Q: Is Hexabitz open-source?

A: Yes, both open source software and hardware with MIT license! Module source code (in the form of Keil uVision C project) for both our backend and alpha modules front-end is available on our Bitbucket account. Links to individual module repositories are available in each module page in the Resources tab. Hardware design files (EAGLE or Circuit Maker) are also provided for alpha modules. Circuit Maker files are available on our account here. Future modules will be available in EAGLE format and you will be able to download them from Resources tab in the module page.

Q: So what are these different module stages?

A: Each Hexabitz module goes through six different stages from its inception to mass production:

  • Concept        The module functionality is laid out and major components chosen.
  • Design           Hardware design is complete.
  • Testing          Module is prototyped and being tested.
  • Alpha             Initial firmware and hardware are ready for a limited public release.
  • Beta                Expanded public release with production-ready hardware and mature firmware.
  • Production    Module is mass produced and firmware is stable.
Q: Can I suggest new module concepts?

A:  Sure. We would love to hear from you! Our resources are limited so we will not be able to fulfill all requests given our already ambitious roadmap but feel free to send us your beloved concepts.

Q: What software tools / programming languages do you use?

A: Hexabitz source code is embedded C. All software tools we use are either free, open-source or very inexpensive. We use Keil uVision for embedded code development. There’s a free license for our MCUs! Find it on their website or contact us for help. We use Eagle and Circuit Maker for hardware design and RealTerm to access the module Command Line Interface (CLI).

Q: You have a microcontroller on each module, isn’t that a bit overkill?

A: Power-only modules don’t feature a microcontroller (MCU) but all other modules do. MCUs are critical for communication and reconfigurability. The small increase in cost and power consumption is dwarfed by huge gains in modularity, scalability and reusability. Having their own MCUs make Hexabitz modules function as standalone boards as well, reducing your overall system cost and size.

Q: Doesn’t all this connectivity add delays?

A: Yes, but with minimal impact to performance. Hexabitz arrays are mesh control networks by nature and thus, you usually only exchange control and status messages in short packets. Tightly coupling Direct Memory Access (DMA) streams with hardware communication ports in innovative ways allow for flexible and efficient data transfer across the array. In the rare cases where you need bulk data transfer between specific modules, customized communication ports will be available.

Q: What MCUs do you have there?

A: Hexabitz is built around ARM Cortex-M0 (STM32F0) MCUs. They are cheap, small and power-efficient MCUs packing 32-bit and 48MHz performance.

Q: Can I get a “non-soldering” version?

A: We are focusing on releasing Hexabitz modules in their abstract form so that they can be tailored for different applications. We will consider in the future a plug-n-play mechanism as time and resources permit. Meanwhile, you can interconnect the modules in many different ways with all sorts of connectors and cables. Reach out to us and we will help you figure out your exact need!

Q: Do these solder joints survive high-vibration environments?

A: Our innovative edge-soldering system is definitely more cleaner and reliable than loose wires, however, it is not designed to withstand high vibrations or mechanical shocks. There are other solutions for these scenarios and we are definite that working together with our community, we will get many innovative solutions for all sorts of applications.

Q: Can you connect Hexabitz modules to other hardware / prototyping boards?

A: Sure you can! It is quite easy to interface Hexabitz to any external hardware using GPIOs, UARTs and other serial ports along with our extensive Messaging/CLI backend.

Q: Who are your potential users?

A: All kinds of makers and professionals looking to put a new spin on their prototypes! Whether you are looking for a clean and lightweight design, a scalable platform or just having fun building things, we think you will love Hexabitz if you give it a try. We are still in an experimental stage so we are not ready yet for users with zero experience in electronics but we are working hard to innovate, test and improve things. We appreciate any feedback you have for us and wish that you tag along in this awesome journey!

The Inspiration

Hexabitz is the outcome of years-long journey searching for the holy grail of electronics: a truly modular electronics platform. The journey took our founder -Asaad Kaadan- through unexpected turns that lead to the current solution. He started chasing modularity back in 2010 and 2011 with many failing concepts and then went on to research optical arrays for drones and space applications for his Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma. The strict weight requirements for small multirotor drones and modular pixelated nature of some optical systems sparked back the idea of a modular electronics system and inspired many of Hexabitz unique characteristics. There was a great example to learn from: Nature has been using basic mathematical concepts to build modular flat and curved biostructures for millions of years. From Buckminsterfullerene long-chain carbon molecules to fruit fly’s modular eye to a honeycomb, nature has perfected the art of modularity and it seemed an obvious solution for Hexabitz! Striving for the most abstract and lean implementation, we invented a novel edge-soldering assembly technique along with the scalable wired-mesh concept we borrowed from wireless networking world.

The Journey

Even though this project has been developing over several years, we believe the journey has just begun. Our wonderful community will help us elevate the promise of modular electronics to a whole new level. It is not a dream anymore and we are as excited to learn from the community as to share with them what we have learned so far.

Contact Us

Have anything to ask? Send us any questions or comments and we will get back to you asap.

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