We’ve been expanding our line of control systems with the addition of microcontrollers, shields and other hardware, including becoming an official distributor of Arduino products. Arduino is one of the leaders in open-source electronic platforms and one of the most popular hardware brands in the industry.
Starting in Italy in 2005 they have gradually expanded over the years, with many manufacturers and distributors opening around the world. It even has its own software that allows you to program and code the Arduino microcontrollers and boards, the Arduino IDE, which we use for all our programming in customer projects. Luckily it’s simple enough that even beginners with no programming experience will be able to pick it up in no time, yet it’s also advanced enough to provide a ton of options for experienced programmers. The software is compatible with any Windows, Mac or Linux computer as well. There are many different types of Arduino boards available, some of which we will be going over now.
Types of Arduino Boards
We’ll be going over some of the best boards we have available. All of them are relatively simple to use and are ready for action with some basic programming.
This is the go-to choice for beginners and one of our biggest sellers when it comes to microcontrollers. It comes with 14 digital input/output pins (6 can be PWM pins), 6 analog inputs and a 16MHz clock. These features allow it to interface with many different sensors and applications.
It has an operating voltage of 5V and can run at an input voltage of 6-20V, with 7-12V being the recommended input. It can also be powered with its USB port. The 5V operating pin can only supply a max amperage of 1A when powering other sensors and outputs, anything more will require a separate power source otherwise the board will be damaged. Its dimensions are 2.7" x 2.1".
This is the board you turn to when space and size is an important factor in your project/control system. It is one of the smallest microcontrollers we carry, only 0.7" x 1.9", and has many of the same features as the Uno. The key differences are it has 20 digital input/output pins (7 can be PWM pins) and 12 analog inputs.
The Leonardo comes with the same specifications as the Micro but what makes them stand apart from other boards. It is the fact that they have no external chip for USB capabilities. These boards are connected using a “virtual COM port", which allows the Leonardo and Micro to act as a keyboard/mouse with the computer. Another thing that separates them from other boards is the fact that there is no reset when the serial port is opened. Its dimensions are 2.7" x 2.1".
This is probably the most advanced board we carry, the most notable difference between other Arduino boards being that it runs at 3.3V instead of the normal 5V. That means that some external circuity may be needed in order to interface with normal 5V sensors and outputs. It has 54 digital input/output pins (12 can be PWM), 12 analog inputs, and 4 UARTs. It uses a 32-bit processor that runs at 84MHz, allowing it to do large calculations over 5 times faster, and run programs up to 10 times faster than all our other Arduinos. Its dimensions are 2.1" x 4".
This board is the go-to option when you have a project/design that features a ton of input and outputs. It shares the same specs as the Uno except for some key differences. It has 54 digital input/output pins (14 can be PWM), 16 analog inputs, 4 UARTs that allow serial communication and its dimensions are 2.1" x 4".
Now that we’ve gone over our selection of Arduino boards it’s time to learn how to start programming. First things first you’ll need to visit the official Arduino site to download the IDE software, which we mentioned briefly in part one. This is the software that is used to code and program all Arduino boards and once it’s installed you’ll be able to start programming. Before you start you’ll need to make sure you select whatever board you plan to use with the software. On the top menu, screen click on “Tools" then select “Board" and then select whichever board you plan on using. After that click on “Tools" again but this time select “Port" and select which port matches with your Arduino. Below you'll see a picture of the IDE software screen.
The simplest way to test your board and make sure the programming software is working is to use the “Blink" test. Many Arduinos come with a built-in LED, which will blink in this example to test if it is functioning. In the IDE software click on “File" then “Examples" followed by “Basics" and finally select the “Blink" option. Make sure to change the pin from 13 to whichever pin the LED is on whatever board you are using. The default delay, 1000, pauses the “Blink" program for an amount of time, in this case, 1000 means 1 second since it’s coded in milliseconds. Once you’ve tested it and made sure it’s working you can start coding! We’d recommend checking out one of our earlier posts to try out sample code and test some basic functionality like how to control the timing of a linear actuators motion.
Hopefully, you found this helpful and feel a little more informed on how to use our Arduino microcontrollers with actuators. If you’d like to order one today you can order online or contact us if you have any more questions regarding Arduino or any of our other products. Our team of engineers are always willing and more than able to answer your questions and help you design your perfect project.