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Arduino: what it is, what it is for and how it works

Arduino: cos'è, a cosa serve e come funziona

Arduino is enjoying enormous success both among electronics enthusiasts but also among professionals and companies in the sector. Here are some general notions to get to know it and understand what it is for and how it works.

Arduino: the history

When we talk about Arduino we refer to one of the most famous and above all most used platforms for electronic programming. It is fundamentally based on an open-source system consisting of hardware and software suitable for most needs even by those with little experience in the field.

Arduino is an Italian project, a real source of pride for our beautiful country. It was born in 2005 in Piedmont and precisely in Ivrea. The team that developed this innovative project, composed of Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, Gianluca Martino and David Mellis, devised it to guarantee a useful device for the control of the students' design works and to develop a system that could be as economical as possible. This is the reason why in a short time, many companies and many professionals have decided to use it for their projects.

To understand the extent of Arduino's success, it is sufficient to report a simple data on sales, that is not too updated: in 2008 there was talk of over 50,000 units sold all over the world. In 2006, however, he had already received a special honorable mention at the Ars Electronica Prix.

What is Arduino and what it does

Arduino, in practice, is a family of electronic boards with different characteristics, functionalities and prices. The software part, on the other hand, is common to all versions.

It has managed to establish itself internationally because it is essentially a platform suitable for all needs and, above all, also for those who do not have particular experience with computer programming and the implementation of electronics projects.

Arduino electronic cards are absolutely versatile, as well as being small and advantageous from an economic point of view. It is not possible to say exactly what it does and what it is for because its potentials are infinite: it does not have a specific functionality but it depends on how and by whom it is programmed.

For example, we can allow it to perform some domestic functions efficiently such as cooking food, activating a mixer and controlling the house lighting. In other sectors, it also performs operations such as robot functioning or management of scientific devices.

Arduino UNO

Arduino is therefore widely used in various sectors and this is what precisely allows us to understand that it is a multipurpose solution, which can be exploited in various fields. When you decide to focus on an Arduino electronic board, you focus on a special device that works on the basis of a received input followed by an output. This means that what can be defined as an incoming stimulus is followed by an outgoing action as a consequence.

Arduino can be programmed by everyone using the specific software and through the Arduino Programming Language.

Examples of projects with Arduino

On the web, there are many ideas of Arduino projects and its various fields of application. To understand the importance and usefulness of this innovative platform, we can consider some of the projects that have been developed.

For example, you can start from the Makerbot, a 3D printer based on Arduino or the Open PCR project, a tool for medical analysis that allows you to amplify the DNA and carry out more specific checks, a significant step forward that could open interesting roads in the medical field. Within the field of scientific analysis, there is also the pHduino project, which is an equipment with which the pH level of liquids is calculated.

But one of the perspectives towards which we are moving also concerns that of the food sector: in particular Arduino could be the ally of companies that produce yogurt. Thanks to a system that uses Arduino, called Yobot, yogurt can be produced with a fermentation process in which particular attention is paid to the temperature.

Another particular example is in the field of drones, which we know that are now used in different situations, not only for leisure: from geological surveys to land studies. In fact, ArduPilot is the autopilot that manages and guarantees the control of some drone models.

Obviously there are many other examples, much simpler and within the reach of a simple electronics enthusiast. Projects are available to create an intelligent and automated irrigation system, to detect electromagnetic fields in a limited area (e.g. the bedroom or the workplace), to manage a fire-fighting system with a flame detector, to develop a heartbeat and much more.

We could go on indefinitely because there are so many applications using this system; by doing a search on the net, it is also possible to see how many possibilities there are from educational use to the most complex ones in the business environment.

Arduino and machine vision

Machine vision is our main sector so we could not fail to deal with this topic by checking which projects can be developed with Arduino. Starting from an educational level, Arduino can be used to control lighting or, by using a special sensor, to detect the presence of various types of objects.

Among the most interesting ones that we have found on the net, there is a simple vision system that manages to separate colours: Simple Machine Vision Project. At the center of everything there is obviously Arduino, to which a servo motor and a USB webcam are connected: the red objects are discarded while the others are accepted and continue to scroll on the roller. Here is the video showing the machine up and running:

{videobox} YYTIdchovX0 {/ videobox}

In the simplest projects, it is possible to use a webcam which is certainly not a linear camera but which, in these cases, performs the task in an excellent way. Otherwise, specific electronic boards are available: among them the Pixy (CMUCAM5), which can be purchased on Amazon and is actually more of an optical sensor and certainly more suitable for a machine vision project to be developed with Arduino.

Pixy visione artificiale con Arduino

Is Arduino really the right solution?

Anyone who wonders if Arduino can be the right platform to program a particular device, must take into account that it is above all a very convenient choice. It perfectly matches the needs of people navigating in the IT field and, at the same time, it can be used without problems by those who are beginners. In fact, although hardware and software are easy to use, we certainly cannot speak of solutions that are not suited to the fields of application.

It should also be noted that the Arduino system is very advantageous as it can be used not only on Windows devices, but also Mac and Linux. Suffice it to say that many musicians use Arduino to try out new musical instruments or even architects for the design phase of a building.

There is also the possibility of starting from scratch, giving children the opportunity to follow the instructions on the major kits on the market to start designing a small electronic system. In this way, you can become passionate about Arduino to the point of becoming part of the online community where you can share and promote your ideas, an opportunity that is worth not to be missed.