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ECG the past, the now, the future ....

Discussion in 'EthConGateway by Joshua 1 Systems' started by j1sys, Sep 13, 2011.

  1. j1sys

    j1sys There are no rules, and those are the rules. Community Project Designer

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    Greetings All -


    I've been a little quiet the last few weeks and months as I was working on many new things. In a perfect world they would all be done and shipping by now but we also had a very rough time with a supply line snafu for almost the entire month of August that put a major crimp in our plans.


    Things are finally straightened out and product is flowing through the pipeline and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as things come out.


    There has also been a realignment of the boards here at ACL and several iterations of those. We have moved all NEW discussion and announcements of our products to this subsection of community projects. It is not a perfect solution but is probably the best of many possible solutions. We are asking the moderators to lock the old EthConGateway section but leave it in place for historical value and search engine queries.


    In the next few minutes I would like to inform you of the status of ALL of our projects. This is to educate you to our current stocking and expected release of products as it may effect any pending purchase decisions.


    All information will be qualified, to the best of my ability, so you can make an educated decision based on the best information we have as of this moment.


    ------------------------------------------


    The past .... Joshua 1 Systems introduced two major products last year and added one new one early this year. These are ongoing and supported products and their status is as follows:


    --------


    ECG-DMXRen8 - our first product


    This is a sold as a kit of parts for a DIY oriented consumer to assemble an eight port E1.31 to DMX/Renard device. it is fairly large and uses through hole technology plus a pre-assembled Master controller plugged on top. Originally shipped with ECG-M24H as master. Now uses our ECG-M32MX as master. We will continue to support and sell this device but do not really recommend it for new purchases. We feel our other products are more cost effective and offer higher performance.


    Status: Kits in stock. ECG-M32MX in stock. Need to finish ECG-M32MX release and ship as needed. Time to ship 1-2 weeks ARO.


    --------


    ECG-DR4 - the workhorse


    After the success of our DMXRen8 we saw the need for a smaller mostly SMD version with 4 ports. This is an assembled and tested unit and was used in many displays last year. Still our primary product.


    Status: In Stock. Shipping 1-2 days ARO.


    --------


    ECG-PIXAD8 - new in 2011


    We saw the need for an E1.31 pixel solution and late this spring introduced the ECG-PIXAD8. Formally it is the ECG-M32MX/ECG-PIXAD8 since the M32MX is the master controller and the PIXAD8 is an adapter board for pixel use. It uses two SPI channels from the M32MX in a round robin mode to support a total of 8 strings of pixels. Support for 6803 and 2801 is fully functional. We are working on updates to include TM180x and expect it to be fully functional by the end of September. We introduced TFTP firmware updates with this product and expect to use it in all future products and retrofit it ASAP to our existing products.


    Status: 1st production run sold out. 2nd production run completed and in route to us. Expected shipping 1-2 days ARO AFTER 9/20 arrival.


    -----------------------------------


    The now .... Today we are formally announcing three new products that should be in and out of production in 1-2 weeks.


    --------


    ECG-D4 - smaller form factor, a little cheaper


    We have a baby brother to our ECG-DR4. The new ECG-D4. It is not a replacement to the DR4. They still remain in production and stock. The best way to describe it is by comparison.


    Smaller: Same width, but 7cm deep vs 11cm deep for DR4, available with optional case


    Includes TFTP updates today vs. future for DR4


    Does NOT include DMX/Renard jumper blocks like DR4. We are providing optional DMX->Ren adapter cables (see below). Still supports Renard in software.


    DIP switches have been moved to the rear panel for ease of setting without opening optional case.


    Reset button added. On rear panel also.


    USB-mini-B potential added. All new products have a USB-mini-B port. The chip we are using includes a USB controller and we copied the design from the evaluation board. BUT no software support for it at this time and it is possible that it may never occur or that we may have to make a field upgrade to the hardware to fix some design flaw. Our theory was to add the potential and see how it would be used. Maybe to help make updates and configuration easier for new users and maybe even a USB plugin for software to emulate some dongles. But for 25 cents for the connector and another hole in the case we couldn't resist the urge to add it.


    Status: Prototype tested, test batch of 5 production units in FedEx to us now. 50 more production units done and waiting for approval of the 5 test units. If ECOs needed they will be made by the factory and then shipped ASAP. Expected 1-2 day shipping ARO AFTER 9/22.


    --------


    ECG-D8 - papa bear sized


    We have a papa bear size unit to compare to our ECG-DR4. The new ECG-D8. It is not a replacement to the DR4. They still remain in production and stock. The best way to describe it is by comparison.


    Same width, same 11cm depth as DR4, but with 8 ports!!


    Includes TFTP updates today vs. future for DR4


    Does NOT include DMX/Renard jumper blocks like DR4. We are providing optional DMX->Ren adapter cables (see below). Still supports Renard in software.


    DIP switches have been moved to the rear panel for ease of setting without opening optional case.


    Reset button added. On rear panel also.


    USB-mini-B potential added. All new products have a USB-mini-B port. The chip we are using includes a USB controller and we copied the design from the evaluation board. BUT no software support for it at this time and it is possible that it may never occur or that we may have to make a field upgrade to the hardware to fix some design flaw. Our theory was to add the potential and see how it would be used. Maybe to help make updates and configuration easier for new users and maybe even a USB plugin for software to emulate some dongles. But for 25 cents for the connector and another hole in the case we couldn't resist the urge to add it.


    Status: Prototype in final test, 50 bare board are waiting for production release. Expected 1-2 day shipping ARO AFTER October 1st.


    --------


    ECG-P12R - the new pixels


    After the success of the PIXAD8 we thought about a rework of the design dedicated to pixels. We also wanted a more consumer friendly optional case that would make it appeal to a wider audience. The result is the ECG-P12R. It has all the features of the PIXAD8. The best description is by comparison.


    P12R does the same round robin technique but now has 3 SPIs vs 2 SPIs on the PIXAD8. Each SPI supports 4 strings.


    The P12R divides the 12 strings into two sets of 6 for power distribution vs the PIXAD8 two sets of 4. So for some very high current usages the PIXAD8 could still be best choice.


    Approximately same size. P12R is a little smaller in width and depth but a just a little taller.


    Optional case with front panel for P12R.


    Same DIP switch rearrangement, reset switch, USB-mini-B as D4.


    Status: Prototype in final testing. So far no snags. It is just a rework of PIXAD8 so no real new technology. Expect to rush a first production run through in the next 2 weeks and hope for shipping to commence by the end of September.


    ---------------------


    The future .... very near we hope


    We have samples of the DMX/Ren adapter cables in route. More info ASAP. It will be a 6in cable with a male RJ45 that is design to plug into a DMX port and a female RJ45 that will be the Renard standard. Expect to sell in sets of 4 for a reasonable price.


    We are making up spare parts kits for PIXAD8/P12R that include extra plugs and fuse for easy field replacement.


    You may have noticed the 'R' in the P12R. It was originally going to be just the P12. Over Labor Day weekend (Sep 3-5), while camping, we tested a software/hardware driven SPI controller solution that will work in Parallel to output all of the SPI signals simultaneously. Similar to some other products from other vendors this will include the restriction that groups of 4 strings must be configured for the same type of pixel string and SPI speed. This is a hot product. We are rushing a prototype through production and expect to rush an initial production run through by October 15th. Maybe too late for some people this year but we are still pushing for it. It will be known as the P12P and use the same form factor, power distribution board, case etc. and include all features of the P12R.


    After some discussion in chat the other night we are rushing a SIMPLE 5V 1.5A solution for differential pixel string driver/receiver pairs that should allow 100+ feet between the PIXAD8/P12R/P12P and a SHORT (25?) string of 5V pixels. This will supply the power to the pixels. If you are willing to provide the power locally to the pixels the same boards can drive a pixel string of any length. We think this will help a lot of people as they finalize their pixel design for this year. RUSH, RUSH, RUSH and hope to announce VERY SOON!!! If the design is desirable we will also rush through a special P12PD that will include 12 differential drivers directly on the board!!!


    ----------------------


    Well enough for now. I haven't mentioned pricing or shown any pictures of the parts I already have in hand. I will work on those today and post ASAP. I just needed to lay this banquet of information at your feet to assist some folks in making informed buying decisions.


    -Ed
     
  2. kane

    kane Dedicated Elf

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    This sounds very interesting. If we were going to supply power directly to the pixels, could it also work for 12V pixels and modules?
     
  3. OP
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    j1sys

    j1sys There are no rules, and those are the rules. Community Project Designer

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    Kane -


    Very much so. until we have a 12V solution it can be used this way for 12V. plus beyond 3-4 amps of 5V or 12V it will always probably be best to add a local power solution.


    The 5V 1.5A solution is something I can do off the shelf using existing components and have ready in 1-2 weeks. Hence that is the first target.


    -Ed
     
  4. OP
    OP
    j1sys

    j1sys There are no rules, and those are the rules. Community Project Designer

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    Some follow-up photos:


    First some ECG-D4 photos. Shows board from front and back, size comparison to DR4 and some photos of it in its case sans rear panel and our dye sublimation images.


    click on links to see images - if i include them it is VERY large to view post. i like to give you high-res photos so you can examine the details.


    http://www.j1sys.com/assets/DSC_0350.JPG


    http://www.j1sys.com/assets/DSC_0351.JPG


    http://www.j1sys.com/assets/DSC_0352.JPG


    http://www.j1sys.com/assets/DSC_0353.JPG


    http://www.j1sys.com/assets/DSC_0354.JPG


    http://www.j1sys.com/assets/DSC_0355.JPG


    Now some photos of ECG-P12R. Front, back, compared to PIXAD8. The top board will not be on such tall standoffs. I only have one size in stock and it was too short so I had to double up, which is too tall.


    http://www.j1sys.com/assets/DSC_0356.JPG


    http://www.j1sys.com/assets/DSC_0357.JPG


    http://www.j1sys.com/assets/DSC_0358.JPG


    On the P12R/P12P the top board will be taken off the standoffs and rotated to the vertical to attach to the front panel of it's custom enclosure. Finished look will be similar to DR4 case.


    -Ed
     
  5. OP
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    j1sys

    j1sys There are no rules, and those are the rules. Community Project Designer

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    Errata -


    All mentions of 11cm size for DR4 and D8 are incorrect. It is 12cm.


    One other thing you lose in the D4/D8 vs. the DR4 is the optional terminator and RDM biasing circuitry. This has been removed to conserve space. D4/D8 have a permanent terminator and will not support RDM. DR4 has that as option jumpers and software support for RDM will be coming out next year. Our professional line of ECG units will include both options with the hardware being under software control (no jumpers). It was felt that 99% of consumer use will never need these functions and that the space and cost associated with it was better discarded on these entry level products.


    This was similar to our decision to remove the DMX/Ren jumpers and offer an optional external adapter. All in an attempt to get the best, smallest products for the least cost. If certain individuals need the extra features they can buy the DR4. That is why it will be continued in production in the foreseeable future.


    -Ed
     
  6. OP
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    j1sys

    j1sys There are no rules, and those are the rules. Community Project Designer

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  7. BradsXmasLights

    BradsXmasLights WiFi Interactive

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    Thanks for the heads up.

    The P12P sounds like it will be handy for people wanting faster refresh rates in order to build massive video matrixes. That would be cool to turn the *entire* roof in to a giant video screen :D
     
  8. OP
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    j1sys

    j1sys There are no rules, and those are the rules. Community Project Designer

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    Updates:
    ECG-P12R passed all tests. Two minor trace changes. Preparing to submit to production this week.

    ECG-P12P design for prototype to be finished today for weekend delivery.

    ECG-PPD / ECG-PPR prototype designed. Ordering boards today for weekend delivery. Both boards .75in x 2in. Here are 3D renderings:

    http://www.j1sys.com/assets/ECG-PPD.png
    http://www.j1sys.com/assets/ECG-PPR.png

    PPD is the driver board that hooks up to a PIXAD8/P12R/P12P to condition the signals.

    PPR is the first of our receivers. It accepts/converts the signals back to normal and converts the 12V-36V to 5V 1.5A power for pixel power. This should handle about 25 pixels. If you add a local power supply it could drive any length of string. We will be producing other voltages and ampacity soon.

    Both parts will probably be called ECG-PPD-A and ECG-PPR-A with technical specs in the description. That way other variants will just be -B, -C, etc.

    All other parts etc. are in route in FedEx/DHL and should arrive soon.
    -Ed
     
  9. Mike

    Mike CLAP infected!

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    Any more updates Ed?

    Also with the pixad8 work with 24v one side and 5v the other?
    How much are the data extenders?
     
  10. OP
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    j1sys

    j1sys There are no rules, and those are the rules. Community Project Designer

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    Mike et al -

    sorry for no updates in a while. i believe that murphys law doesn't apply to christmas lighting production. i believe there is a simpler law: Everything Goes Wrong!!

    i've had production workers read in-house drawings wrong and cut cases the wrong size. i've had PCB houses be sent a full set of gerbers with solder masks and silkscreen and based on another photo in another email as a production sample of a prototype decide that i didn't want/need solder masks or silkscreens. Then have production ask for a board layout since they didn't have a silkscreen to go by. which raised the question what happened to my silkscreen? toss in a week long chinese holiday just to spice things up. even today on a local pickup of cap head metric screws and matching allen wrenches they pulled/shipped the wrong size allen wrench.

    needless to say i am WELL behind the curve on all products. i expect things to clear up soon. following is the status of most products:

    ECG-DR4 - Stock!!!

    ECG-M32MX/ECG-PIXAD8 - Stock. Still trying to get back to working on TM180x.

    ECG-D4 - Stock, cleaning up software. final pricing and shipping available by the end of the week.

    ECG-D8 - Stock, software needs another week of work.

    ECG-P12R - in final production. expect to arrive end of next week and will quick turn around.

    ECG-PPX - in final production. third time is the charm. doing a lot of testing on prototypes. testing two higher power cost effective DC-DC converter with 5V 3A (production will be 10A) and 12V 6A. expect to arrive end of next week and will quick turn around. i know it is late in the season but these things are REAL neat. with the external DC-DC converters you can run entire 100 pixel strings. all over one cat 5 cable.

    ECG-P12P - testing prototype. not yet in production pipeline. so i wouldn't count on it this season. but may be ready for mid-november for the not faint of heart or last minute buyers.

    ECG-PxPD - in design stage. don't hold your breath. but it is actually an easy board to slash and hack from other designs and miracles could happen. PIXAD8 with PPX or P12R with PPX is much more of sure thing.

    so back to work on all the software fixes and should have more info on pricing (even 98% sure estimates) in a couple of days. i will post some more photos of production units soon.

    -Ed

    p.s. - yes mike, 5V on one section and 24V on other is fine. i'm sitting here with a PIXAD8 next to me setup with 5V on strings 1-4 and 36V on 5-8. The PIXAD8 uses the 36V through the OKI regulator for local power and the 36V is being sent out PPX module for testing. P12R works the same way with strings 1-6 and 7-12
     
  11. chicken

    chicken Apprentice Elf

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    Whats the difference with the PPX vs PxPD? Thanks
     
  12. OP
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    j1sys

    j1sys There are no rules, and those are the rules. Community Project Designer

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    PPX is the system. It can be added to any standard pixel controller.

    PxPD is a planned series of pixel controllers that will include the driver (PPD) part of the system built right onto the controller. It should come in three sizes P8PD, P16PD, P32PD when available.

    More info coming soon on PPX etc.

    -Ed
     
  13. OP
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    j1sys

    j1sys There are no rules, and those are the rules. Community Project Designer

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    some notes on PPX and ampacity ...

    I've been playing with the PPX system all day to test the onboard and external DC-DC converters. I've found some reasonable priced external units that can be used to up the amps at the PPR.

    But the other thing I tested a lot of was just what my simple 6803 strings took to run in different conditions. I've maybe scared some people off with the 25 pixel examples. They were just conservative estimates and based somewhat on Stellascapes Black 2801 high powered lights. Those LEDs are bright and do take some power to run. As I understand it the Green strings are approximately half the power.

    I have several strings of the Ray Wu 5VDC multi-colored wire 6803 strings bought over a year ago. Each string has 60 pixels on it. I've been running those as test strings with the onboard 1.5A OKI switcher but always been careful to run all R, all G, or all B with a few whites scattered in. This keeps the load well down. Today I decided to test with ALL whites for 2-5 seconds and see if the 1.5A OKI could handle it. I had never put a meter on the load that one string of 60 pixels would draw, but today I did. With my test patterns rippling each string would draw in the .50 to .75amp range. If I turned all LEDs on with a white pattern they would go up to about 1.25amp. I kept those down to a pattern of a 1 second ramp to full white, a 2 second full on, a 1 second ramp down to black, followed by 6 seconds of random color/noise. They ran like that for a long time with no problems on the onboard OKI. It did get a little warm but not bad. So I doubled up a second string in parallel, ran the same pattern and the OKI almost glowed in the daylight!!! But it kept pumping out that pattern. Again the FULL load was only on for 2 seconds out of 10. But if you are careful to keep your patterns down to a reasonable light level you CAN run 120 of these type of pixels off even the onboard regulator. I would recommend the more reasonable load of the 60 pixel string.

    Then I hooked up some external 5V and 12V DC-DC converters. The external 5V took every load up to 3A (its rating) without even getting warm. I don't have many 12V pixels so i just tested raw load capacity. I have a reel of 12V white LEDs that draw about 1.5A. They worked great. Then I added a 12V 20W halogen in parallel and it worked fine at about 3.5A. When I replaced the 20W with a 50W the power started to pulse (you could see it in the LEDs) and the apparent voltage dropped to 9V with my simple meter. This could have been a PWM style average of the pulsing 12V. I tried some small capacitors to see if they would help any and saw no effects. When I have time I will try some larger capacitors to see if they just need to help regulate the load. Of course pixel strings may put an entirely different type of load on the regulator than a simple halogen lamp.

    So the bottom line is that the onboard 5V has more flexibility than I may have led you to believe and that an external DC-DC can open up the envelope even more at 5V and 12V and we just have to, together, find some appropriate and cost effective units.

    More later,
    -Ed
     
  14. OP
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    j1sys

    j1sys There are no rules, and those are the rules. Community Project Designer

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    FINALLY!!!!

    ECG-D4 and ECG-P12R info is up on our website and you can start placing orders. We will do final burn-in testing as needed for each unit and ship 48hrs ARO.

    ECG-D8 has been shelved for a little while. Having a little problem with the inter-processor communication. It will come off the shelf soon.

    PPX units are finished but I found a manufacturing error based on photos and have them correcting them right now. Should ship to me very soon. More later.


    -Ed
     
  15. dmoore

    dmoore Senior Elf

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    Lookin' Great.
     

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