Potential ToyBrain Substitutes

The point of the ToyBrain project isn’t really to create the ToyBrain hardware. It’s to allow me to have a module that I can drop into children’s toys to add programability. Building the actual ToyBrain modules kind of got off into the weeds a bit, so I’ve taken a look around to see what the prices are like for modules that do more or less what I want. Here’s a comparison.

The Pololu Baby Orangutan. ($20) The Baby Orangutan has a 20MHz ATmega328P microcontroller (32k ROM/2k RAM) and a dual H-Bridge motor driver that can supply around 1A continuious power per channel.

The Cal-Eng MicroDuino ($25) Uses a 16MHz ATmega328P and a dual H-bridge that can supply 800mA per channel.

The Cal-Eng NanoDuino ($35) Essentially the same hardware as the MicroDuino, but about the same size as a penny.

The TinyCircuits TinyDuno + TinyShield Motor ($20 + $20) ATMega328. The motor shield can drive four motors, but has an upper limit of 500mA without heat-sinking, so it would need either a heat sink or for the driver channels to be paralleled. It also needs an $18 programming shield, but that’s a one-time expense. Measures about an inch square, and can be cut down to be round.

Microduino Studio Microduino ($?) Not available yet. Proposed hardware is in line with the others, but the motor driver, programming board, and CPU are all seperate, so the system cost will likely be around $40-60 per system. The proposed motor driver is the A3906, which is a dual 1A H-bridge.

Femtoduino ($12 + $5) ATMega328P microcontroller, 400mA per channel motor driver board. Cheap and very small (dime-sized), but the motor driver is weak.

Digispark + Motor Shield ($9 + $10) ATTiny85 (8K ROM/512 RAM) with 6 IO lines, 4 of which would be used to drive the 1.2A motor drivers. Smaller than a quarter, and very cheap. This probably does not have sufficent IO for my purposes, and is barely cost-competitive with the Baby Orangutan.

Looking at the available competition, if I want something better than just buying hardware, I have to essentially make the Pololu Baby Orangutan, only smaller, and with a higher output current. If there’s a 2A dual H-bridge motor driver IC available, this might be possible, but it won’t be by continuing the development path that I’m on (with a socketed, replacable motor driver). The STMicroelectronics L620x series bridges look good, but cost $7, so my $20 budget for parts would be half-blown on one IC.

For my projects that would have used the ToyBrains, I’m going to use the Baby Orangutan controllers instead. I may eventually see if I can get a small board together that uses the through-hole motor driver chips, but it’s not going to be a big priority.