How to Use CE to Meet My Intentions

Hello, I am an Engineering graduate who has been in Industry doing controls work for a number of years. I have prototyped a lot with Arduino, Raspberry Pi, STM32 Discovery Board, and the Particle Photon. My intention is to learn how to take any one of the above prototypes and transform it into an Industry rated PCB solution. What would be the best way to use CE to help me achieve this?

If you’re already doing prototyping with the platforms you listed, you’re in a good spot for knowing how electronics work. This course will help you to build boards that plug into other platforms and harden them. There are no components in the course material that actually cover ruggedization, but we could do tutoring sessions to go over how to make your designs stand up to the elements. I have worked with some other students in the past working in the industrial sector.

Chris, it is an honor to read your direct reply to my forum post. I appreciate all of your work, and have been a fan and listener of The Amp Hour since the very first episodes. I really do appreciate all of your work.

Which course would you recommend I begin with? For my first project I would like to start with a Particle Photon. Particle openly publishes the Gerber Files for their Photon board. I would like to modify the board by upgrading the STM32 microcontroller to another STM32 but max out the RAM and Flash memory. I would also like to remove the WIFI module. The rest of the module would stay the same ideally.

I do not have much experience designing PCB’s, but am capable with a Soldering iron for what it is worth. So I need to go through the Kicad courses, but would like to transition to working on the Photon as my first major project in the course if that is possible.

Should I join the Journeyman level course, and then go from there?

I think it’s a really good idea to have a goal you’re working towards. Sounds like you want the Photon outline/board layout and not much else? Is this based upon the form factor? Or another board that it’s plugging into?

I’d start with Getting To Blinky (~2.5 hours) or Shine On You Crazy Kicad (~30 mins). These two things are going to move you towards understanding what KiCad (and board layout in general) are like. Moving to an STM32 would be a huge undertaking at first but I think it’s very possible to ramp up to that pretty quickly.

The form factor is based on boards from National Control Device (NCD formerly named Control Everything). They build boards that have sockets pre-built to fit the Photon. The Photon does not follow any standard form factor, but their new third generation Mesh hardware will follow the Feather design for the breakout board.

The new Mesh Argon replaces the STM32 microcontroller with the ESP32 microcontroller. The RAM on the ESP32 is triple the size of the STM32 Microcontroller, and the flash is 16 times the size. Which is pretty amazing.

I think the NCD boards coupled with the the Particle Photon boards are as close to Industrial ready as one can get out of the box with custom Microcontroller solutions. Particle must feel very strongly that the ESP32 is ready for the masses now as well, and I should be able to remove the wifi stack…

The main problem is that the end goal is not to have an IOT device, necessarily, but just a microcontroller based industrial solution that is not too far out there in complexity that a smaller company cannot maintain it.