MLAB is an open-source electronic kit that places great emphasis on quality and universality of its products. MLAB kit and its modules can be used to build a huge variety of devices and instruments suitable for scientific applications, industrial automation and more.
UST company provides production and sales of MLAB modules. At present, it is the only authorized distributor of the MLAB kit. Furthermore, it has extensive experience in the custom production of electronic components. If a customer is missing a component that cannot be found in a current MLAB kit, UST is capable of designing and manufacturing such product according to customer’s requirements.
Apart from modules, UST company also offers development and production of complete devices and apparatus. Using an already existing MLAB modules, such development is usually very time and cost efficient and therefore affordable. One of the advantages of such approach is a possibility of adding a new functionality to the product without a need for complete replacement of the existing device, just by adding appropriate MLAB modules and expanding the software.
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Open-source hardware and software
The advantage of having open-source technologies is that every customer has an option to check what he gets and the device is no longer a black-box for him. Thanks to this, it is also easy to expand and elaborate the device by himself. The information about how every module is connected is freely available on Internet and helps in making decisions about its possible further development.
Complex standardisation ensures that individual modules are compatible with each other - mechanically or electronically. One of the most important standards is related to modules’ shape - they are assembled on a universal aluminium perforated plate that serves several purposes:
- Spatial arrangement of the modules - provides a unified and solid base for your projects
- Common ground area - the plate is conductive and the modules share the ground via screws that attach them to the plate
- RF shielding - the conductive surface forms an RF shielding, eliminating the need for shielding boxes for every module
- Stacking - plates can be easily stacked one onto another making the whole installation compact and increasing the usable space
MLAB contains ALBASE plates of different types (differing primarily in dimensions):
- ALBASExxx - a universal plate with a defined dimensions
From en electro-mechanical point of view, an important standard is that each functional pin of a module is doubled. User therefore does not need to deal with any non-standard signal splitting. The power supply is realized by a 3-pin header, making it unable to change its orientation and destroy the device by reversing the polarity. The bus connector for a widely used I2C is realized via a 5-pin header. This again makes sure that changing its orientation does not cause any damage and interconnecting of such buses is very easy and fast.
A modern approach in design of complex devices is a so-called firmware-less approach when the end-devices (e.g. sensors or mechanical actuators) no longer contain user firmware. Communication with end-elements is realized via some simple bus, for example I2C, SPI, CAN or ethernet. An advantage of such approach is that improving the software features does not require any complex firmware updates of microcontrollers connected at various places of the whole system.
MLAB kit contains a number of components ensuring the trouble-free functionality of these buses even with a more complex structure or when using longer distances. Examples are the following components:
- USBI2C01 - USB to I2C converter.
- I2CHUB02 - I2C multiplexer, allowing a disconnection of part of the bus. Able to do a level shifting.
- I2CDIFF01 - Differential I2C transceiver and bus extender. Connection is realized through standard ethernet twisted-pair patch cables with RJ45 connectors.
Examples of MLAB kit implementation: