Development Board.

(Source: Dialog Semiconductor)

I must admit, I have wondered why more chip vendors don’t offer breakout board versions of their products. Thus, I was delighted to hear that the folks at Trinamic have just announced that they are rolling out open source BOBs (breakout boards) for their chips.

Trinamic develops sophisticated technology for motion and motor control applications. The folks at Trinamic say that they will be rolling out BOBs for all of their motor and motion control ICs, with the following immediately available through distribution:

These BOBs are for anyone who needs a physical prototype fast. They can be used on breadboards or with flying wires, and each BOB has everything you need to use that component, such as sense resistors, buffer capacitors and, in some cases, power MOSFETs or Ethernet connectors.

The TMC2041-BOB (Source: Trinamic)

Trinamic's Technology Access Package (TTAP) provides users with sample code and an application programming interface (API) for each of the chips found on the BOBs. In addition to simplifying physical design-in and bring-up, this also speeds up firmware development.

All Trinamic BOBs are open source hardware accompanied by a permissive license. If the design works for you, just take the design and paste it into your board design, or simply copy the schematics, whatever best works for you.

The end result is that, if you're an enthusiast tinkering away, a startup realizing its first Minimum Viable Product (MVP), or an international company creating the next groundbreaking application, then building, testing, and reiterating your MVP will be greatly facilitated using Trinamic's BOBs.

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  • by  Tony Tib

    There's also Schmart boards for high density SMT break out.


    TI sells some SMT break out boards.


    You can also take advantage of Maker / China stuff like the Pololu Stepper Driver DIP module (I've seen these with Allegro A4988, TI DRV8825, TI DRV8834, TI DRV8880, MPS MP6500, and Trinamic TMC2100 drivers; other variations are probably available).


    P.S. the Aspencore reCAPTCHA robot is broken
    • by  Max Maxfield

      @Tony: "...Schmart boards for high density SMT break out..."

      I agree -- they are good

  • by  Max Maxfield

    @Tony: "...Schmart boards for high density SMT break out..."

    I agree -- they are good

  • by  Max Maxfield

    @Tony: "...P.S. the Aspencore reCAPTCHA robot is broken..."

    Why? Because it let you through to post your comment? LOL

    • by  Tony Tib
      It tries to prevent me - I can follow its procedure, and post once.  If I try to post again, I get an error (and if I didn't save my comment to the clipboard I'm hosed).  If I go back to the original page and refresh, and then follow its nefarious instructions, it typically will let me post.
      • by  Max Maxfield

        @Tony: "...It tries to prevent me [...] and then follow its nefarious instructions, it typically will let me post..."

        It sounds to me like this would fox any robots ... so at the end of the day, albeit a painfully long way round, it's sort of doing it's job LOL

  • by  Tony Tib
    It tries to prevent me - I can follow its procedure, and post once.  If I try to post again, I get an error (and if I didn't save my comment to the clipboard I'm hosed).  If I go back to the original page and refresh, and then follow its nefarious instructions, it typically will let me post.
    • by  Max Maxfield

      @Tony: "...It tries to prevent me [...] and then follow its nefarious instructions, it typically will let me post..."

      It sounds to me like this would fox any robots ... so at the end of the day, albeit a painfully long way round, it's sort of doing it's job LOL

  • by  Max Maxfield

    @Tony: "...It tries to prevent me [...] and then follow its nefarious instructions, it typically will let me post..."

    It sounds to me like this would fox any robots ... so at the end of the day, albeit a painfully long way round, it's sort of doing it's job LOL

  • by  John Beetem

    Max wrote:  ...they continue to offer dual in-line (DIL) lead through hole equivalents.

    DIL LTH?  Gack, I can't say I like those TLAs (three-letter acronyms).  I prefer the good old DIP (dual in-line package) and THD (through-hole device) instead of LTH.  In  my opinion, THD is a better counterpart to SMD, and also stands for "Doctor of Thinkology" :-)

    • by  Max Maxfield

      @John: "...In  my opinion, THD is a better counterpart to SMD, and also stands for "Doctor of Thinkology" :-)"

      Good one! But for those who lost the thread:

      Wizard of Oz: They have one thing you haven’t got: a diploma. Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universitartus Committiartum E Pluribus Unum, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of ThD.

      Scarecrow: ThD?

      Wizard of Oz: That’s… Doctor of Thinkology.

  • by  Max Maxfield

    @John: "...In  my opinion, THD is a better counterpart to SMD, and also stands for "Doctor of Thinkology" :-)"

    Good one! But for those who lost the thread:

    Wizard of Oz: They have one thing you haven’t got: a diploma. Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universitartus Committiartum E Pluribus Unum, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of ThD.

    Scarecrow: ThD?

    Wizard of Oz: That’s… Doctor of Thinkology.

  • by  Tony Tib

    An error occurred while processing your request.

    Reference #97.ce76aad1.1518034606.d2ab51

    I get the above error when I post twice in a row, after follow the notorious reCHAPTCA's instructions.  If I'm lucky, and have saved my post content, I can go back, refresh the page, and re-post.

    • by  Elizabeth Simon (edited)

      I'm getting the same error except that it seems to occur the FIRST time I try to post. If I go back, refresh the page, and re-post it will let me...

      Actually, this was the first one today where I didn't get an error. maybe I was still in the time window from my previous post...

  • by  Elizabeth Simon (edited)

    I'm getting the same error except that it seems to occur the FIRST time I try to post. If I go back, refresh the page, and re-post it will let me...

    Actually, this was the first one today where I didn't get an error. maybe I was still in the time window from my previous post...

  • by  Elizabeth Simon

    And we mustn't forget that places such as Adafruit and SparkFun also have an assortment of breakout boards to choose from.

    Also in a similar category, many manufacturers have development boards (some of which are very reasonably priced) that can be used for prototyping.


    And then there's the TinyFPGA boards that Duane Benson reviewed just last week.


    https://www.eeweb.com/profile/duane-benson-2/articles/a-look-at-tinyfpga-boards


    It seems like every time I look there are more to choose from. A definite improvement over a few years back when they were hard to find.

    • by  Max Maxfield

      @Elizabeth: "...And we mustn't forget that places such as Adafruit and SparkFun also have an assortment of breakout boards to choose from..."

      That's true -- I use a lot of Adafruit's breakout boards for sensors and suchlike.

  • by  Max Maxfield

    @Elizabeth: "...And we mustn't forget that places such as Adafruit and SparkFun also have an assortment of breakout boards to choose from..."

    That's true -- I use a lot of Adafruit's breakout boards for sensors and suchlike.

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