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Universal Interface Board

An Open-Source Ethernet-USB-UART-SPI-DMX-Artnet-SD-Card-Interface with integrated Stand-alone-Player

Control for LED matrices and other light installations by just one universal interface.

 

Introduction

The Universal Interface Board (UIB) was born from the idea to have one universal board for driving different kind of LED (matrix) installations by PC, stand-alone or as a SD-File reader. We intend to create a device being: 

  • as universal as possible
  • as easy to configure as possible
  • as small as possible
  • as effortable as possible.

That's it. So let's have a lock what we achieved.

 

The design

We spend many hours of designing schematics, routing the pcb, searching available parts, re-routing, etc., but we believe it was worth each minute. So see where we finally came out.

 

Can the technical specs hold what the image it promising and could we achieve what we claimed for ourselves in the beginning? The short answer is: Yes! In particular we created an interface board with dimensions of 100mm x 60mm that

  • contains an ENC28J60 chip for a 10MBit ethernet connection, giving us the opportunity to handle all kind of ethernet based data protocols.
  • has an build-in UART-Interface to control all kind of serially fed devices as for example our True Color LED Matrix Controller Boards .
  • come with an SPI interface to handle all possible strings (LED stripes) and / or matrices made of those autonomous RGB pixels with integrated WS2801 or WS2812 chips (sometimes refered as Neo Pixels).
  • has an SD-card Slot for stand-alone or recording purposes.
  • offers the opportunity to be easily expanded to allow for WLAN, DMX, USB and Blue Tooth
  • will be available for purchase with all components mounted to a price that has to be paid elsewhere for just a single Artnet node with just one universe.

 

Supported Directions, Interfaces, Standards and Protocols

The following sketch demonstrates the capabilities of the interface board in it's full variety.

 

The board is mainly build around an Atmel ATMega1284P chip with 256kB of flash and 16kB of RAM memory. It has a standard power connector that supplies an 7805 linear voltage regulator with 7.5 to 9VDC. Further we have two RJ45 connectors. One is for connecting the board to standard Ethernet. The second one serves for multiply purposes. These are in particular:

 

  • data output via UART (e.g. if you want to control an LED matrix made of our true color matrix driver boards)
  • data output via SPI (e.g. if you want to steer a matrix made of WS2801 pixels / LEDs)
  • data output via BIT-BANG (e.g. if you want to steer a matrix made of WS2812 pixels / LEDs)

 

Next thing on the board is a standard micro SD card holder. The firmware supports any SD card (including HC) that is formatted with a FAT file system. Further the UBI offers the opportunity to plug in a RN-XV WLAN shield on the two connectors on top of the SD-slot (see scheme above). These RN-XV shields are pretty smart guys for a moderate amount of money. The communication between the shield and the UIBs micro controller is realized via UART. Last not least there is 6-pin header on the board with a separate UART channel for plugging in wether a standard USB-to-Serial-Converter (e.g.. the Arduino's USB2Serial) or a BlueTooth module (e.g. one like this). For upgrading / modifying the UIBs firmware there is a6-pin ISP header in the center of the board.

The actual operation mode of a board and all corresponding settings for the particular mode are configurable via a simple JAVA tool (see text below) that runs on any operating system. All configurations are stored on the boards EEPROM.

 

Modes of Operation 

The countless combinations of functionality that are possible with this board can be categorized into 4 major groups. Each of it can work with certain kind of inputs / outputs and options. These are explained in particular in the following sections.

 

Live Data Receiver & Distributor

This mode was one of the main reasons we designed this board. We wanted to have the opportunity to distribute data via network without being restricted to the serial output capabilities of a PCs serial interface. By distributing data parallel via a network the principle size of a matrix is unlimited. In Live Data mode the UIB receives Data from a PC vie Ethernet, WLAN or serial. Supported Protokolls are ArtNet, TPM2.Net, TPM2.Serial and DMX. The data receive is converted and transmitter to a matrix odd an arrangements of LED stripe(s) in one of the Formats: Glediator Protocol (used by our true color matrix driver boards), TPM2.Serial, WS2801 (SPI), WS2812 (Bitbang) or DMX. The figure below shows an example of steering a big matrix (64x32) by using 4 UIBs and 16 true color matrix driver boards.

To see what matrix sizes are possible with our boards you probably should have a look to this youtube clip. That's the matrix of a user who uses 18 UIBs together with 36 true color matrix driver boards. That's a true video wall, is't it?

 

 

Glediator Light Effect Generator

In this mode the micro controller computes matrix effects on it's own without being connected to a PC. The way the effects are calculated is the same like in the PC's Glediator software. For the moment not all of effects of the PC version are included yet but many will follow in the future. This mode can operate in a random manner or receive it's parameters from the PC via LAN or WLAN from the UIB configuration tool (see text below). This mode is made for those who what to have their matrix being a decent / casual background element in a living room or els were without having a PC standing around. 

 

SD Card Player

In SD card mode files from an inserted SD card are played in random manner or defined by a remote connection (LAN or WLAN) from the UIB configuration tool (see text below). The files are generated by the file recorder module of the Glediator software. But, it is not really necessary to remove the SD card from the UIB for adding new files to it! The Glediator's recorder module allows for a direct conniption to the UIB via network for a direct file transfer! Thus the UIB can be physical placed to locations that are nor easily accessible. The figure below shows the Glediators Recorder module and the corresponding front panel elements to access SD file transfer to an UIB.

 

DMX Remote Control

This mode was especially designed for users who are using our Glediator software on-stage. On-stage you do not have time to adjust or build a scene with all it's possibilities. You just what to switch between predefined scenes and/or change some basic parameters like speed, strobe, etc. Therefore you usually what to use an existing DMX controller. And with the UIB we now realized the bridge in between. It received Data form the DMX controller, it generates an UDP (network) package and transmits it to the PC running Glediator on it. That's it. But hey, why to use a PC anyway? Why not put some scenes onto the UIB's SD-card and select the right one by your DMX controller? Here we go ... (see scheme below). 

 

UIB Configurator Tool

 As mentioned above for the configuration of the UIB we made a special configuration tool written in JAVA. On the fist page of this software you can establish a connection to the UIB. Just put in the UIB's IP address and hit the "Connect" button. When the device is found all the current adjustments are downloaded an the control elements on the following pages are adjusted accordingly. With the button "Store all parameter in EEPROM" you can (have a guess) store the current UBI's configuration in EEPROM.  

 

The next page of the Configuration tool should be self-explaining. It serves for adjusting IP and MAC address of the device. Note that after transmitting new value to the UIB it restarts by its own and you have to manually reconnect (to the new IP address) on the first page!

 

The next page is dedicated to the main mode of the UIB. You can choose between the modes described above. For each mode you can select and input and an output method. Those fields that are disabled or greyed out whether make no sense in the particular mode or are not yet implemented in the current version of the UBI's firmware.

On the next page you can adjust the parameter of the different modes. Not all are necessary in all modes. Witch ones are important or not depend on the particular mode wind input/output configuration made before. Again, those fields that are disabled or greyed out whether make no sense in the particular mode or are not yet implemented in the current version of the UBI's firmware.

The "patch" page of the configuration tool gives you opportunity to adjust the particular physical arrangement of your lights. The patching is done similar like in the Glediator software.

Within the "SD Player" section you can perform adjustment dedicated to the SD-player-mode. You can selected between random mode and playing a fixed slot (file) in an endless loop.

In the last page of the software you can configure the Glediator Light mode of the UIB. You chan choose between random mode and a particular animation. In the latter case you can select certain parameters like the color palette, the speed and shape, etc.

 

Schematics, Layout and Firmware

As all of our projects we offer schematics, board layout and firmware Open Source for download in our download section. At this point we want to ask you for your contribution to expand / improve the firme ware. If you make changes to the firmware and adapt it to your desires just feel free to send us your code that we can out it into upcoming version(s) of the firmware. This especially counts for new animations for the Glediator Light mode.

 

 

In the download section you will find 5 downloads correlated to tis project:

 

Were to get one?

If you want to get one of these boards you can purchase it in the web shop of agile-hardware. It comes pre-assembled with all SMD parts soldered. The remaining through-hole-parts will be delivered together with the PCB.

 

Conclusion

In summary we can state that we reached our own goals and designed a powerful device with a huge variety of possibilities. It was the hell of a job and it took us in sum three prototypes and endless programming hours but we learned so much making all this worth to be done.

Not every possible mode is yet included in the firmware but you can be aware that we will continuously work on it and several updates will follow.

Cheers!

 

Comments   

 
-5 # KNORR 2016-06-05 21:53
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-4 # okay1 2016-06-01 08:47
Do you need a Business loan?
We offer loans at 3% interest rate. We give out personal loans, auto loans, mortgage loans, agricultural loans, business loans. We give out amount between $5000 to $10 Million. Email us to apply:
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+1 # Javier Traid 2016-05-06 14:16
How many WS2812 leds can be controled with each of this boards?
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+2 # Larry 2015-12-04 12:50
Is there a way to get this running with any other chipsets? I would love to use SD play back on my teensy though i tried it failed.
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0 # Sandy 2015-08-10 13:54
How to display any movies or videos using a gladiator plz help me.
Or any other softwere for operating this system plz help me

Mail.this id to inform me any one help me..
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0 # sandeep 2015-07-19 14:00
Best project...
Thanks for the sharing this unbelievable logic of program of led matrix
My question
If we want to increase of size of true colour matrix in a single bord(64*24)or any size I want increase in 16*8 to 64/32*16
Advance thanks

Mail this id any further change to 16*8
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+1 # Sedat Aksoy 2015-05-11 16:41
Thank you very much for this GREAT SHARE!!

May anyone suggest which IDE to use for debugging/editi ng source code of firmware.

I am familiar with Microchip and MikroC for PIC but I do not know what to use with Atmega

All the best
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0 # olivier bauwens 2015-05-05 22:05
Can you help my .How i install xixun c10 board ( it's for p10 led module)

you can sent message to
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+4 # Claude 2015-02-10 09:47
Hi.
I am interested in the UIB. It seems to be great little device.
Before I purchse a few of these boards I will need some information.
At the moment I'm using arduino to drive 512 WS2812b led's.
There is 10 Mbit connection in to your device as in your data sheet. Whitch is 10x faster than arduino's connection ( serial ).
My question is :
How many WS2812b led's can I controll at descent 20 - 25 FPS.
Using only one UIB with Glediator. (no switch).
I can imagine I should be significantly more.

Thank you in advance.
I will look elsewhere for the answer as well.
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0 # Björn 2014-09-14 09:28
Ich hab ma zwei Fragen
So wie ich das sehe wird das Board über Ethernet bzw. Wlan konfiguriert (da ja im ersten Tab die IP eingestellt wird)
Heisst das auch dass es jederzeit, egal in welchem Mode es ist, über Ehternet erreichbar und neu konfigurierbar ist?
Ich will nämlich meine LED Wand grossteils über ein DMX Controller ansteuern,
will aber auch jederzeit über den PC daran rumspielen können.
Wenn ich alles richtig versteh, ist das kein Problem, ich darf nur nicht vergessen, wenn ich den PC ausmache, wieder auf DMX zu stellen(ne Auto timeout Funktion wär der Hammer ;) dass er zB wenn er 5 Min nix über Ethernet bekommt automatisch wieder auf DMX remote stellt)

Und die zweite
welches WLAN shield empfielt/ verwendet ihr?
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+3 # Ryan 2014-05-26 11:54
Awesome!!! Can you tell how many WS2801 LEDs you can drive with 1 UIB considerung ine wants to achieve about 25-30fps?
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0 # Bodex 2014-04-19 21:56
Kann leider keine Verbindung zum Board mit der Configurationss oftware herstellen. Kann mir jemand helfen?
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+2 # David 2013-08-04 14:48
Hey there,
no news about this awesome board? Why did production stopped?

Best
David
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+2 # mas 2013-05-29 14:54
Existiert das Project noch?
Wie ist der Stand ein Jahr nach Projectstart?
MfG mas
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0 # Alexandru 2012-09-27 18:34
I'm looking forwar for seeing this amazing project complete !!! I will surely buy some !
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0 # Larry Urbano 2012-09-12 17:12
Sign me up to buy a few units!

If there is a mailing list please add me to it!

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0 # Matthew 2012-08-02 07:46
I absolutely will be ordering a few of these! is there any mailing list for when these become available?

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+1 # Thomas 2012-08-02 08:45
Hi Matt, no - we don't have such a mailing list. But you can use the rss feed (top right corner) to get informed about 'news and updates'. For sure we'll make an entry there when the boards are ready.
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0 # Alex 2012-08-04 04:02
Whaouh...
Impatient to get some of these boards too as available. Specially for Matrix and SPI management...
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0 # Pedro Vel. 2012-06-20 18:53
wow! In one word: Amazing!
Can´t wait to read the full article.
Congratulations! ;-)
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0 # Alex 2012-07-01 05:25
Absolutely faboulous...
An excellent initiative as nothing similar exists today
Impatient to have that and play with.
cheers...
Alex
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0 # René 2012-10-04 07:32
Hi Alex,

we are hardly working to make these boards available a.s.p.

Just sign up for our RRS feed on the start page and you'll get all progress as fresh as possible :lol:

Cheers!
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