Not long ago the Atmel company came out with a great tool for use with the AVR line of microcontrollers called the AVR Dragon. This small USB device provides professionals and hobbyists alike the ability to use: In System Programming (ISP), JTAG, Debug Wire, and High Voltage Programming. Unfortunately the device itself doesn't include all the components necessary, nor a reasonable amount of space for development using these functionalities. This is where the Dragon Rider 500 comes in.
The Dragon Rider 500 is a development system produced by Ecros Technology. It provides a means of interfacing 8, 20, 28, and 40 pin microcontrollers with the Dragon's programming functions and includes development opportunities such as RS232, LED, Button, and LCD prototyping through its add-on packages. This creates a marriage of the functionality of the STK500 with features of the AVR Dragon.
My fiancee gave me this kit as a birthday present and I think it's a great gift! Stay away fellas, she's spoken for.
Update: I had sent several inquires to Graham Davies of Ecros Technology while I was working on this project. He was extremely helpful and once he saw this instructable, offered to send me a complimentary LCD and Ribbon Cable Add-on Kit as these were the only two that I didn't have. Those kits are detailed in steps 14 and 15. Thank you Ecros Technology!
It should be noted that during this instructable components of all Add-on kits will be installed concurrently. These packages are not necessarily designed to be installed one at a time.
Step 1: The Parts and Where to Get Them.
- Dragon Rider 500
- AVR Dragon
- AVR Microcontroller
- Dragon Rider Add-on Kits
- Extra shunts
- Extra pin header sockets
- Extra pin headers (I had enough left over from the Basic Parts kit)
- Plexi-glass for bottom protector
- 4-40 machine screws for bottom protector
- Dragon Rider User's Guide - available at the Ecros Tech website
The AVR Dragon is produced by the Atmel corporation. Features and documentation can be found at the Atmel website. The Dragon itself can be purchased from various electronics suppliers such as Digikey and Mouser. For this instructable it is assumed that you already own an AVR Dragon.
AVR Microcontrollers can be purchased from many electronics suppliers. Popular chips include the ATmega8, the ATtiny2313, and the ATtiny13. You will need at least one of these chips to do anything with the AVR Dragon or the Dragon Rider 500. Ecros Tech has at least one type of AVR available for purchase (ATmega88).
Step 2: The Package Arrives
- High-quality Printed Circuit Board (PCB)
- Basic Parts Kit
- Advanced Parts Kit
- LED and Button Add-on Kit
- RS232 Add-on Kit
- Power Supply Add-on Kit
The Dragon Rider page has a list of the add-on packages that includes a complete parts list. I will be detailing every add-on package except the LCD add-on as I do not have that available to me.
Update: The LCD and Ribbon Cable kits were sent to me by Graham Davies of Ecros Tech with his compliments. I have added these kits to step 14 and 15.
Update 2: I just heard from Graham over at Ecros Tech, the PCB actually has gold contacts... (bling bling). That means the contacts will not oxidize like copper would if left unsoldered for a while.
Step 3: Tools and Work Area
- 15-watt grounded soldering iron
- soldering iron stand
- .032 60/40 solder
- wet sponge
- third hand
- desoldering bulb
- desoldering braid
- anti-static wrist strap
- diagonal cutters
- soft towel
- 12"x24" pine board
- desk lamp
Step 4: Resistors and Capacitors
1. Bend and insert the resistors for R1-R4.
- R1, R2, and R4 are in the basic parts package, R3 is in the advanced parts package
- Double, and triple check the resistor color codes to ensure they match the values printed on the PCB. Replacing these with correct components later will be a major hassle.
- All of these axial capacitors are located in the basic parts kit.
- If you bent the leads at a 45 degree angle after inserting them in the board none should fall out (or move) when you flip the board over
- Make sure to double check that you soldered every one of the leads.
Caution: Installing R3 (and later U5) commits you to using the precision voltage reference provided in the advanced parts package for Analog to Digital conversions. This also precludes you from using the internal voltage reference for ADC. Read the Caution section of the Dragon Rider User's Manual if you are installing the precision reference. You can choose not to install the precision reference (and not install R3 as well), read the User's Guide and make your own decision regarding this.
Do not install C1. It is not provided and is not necessary according to the ecros website which describes it as a "de-gliching" capacitor for the reset pin.
Step 5: Insert and Solder Sockets
I have decided to use a 16 pin socket for the RS232 chip. There is a good possibility that using a socket instead of soldering the chip directly to the board will create a problem. if you intend to install the LCD add-on kit the chip may stand in the way due to the height increase caused by the socket. Make sure you test for this issue before you decide to use a socket. I do not have the lcd add-on kit so it will pose no problem for me.
Update: Graham Davies of Ecros Tech sent me a complimentary LCD add-on kit after reading this instructable. I have installed it and the socket for the RS232 chip does not get in the way of the the LCD.
1. Place each socket provided in the basic parts kit in the appropriate places on the top of the circuit board.
- Make sure to match the notch on the top of the socket with the notch on the silk screen of the PCB. This will ensure proper orientation for the AVR chips when inserted.
3. Flip the board over making sure the sockets do not fall out. Place them on a flat surface (the pine board) and make sure they are tight against the circuit board before tacking 2 opposite pins.
4. Check to see that the body of each socket is flush against the board. If not, reheat the tack points while applying slight pressure to the socket until it is snug against the board.
5. Once all the sockets are against the board solder the rest of the pins for each socket as well as the legs of the reset button.
6. Double check that you didn't miss any pins.
7. Follow the same process to install a 16-pin socket for the RS232 chip if you desire. This socket is not included with any of the Ecros kits.
I did not find it necessary to clip the pins after soldering. None of them stuck out enough for me to take notice.
Step 6: Crystal Oscillator
1. Insert and solder the crystal socket to the area of the board labeled X1.
- Because the socket for the crystal is two separate pieces, you should solder them to the PCB while they are on the leads of one of the crystals. This will ensure proper alignment of the sockets.
- I cheated during this process. I put a very, very small amount of solder in one of the holes for the crystal socket. I then lined up the crystal with the sockets on it's leads and heated this small dab of solder while pushing lightly on the crystal. When the solder dab melted the crystal sockets slid into place and I held the crystal straight and level until that solder dab hardened. Solder the other connection then come back and apply the appropriate amount of solder to the first.
- These capacitors are radial so the leads are already in the proper orientation to insert into the holes.
- Bend, solder and snip the leads the same as you did with the capacitors in step 4.
Step 7: Pin Headers Part I
To solder headers I use a special technique. I lay the pin headers into their position and then put a piece of card on top of them. I keep my thumb on the card to hold the pin headers in place while I flip the board over. Once the board is resting on the pin headers I slide the card out. I then solder just one pin of each header. This will hold them in place and allow you to flip the board back over and check that the headers are flush against the board and the pins are vertical. If they are not, simply put your finger on one of the pins in the pin header, heat up the solder joint and hold the header plumb and flush until the solder hardens. Be careful not to put your finger on the pin you soldered in place or you will get burnt doing this!
1. Place the 2x5 pin headers in J1-J4. Flip the board over and use one of the pin header sockets at the back of the board to prop it up so it is level.
2. Solder one pin of each header. Check that each header is flush with the board and is vertical.
3. Solder the remaining pins of each header.
4. Locate the long single row pin headers and break off 9 sets of 3 pins.
- This can best be done using two pliers. Grip on either side of the notches and rock back and forth until the header snaps off.
6. Flip the board over and solder one pin of each header.
7. Verify correct header alignment as you did before and make corrections as necessary.
8. Solder all remaining pins for these headers.
Step 8: Header Sockets - Interface With AVR Dragon
Two words of advice
We will be soldering pins on to the AVR dragon which is a sensitive (and not cheap) device.
- When in doubt, take a break, walk away! Leaving a hot soldering iron in place too long is the most likely way to mess this up. If the solder won't flow, let things cool down, re-tin your tip and try again later.
- Beware electrostatic discharge. I've never lost anything from electrostatic discharge. That may be because I take the precaution to use an anti-static wrist strap and a grounded soldering iron.
- In the advanced parts kit put the 2x10 pin header and the 2x10 pin header socket together. Place the Dragon Rider upside down and insert the pins of the socket into the board as shown in the picture below.
- Locate the 3 pin header sockets in the basic parts kit and insert them onto the pin headers that are already soldered on the AVR Dragon.
- Turn the AVR Dragon upside down and carefully place it over the Dragon Rider so that the socket pins find their holes in the Dragon Rider PCB and the 2x10 pin header pins find their holes on the Dragon. This is also pictured below.
- Solder one pin of the 2x10 pin header to the AVR Dragon.
- Check once more that the sockets and pin headers are flush to the board and properly aligned. Solder the rest of the pins.
- From the basic parts kit find the white bump-on feet and place them on the four corners of the AVR Dragon.
- Carefully turn the entire assembly over, remembering that the sockets are not yet connected to the Dragon Rider.
- Rest the assembly on the four bump-on feet you just stuck to the bottom of the AVR Dragon. The Dragon rider should be level with the socket pins still sticking through the holes (pictured below).
- Solder one pin from each header. Check that the sockets are flush to the PCB and still properly aligned.
- Solder all remaining pins.
Step 9: Pin Headers Part II
1. Place and solder the 2x5 pin headers.
2. Break the single-row pin headers to the appropriate length as was done in step 7.
- For J22-24 use a 1x3 pin header leaving the hole to the right of each empty for now.
4. Check that the headers are flush to the board and vertical. If not, straighten by heating the pin while moving the header with your finger as was done in step 7.
5. Solder the remaining pins of the pin headers.
6. Finish J22-J24
- Break off 3 single-pins for use with J22-J24
- Place single pins in the available holes and insert a shunt to hold them while you solder.
- Solder the pin to the Dragon Rider PCB
Installed during this step:
- J15 - 2pins
- J16 - 3pins
- J22-J24 - 4pins (3pins + 1 single pin)
- J25-J28 - 2pins
- J17 - 2x5pins
- J18 - 3pins
- J19-J20 - 2pins
- J21 - 2x5pins
- J29-J30 - 2x5pins
- J31 - 2x5pins
- LCD1 - 1x14pins
Step 10: Finish the Rest of the Add-on Kits.
1. Start by adding all of the passive components (resistors and capacitors) for all remaining kits.
- 1 resistor and 1 capacitor from the PSU kit
- 4 axial capacitors and one radial capacitor for the Serial kit
- 12 resistors for the LED kit
- 10 resistors for the button kit
- 2 resistors for the LCD kit
- This switch from the basic parts kit toggles the power from the AVR Dragon to the Dragon Rider
- There is a sub-regulator included in the advanced parts kit in case you want to power the Dragon Rider with the AVR Dragon, but want the circuit to run at 3.3 volts. I want my circuits running at 5 volts so I instead just used a small length of wire to connect pins 1 and 2 of U6 together. See the photo below. I used a small U of wire so it would be quite easy to remove at a later time if I so desire.
- For more information about the subregulator please ready the Dragon Rider User's Manual at the Ecros Tech website.
- There is a precision voltage reference included with the advanced parts kit. Install this in the appropriate location now (picture below).
- You have the option of leaving this component off and using the internal voltage reference of the AVR chip (you would also leave out R3 if you go this route). Read more in the User's Manual.
Step 11: LED and Switches Add-On
- The LEDs in my kit had the positive lead (anode) a bit longer than the negative lead
- If you look in the "plastic" case of the LED you will see a large and a small conductor. The larger conductor will be the negative side of the diode.
2. Solder one leg of each LED, verify the alignment and make corrections as necessary.
3. Apply solder to the other lead, make sure the first lead is adequately soldered and clip the excess.
4. Insert the 5 momentary push buttons. Solder and clip the excess from the legs.
Step 12: PSU Add-On
1. Secure the voltage regulator to the board and solder it in place.
- Place the heat sink over the copper pad on the PCB so that the mounting hole lines up with the hole in the PCB.
- Place the voltage regulator in the heat sink so that it's mounting hole also lines up.
- Use a pencil to mark the leads where they need to be bent at a 90 degree angle.
- Use a pair of pliers to make a clean, 90 degree bend in the leads.
- Place the head-sink and regulator over the board, add the screw and tighten the bolt to hold everything in place. Circuit boards are basically glass so do not over-tighten.
- Solder the three leads of the voltage regulator in place and clip the excess.
- Be careful to align the two electrolytic capacitors correctly. The black stripe marks the negative lead (cathode). The board has a "+" next to hole for the anode.
- Insert the LED at LED1 being cautious of its polarity just like with the LED add-on kit.
- Insert the trim-pot at R5
- Insert the switch at SW1
- Insert the power jack at J32
- The solder joints for the power jack also act as mechanical fasteners so make sure you have loaded the holes up with adequate solder.
Step 13: Serial Add-On
J34 dictates where the serial RS232 IC draws power from... the application circuit or the power supply add-on. You have two choices, use a jumper wire (as we did with U6 of the previous step) or install a pin-header. A jumper wire is more of a permanent choice, I would prefer to have options later so I'm installing a pin-header. I had enough pins left over from the Basic Parts kit to put a 1x3 header in this location.
1. Install the DB9 connector
- Connector will "snap" into place on the board
- Solder all of the data pins
- The two "clips" that snapped into the large holes should also be soldered. These work as a mechanical connection so load them up with solder.
- To leave your options open, solder a 1x3 pin header here and use a shunt for selection.
- To always power the serial chip from the PSU Add-on, solder a wire between pin1 and pin2.
- To always power the serial chip from the AVR circuit power rails, solder a wire between pin2 and pin3.
- If you previously installed a 16-pin socket at U8, simply insert the IC into this socket.
- If you chose not to use a socket, insert the IC paying attention to the notch for orientation. Solder each pin and clip the excess.
In order use the serial capability of this serial add-on you must connect to a microcontroller. There are a couple of ways to do this, including soldering jumper wires in place for a permanent connection. I prefer to leave my options open so I have installed two small pin-sockets that I can connect with wire-jumpers and avoid soldering in the future. These pin sockets are not included in any of the Ecros Tech parts kits.
For normal operation, solder a wire between the two solder pads marked "TXD" as well as the two solder pads marked "RXD" (see picture below). In the pictures below you can see where I have mounted pin sockets. This will allow me to easily connect these with a wire-jumper that can be changed in the future. It also leaves me the option of using this serial functionality with off-board circuits (for prototyping).
Step 14: LCD Add-On
Because I received the LCD Add-on kit after completing this instructable without it, this step will install all parts necessary for the LCD kit. It's rather simple actually.
Decision: How to deal with th R/W bit of the LCD interface. The Dragon Rider PCB has a set of solder pads for choosing between connecting the RW bit to a pull-down resistor or to the pin header for connection to a microcontroller. You can make the decision now and solder a wire jumper in the appropriate place. I decided to keep my options open and install a pin header for use with a shunt. This will allow me to change my mind later without desoldering. I had enough pins left over from the basic parts kit to use here, just add your own shunt (although there are probably enough between the basic and advanced parts kits that you don't need to find an additional shunt either).
1. Place and solder the resistors and trim-pot
- Be mindful of your resistor color codes.
- Place R7, R8, R9 and solder using the same methods as earlier in this assembly process
- Place a 1x3 pin header in the three holes marked "PLDN" "R/W" "BIT1"
- Solder using the same method we have previously for single-row pin headers.
- Nylon stands offs come with a screw, washer, and nut.
- Install the posts with the screw side up.
- The washer goes on top of the board (as a spacer for proper height). Secure the post from the bottom of the board using the nut.
- Put the 1x14 pin header and the 1x16 pin socket together. The two extra slots for the socket go on the "pin1" side of the board. Insert into the holes on the PCB.
- Set the LCD in place making sure the pin socket pins line up with the holes of the LCD's board.
- Secure in place using the nylon screws. This ensures proper alignment during soldering.
- Start with one pin on the Dragon Rider and one pin on the LCD.
- Check for proper alignment
- Solder the remaining pins.
Step 15: Ribbon Cable Kit
The 10-way Ribbon Cable Accessory Kit comes with 24" of ribbon cable, 6 2x5 IDC plugs and 6 strain relief clips. In the pictures below I have used my own ribbon cable and plugs but other than the plugs being a different color everything will work the same. If you don't plan on purchasing your own spool of ribbon cable (100') I would suggest ordering 2 of the ribbon cable kits from Ecros as they are extremely cheap and this will allow you all the cables you need to prototype 40-pin AVR chips with a lot of off-board circuits. That being said, for most applications one kit has everything you need.
1. Cut the ribbon cable to length.
- You have enough plugs for 3 cables so perhaps cut into 3 lengths 8" each.
- Looking down from the top of the IDC plug, with the polarity notch on the top the red stripe of the ribbon cable should be to the right.
- Once you clamp these sockets closed there's no turning back so take your time!
- I use a clamp, you could use a vice. Even pressure makes this job a snap.
- Bend the ribbon cable over the top of the plug. The strain relief will snap into place over the cable.
- Polarity is the same on this end: viewed from above the plarity notch will be up and the red stripe on the right.
Step 16: Added Protection for Your AVR Dragon
I often have a few spare components kicking around my work area such as extra capacitors. I don't want to run the risk that a random component would get under the AVR Dragon and short it out during use. There are well documented cases of the AVR Dragon dying a mysterious death so I decided to add extra protection of a plexi-glass shield on the bottom.
The nylon stand-offs that come with the basic parts kit have threaded holes on the bottom. The threads are 4-40. I just happen to have plexi-glass and 4-40 machine screws laying around and that's everything you need for this project.
1. Measure and cut the plexi-glass
- Wear eye protection..... yes, this means you
- Measure the plexi-glass to be just a bit larger than the Dragon Rider PCB.
- Clamp the plexi-glass between two boards, score firmly with a razor blade (I usually score 3 times), and snap off the piece with quick, even pressure across the scored area. Repeat as necessary.
3. Mark and drill the mounting holes in the plexi-glass
- Turn the Dragon-Rider upside down, center the plexi on the stand-offs and mark the center of each hole with a permanent marker.
- Use a drill with a 1/8" drill bit. Run the drill slowly, being careful not to let the bit "travel" away from your mark. Use a piece of scrap wood and don't use too much downward pressure in an effort to avoid cracking the plexi-glass.
- The light pipe has a black "washer" that secures it in place. Remove this, slide the light pipe through the board from the top, install the black washer from the bottom.
6. Secure the plexi-glass shield in place using the machine screws.
7. If you have extra bump-on feet around the house you can attach these to the bottom of the plexi to create a no-slip, no-scratch base.
Update: Graham of Ecros Tech noticed an error here. You can see in the picture that when I installed the nylon stand-offs I put both the washer and the nut on top of the board. The washer is used as a spacer so that the Dragon Rider and AVR Dragon will sit flat on a surface together. Make sure to install the stand-offs with the washer underneath the PCB and the nut on top. Remember, these are nylon, not steel, so take care not to strip the threads of the stand off with the nut or the machine screw.
Also, he suggests it would be very easy to mark the size and hole position on the plexi if you do so before installing any components on the PCB. Just lay the PCB flat and trace the edges and mounting holes.
Step 17: Conclusions
Why do I think it's so good?
- Extremely high qualtiy PCB and parts
- I found the kit fun (even delightful) to assemble, that's always a plus
- This is the first time I've been able to use the AVR Dragon for High Voltage programming to "resurrect" a chip that I set the fuses incorrectly on. Once I had the jumpers setup correctly this was a simple process no more difficult than ISP. You just can't do it with the AVR Dragon without some type of adaptor which the Dragon Rider provides.
- The 2x5 pin headers make it easy to break-out the AVR pins to a breadboard or prototyped circuit. It also allows you to use some on-board features such as the buttons with off-board circuits at the same time.
- The price is right! You get a lot of bang for your buck. If you just want to use this to expand the ease of programming with the AVR Dragon you can pick up the PCB only for about $12 and use your own sockets, pin-headers, and shunts. That being said, if you are just starting out with AVR, the add-on kits will make learning easy and they are also extremely low-priced.
- The Dragon Rider adds a lot of protection to your delicate AVR Dragon. When used with the plexi-glass bottom it creates something of a "case" for the Dragon itself.
- You must be cautious not to turn Switch 1 (SW1) and Switch 2 (SW2) on at the same time!!! If you are using the variable power supply and turn these switches on at the same time you could send voltage that is too high back through to the Dragon, possibly damaging it. That being said, there really isn't a good way around this unless you just have less features available. My suggestion is to make a habit of always making sure both switches are off. Only turn a switch on when you have reason to.
- I would have liked to see a 2x3 ISP connector to facility off-board ISP without disconnecting the AVR Dragon from the Dragon Rider. This being said, I believe that if you setup the Dragon Rider to program an 8-pin chip you can then build a simple adapter to plug into J2 that will allow a 6-pin ISP cable to be used for this function. See "Future Goals" below.
1. Post instructables on how to setup the jumpers and use various programming modes (in progress but unpublished at this time).
2. Develop and post instructable on creating and using a 6-pin ISP header to program off-board AVR chips without removing the AVR Dragon from the Dragon Rider.
If you're interested in getting into AVR microcontrollers there is a website where you can learn more: http://www.avrfreaks.net