LaunchPad Booster ProtoBoard

Well, my prototype boards arrived from BatchPCB (http://www.batchpcb.com.)  Thanks guys, the boards look nice and went together well.  I received two copies of my protoboard and set one up for each of the primary configurations.  The LaunchPad comes with two male, and two female, headers. For the more minimal configuration (just the board, itself,) I soldered the male headers from the LaunchPad kit to the bottom of the protoboard, with the female headers soldered to the LaunchPad.  This is opposite how the TI documentation shows, where the male headers are soldered to the LaunchPad, itself, and the female headers are left for booster boards.  Notice that I placed the headers in from the bottom of the Protoboard Booster and soldered on the top of the board:

Prototype Booster Pack – Note that this is the bottom of the board

The reason for inserting the headers from the bottom, is because of the jumper pins connecting the emulation section of the LaunchPad to the target section.  With the male header inserted from the top (component) side, there is not enough room for soldering components to the Protoboard.  Even with inserting the headers from the bottom, you will need to be careful, there is not much room.

Notice the tight space here by the jumpers.

Now, you can build your own circuit to add to the LaunchPad.  Insert the components just like you were using a solderless breadboard and then solder them down.  Wah-laa, nice and simple.  Create any kind of Booster Pack that you want, and with this solder version, you have a nice stable circuit.

Notice that with the Booster Pack installed, you still have access to the on-board programmable button, the LEDs and the reset button.

Next, for when you are starting out and still experimenting; check out the solderless version:

The solderless breadboard version – Notice that you still have access to the programmable button, the two LEDs and the reset button.

When you want to do some quick-and-dirty experimenting, this will give you everything you need to add your own components.  I took one of my Digital Interface Kits (https://www.tindie.com/products/Granzeier/digital-interface-pack/,) and a couple of hookup wires, and added a second programmable pushbutton switch and one more LED; all in just a minute or two.

Added an additional pushbutton and LED in a minute or two.

Now with a notebook (or netbook), the USB cable that came with your LaunchPad, the above dev kit and a small assortment of components, you can do your experimenting, even while on the go.

The solderless version of the kit will include the board, two female pass-through headers, two female headers for the power rails and a small solderless breadboard.  Solder the headers onto your Booster Pack board and then peel the backing off the double-sided tape on the bottom of the breadboard and stick it in between the pass-through headers.  Add your components and wire them together with hookup wires.  Write your program and get everything running.  When your circuit is working, you can transfer it to the soldered board for a permanent Booster Pack.

The soldered version of this kit will include the board and two 10-pin male headers.  You will solder them into the board and then you can add your own components.  Plug the completed board into your LaunchPad and you have your Booster Pack!

Both versions will give you full flexibility in a compact package, yet will still allow you full access to the LaunchPad’s on-board programmable pushbutton, two LEDs and the reset button.

Now, here is what I need from you: does this look like something that would interest you?  Am I missing something extremely important?  Is RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances, i.e. Lead-Free) important?  If there is lots of interest, I will order a larger initial order of boards.  Thanks for your help on this item.

8 thoughts on “LaunchPad Booster ProtoBoard

  1. Well done.

    With the $4.30 price tag for the TI LaunchPad in the back of ones mind, it is hard to make your Booster ProtoBoard price “attractive”. I know this is not fair. But you cannot fight people’s uncontentious unfairness.

    • Thanks!

      Yes, the low price is difficult to match, but I have been specializing in cheepy low-cost products for years. Take a look at my other products, none are above U$10 (yet!) Even when I expand and include more items with higher prices, I intend to keep a large number of items at low-cost. My idea is to help students get into electronics, and most students have “student budgets,” so keep the items low-priced and more students can get started.

      That is one of the things that I love about the LuanchPad (even with the challenge of developing for it.)

  2. Hi Mr. Granzeier:

    I agree that your idea of a booster pack for the launchpad is a good idea, although I use the eZ430-2012 tiny boards for my own projects. The major weakness I find in you present design is that in experimenting it is frequently necessary to have access to both sides of the board at all times. If I assemble your kit and then decide I could use an op-amp for example, which I don’t think the launchpad has facilities for and I want that IC in a socket I don’t see how I can solder the socket down because the plastic socket skirts will just about cover the pads the socket pins should solder down to. Even if I pre-solder the socket on before building the kit I can’t change the IC after chip completion because it’s inside the two boards like salami in a sandwich and I cannot unsolder your booster just to change the chip.

    I don’t use solderless but the only comment is that again the booster flexibility is limited by not really having access to individual pins as with trying to add a chip socket. Without the wireless component the board looks like a good addition but you really should figure out how to move the board off to the side of the launchpad and if possible to level the two boards with each other so the booster and launchpad can be fitted into a thinner box.

    Also you may want to rework your product photos to get better depth of field and try to watch your focus. In your first pictures you may be too close to the subject for the camera to focus, maybe you could back out a bit until it can focus and the enlarge the photo in something like photoshop if it turns up too small. Remember that your product is first judged by what people can see in your ads and even at this stage the blurry pictures are a real problem to understanding what you are building.

    Long ago I made a small series of small electronic kits for high school students, it was a very emotionally rewarding experience, I think you will find this the same as you move into it. Once up you might try advertising on various net sites like ‘SparkFun.’

    I very much hope you succeed.

    Larry

    • I’m not sure that I understand what you mean by “have access to both sides of the board.” On the LaunchPad, as on your Tiny-2012 boards, all of the signals are brought out to the header pins; there is nothing else available on the actual TI target board. My board actually provides three levels of access to each signal, along with 33 ground and 33 Vcc pads. There is plenty of space available to solder in a DIP IC, with or without socket, they are just like the Radio Shack board (http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2102846.) You can just place less IC packages.

      Also, about unsoldering the Booster Pack, there is no need for that; the purpose of the male and female headers is so that the Booster Pack just plugs into the LaunchPad. All of TI’s Booster Packs (as well as Arduino’s shields) plug in that way. The idea here, is to have, say, one Booster Pack for data logging and another one for controlling a robot; and when you are done with gathering your data, you just unplug the one Booster Pack and plug in the other one and off goes your ‘bot; like I said, no unsoldering needed.

      Thanks for your idea about the photos. I do realize that the pics are not of the quality that I want, but that is the only camera I own at the moment (other than my phone, which is much worse.) A new camera is on my list, and close-up work is one of the major requirements.

  3. Hi Again:

    One other comment about the board to solder on:

    You might want to provide slightly larger ‘lands’ around your plated through holes. There is a small Radio Shack experimental non-‘430 board with ROUND lands around the holes. This provides an easier heating point for the soldering iron tip. As it is any attempt to solder these holes will likely result in the solder mask getting a bit fried by the soldering iron tip which is probably not good for the tip. It is also easier to heat the solder joint through a land and a tiny bit of solder on the iron tip. These holes probably do not allow optimal, easy, quick and secure connection. While the pins from your jacks can be used as the heat conductor for soldering your present holes 1/8 watt resistor leads don’t carry much heat and I also like to solder SMT parts to the boards and lands are pretty much necessary for that.

    Don’t enlarge the lands until they are square. People will go crazy with solder flowing between land edges and shorting things out. Radio Shack also makes a larger board with square lands and it can give you gibbering fits.

    Just a thought.

    Larry

  4. You might consider this approach:

    Split your experimenter’s board down the center along the white lines seen in your pictures and make it into two ‘wings’ which extend outward from the launchpad rather than inward as it does now. People could then choose to downsize if they want and only use one wing if enough connection with the ‘430 is made that way, or put on both wings and you’ve got the same thing you have now only with free access to everything on both sides of the launchpad and your boards.

    Larry

  5. Hi,

    I would add a plug in socket for common SMD components. Most if not all modern ICs are in SMD and being able to evaluate these would be a huge plus for your board.

    Good luck!

    Ewout Boks
    Arnhem, the Netherlands

    • Are you talking about an actual socket? that would blow the target price every which way, but loose. I am trying to keep the board to, no more than, about U$5.00, and only a bit more for the full kit, with breadboard.

      What might work, would be a small area on the solder layout to allow one or two SOIP chips. My only hesitation to do that is the very small real-estate area on the board right now. You can only fit a single 40-pin chip, and even going down to 14-pin chips, you are limited to only 2, plus a few components. Someone who spends U$4.30 on their development system is not going to be able to expect hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of development capabilities.

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