SparkFun expLoRaBLE Hookup Guide

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Hardware Overview

Board Dimensions

The board dimensions are illustrated in the drawing below. The listed measurements are in inches and the four mounting holes are compatible with 4-40 standoff screws.

Board Dimensions
Board dimensions (PDF) for the SparkFun expLoRaBLE, in inches. (Click to enlarge)

USB-C Connector

The USB connector is provided to power and program the board. For most users, it will be the primary programing interface for the NM180100.

USB-C Connector
USB-C connector on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

CH340E Serial-to-UART

The CH340E allows the NM180100 to communicate with a computer/host device through its USB-C connection. This allows the board to show up as a device on the serial (or COM) port of the computer. Users will need to install the latest CH340 driver for the computer to recognize the board.

How to Install CH340 Drivers

August 6, 2019

How to install CH340 drivers (if you need them) on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Power

The SparkFun expLoRaBLE only requires 3.3V to power the board. However, the simplest method to power the board is with the USB-C connector. There are additional power pins available on the board:

  • 3.3V - A regulated 3.3V voltage source.
    • Regulated from the USB 5V power and/or battery connection.
    • Used to power the NM180100 SiP and Qwiic I2C bus.
  • USB - The voltage from the USB-C connector, usually 5V.
  • VBAT - The voltage from the JST battery connector; meant for single cell LiPo batteries.
  • GND - The common ground or the 0V reference for the voltage supplies.

power
SparkFun expLoRaBLE power connections. (Click to enlarge)

Charging Circuit

The charging circuit utilizes the MCP73831 linear charge management controller and is powered directly from the USB-C connector or USB. The controller is configured for a 500mA charge rate and battery charging is indicated when the yellow, CHG LED. If the charge controller is shutdown or charging is complete, the CHG LED will turn off. For more information, please refer to the MCP73831 datasheet.

NM180100 SiP

The NM180100 SiP from Northern Mechatronics is the brains of the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. The system in package (SiP) includes an Apollo3 MCU connected to a Semtech SX1262 radio transceiver. The connection between the two ICs is laid out in the table below.

NM180100 SiP
NM180100 SiP on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)
Apollo3 SX1262 Description
Pin Name Pin Name
H6 GPIO 36 19 NSS SPI Slave Select
J6 GPIO 38 17 MOSI SPI Slave Input
J5 GPIO 43 16 MISO SPI Slave Output
H5 GPIO 42 18 SCK SPI Clock Input
J8 GPIO 39 14 Busy Radio Busy Indicator
J9 GPIO 40 13 DIO1 Multipurpose Digital I/o
H9 GPIO 47 06 DIO3 Multipurpose Digital I/o
J7 GPIO 44 15 NRESET Radio Reset Signal (Active Low)

A breakdown of the NM180100 functionality is shown in the block diagram below and the functionality of each embedded chip is laid out in the following subsections. It should be noted, that the Bluetooth and LoRa antenna connections on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE share the same u.FL connector with the use of a diplexer. For more details on the NM180100 SiP, check out the datasheet.

NM180100 Func. Block Diagram

Note: While most users will utilize the USB connection for serial programming, the Apollo3 MCU in the NM180100 SiP can also be programmed through its JTAG or SWD pins. This might is useful for individuals developing and testing firmware that would be flashed directly onto the NM180100 SiP, such as in production for commercial applications. For more details on programming, please check out our ARM Programming tutorial

ARM Programming

May 23, 2019

How to program SAMD21 or SAMD51 boards (or other ARM processors).
SparkFun expLoRaBLE's JATG pins
The JTAG pins on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

Apollo3 MCU

For details on the Apollo3, users should refer to the Designing with the SparkFun Artemis hookup guide. Additionally, users can reference the following resources for more technical information:

Designing with the SparkFun Artemis

June 20, 2019

Let's chat about layout and design considerations when using the Artemis module.

SX1262 RF Transceiver

Note: In the US, LoRaWAN operates in the 915MHz frequency band (i.e. 902 to 928 MHz).

The Semtech SX1262 module is a long range, low power, half-duplex transceiver with global LoRa® frequency coverage, capable of operating as a Long range (LoRa) wide area network (LoRaWAN) or frequency-shift keying (FSK) modem. The module was designed for long battery life with just 4.2 mA of active receive current consumption and it can transmit up to +22 dBm with the use of its highly efficient, integrated power amplifiers. The SX1262 is optimal for devices that are designed to comply with the physical layer requirements of the LoRaWAN specification released by the LoRa Alliance™. For more details on the SX1262, check out the datasheet.

SX1262 Block Diagram
Functional block diagram for the SX1262. (Click to enlarge)
Characteristic Description
Current
Consumption
4.2 to 10.1 mA (RX)
32 to 118 mA (TX)
Frequency Range 150 to 960 MHz
Modulation FSK, GFSK, MSK,
GMSK and LoRa
Link Budget 170 dB (max)
Bit Rate
(programmable)
FSK: .6 to 300 kb/s
LoRa: .018 to 62.5 kb/s
RF Sensitivity -104 to -148 dBm
RF Output Power +14 to +22 dBm

u.FL Antenna Connector

Note: Make sure to utilize an antenna that is appropriate for your RF and/or BLE application.

The Apollo3 BLE and SX1262 RF antenna connections share a single U.FL antenna connector with the use of a diplexer.

U.FL connector
Antenna connection on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

Breakout Pin Connections

The pins from the NM180100 SiP are broken out into a feather form factor layout.

breakout pins
SparkFun expLoRaBLE breakout pins. (Click to enlarge)

Power Pins

The power pins aren't really I/O (Input/Output) connections for the microcontroller; however, they are pertinent to the board.

Power pins
SparkFun expLoRaBLE power pins. (Click to enlarge)

The power I/O mostly consists of voltage supply pins. These pins are traditionally used as power sources for other pieces of hardware (like LEDs, potentiometers, and other circuits).

  • 3.3V - A regulated 3.3V voltage source.
    • Regulated from the USB 5V power and/or battery connection.
    • Used to power the NM180100 SiP and Qwiic I2C bus.
  • USB - The voltage from the USB-C connector, usually 5V.
  • VBAT - The voltage from the JST battery connector; meant for single cell LiPo batteries.
  • GND - The common ground or the 0V reference for the voltage supplies.
Note: The EN pin is used to contol the 3.3V voltage regulator output (i.e. the boards power) from the battery or USB connection to the rest of the board.

I/O Pins

⚡ Note: All the GPIO on the SparkFun LoRa Thing Plus – expLoRaBLE are 3.3V pins.

There are 21 I/O pins broken out on this board, which can be used as digital inputs to or outputs from the NM180100 SiP.

digital i/o
I/O breakout pins and headers. (Click to enlarge)

All of the SparkFun expLoRaBLE pins are broken out with .1" pitch spacing for headers. It is best practice to define the pinMode() (link) in the setup of each sketch (programs written in the Arduino IDE) for the pins used.

Input

When configured properly, an input pin will be looking for a HIGH or LOW state. Input pins are High Impedance and takes very little current to move the input pin from one state to another.

Output

When configured as an output the pin will be at a HIGH or LOW voltage. Output pins are Low Impedance: This means that they can provide a relatively substantial amount of current to other circuits.

⚡ Note: It should be noted that there are electrical limitations to the amount of current that the NM180100 SiP can sink or source. For more details, check out the Absolute Maximum Ratings section of the Electrical Characteristics on page 774 of the Apollo3 datasheet.

Additional Functions

There are several pins that have special functionality in addition to general digital I/O. These pins and their additional functions are listed in the tabs below. For more technical specifications on the I/O pins, you can refer to the Apollo 3 datasheet.

Analog Input Pins

Note: Be aware that the ADC input range is from 0 - 2V. Although connecting a sensor with an output to 3.3V is safe for the NM180100 SiP, it will saturate the ADC at 2V.

The NM180100 SiP offers a 14-bit ADC input for eight of the SparkFun expLoRaBLE's I/O pins. This functionality is accessed in the Arduino IDE using the analogRead(pin) function.

Note: By default, in the Arduino IDE, analogRead() returns a 10-bit value. To change the resolution of the value returned by the analogRead() function, use the analogReadResolution(bits) function.

Annotated image of analog inputs
Analog input pins on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

Note: To learn more about analog vs. digital signals, check out this great tutorial.


Analog vs. Digital

July 18, 2013

This tutorial covers the concept of analog and digital signals, as they relate to electronics.

Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) Output Pins

The NM180100 SiP provides 16-bit PWM output for all of the SparkFun expLoRaBLE's twenty-one digital I/O pins. Additionally, the SCL line of the primary, Qwiic I2C bus and GPIO 10, which is connected to the status LED are also PWM capable outputs. This functionality is accessed in the Arduino IDE using the analogWrite(pin, value) function or the Servo library.

Note: By default, in the Arduino IDE, analogWrite() accepts an 8-bit value. To change the resolution of the PWM signal for the analogWrite() function, use the analogWriteResolution(bits) function.

(*The PWM output is the result of the NM180100 SiP's signal generator clock functionality and is not a true analog signal.)

Annotated image of PWM pins
PWM pins on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

Note: To learn more about pulse width modulation (PWM), check out this great tutorial.


Pulse Width Modulation

February 27, 2013

An introduction to the concept of Pulse Width Modulation.

Serial Communication Pins

The SparkFun expLoRaBLE has two UART modules that can function independently of each other. By default, the dedicated UART port to the USB connection (Serial) can be accessed through the Arduino IDE using the serial communication module. D0 (RX) and D1 (TX) of the breakout I/O pins are connected to the secondary UART module.

Annotated image of serial communication pins
The available serial communication connections on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE.

Note: To learn more about serial communication, check out this great tutorial.


Serial Communication

December 18, 2012

Asynchronous serial communication concepts: packets, signal levels, baud rates, UARTs and more!

SPI Communication

The default SPI bus on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE is accessible through the Arduino IDE using the SPI module. By default, in the Arduino IDE, the SPI module is configured to utilize pins 25, 27, and 28.

Connection Pin
SCK 13
SDI or CIPO 12
SDO or COPI 11
CS ANY
Note: To comply with the latest OSHW design practices, on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE we have replaced the MOSI/MISO nomenclature with SDO/SDI; the terms Master and Slave are now referred to as Controller and Peripheral. The MOSI signal on a controller has been replaced with the title SDO. Please refer to this announcement on the decision to deprecate the MOSI/MISO terminology and transition to the SDO/SDI naming convention.

Annotated image of SPI pins
The SPI pins on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

Note: To learn more about the serial peripheral interface (SPI) protocol, check out this great tutorial.


Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI)

January 14, 2013

SPI is commonly used to connect microcontrollers to peripherals such as sensors, shift registers, and SD cards.

I2C Communication Pins

The SparkFun expLoRaBLE has 2 I2C modules. The Qwiic connector is connected to the default I2C bus that is accessed through the Arduino IDE using the Wire module.

Annotated image of I2C pins
The available I2C bus connections for the the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

Note: To learn more about the inter-integrated circuit (I2C) protocol, check out this great tutorial.


I2C

July 8, 2013

An introduction to I2C, one of the main embedded communications protocols in use today.

Buttons

There are two buttons on SparkFun expLoRaBLE; a reset and GPIO button.

Reset Button

The reset (RST) button allows users to reset the program running on the NM180100 SiP without unplugging the board.

Reset Button
Reset button on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

User Button

Note: In order to utilize the user button, connected to GPIO 10, the pin mode will need to be configured as an input with an internal pullup (i.e. INPUT_PULLUP); see an example below.

pinMode(D10, INPUT_PULLUP);

The user (10 ) button allows users to short GPIO 10 to ground (GND).

GPIO 10 Button
GPIO 10 button on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

Indicator LEDs

There are five indication LEDs on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE:

  • Status/Pin 18 (Blue)
  • Power (Red)
  • Battery Charging (Yellow)
  • RX (Yellow) and TX (Green)

Power LED

The red, PWR LED will light up once 3.3V is supplied to the board. For most users, it will light up when 5V is supplied through the USB connection and/or when a LiPo battery is attached to the JST connector.

Power LED
SparkFun expLoRaBLE Thing Plus PWR status LED indicator. (Click to enlarge)

Battery Charging LED

The yellow, CHG LED will light while a battery is being charged through the charging circuit. The LED will be off when no battery is present (*dimmed), when the charge management controller is in standby (after the battery charging has been completed), or when the charge management controller is shutdown. The LED will be on when the charge management controller is in the process of charging the battery. For more information, please refer to the MCP73831 datasheet.

Charge LED
The battery charging (CHG) LED indicator on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE Thing Plus. (Click to enlarge)
Charge Cycle State STAT1
Shutdown
  • Thermal Shutdown
  • VDD < VBAT
Off (High Z)
No Battery Present Dimmed (High Z)
Charge Complete – Standby Off (H)
Preconditioning On (L)
Constant-Current Fast Charge On (L)
Constant Voltage On (L)

STAT LED

The blue, status (18) LED is typically used as a test or status LED to make sure that a board is working or for basic debugging. This indicator is connected to GPIO 18.

Status LED
The status (18) LED indicator on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE Thing Plus. (Click to enlarge)

RX and TX LEDs

The yellow, RX and green, TX LEDs are used to indicate serial communication and programming between the CH340E serial-to-UART and NM180100 SiP.

RX and TX LEDs
The RX and TX LED indicators on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE Thing Plus. (Click to enlarge)

Jumpers

There are three jumpers on the back of the board that can be used to easily modify the hardware connections on the board.

  • ISO - This jumper can be used to isolate the 3.3V connection from the voltage regulator.
  • LED - This jumper can be used to remove 3.3V power to the PWR LED and reduce power consumption on the board.
  • RTS - This jumper can be used to disconnect the CH340E from the RESET pin of the Apollo3; effectively, disabling the ability of the CH340E to reset the MCU through software.

Primary I2C Bus

The Qwiic connector is attached to the primary I2C bus. The primary I2C bus for this board utilizes the pin connections, detailed in the table below:

Connection VDD GND SCL SDA
Pad Number
(NM180100 SiP)
3.3V GND D15 D14

Qwiic Connector

A Qwiic connector is provided for users to seamlessly integrate with SparkFun's Qwiic Ecosystem.

qwiic connector
Qwiic connector on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

What is Qwiic?

The Qwiic system is intended a quick, hassle-free cabling/connector system for I2C devices. Qwiic is actually a play on words between "quick" and I2C or "iic".

Features of the Qwiic System

Keep your soldering iron at bay.

Cables plug easily between boards making quick work of setting up a new prototype. We currently offer three different lengths of Qwiic cables as well as a breadboard friendly cable to connect any Qwiic enabled board to anything else. Initially you may need to solder headers onto the shield to connect your platform to the Qwiic system but once that’s done it’s plug and go!

Qwiic Cable and Board

Qwiic cables connected to Spectral Sensor Breakout

Minimize your mistakes.

How many times have you swapped the SDA and SCL wires on your breadboard hoping the sensor will start working? The Qwiic connector is polarized so you know you’ll have it wired correctly, every time, from the start.

The PCB connector is part number SM04B-SRSS (Datasheet) or equivalent. The mating connector used on cables is part number SHR04V-S-B or equivalent. This is a common and low cost connector.

JST Connector

1mm pitch, 4-pin JST connector

Expand with ease.

It’s time to leverage the power of the I2C bus! Most Qwiic boards will have two or more connectors on them allowing multiple devices to be connected.