DIY DRO Build Guide

TouchDRO DIY DRO adapters are designed to be inexpensive and easy to build from readily-available off-the-shelf components. The total cost of a do-it-yourself DRO adapter is between $25 and $50, depending on the type of scales you want to use and whether or not you buy a kit or source the parts yourself. The build process itself should take no more than a couple of hours.

DIY DRO Adapter Build vs. Pre-Made TouchDRO Adapter

A common question people ask is what is the difference between a scratch-build DIY DRO adapter, an adapter build using a TouchDRO DIY DRO Kit, and an equivalent pre-assembled board. The short answer is that there are no functional differences between the three. In other words, they are pin-compatible and run the same firmware. Do-it-yourself firmware is not crippled or limited in any way besides the "non-commercial use" license. Hardware is slightly different between the two, since the pre-assembled board uses surfece-mounted components and is optimized for manufacturing in a commercial setting. These differences have no impact on the DRO functionality, though. The main difference is the cost, convenience and potential long-term reliability.

Scratch building a DIY DRO adapter will take a bit of time and effort since you will need to source the parts and programg the mircocontroller yourself. In exchange, you will save some cost and gain much better understanding how your DIY DRO is put together. Should something go wrong, you will be better equipped to troubleshoot and fix the issue. Additionally, you will have more flexibility with do-it-yourself adapter since pre-made boards don't cover as many scale types.

Building a digital readout from a TouchDRO DIY Kit is a middle-ground option. It will be a bit more expensive that a scratch-built DRO adatepr but thanks to the fully tested high qualuty PCB, name-brand parts and pre-prorgammed microcontroller the build process will be easier and the end result will likely be more relibale in the long term. Additionally, there are no "non-commercial use" licensicing restrictions with the firmware, so it can be legally used for commercial purposes.

A pre-assebled DRO adapter will almost certainly be more expensive but the assembly, programming, testing and troubleshooting will be done for you. Furthermore, a pre-made board might perform slightly better in a noisy environment, compared to a scratch-built adapter, since the PCB is more compact, well grounded and will not pick up as much noise as the connecting wires of a DIY addapter. Finally, pre-made board will likely outlast a DIY build since it is built in a controller environment to a strict quality standard.

Where to Start

Building a do-it-yourself DRO adapter requires a cursory understanding of how TouchDRO works, some knowledge of electronics, and basic soldering skills. Before starting a build please familiarize yourself with overall TouchDRO system architecture and the building blocks of a DIY DRO adapter. In addition, it's a good idea to install and configure the TouchDRO application before starting since you will need it for testing.

Choosing the Right DYI DRO Adapter

The deciding factor in TouchDRO adapter selection is the type of scales you intend to use with your DIY DRO, so it's important to ensure that the scales are supported and to understand their requirements. If you will be using capacitive scales, refer to the Compatible Capacitive DRO Scales page. On the other hand, if you are planning to use Glass or Magnetic scales, review the Glass and Magnetic Scales page. Once you have a firm grasp of TouchDRO system architecture and your scales' requirements, it's time to start planning the build and ordering the parts.

Common Adapter Configurations

There are many possible DIY DRO adapter combinations that can be built using the basic building blocks. All of them have the base control circuit in common. In other words, the adapters use the same MSP430 microcontroller, 3.3V power supply, and BlueTooth transceiver. Moreover, all versions of the TouchDRO firmware use the same MSP430 pin mappings.

This means that a DIY TouchDRO build will start with the same foundation that can be built following the steps described on the Building TouchDRO Control Circuit page. Incidentally, a pre-made TouchDRO Adapter for iGaging Scales and the TouchDRO DIY DRO Kit provides the same control circuit in a more convenient package. This means that it can be upgraded to handle different scale types or used as a foundation for a do-it-yourself build.

Once you have a working base control circuit, you will need to add the input stage appropriate for your scales and, if needed, a secondary power supply. Build instructions for the most common adapter configurations are linked below.