Assembling the Really Bare Bones Board (RBBB) Arduino Clone - UPDATED

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About: Father of two active toddlers desperately trying to find the time to build every interesting project from Instructables. Slowly training the kids to love building things. The wife? She thinks we are all craz...

UPDATE 8/16/2008: added images of different board configurations in last step.

The RBBB from Modern Device Company is a wonderful little Arduino clone. If you have a Arduino project requiring a small footprint or an inexpensive dedicated board, this is a great solution.

I discovered the RBBB while looking for a cheaper alternative to the official Arduino board I used in developing my Northern Lights Indicator. On sale, buying 5 kits, these came out to about $9 each. That is a huge savings over the $35 Arduino Diecimila.

Step 1: The Kit

Here are all the parts of the RBBB kit. Included are:

2 10k resistors (Brown, Black, Orange)
2 .1ufd ceramic capacitors
2 47 ufd electrolytic capacitors
1 voltage regulator
1 3mm LED
1 Atmega168 preprogrammed with bootloader
1 16 MHZ ceramic resonator
male header pins
6 right-angle male-header pins
1 momentary switch
1 28 pin IC socket

Step 2: Let's Get Started!

Solder in the resistors. Orientation does not matter, here.

Step 3: First Capacitors

Next add in the ceramic capacitors. These can also be placed in any orientation.

Step 4: The LED

Orientation matters! The longer lead is the positive side. The picture shows the correct orientation. There is also a + sign on the board to show where the longer lead goes.

Step 5: The Switch and Power Regulator

Add in the switch and the power regulator.

The switch is rectangular and will snap in place with little effort. If it doesn't seem to fit, turn it 90 degrees and try again.

The power regulator is mounted with its flat side towards the edge of the board. See later steps for other power options.

Step 6: The Electrolytic Capacitors

Mount the two electrolytic capacitors as shown. As with the LED, the longer lead is the positive side.

Step 7: The IC Socket

In mounting the IC socket you may wish to space it off the board a bit. This makes the pin labels a bit easier to read. I used leads trimmed from previous components to lift the socket off the board slightly while I soldered. After, they slide out easily.

One end of the socket has a notch. Notice the image of the socket on the board also has a notch. Match the orientation and solder into place.

Step 8: Start on the Header Pins

Here you have lots of options. The kit supplies you with male header pins, but depending on your project you may not need any pins. You may also want to use female pins or even mount the pins pointing upward (reversed from what is shown.) For prototyping, having the male pins mounted as shown makes it easy to plug the board into a breadboard.

Start by snipping 4 pins off the end of one of the sets of headers. Solder the remainder of the section in the holes marked A5 -D9. This is the same side of the board as the LED.

Next, take the 4 pins you trimmed off and solder them in the D5-D8 holes.

Now trim the remaining set of headers in half. Take one of the halves and solder it into the RST - +5 holes.

Step 9: The Resonator

Mount the ceramic resonator. Orientation doesn't matter.

Step 10: The Diode

Be careful with the orientation of the diode. Mount as shown with the white stripe towards the board.

Step 11: Power Connector

Solder in the power socket. See later steps for other power supply options.

Step 12: The Programming Headers

You have some options here, also. The kit provides right angle male headers which can be mounted as shown. Another option is to use some of the straight male headers left over from previous steps. Without the right angle headers in place the RBBB fits neatly in a Altoids Chewing Gum tin.

Step 13: Washing the Board.

At this point it would be a good idea to give your board a good scubbing with rubbing alcohol and a toothbrush. This will remove any solder flux from the board. Let the board dry or blow it dry before mounting the ATMEGA168 chip.

Step 14: Mount the IC

Notice the notch in one end of the ATMEG168 chip. Remember the notch in the socket? Orient the chip with the socket and gently press it into place. You may need to carefully bend the chip's pins inward a bit to get it to fit.

Step 15: That's It! or Is It?

Your board is now fully assembled and ready to be programmed!

Remember I mentioned some options for the power supply? If you wish to have an even smaller board you may remove the power socket from the board. You may wish to directly wire a 9v snap connector to the board or run wires to a remote power supply.

You can also cut the board down even smaller by removing the section used for power regulation. This can then be mounted some other place or eliminated altogether if your project can provide regulated 5v power.

Step 16: Update!

Here are examples of different board configurations. At the bottom is a board assembled in the original form. In the middle is a kit I will be using with a 9v battery snap (or a battery pack). At the top is a board in the smallest form. This one will require a regulated 5v power supply.

Note I have placed vertical male programming headers to further reduce the board length. The middle board has no I/O headers as I will be soldering leads directly to the board. The top board has female headers. This allows wires or male headers to be plugged in easily.

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    20 Discussions

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    FranciscoR102

    2 years ago

    How do you program the arduino clone by arduino IDE? .-. like an arduino
    UNO, lilypad(?) (have a wrong resonator/crystal can produce errors? DX)

    Not sure if it is important but the newer rbbb's the diode goes strip up and it seems to be reversed in direction as well. So anybody building one of these DOUBLE CHECK YOUR SCHEMATICS. This is a nice little board. I'll probably buy a whole bunch more. Can't believe that this little thing is the eqv of a 286 dx puter. Nice instructable

    i would say to get a better understanding about robotics go with the $50 robot tutorial from societyofrobots.com. it will help you understand how the microcontroller works and is cheaper than the arduino. or check out the roboduino www.curiousinventor.com/sor_ad

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    youevolve

    9 years ago on Introduction

    I would recommend starting out with the Dueicimello or Diecimila. They are basically the same board. Once you are comfortable with the pinouts and programming of that board and have prototyped a project or two, then pick up some of the less expensive clones to dedicate to your project. The reason these boards are cheaper is there is no circuitry to directly handle USB connections. A Diecimila is programmed by plugging in any standard USB cable you may have laying around to the USB port on the board. The RBBB uses a USB-to-TTL cable. The advantage here is you can use a single cable to program lots of boards. The boards are cheaper because you aren't buying the USB circuitry with each board. The disadvantages are the cable costs $20 unless you build your own and that cost carries over to your project if it requires a permanent USB connection. If you are just buying a single RBBB and the required cable, the cost roughly equals that of the official boards.

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    mike_d214

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice. I've been looking at getting into microcontrollers for a long time and I think that arduino or the like is the path I want to start on. Are there some good resources out there as far as programming tutorials on chips like the Rbbb?

    1 reply
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    youevolvemike_d214

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    There are LOTS of resources! The Arduino family are programmed essentially in C. I'm no programmer and am picking the language up pretty quickly. If you are really interested, pick up the book Making Things Talk. It is a great way to get into microprocessors. I found some of the parts suggested a bit pricey, but if you use a little imagination you can get through the lessons much cheaper.

    The main site for Arduino has several guides to getting started.

    Here is a great list of projects using the Arduino. Look to it for inspiration and code you can steal ;)

    Since you are just getting started, I would suggest picking up an assembled Arduino Diecimila. This way you can learn and tinker without any frustrations with assembly or non-standard board design. Once you are comfortable with the Diecimila and want to dedicate a micro controller to a project, then pick up the RBBBs.

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    sandokan

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice work !!
    But anyone knows an equivalent of the ATMEL ATMega 168 ? Because i don't find it in my store "

    Thx
    Once again good job !

    2 replies
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    youevolveGorillazMiko

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    DO? What does it DO? What can't it do! It's Arduino!

    Seriously, the Arduino and its clones are easily programmable microcontrollers. Using analog and digital input and output pins you can connect sensors, motors, lights, etc. to the RBBB and program it to react in most any way you'd like. That can be as simple as blinking an LED at preset intervals or as complex as a brain for a robot. I used one to create a device that displays a prediction of Northern Lights activity. My latest project is an environmental sensor/logger/regulator for a honeybee hive.

    With a active and friendly community around these devices and lots of well documented example projects it is hard to say EXACTLY what the RBBB does. What do you want it to do? (I want mine to pay off my mortgage. I have the hardware end of that project figured out, but the programming is going to be harder. LOL)

    I recommend the The World Famous Index of Arduino & Freeduino Knowledge as a list of Arduino projects to browse. Also, the book Making Things Talk is a great tutorial for the Arduino and related devices. You may also do a search on Instructables and the MAKE: blog for the term Arduino for even more interesting projects.

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    youevolveguyfrom7up

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Nearly identical but about $5 (or more if on sale) cheaper . The RBBB only comes with 1 LED and does not have the ICSP header. The RBBB is slightly narrower and has the added options of shortening the board by removing the power connection and regulation circuitry. I considered the Boarduino, but found the RBBB to be a better value. The USB version of the Boarduino might be a better option for projects requiring a permanent USB connection, otherwise, I'd stick with the RBBB.

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    ladyadayouevolve

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    the boarduino was designed to have a 'shortening' method as well. if you look at the layout, the traces are placed so that the 5V supply can be cut off quite easily. however since cutting FR4 PCBs is not very good for ones health, its not suggested.

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    PKM

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Ooo... very good photos, and nice clear instructions as well. I only just saw this thing on hackaday, and I've been looking for an excuse to get into uC circuitry/programming stuff.

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    GorillazMiko

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Extremely nicely done Instructable. Pictures are great, the instructions are clear and everything. If I ever buy this, I'll be sure to use this Instructable. Great job, I hope to see more stuff from you. +4/5 stars. (added to favorites)