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This is slightly "off-topic."  However, I found it to be quite interesting and potentially very useful.

Maxbotix (www.maxbotics.com) has released a very low cost Sonar Range Finder board, model MaxSonar-EZ1.  Here are some features:


About $30 in single unit quantities, lower unit cost with volume purchase


Sonar range information in 1-inch resolution (about 0.4 cm)


Range from 6 inches (15 cm) to 254 inches (645 cm)


Compact single board, about 1 inch square (20 x 22 mm)


Low power (5V @ 3mA max)


Serial, analog and PWM (pulse width modulation) outputs -- the serial output may be connected directly to a PC RS-232 serial port


Approximately 20 range measurements per second (about 50 mS intervals)


Potential applications include robotics, manufacturing control, security, and safety systems

I packaged it in a small plastic box, that had space for a small 5V switching voltage regulator, so that I could use a spare wall-mount power tap, and a 9-pin female RS-232 connector to connect it to my PC.  Here is an image of this simple prototype on top of my workbench.

I then wrote a simple Visual Basic application to retrieve the 9600 bps serial data stream from the sonar sensor, and to display the results in an easily interpreted graphical form.

You can download a free Setup program for this here.  This application may be used without restriction, though it may not be sold.  Source code for the project is included on the CD ROM that accompanies my book, Visual Basic Programmer's Guide to Serial Communications, 4th Edition.

Here is a screen shot of this application in operation.


If you have questions about customizing this application for your own use, feel free to email me.


Send mail to dick_grier@hotmail.com with questions or comments about this web site.
Last modified: 11/25/09
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