New Year, New PCB — Copperforge product release

Hey y’all!

Quick introduction — we’re Copperforge, a new supplier in the FIRST scene, run by @benjaminward and @solomondg. Our goal is to eliminate complexity while increasing the performance of competition electronics, helping teams make more reliable and capable robots.

We’re starting out small, but have a lot of great things coming down the pipeline soon **— well, we’re of course biased, but we think they’re pretty cool.

For now, we’re releasing the Lasershark, the easiest distance sensor you’ll ever use. With 12ft LIDAR-based ranging and easy, roboRIO-compatible PWM output, we’re hopeful this’ll replace the inaccurate and buggy IR and ultrasonic sensors teams have been stuck with.

The Lasershark’s powered by the STM VL53L1X Time of Flight distance sensor — essentially, we send out a few zaps of (FRC-legal!) laser light and measure how long it takes to bounce back, which gives us the distance to an object with centimeter precision. However, the Lasershark’s more than just a breakout board — the sensor’s coupled with an onboard microcontroller, allowing us to fill this thing to the brim with additional smarts aimed at improving performance and reliability, from ranging parameter optimization and signal filtering to error detection and ambient light compensation. The only thing it won’t do is calibrate your turboencabulator! Toss one on the front of your bot to get your distance to a game piece, use two to align to a wall, or even use one to zero an arm or turret — there are plenty of things you can do with truly accurate distance measurement.

Plus, we’ve got two solderable jumpers, one to minimize the device’s field of view at the expense of some ranging ability, and the other to disable all the onboard algorithms and just forward raw sensor data. And LEDs. Did I mention LEDs? We got those. They blink.

Orders are open now, and documentation is available at (that’s right, even our URLs are cool). Shipping will commence in about a week and a half, by the 14th at the absolute latest.

We hope that this turns out to be the first of many products that’ll help you all do what you do best — build robots. We’ve worked pretty hard getting everything to this point, so we hope y’all like it! Expect to see some more stuff out of us real soon.

— Ben & Solomon


o hey thats me


Disclaimer - We’re sponsored by Copperforge. That being said, I really like the versatility of this sensor, and can think of a number of places this might come in handy. Looking forward to hearing about other new products!


Looks pretty cool and at a good price point. Good work on this!

Any limitations? Like maybe problems with clear polycarb?

1 Like

holy moly this is so much more affordable than the LIDAR Lite

1 Like

In my experience, this has been the biggest issue with LIDAR solutions and the FRC field in the past, great question.

Also, how well does it perform when it’s not perpendicular to the surface being sensed? Are there limitations on the angle it can be to a field border in order to get accurate data?

Will adjacent sensors have issues with cross-talk?

Any plans to make a CAN version?

You could wire the PWM output to a CANifier and use CAN that way.

1 Like

Looks cool. Always good to have affordable sensors for the students to learn with.

If you’re thinking of using a canifier with the Lasershark, you’d probably be better off just getting the Playing With Fusion SEN-36005


Polycarbonate (Lexan) is generally clear to infrared light, so maximum range will be reduced if you’re trying to detect the field wall. There are a number of use cases where this is actually an advantage though - trying to detect field elements such as Stronghold boulders or Power Cubes is one that comes to mind. There’s also no trouble detecting colored Lexan such as the Steamworks boiler or Power Up hatch panels.

We will be adding some detailed test results to the product flyer (available under Files here) to create a full datasheet. This is one thing that got cut due to time constraints before the initial release. That said, one of our goals is to have the best documentation of all of the vendors, so we’re working on it.

Thank you both!

Cheers, that was the idea! We feel that for the featureset you get from the Lasershark, it covers pretty much every conceivable use case that the LIDAR Lite does, at about a quarter of the cost.

Expect more products soon! We have a bunch more in the pipeline that are just about ready to go, as well as some partnerships with a few other really cool people in the FIRST community, so keep an eye out for those.

Yes! However, we like the PWM version because it’s as simple as it gets, the FPGA constantly reads the signal, and it doesn’t clog your CANbus at all.

I will also be updating the product page and documentation today to add an FAQ - and a bunch of people have requested usage examples, so I’ll be adding those as well.

Thank you all for the great responses!


@chrisrin Slap a piece o’ duct tape on the target area. Fixt.

I’m not quite well edumacated to dig through the programming documentation, and I may have missed it elsewhere, but what is the (nominal) refresh rate on range measurements?

what is the (nominal) refresh rate on range measurements?

That actually varies based on the ambient conditions and range! The onboard algorithms constantly tune measurement parameters for best performance, weighing max range versus ambient light rejection versus ranging accuracy versus ranging frequency. Typically, you’ll see ranging output between 10 and 50 Hz, but if you need something ultra consistent, you can bridge the “Disable Autorange” jumper, which’ll lock it to max ranging mode and 10 Hz frequency.

Hey y’all,

Demand was a bit higher than we expected - we’re probably going to be out of stock today or tomorrow. We’re working on assembling some more units while we wait for our next order to come on, so we’ll keep you updated. More stock is expected in the next ~10 days.

1 Like

Are you guys still on track for sending out initial orders around January 15th? (Thanks)

We’re on track to ship orders hopefully by the 14th, or earlier. We’re wrapping up packaging and a few other small things, then we’ll get them out the door ASAP. Thanks!


I’m not sure how much value these will add to a Trench shot, but they will certainly help out from the Initiation line.
Four on order!