my custom, battery powered norns shield... the Omnibus!

Hello everyone! I just finished something I’ve been working on for about 2 years, which is kind of embarrassing, but I wanted to share the fruits of a long journey of learning that resulted in what I call the Norns Field Kit, formally known as the Omnibus.


I was immediately inspired when I first purchased a Shield years ago. The patches this community have made are so interesting and unique, I consider the device more of an obscure meditative psychosonic exploration than an instrument. So, I set out to make what I thought at the time would be a fun, small-to-medium step up from just putting together another DIY synth kit - a butterfly effect of an idea that lead to multiple side quests such as buying/learning a CNC machine, a hot air rework/desoldering station, and literally hundreds of different searches and purchases of knobs, button caps, and screws to find the perfect ones.




Although I designed it, the metal shell was produced by Send Cut Send because investing in an industrial laser cutter felt like overkill even to me. I think they’re very affordable and do a great job, although my various prototypes, tests, and mistakes have certainly added up. This one is made of 1.2mm 304 stainless steel.


I used a Sixfab UPS HAT to provide battery power. It was basically the only option at the time of inception since it features passthrough charging, and easy access to adding a separate USB port and power switch. I’ve seen a few other battery packs on Tindie since then, but I had long established the basic component layout, and have been really happy with the Sixfab.


PECO CORP is a great company to work for, because it’s completely imaginary! The benefits are lacking, though.


And here’s the peek behind the curtain! I was so invested in keeping it as tight as possible - the total size of the device is 95mm x 175mm x 32mm and achieving that required me to eventually desolder the screen and 40 pin header from a Norns board so that I could use my own.


Sorry, I didn’t take a picture before installing all the components into the back plate, but this is kind of the unseen star of the Omnibus. A ribbon cable was much too fat on the ends to fit, so instead I got the Bridge Board made to enable a significantly lower profile connection. The additional support also keeps the two halves connected when not in the shell.


There’s so much I could say about the entire process, but it already feels like I’ve taken too much time. Thanks so much for looking, and thanks to everyone here - this was the longest, most involved project I’ve ever worked on, but the creativity of the community kept driving me.

184 Likes

oh my gosh

this is a hilarious post and an awesome project

good for you!!!

<3

4 Likes

damnnnnn…. excellent work! this came out beautiful!

3 Likes

Amazing! I’ve been dreaming of doing something similar recently but do not have the knowledge to know what I’m doing yet. This is quite inspiring though.

1 Like

Norns Gameboy! nice work.

5 Likes

This is a stunner, wow. Amazing work.

1 Like

Beautiful work wow that’s impressive

1 Like

20 characters of speechless!

1 Like

20 characters of holy…

1 Like

Ha, I didn’t notice this post earlier when I asked if anyone had used a battery hat with a shield yet :smiley:

Looks good! I was imagining it being the same case except stretched out to be deeper :smiley:

This is what I was looking at, but I think it needs setting up in the software perhaps? https://uk.pi-supply.com/products/pijuice-standard

1 Like

it should work without any additional software, but the software enables features that you may not care about, like scheduling it to turn on and off, automatically shutting it down when the battery is low, or letting you monitor the temperature/clock.

that said, when you ssh into the norns, you’re just in the OS terminal, so it seems like you should be able to install the software?

1 Like

I suppose in the worst case there may be a clash in GPIO pins between what Norns uses to communicate with the peripherals and read panel controls etc., vs. what the battery logic wants to use…? I remember there being a discussion about Pijuice Hat or similar + Shield, and that was listed as a potential issue.

Searched and found this (look a few posts up for context):

1 Like

“PiJuice will use up to just five of your GPIO pins (just power and I2C)” - No idea what pins the shield uses. Yet.

Also: " * The EEPROM can be disabled and its I2C address changed for increased compatibility with other boards"

Having an auto shutdown would be good. Timed start-up if I want it to wake me up in the morning I guess :stuck_out_tongue:

Haha I love this! Or as a Lucid Dreaming music instrument!

2 Likes

Only looked very briefly so might have misread, but it looks like the I2C bus that PiJuice is using is tied to the audio codec on the shield…?

1 Like

I read a bit more into it and it looks like you can change which pins it uses? Unless I’m misinterpreting it… “The EEPROM can be disabled and its I2C address changed for increased compatibility with other boards”…?

This seems to have a more detailed image of what’s available… PiJuice/Hardware at master · PiSupply/PiJuice · GitHub

As far as I understand, the physical pins & bus will always be same, but the PiJuice can communicate over the same I2C bus as other devices by simply assigning another I2C address.

So if the codec control (if I read it correctly) and battery power control are able to share the same bus and coexist then it’s possible it’ll work - I suppose it’ll need some software changes on the Norns Shield side but no idea if there will be problems.

this device looks so cool, great work!

it gives off mad sanyo vibes:

s-l300

15 Likes

Well now I’m imagining one with a built in speaker!

12 Likes

a speaker and a keyboard (possibly full keyboard for patches like orca and arcologies) are two things I’m exploring to add - they would really solidify the omnibus as an all-in-one device!

The main problem I ran into with a speaker, so far, was a solution to switch off the speaker when headphones were plugged in.

2 Likes