Breakout Boards Give You a Head Start on Your Design

August 20, 2019

Christine Young  By: Christine Young
 Blogger, Maxim Integrated 

So you’ve got a cool idea for a design. There isn’t anything else like this on the market. Maybe this could be the start of something big, a product that launches your side hustle into a thriving new business.

But first, you need the right electronic components to get things underway. This is where breakout boards, evaluation kits, and reference designs can help. As you carve out a plan for mass production, you can start your development or prototyping process with these solutions. They’ve got ICs you can test-drive for your project, as well as resources such as code, schematics, and diagrams. They’re a good way to familiarize yourself with the components and see how they might perform in your design. You can also use them to discover new cases or experiment with different ideas.

Aside from IC vendor websites, there are various third-party vendors that sell an array of prototyping solutions. Let’s take a look at a few that feature Maxim chips:

  • ProtoCentral has a few breakout boards featuring Maxim sensor solutions. Its HealthyPi v3 is an open-source, full-featured vital sign monitor. Raspberry Pi serves as its computing and display platform, and the HealthyPi add-on Hardware Attached on Top (HAT) board turns this platform into the vital-sign monitoring system. For its digital human body temperature sensor, it uses the MAX30205, which provides direct, calibrated temperature values over a digital I2C interface.
  • ProtoCentral also offers the MAX30003 Single-Lead ECG Breakout Board v2 featuring the MAX30003, an ultra-low-power, single-channel, integrated biopotential analog front-end (AFE) with heart-rate detection algorithm. With power consumption of just 85µW at 1.1V supply voltage, the AFE is ideal for wearable applications. But why stop at wearables? Maybe there are other uses cases out there, waiting to be uncovered. Engineers have already prototyped smart steering wheels that can monitor health signs. Can you create a system that could assess the driver’s stress level and predict a road-rage incident?
  • ProtoCentral MAX30003 breakout boardMAX30003 Single-Lead ECG Breakout Board

  • Another health application board available from ProtoCentral is its MAX86150 PPG and ECG Breakout with QWIIC. The MAX86150 measures vital signs via its ECG front end, optical pulse oximeter, and optical heart-rate sensor. Notes ProtoCentral, “The coolest feature of this chip is that the PPG and ECG are simultaneously sampled, resulting in synchronized ECG and PPG values. This allows us to calculate the pulse transit time (PTT) as an indirect measure of blood pressure.”
  • ProtoCentral MAX86150 breakout boardProtoCentral’s MAX86150 PPG and ECG Breakout for mobile health applications

  • SparkFun features the DS3234 SPI bus real-time clock (RTC) in its DeadOn RTC Breakout. The DS3224 provides better than ±2.0 minutes per year accuracy over the industrial temperature range and requires no user calibration. It includes a temperature-compensated crystal oscillator and crystal. This breakout board is useful for evaluating the RTC for applications that require clocking.
  • Over at GG Labs, you can find the maxtc breakout board for Maxim SPI thermocouple sensors. This board features the MAX6675 cold-junction-compensated K-thermocouple-to-digital converter (0°C to +1024°C) and the MAX31855 cold-junction-compensated thermocouple-to-digital converter. The MAX6675 performs cold-junction compensation and digitizes the signal from a type-K thermocouple, while the MAX31855 performs cold-junction compensation and digitizes the signal from a K-, J-, N-, T-, S-, R-, or E-type thermocouple. Both of these devices are available in an SMD package, so breadboard prototyping can be challenging without a suitable breakout PCB. The maxtc is compatible with both ICs and will break out the signals required to a 2.54mm single row header.
  • Adafruit offers the PT100 RTD Temperature Sensor Amplifier featuring the MAX31865 RTD-to-digital converter. The MAX31865 provides a digital temperature reading from a resistance temperature detector (RTD) with fault detection and input voltage protection. This breakout board helps users get the most precision and accuracy from their PT100 RTD; it can be used with any 2-, 3-, or 4-wire PT100 RTD.

These are just a few examples of breakout boards that can help you get your design process underway. Maxim also offers reference designs, evaluation kits, and an online Support Center with resources to help accelerate your design. And for companies that are just getting started, we have our We Love Startups program, through which you can register for a free Design Startup Pack with a built and tested reference design or an evaluation kit from our special selection.

Happy designing!