When you start out in the world of AVR microcontrollers, more than likely you connect a USB cable into some flavor of Arduino to transfer instructions. This paradigm can be sufficient for quite some time–years even–but at some point you’ll likely progress into the world of in-circuit serial programming via solder-on headers.
Plugging things in to headers works well, but what if your device has a pinout on the board but no actual pins? You could solder on headers for programming, but this adds space and time to a project. Another quicker option is to use a pogo pin header arrangement.
These aptly-named pogo pins contract under pressure, and extend to fill connection gaps. When properly arranged and applied to circuit board connections, pogo pins can make electrical contact for the few seconds needed for programming. You’re then ready to move on to the next thing immediately, making programming one device more convenient, and programming a large number of devices practical.
Pogo pins come in a variety of shapes and sizes; of course, you’ll need a jig to help get the required pogo pins in place. Naturally, Tindie sellers have a few solutions that may work perfectly for your AVR ICSP programming needs:
AVR ISP Pogo Adapter Kit: Geppetto Electronics
By far the most popular and well-reviewed adapter on this list is Geppetto Electronics’s AVR ISP Pogo Adapter kit, featuring six nicely labelled ICSP pins in the classic AVR .1in 2×3 header arrangement. The device is an arrangement of two identical circuit boards, which hold the pogo pins in place via solder connections. Connections are broken out to a 90º 2×3 connector on the back.
In-Line Programmer: Nico
This device by Nico is quite simple, breaking out the 6 pogo pins and connectors in-line with each other. This means that alignment-wise it functions in the same manner as plugging into a connector soldered onto the board.
Surface-Mount Pattern Programmer: Appenglow
Appenglow’s ISP Pogo Adapter Kit has an unusual spacing arrangement, adapted for a surface-mount programming header footprint. Each of the two rows of pins are spaced at .1in center-to-center, and the rows themselves are spaced .3in from each other. It’s a nice device for unpopulated surface-mount headers, but it won’t work for traditional ISP spacing.
I may or may not have neglected to read the full description, and ordered them for the wrong application. So don’t make the same mistake. At the same time, the programmers that theoretically arrived were brilliantly packaged and labelled with nice instructions.
1.27mm Spacing Programmer: PDEngineering
PDEngineering sells an ISP programmer with a 1.27mm 2×3 pin arrangement (i.e. .05in spacing). A specialized tool for this space saving header arrangement. Many development kits for Microchip ARM processors use this type of connector. Just read the description to be sure you’re getting what you need!
Round Programmer: JasonKits
JasonKits 5cm diameter round pogo programmer features accommodations for both a 6 and 10-pin input AVRISP connection. The device is designed to be easy to hold, though depending on what you’re programming, you may want to check for any potential clearance issues.
In-Line Kit: JC Devices
It’s a bit of a long story, but in my preliminary work for what eventually became this article, I wasn’t immediately able to find what I wanted in a pogo pin adapter. So I made my own ICSP programming jig, and put it up on my store, JC Devices. What I like about it is that it fixtures everything in-line like the second product on this list, using a pair of very small PCBs. There’s an option to buy a 3D-printed jig to help put them together, or you can print the jig yourself, which–in my admittedly biased opinion–I thought was pretty clever.
ICSP Adapters: Lots of Options… Or Make Your Own!
So if you want a way to perform in-circuit serial programming, Tindie sellers have a variety of options available. And if you don’t see what you want, the beauty of our online marketplace is that you can design your own version, then list it to see if it works for anyone else!
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