MicroTools was founded in 1988 by two Aerospace Engineers; Joseph Lehman and Bob Japenga. Prior to starting MicroTools, Joseph and Bob had over 20 years experience in a wide variety of hardware and software disciplines. Their primary area of emphasis has been in embedded and low level control applications (device drivers, machine controls, flight controls, temperature controls, motion control, motor controls, etc). Because of our commitment to controlled growth and careful selection and training of new employees, we currently have seven software engineers and three software testers. Our small team has over 150 years of experience designing hardware and software systems.
Fixed Price Contract Embedded Systems Engineering
From 2011 - present MicroTools designed a Linux system as an option board that sits inside a standard electric meter to monitor the energy used in solar panels. The board contains a Cell modem and Ethernet to communicate energy readings to a remote energy monitoring dashboard, a Zigbee wireless chip to communicate to various energy devices (inverters, combiners, etc), and an interface to the meter itself.
From 2012 - present MicroTools designed all of the software for a Linux, Android and some of the software for a Windows CE Time and Attendance system. This device contained finger print readers, bar code readers, mag stripe readers, a sound card, a camera and three different touch screens.
From 2013 - present, MicroTools designed the electronics and the software for a fuel cell control system that monitored 150 fuel cells and controlled and monitored the resulting electric power generation. This included a Linux system to control the overall plant and 4 PIC processors to monitor 150 fuel cells. Pictured here is the PIC board (there are 4 of them in the system) which utilize a Linear Technology fuel cell / battery monitoring chip.
From 2012 - present, MicroTools designed the electronics and the software for one of the most amazing products we have ever worked on. This product takes a patient who cannot get out of bed and moves them into their wheel-chair. And it does the reverse as well! For an amazing video click here. This patient transfer system has 14 microcontrollers as well as a touch screen that we designed and built. The main controller has an innovative approach to keep software out of the safety loop in this design. Pictured here are the motor controller stack (7 of them in a single bed), the main controller board and the bezel PCB for the touch screen.
From 2010 - 2011, MicroTools designed the electronics and the software for two different portable wound vacuums. One device used a graphics display with an RGB back light. The other used a custom LCD display. Using time proven Negative Pressure Wound Therapy this device speeds the healing of many wounds. The devices were designed around a single PIC microcontroller and included pressure monitoring and motor controls. One unit contained a lithium battery charger and one included NiMH battery charger.
From 2010 - present, MicroTools designed the electronics for a portable oxygen concentrator. This system involves 3 PIC microcontrollers and 1 PIC DSP. The PIC DSP controls a DC brushless motor with MicroTools proprietary design. The graphics display uses a PIC 24F class microcontroller and the MicroChip graphics library. The master control board controls the algorithms that actually produce the pure oxygen with a patented process for filtering the air through a sieve bed. Pressures must be accurately maintained. Oxygen purity levels monitored using a proprietary purity sensor and flow meter. In addition, the master controller controls battery life and charging through a smart battery interface. Failures and anomalies are logged in serial EEPROM where they can be dumped over an IrDA interface at the maintenance depot.
From 2010 - present, MicroTools designed the electronics and the software for a bariatric bed. There were two boards with a PIC processors controlling each. One board was for the user interface and mounted on a pendant. The other board was the control board and mounted in the bed frame. The pendant consisted of a number of seven segment and discrete LEDs with a number of switches for operator control. The pendant communicated with the control board over a proprietary RS-485 bus. The control board monitored pressures and controlled the flow of air into and out of the air bed. With these controls the device could automatically and regularly rotate the patient, raise or lower the patient and provide percussion/vibration to the patient's back thus providing pulmonary therapy. PID control algorithms were used to control the air flow through a large number of valves and manifolds.
From 2010 - present, MicroTools designed a custom keypad that when interfaced to a sip and puff device allowed for individuals with disabilities to access an existing voting machine. A small PIC in the keypad translated sips and puffs into ASCII keys from the keypad. This keypad could be used with existing voting machines and thus help counties and municipalities meet federal ADA requirements for accessibility.
From 2009 - present, MicroTools designed a implantable device for monitoring pressures and electrical activity of the heart. This design contains 4 interfaces to electrodes and one interface to a pressure sensor. This data is sent from inside the body via an IrDA link to a halter worn by the patient. High speed data acquistion is required to allow transmission of this data in real time to the halter monitor which in turn closes the loop to the heart. Power is obtained via an air transformer. The processor chosen for this project was the Atmel ATxmega16A4. MicroTools also designed a device to translate the IrDA signals from the implantable device to RS-485 and RS-232 for interfacing to a National Instruments Labview interface for lab testing. This board is the pre-cursor to the halter design for use in the lab. It uses the same Atmel ATxmega16A4 as is used on the implantable device. This processor was chosen for its high speed A/D capabilities on the implantable device but was kept for tool chain compatibility for the translation board.
From 2008 - present, MicroTools designed and developed a revenue grade ANSI C12.20 certified energy monitoring system. The initial design, from project start date to completion of safety, FCC and ANSI certification was 8 months. This included a major requirements change 3 months into the project requiring a redesign of the hardware. Once the product took off, two cost reduction redesigns were developed to reduce the costs during large scale production. The project contains an ARM9 running Linux, 3 DSPs for accurately measuring energy, a PIC for high speed I/O, two RS-485 ports, an RS-232 port, support for WiFi, Ethernet and a cell modem for internet connectivity. It also supports six analog temperature sensors, pulse counters and a standard USB. MicroTools, in addition to the initial production unit, has created three other versions of this product. One for revenue grade single phase meters with an optional graphics display; one for non-revenue grade single phase metering and one for three phase revenue grade metering with a graphics display. Software support is provided for http, https, ftp, telnet, ssh, ntp, a web server and ppp.
From 2008 - 2009, MicroTools has modified an embedded Linux system for a heavy industry equipment manufacturer. MicroTools modified the Linux kernel, added a watchdog timer, modified the Linux drivers and modified the application that controlled several remote controllers. In addition, MicroTools created a remote display option available with numerous user screens
From 2008 - 2009, MicroTools replaced an obsolete x86 Tern user interface for an inverter manufacturer. The new design needed to support email notification during system errors and alerts. MicroTools chose to implement an embedded Linux system using an off-the-shelf single board computer and a dedicated I/O processor. MicroTools ported the old x86 Tern code to Linux, implemented the new functionality and provided the customer with a more reliable and much cheaper solution than his previous device.
From 2005 - present, MicroTools has created an embedded Linux system for a time and attendance equipment manufacturer. MicroTools modified the Linux kernel, wrote the Linux drivers and wrote the application that actually performed the time and attendance functionality. This system is based around an Atmel ARM9, has 4 different graphics screens (one touch screen); USB ports; RS232 ports; Ethernet ports; EEPROM interface; smart card, magnetic, optical, finger print and RFID readers on board. This device includes a small footprint webserver and supported telnet, http, https, ppp, ntp, ssh, scp, vnc, sftp and ftp. The device also has a Java virtual machine present to allow customers to program their own applications. This device, in its smallest configuration has a full featured Linux in 16 meg of RAM and 32 meg of FLASH with a fully redundant partition for automatic recovery. The system fully supports remote firmware updates. The software supported both a proprietary protocol as well as a full XML compliant web services interface.
In 2005, MicroTools created a Linux design to replace a PLC for a sonic welding company. The system included an off-the-shelf PC104 SBC with a touch screen interfacing to a proprietary I/O board.
From 2005 - 2008, MicroTools helped a local company solve problems with a DC servo motor control. MicroTools aided them by improving their PID algorithm (we added a limiter to their Integral control) and helped them tune the loop. In addition, we helped them perform real time analysis on their control loop. In addition we wrote all of the software for a new welding system utilizing Rabbit core processors in conjunction with a Windows CE user interface.
In 2004, MicroTools re-designed an existing product for a company to utilize a USB rather than an outdated PC interface. This design provided state-of-the-art self test provisions to make the board easier to build and test.
In 2004, MicroTools retro-fit (hardware and software) several existing products (8051 based) for a company to utilize a TCP/IP ethernet interface instead of RS-232.
In 2004, MicroTools replaced a customer's existing single axis motion controller with a more sophisticated dual axis high speed motion controller.
In 2004, MicroTools re-designed an existing product (hardware and software) utilizing the latest technology (including surface mounted parts and a more robust software design).
In 2004, MicroTools performed FAA DO-178B compliant module testing on several hundred flight critical software modules.
In 2003, MicroTools developed a multi-axis AC 3-phase brushless servo motor control as part of a major R&D effort for a local manufacturer.
In 2003, MicroTools modified an existing Java J2SE platform to greatly enhance the user interface of an existing product.
MicroTools helped a company re-port several of their existing 8051 products to utilize a more
up-to-date compiler. This system communicated with a number of RF Links for command and control of a
energy monitoring system. This system included interfaces to KYZ inputs; AC breakers; Serial to Ethernet adapters;
I2C temperature probes; and various RS-232 and RS-485 serial ports.
We included an interface to an RF Modem in the new product thereby minimizing cost
and reducing dependency upon proprietary technologies.
From 1990 - present, we implemented a series of servo controls for a machine manufacturer to provide better motion control of their machines. These controls interfaced with both DC servo motors and three phase AC brushless servo motors. These controls broke new ground for our customer in supplying low cost and highly reliable motion control. Over 15 such mechanisms have been implemented and delivered. All were developed using either Microsoft C++ or Borland C++ for x86 platforms and Archimedes/Keil for 8051 platforms. Various platforms are used ranging from OS/2, ROM-DOS, smx and VxWorks. Approximately 85% of the code is re-used in each control.
From 1990 - present, existing Z80 based and QNX hosted real-time control systems were maintained by us for this customer.
From 1995 - present, a series of Windows applications were designed to aid in integrating factory based Servo controllers which greatly enhanced our customer's productivity. These applications were all written in C++ using Borland's OWL interface.
In 2002, we developed a Java based interface for displaying real time data from these servo controls.
In 1991, MicroTools designed several embedded PC servo controllers networked using a NetWare server and a supervisory PC written in C++ and assembler. These servos were required to perform a complex closed loop algorithm every 2 milliseconds running under a multi-tasking version of DOS. These servos are still in use today.
In 1990, MicroTools completed a motion profile controller design which provides variable downloadable motion profiles for a variety of servo controls (hydraulic, pneumatic, and electric). This design uses an 8051 and interfaces to the STD Bus and was written in C and in assembler.
In 1990, MicroTools designed and developed a servo pneumatic machine control using an 8051 based processor. This design did what others said could not be done and controlled a pneumatic device (with a compressible fluid - air) as one would control a hydraulic device. This control utilized advanced adaptive closed loop servo control techniques to maintain highly repeatable motion control. This consisted of approximately 1700 lines of 8051 assembler code and 700 lines of Archimedes C. It became the prototype for a commercial product still being sold today.
From 1992 - 2005,MicroTools was used to develop all of the software for a series of mailing systems.
In 1992, MicroTools was given complete responsibility for designing and developing all of the software (application, BIOS, factory diagnostics) of a series of data base intensive embedded commercial products. This application involved graphic displays, printers, serial ports, load cells, and a large volume of data. The software was written in C++ (50,000 lines of code) with some 80x86 assembler. This product was completed in approximately 15 months. These products were highly successful for our customer and are still in much demand today.
MicroTools specified, designed and developed very sophisticated board level diagnostics capable of detecting failures to the chip level for this generation of products. It also specified, designed and developed a quality assurance software package for use by manufacturing to accept the final product.
In 1994, this application was ported to a PC platform utilizing a real time embedded operating system and high speed DOS graphics. This application was required to run on a wide variety of PC's with very limited memory and required a significant amount of knowledge of DOS internals. It was written in C++ and contains over 100,000 lines of code. It was completed in approximately 6 months. Using unique techniques, we were able to create a multi-tasking overlayed application using Borland standard tools set. This design has set the standard for ease of use in it's industry. This project was developed using Borland C++ and was later ported to Microsoft C++.
When the next generation of product was developed on yet a third totally different platform in 1997, MicroTools re-used about 50% of the code to quickly and efficiently bring this product to market. The project involved significant amounts of data encryption and digital signature technologies. The product includes interfaces to a thermal printer, an LCD display, a TCP/IP stack, a modem, a load-cell and a data encryption safe.
With this generation, MicroTools was responsible for a board level diagnostic capable of detecting failures to the chip level for use by board level manufacturer. It also specified, designed and developed a quality assurance software package for use by manufacturing to accept the final product.
Finally, in 1999 another new generation of mailing system was developed and MicroTools again re-used the core design enabling the customer to bring the product to market quickly.
The object oriented display engine developed in 1992 was used in 5 completely separate products:
From 1999-2000, we developed an 80188 based tank measurement device used to monitor tank levels and temperatures and detect leaks.
From 1990-1996, we specified, designed and developed a wind turbine control system for an experimental alternate energy project.
In 1992, an embedded HC05 temperature controller was designed for a Japanese sous vide cooker.
Because of MicroTools extensive experience with PC's and excellent communications skills, it has been called upon by a watch manufacturer to conduct training classes in PC assembler for it's engineers.
In House Products
MicroTools first product was for the IBM PC. It was released in May of 1990. It is a general purpose set of utilities that is marketed under the names, BringBack and ComeBack. BringBack is a set of TSR utilities that have proven to be very robust in the jungle of PC TSR's. There are more then 12,000 copies in the field at this time. This package consists of about 15,000 lines of code in assembler and 3,000 lines of code in C for the user interface.
In September of 1992, MicroTools released two new utilities: GetBack (a full featured Disk Backup system) and SpeedBack (a disk defragmenter). With over 30,000 copies in the field, these DOS utilities were written in C++ (approximately 10,000 line of code) with a full Windows interface and have been widely accepted. In January 1994, three new utilities were released, including SpaceBak (a program that gets space back on your hard disk), a project manager, and a graphics plot program.
In October 1994, MicroTools released an 80C752 (8051 derivative) based product called Poc-it. Poc-it is a piece of test equipment that can be used to test electronic parts, circuits, boards or systems (including software) that the unit will be operational following a power-up.
In May 1996, a new product was added to augment Poc-it called PowerCycler. Containing all of the features of Poc-it, PowerCycler allowed users to vary the AC phase at which a unit under test could be turned on. Also designed around the 80C752, PowerCycler has proven exceptionally useful in testing power supplies and power sources for intermittants. One large computer manufacturer saved over a million dollars in re-work costs using Poc-it.
In August 2001, MicroTools released the first full featured MIDI player for the Palm OS. ittyMIDI* is used around the world in both practice sessions and live performance settings. Developed on the Palm platform, we used our real-time expertise to control live music with MIDI.
In October 2004, MicroTools released two versions of KeyDog: a discrete to PS/2 and a discrete to USB encoder. KeyDog is used in kiosks, embedded PCs and stand-alone applications.
*link is archived with the Wayback Machine, and is not maintained