The Arduino Nano is a terrific little microcontroller, but its size and design make connecting to its pins difficult.
The best solution is to plug your Nano into a breakout board with screw terminals for connecting to pins. Most breakout boards provide a set of headers to plug in a Nano, a DC barrel jack power connection and a screw terminal for each Nano pin. Some boards may also provide headers for one or more wireless technologies such as xBee or nRF24L01+.
This breakout board is different, the result of several years of research into the optimal platform for supporting a Nano plus an nRF24L01+ radio on a model railroad layout. Like other breakout boards on the market, it has a set of Nano headers, a header for the radio and two rows of terminals giving access to the Nano’s pins.
That is where the similarity ends. Unlike other boards, this one uses a double thickness copper layers to ensure the board can support and distribute up to 2 amps of current from 12 volts DC in. We built some basic power management into this board — a polarity protection diode and a bulk capacitor stabilize and protect the basic power feed.
One thing we know about Nano’s is that the 3.3volt power pin is supplied by the USB chip, not a dedicated regulator (in contrast, the Nano gets 5 volts from the VIN supply using a dedicated linear regulator). As a consequence, the maximum 3.3 volt current the Nano can produce is about 50 mA.
The nRF24L01+ radio needs around 20 mA when listening or idle, but power requirements expand to 120 mA during transmission.
See the problem? Other breakout boards put a capacitor next to the radio header to deal with peak power. We found that solution insufficient for really stable radio performance so we gave it a dedicated 3.3 volt regulator to power to the radio, with up to 500 mA excess, sharable capacity.
You can share both 12 volt and 3.3 volt power output from the board. With 2 amp, 12 volt DC power supply plugged into the DC jack, you can share up t0 1/2 amp 3.3 volt power and 1 amp of 12 volt power with other devices.
This is a partially assembled kit. The board comes with power management components installed. You solder in the headers and screw terminals. The basic kit includes the breakout board, headers for the Nano and the radio, a DC jack and terminal blocks for the Nano’s pins.
You can add an nRF24L01+ radio to your kit. If you select the Advanced Kit, you can also add an LCOS controller to obtain a budget priced, full featured LCOS node.
Power supply not included.