Boron / Xenon / Argon Carrier for Outdoor Applications


With KiCad, I have to hunt for and download 3D parts though they do include a fair number for standard packages.



Exporting from EAGLE to Fusion 360 was very easy. Problem is that most of the parts don’t have 3D models. Will see how big a lift this will be. I have never used a 3D modelling app before but it is on my “Geek bucket list”.




I often find parts or packages here:



It looks like EAGLE provides all the standard 3D footprints, I just need to add them to my components. That leaves the hard part. For example, does Particle provide 3D models of their devices such as the Boron?

I am going to create a custom library for the next revision of this board so I will look to add 3D for this next rev.




Board back from OSHPark and assembled. Will start testing tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

So far, so good. Couple nits: not crazy about my choice of on/off switch but did not see a better surface mount option. May go back to the three hold EGL1215. Also, the crystal for the Real Time Clock seems huge to me.



I have just laid out a similar Carrier PCB using a lot of the same IC functional blocks - I looked for alternates to that crystal but that was about the same one I could find.

This looks it really came out well! - Great Job!



Was it you who assembled the board? Thanks



Yes, ugly hand soldered but was faster and way cheaper than getting MacroFab to do it. I want to do a higher volume run this next time so need to test it completely.



From a cost viewpoint if this was going to scale you would want to have 1 side SMT if possible and as many SMT components as feasible. For Rev 1 - Credit for the hand soldering of those tiny components!



Update on testing.

  1. I need to find a better power switch - very hard to reach with my short fingernails.
  2. I think I made a mistake in not connecting the MFP from the RTC to an IO pin on the Boron. Will do a bodge wire and test when I get home. Thing is that the Watchdog is already connected to D8 / Wake. So, need to think a bit about what pin to use. Thoughts?
  3. Writing an automated test sketch, so far all the major systems are passing. It is still a work in progress but the repo is here:
  4. I need to add another FET to allow me to “bounce” the power to the TPL5010 so it can be aligned to the clock. This is needed so that the watchdog (with an interval of just over an hour) will align to the hourly reporting schedule of the device. Of course, you can change the resistors on the watchdog to a different interval (0-7200 seconds). Currently, petting the watchdog does not reset the wake interval.
  5. I need to make a call on FRAM. I am starting to think that I should remove it as the ~1Mb Flash memory on the 3rd Gen devices will soon be unlocked. This would save money on the board. Would appreciate input here.
  6. May make changes on the IO pins - what do you all think of going all JST?
  7. Want to look at moving to all surface mount - even the headers for the Particle device. Thoughts?

Thoughts and comments welcome.

Thanks, Chip


I am leaning towards the TLP being the wrong device - if you had a simple timer you could just reset on an I/O (like an ATTiny 85) you could trigger a “pat the dog” the AT starts its 68 minute timer. The RTC MFP is connected to D8 and its wakes system in cycles less that 68mins. when boron wakes - 1st thing is “pat the dog” and 68 mins starts again. The AT will pull down !RESET for 10s on time out ?

This fixes point 4 as well

JST is cool but cables are hard to make up manually without the right (expensive) crimper etc - if you can find a harness maker that will do them at a good price then go for it.



I take your point on the watchdog and will look into alternatives. I can tell you from my original explorations on Digikey that there may not me many alternatives with an 1 hour + cycle time. I do like the ATTiny 85 idea and use this chip in my pressure sensor. However, it does draw much more power and brings the added requirement for a programming footprint on the board (I use Tag connect but then folks need to buy a ~$60 cable). Point is that this is a typical engineering problem with multiple tradeoffs.

I hate crimping cables and as the number of devices I sell increase, I want to get out of the crimping business. I noticed that Digikey carries a number of pre-made cables and I was hoping to move to a model where I just use those. Does that make sense? Problem is picking the right pin counts and the correct JST series as they don’t have PH series today.

Will keep you up to date.

Thanks, Chip


You could put a small SMD 6 pin header (2x3) and use an IDC connector and cable to an arduino nano or similar and program it easily that way (pretty cheap solution) - unless there is a bug the code as a WD timer is hardly going to change. Idle mode (which leaves the timers running) goes to approx 0.35mA. So not a bad option.

In terms of connectors its all a trade off - if you can get pre-made cables - that is 1st prize - for my last project I found a local harness guy who made up about 200 sets for me that had 2,54mm latching plugs - this worked really well and was not that expensive but gave a solid connection once plugged in



So, have been doing homework on the connectors. I think I am going to go with JST - SH/SR. These are the Quiic connectors that are gaining steam for i2c, they are smaller, cheap and there are many options for pre-made connectors in 2, 4 and 6 pin sizings and different lengths. Sparkfun also creates adapters for traditional dupont (2.54") and Grove cables.

Datasheet for the SH/SR connectors:

Now, I need to find a better switch and resolve the watchdog question.

Thanks as always for your input.



I am looking for a new power switch too - slide switch, not tactile like I had before. I ordered some to try from Digi-Key that should be here soon. They’re SPDT through-hole switches, with a 4mm actuator length so it should protrude slightly from my enclosure which is 2mm thick. I’ll adjust the position on the PCB to get just the right length. I was looking for SMD but couldn’t find any at a reasonable price that met the requirements.


Agreed - these will work well for an internally connected board like this and they do have nice positive lock - also opens you up to using any of the SparkFun breadboards that use the Quiic system and so offers many additional sensors - win all the way!


Have you got an inside on the 1Mb Flash unlock? Depends upon what you want to use the memory for. I have added a 1Mbit FRAM using I2C to a gateway board. This provides a nice amount of space (128KB) for a publish Async buffer. You can’t do that with Flash.



No inside scoop on when this will happen but it has been mentioned in various posts but, the reason I am bringing it up here is because I want to do a smaller number of bigger production runs with the 3rd Gen carrier than I did with the Electron carrier. Looking back, I realized I spent a lot more on the carrier boards for the Electron because I ordered 50 or so at a time. So, I am trying to read the tea leaves on the Flash and think about whether I need FRAM.

Actually, I think I am coming to the conclusion that I do. If Flash has a 100,000 read/write cycles lifetime and I am storing the current counts so the device will not loose count if reset, Flash will not last long enough. If I am storing hourly counts, it would be fine but some of my devices count 2-3 events a day.

So, I think I will keep the FRAM and use the Flash - whenever it comes - to store hourly or daily snapshots.

Thanks, Chip



Crazy that something like a switch would be so hard.

I am thinking of using this switch but, I wish there was something like this in a surface mount format. You would think that with almost 4,000 slide switches on Digikey, there would be plenty of choice.


The 100K is for write cycles only as read cycles don’t change the structure of the storage cell. With flash, the key is to spread the writes over the entire device using a basic or advanced wear-leveling library such as SPIFFS. Using wear-leveling, the flash lifetime can be extended by orders of magnitude. The file system proposed to be used for accessing the 2MB of free flash on the Gen3 devices uses wear-leveling. By dedicating 1MB of the 2MB available, a wear-leveled 1MB of flash can be presented to the user with a write cycle lifetime that will most likely be as long the products lifetime.