We’ve gotten so used to the Arduino layout it seems beyond question. You’ve got connections on both sides of the board, ready to be at the heart of an octopus-nest of cables. Great for prototyping. But what about when the prototype is done, and you’re ready to make a permanent version of your gadget? You’d rather have solder rings than headers; one less place wires can fall out. And you’d rather have every button, light, and switch the user interacts with on one side of the board, ready to face out of the enclosure, and all the connections to other parts on the opposite side of the board, safely inside the enclosure.
That board is the RedBoard Edge, from SparkFun.
The idea is simple: Take the classic Arduino Uno, and just move everything around to be more conveniently located to build into the final version of your gadget, rather than sprawled out for prototyping.
On one side of the board is everything you’d leave sticking outside of a case: Four status lights in different colors. These are the power light, the classic debugging light on pin 13, and the two lights that flash as data is transmitted and received on the serial line. There’s the power plug, and an on-off switch the only regulates power coming in through the plug; attach the Edge to your computer via the USB port and it’ll power up so that you can program it regardless of which way the on-off switch is flipped. Finally, there’s the reset button. Just 3D print or craft a case, leave that edge sticking out, and you’re good to go.
The opposite side of the board has all the “pins,” analog and digital, to control the guts of your project. This is the end that’s laid out to be hidden inside your enclosure. These are bare solder rings, no headers. The Edge is made to be the final controller board for your gadget. If you want to prototype with it, you can order headers separately and solder them on yourself.
The pins are grouped by function: The Analog pins are in one bank, then the 4 SPI pins, then the remaining 4 PWM pins. Several of the vanilla digital pins are missing, but there’s some bonus options, too: all 8 ADC pins are exposed. There’s a “QWIC” connector for SparkFun’s line of plug-in expansions. And there’s a screwpost terminal for attaching higher power bits to VIN & ground.
This board is great if you’ve got a gizmo you’ve already prototyped on a conventional Uno or similar Arduino-alike, and now you want to make a permanent version in a handsome housing. Just add housing, solder on the needed bits, upload the program you prototyped, and this tidy board is ready to go.