• Product Review | Totem Mini Lab

    10/17/2019 at 16:19 0 comments

    The Totem Mini Lab is a kit to build an all-in-one lab setup. Built around Totem's take on an Arduino Uno, it features a companion lab board which adds many useful tools and features to your prototyping and development. 

    Unboxing


    The kit comes with the following parts (as listed on the Totem site:

    • TotemDuino – our improved version of Arduino UNO;
    • LabBoard – a capable experimentation and measuring platform;
    • 34-pin flat cable – use it to connect TotemDuino and LabBoard together;
    • Collection of Totem construction parts – for building Totem workbench;
    • Voltage adapter – to power laboratory from the mains;
    • Breadboards CYB-120 (2 units) – to extend your experimentation area;
    • Breadboard cables – Jump wire 20 cm x 40 pcs. U Shape Breadboard Jumper Cable Kit, 140 pcs;
    • Building instructions – suggested use of Totem parts for building a workbench where everything neatly mounts together;
    • Standard USB 2.0 Mini Cable 1m (A-male to mini-male).

    Building

    I thoroughly enjoyed putting this kit together. Having recently assembled the little 2WD Car Kit from Totem I found building this an absolute joy. The included parts sheet for reference came in very handy for organising and measuring out parts and accompanied the printed build guide brilliantly. Some of the images in the book can be a little unclear as to where the nut inserts go, but once you have done the first few steps it becomes clear what is meant. The printed guide was a much better reference tool than using the online guide that the 2WD Car Kit requires to use, but I feel that is because I used my phone to view it.  Still, the high quality printed document is a nice addition to the kit.

    The build itself was fairly straight forward using the included driver (the only tool needed). I did find a few of the screw angles were a bit tight for a fat fingered fellow such as myself when assembling the frame, but the driver does have a wide angle of use to help it still do the job at an angle, plus the order you attach the brackets can also make it easier.

    Still, all in all I had a great time assembling this, and look forward to using it :-)

    Finished Build

    Software & Usability

    ***Software review to follow***

    Expansions

    It is possibly to add add-on modules to the lab it further increase its value as a prototyping and development lab.


    Outcome

    All in all I think this kit is absolutely fantastic. As someone without a dedicated workspace for prototyping and development I was really excited at the prospect of an all-in-one system that could improve my workflow and also tidy up the stack of boxes full of random microcontrollers, components and all kinds.

    Once I have received the add on modules I am going to be moving my development for my current projects ( #DIY SamplePad Controller  and #Digibone ) exclusively to this lab and will then update the software and usability section of this review. I am also keen to test how this would work in conjunction with a raspberry Pi w/touchscreen setup. Or even use the Maker Kit to build a Pi cluster chassis to add to this build.

    I'm really hoping to see Totem continue developing add-on boards for this lab; it's a great form factor, and increasing the options available will really increase it's appeal as a useful tool for makers.

    One in particular I'd love to see is a Network-based add-on, build around an ESP32 to add Wifi, Bluetooth and perhaps ethernet ports for IoT development. I'd also love to see some further TotemDuinos developed, using perhaps the Mega as a base rather than the Uno, maybe even including an ESP32 on it rather than as a separate module. 

    Anyway, I'm really excited by this lab and look forward to seeing where the future takes it!

    UPDATE - Using the Lab [26 Nov]

    In the last few weeks I have received my add-on boards for the lab. I have received the one on the right in the picture above, and also the...

    Read more »

  • Product Review | Totem 2WD Car Kit

    10/17/2019 at 16:16 0 comments

    Billed as an upgradable smartphone-controller car chassis kit, the Totem 2WD Car Kit does exactly what it says; it is a small kit featuring a Bluetooth-compatible board and a companion app to control it. Despite its size the kit comes with everything you'd need to build a fantastic little platform to use as-is or to build upon.

    Unboxing

    The kit contains the following parts:

    • 1x X3-FBI board – Bluetooth motor controller;
    • 2x cables – with JST connectors, to connect motors and controller;
    • 2x DC Motors – N20 type, with JST connectors, L=16mm shaft, 75:1 gear ratio, 400 rpm shaft output at 6 V;
    • 1x Battery – LiPo, 3.7 V, 250 mAh;
    • 1x USB Battery Charger;
    • 4x Wheels – 2x driving wheels with D-shaft holes (to mount directly on the motor) and 2x idler wheels with O-shaft holes (3.2mm), 44 mm rubber tires;
    • Totem mechanics and Tools for building chassis frame.

    Building

    Building this kit was great fun! The instructions for building are available by following a QR code on the box. The manual is clear, well thought out and makes assembly as easy as possible. The manual is a tad difficult to read on a phone display so I'd recommend using a tablet or a PC, or downloading the manual as a PDF instead of using the onscreen widget. The kit had a few spare nuts and bolts which was a welcome site, they always come in handy.  I did notice that the tolerance of the small M3 nut/inserts sometimes varied ever-so-slightly, making is sometimes a little tricky to slot them into the beams. Using the butt of the driver tool as recommended in the documentation definitely helps with these parts. The quality of the included tools are also great. Taking time to align the beams properly when attaching the brackets before fully screwing them in is a good method to follow, and ensures for a flush fit.

    Finished Build

    Software

    Once assembled and everything was plugged into the board it was ridiculously easy to get it moving; download the totem app (Link for Android), search and pair with the board via Bluetooth, select the kit you have and start driving! The provided layout gives you the basic controls you need to whizz this thing around, and even has an edit button to allow adjustment.

    I would have loved to have seen a USB on board for uploading user written code, but for this size of build the board will already handle everything you throw at it.

    I tried some of the other kit controls to see if the commands are the same in all modes and that's not the case. I'm not sure of the board is flashed just to work with the kit its with or if it checks what is connected to it before deciding what it is.

    Whatever it does it's a great little drive and the motors are surprisingly torque-y for their size.  If the board handled a higher voltage input it would probably go at a fair speed!

    Outcome

    The final product is a great little platform! The X3-FBI board features in most of the robot chassis kits available, and as such means there are plenty of extra ports for expansion should you wish to build on top of this chassis. The board could benefit from an on-off switch to ease the wear and tear on the battery connector. Another nice feature for future boards would be a integrated charger for the battery, however I can see why they'd struggle to fit the extra components on the board alongside the rest of the things on there  (the light bar, speaker, position sensor and the motor driver and ports) without sacrificing the small for factor.

    The Totem Beam system is absolutely brilliant - the combination of light, plastic beams reinforced with metal inserts and brackets works really well together, and gives plenty of options for building. 

    All in all this kit was a fantastic introduction to the Totem system. I am really looking forward to assembling my Mini Lab from these guys, and I'm really looking forward to coming up with a custom structure from their Maker Kit too.

    Thanks Totem!

  • Product Reviews

    10/14/2019 at 23:38 0 comments

    In a few days I will hopefully be receiving a wonderful package from Totem, and I can't ruddy wait!

    I came across the company a month or two ago while looking for an alternative to 20x20 aluminium extrusion for my #Digibone  project on here; I needed something light and sturdy to build a frame.

    After a few days of chatting to Karolis from Totem they were really excited to see what I could use their Maker Kit for, and very kindly offered to send me the kit to use in my project in exchange for a review of it.

    Furthermore they are also sending their mini lab kit, which I'm really looking forward to using to streamline my project development moving forward.

    When I receive these kits I shall be hosting my reviews as Pages on here, and with the Maker Kit I will be adding plenty of logs to document how I manage to build my DigiBone frame from the kit.

    Exciting times!


    Update | 15th October

    My kits have arrived!

    The Maker Kit will be making the basis of the DigiBone project - I'm really looking forward to building a frame and getting the electronics in place to start working on the code. This project has been long in the 

    works and it's finally time to get it finished.

    The Mini Lab looks absolutely fantastic - an all in one prototyping kit with loads of options and possibilities. I'm looking forward to building this and looking to use this as my main prototyping setup alongside a Pi with 7" touchscreen.

    The 2WD Car Kit was an absolute surprise - It's going to either something for my son to use or taken to work for driving around the office :-)