RoadTest: Infineon / Arduino IoT Bundle
Evaluation Type: Independent Products
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: null
What were the biggest problems encountered?: The biggest problems have to do with the form-factors of these boards. The challenge here was using either of these boards with a YUN. Neither board fits properly on the YUN with standard pins, and the Motor Shield does not fit on any Arduino board safely due to the ports that would be in direct contact with the terminals from the shield.
Since I have never even looked at an Infineon product before, I had no preconceptions about what to expect nor what problems I might encounter with said boards. I have, however, built my own boards using components and have used other boards from different manufacturers, so I had a basic understanding of what I should expect from a professional board. Neither board, initially, made me feel that they were up to the tasks.
Opening the boxes game me a mixed feeling of wonder and puzzlement. Neither board was shipped with pins soldered in place, which in and of itself did not bother me, however, the missing pins were not even included in the box. I know that risers and pins are very inexpensive, and yes, I do have way to many in my personal collection, but that is sort of the point, isn't it? Every microcontroller that is shipped without soldered pins and every component that is shipped without soldered parts includes those pins and parts. Its like expected. No effort is required on the part of the manufacturer to toss in a few 2 cent pins with their box. But Infineon doesn't include them. There isn't even mention of the fact that you would have to solder on pins in either of the Quick Start Guides. A newbie might be at a loss. So the first suggestion I would make to Infineon is to toss some pins into the boxes to give the users that soft-fuzzy feeling. To be fair, the Quick Start Guides both let you know that A) These are evaluation boards and not commercial products and B) They are intended for use only by qualified and skilled technical staff. But given the fact that these are meant for Arduinos, and many people who are excited about making with Arduino are not professionals, they should at least mention the need for pins.
The motor shield is a mess. The capacitor sticks straight up from the board like a monolithic space hog, there is no way to design a sleek case to house it within your project, so make certain you have extra filament for your 3D printer. Thankfully it does not come with terminal screws bolted on, so at least the user can go find something that best fits their application, however most solutions render the board incapable of being mounted above any Arduino without the use of extra-long pins or additional risers. This is potentially a problem for users expecting this to work with their Arduino boards, but it also might explain partly why Infineon opted to not include pins. I chose to use 90 degree pins, allowing me to mount the board vertically within my Arduino and connecting only the pins necessary for operation on the top edge. Later, when combining with the RGB Shield, these pins allowed for easier construction of housing and ribbon cable connection.
The RGB Shield is amazing. To be fair, it cannot fit perfectly over the Yun using standard pins due to the vertically mounted USB port on the YUN, however that is Arduino's fault. I have tested other boards on the YUN, and some of them cannot fit either. The compression pins and mounting boxes are well placed and easily used. I feel that the RGB Shield is just the thing to make someone want to start playing around with the Arduino platform, its that remarkable.
EASE OF USE
The motor shield has the potential to kill you. Ok, so maybe not KILL you, but shock you enough that you don't want to ever touch it again. It connects to a power supply of your choosing (up to 40V) to one end of the board and the brushed motor you wish to connect to the other end. The direction and speed of the motor can be controlled though a series of Analog and digital pins from the Arduino. In my test, it got pretty warm, and because the terminals are exposed, had the potential to be short-circuited. Luckily, I did not short-circuit the board, nor did I shock myself, but the warning about "skilled technical staff" might need to be in larger font. All in all, it was very easy to use and control.
The RGB shield just works. For my application, I purchased a reel of weather-resistant LEDs that came with an IR remote and power supply. I was able to strip off the dedicated plug end of the power supply, solder pins onto it, and hook it up the the Infineon shield in mere seconds. The same is true for the LED strip. I uploaded the test sketch to my Arduino and was displaying the entire strip of 150 LEDs in flashing and rainbow colors. In my final application, the pins remained securely fastened into their respective slots, and the board never seemed to heat up. If this board doesn't bring new developers to the Arduino, nothing will. It is super easy to use, incredibly easy to understand how to use, and durable enough to use in novice projects (you know, the ones held together with velcro and tape, not with custom printed cases). The one negative I found with this board is that the plastic case for the power pins split along the backside of the compression buttons. I was really surprised when I saw that one day but suspect that it was just due to it being "beta".
If these boards make it to be commercially available products from Infineon, I would like to see a few things done to them. Firstly, connect the capacitor on the motor shield horizontally. It is too easily banged around poking straight up form the board and harder to encase. Secondly, use a stronger plastic for the power connection side of the RGB shield. The LED connector plastic is much harder and did not split during testing. Finally, include some suggested pin configuration/usage for each board. I had foresight enough to use 90 degree pins on the motor shield, but if I had soldered straight pins on, I might have had a moment of cussing before digging out additional risers or desoldering and starting over.
Both of these boards worked exactly as specified in their tech sheets, were very easy to incorporate into a project, and stood up to man-handling and use. I am looking forward to seeing the commercial versions of both of these products and even have an idea for a robot version of my Motorized Disco Display that could follow me in holiday parades using two of the motor shields.