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Designing Hardware with the imp001

Required components, layout recommendations and best practices

The imp001 card makes developing Internet-connected hardware very simple. The imp001 contains the processor, WiFi and antenna. Your design needs to include a few inexpensive components, and make some simple layout and routing rules. If you follow these guidelines, you can expect excellent, reliable WiFi performance.

Important Note

The imp001 is no longer in production and therefore should not be used for commercial designs, or for production support hardware, such as factory BlinkUp™ fixtures. Please use any of our imp modules (currently imp003, imp004m and imp005)


Required Components

Your design will require the following in addition to the imp card:

1. SD Card socket to hold the imp001 card

It’s very important that your card socket does not have metal over the antenna area inside the imp card. Check the imp001 datasheet for more information on recommended parts.

Do not use an SD socket with metal over the antenna area, like this one

This (supported) SD socket does not cover the antenna area

2. ID chip to identify your imp-based device to the imp servers

The imp requires an Atmel ATSHA204A ID chip connected to pin 6 of the imp card. The ATSHA chip must be the 1-Wire variant; the I²C version is not supported.

  • The ATSHA204A must have a 0.1µF or larger bypass capacitor connected between VDD and ground on the ATSHA204A. This bypass capacitor should be placed as close as possible to the ATSHA204 on your PCB.
  • The data line on the ATSHA204A must be pulled up to VDD with a 100kΩ resistor.

3. A 1µF bypass capacitor placed between VDD and ground on the SD Card socket

This bypass capacitor helps stabilize the rail during major changes in load, such as when the imp turns on its WiFi transmitter. It also operates to filter noise out of the imp’s power supply rail. This is especially important as feedback of WiFi noise into the imp’s power supply rail will severely impact performance.

The imp001 socket and ATSHA204A ID chip on the Quinn reference design


Important Design Considerations

The imp’s I/O pins can only source or sink up to 4mA each

Applying more load than this to the imp’s pins will damage the imp. If your design requires you to move more current around, use an imp pin to switch a FET or transistor.

The imp is not 5V tolerant

Your design must not expose any of the imp pins to a voltage greater than VDD (the supply voltage provided to the imp). Consult the imp001 datasheet for more information on the imp001’s electrical characteristics and absolute maximum ratings.

Use external pull-up or pull-down resistors to set a default statefor nets that must not float

The imp’s internal pull-up or pull-down resistors will be cleared when the imp reboots, and these nets will be tri-stated. This is also important for handling the behavior of your design when the imp is removed from the socket.

PCB Layout Guidelines

It’s very important that your design follow a few simple rules when it comes time to place and route your printed circuit board in order to take advantage of the imp’s simplicity and to maximize performance.

Minimize impedance to ground

The imp001’s ground pins should have a clear path back to ground without running through many narrow traces or bottlenecking at a single via. While a via may be rated for much more DC current than your design calls for, the impedance of the ground path needs to be as low as possible to prevent noise from becoming a problem in your design. This applies to other parts of your design as well, so minimize ground impedance everywhere.

  • Use Ground Pours Flood ground on the top and bottom of your PCB to provide a good ground path to all components. The imp’s antenna tuning ‘expects’ a ground pour under the non-antenna portion of the card. If the ground pour is omitted, the antenna will be de-tuned. This will negatively impact range and performance, and may prevent your product from passing wireless certification.

  • Stitch ground planes around the edge of your board and throughout the interior of the board. Use more vias than you need for the DC current your circuit requires; this will lower the impedance of the ground paths and reduce noise.

Stitching vias used around the edges and throughout the interior of
the Kelly reference design to improve ground impedance


Do not place copper or FR4 under the antenna region of the imp

The antenna comes pre-tuned for best performance, but the tuning is applied with just air under the antenna. If you place anything under the antenna, you will de-tune the imp and reduce WiFi performance and range. Your ground pour should not go past the mechanical pads on either side of the SD socket.

Place bypass capacitors as close to VDD pin as possible

Your bypass capacitor will dump noise to ground, but if the trace on the filtered side is long, it presents an opportunity for that trace to pick up noise again.

Bypass capacitor placed immediately
next to the VDD pins on the imp


Stitch the ground planes together in a line underneath the imp

This provides shielding for the antenna and helps get the best performance. Stitching vias should be spaced at 200mil or less. You should pour ground across the SD Card socket footprint between the mechanical pads near the open end of the slot, and keep all copper behind this line.

The top-layer ground pour stops at the mechanical pads on the Kelly reference design.
The imp protrudes past the edge of the board, keeping the FR4 from detuning the antenna.


A poorly-routed switching power supply will send noise all over the board and severely impact performance and range. This is easily avoided by following the recommended layout in the datasheet for nearly any switching power supply IC.

Recommended Layout for the TPS62172 Buck Regulator, as shown in TI’s datasheet

Noise on your board directly diminishes your WiFi performance and can prevent you from passing FCC certifications. Keep all noisy parts (switching power supplies, high-speed signalling) as far from the imp’s antenna as possible.

Prioritize your signal routings

Routing signals in the correct order can significantly simplify a design:

  • Route high-speed signals directly and avoid vias By keeping the path between devices that communicate over a high-speed interface such as SPI direct and short, you minimize the possibility that noise will couple into the line, or that the signals on the line will couple into other parts of your design as noise.

  • Place your power supply and route VDD It’s generally a good idea to avoid vias on your power supply rail; these increase the impedance of the trace and create an opportunity for noise to impact your design.

  • Keep analog signals clear of noisy digital signals and route them as directly as you can Routing an analog signal right next to a digital signal creates an opportunity for digital noise to couple into the analog signal. Keep them apart and pour ground in between to provide some shielding.

  • Route GPIOs last A signal which is simply used to poll a button or toggle an LED does not need special considerations. If a GPIO signal crosses a higher-priority signal such as a SPI bus or an analog line, the lower-priority signal should via around the higher-priority one.


imp001 Design Checklist

  • SD Card socket does not run metal over imp001 antenna
  • imp001 antenna overhangs board edge
  • ATSHA204A connected to imp pin 6, with 100kΩ pull-up resistor on data line and 0.1µF bypass cap on VDD
  • Bypass capacitor (1.0µF) placed immediately next to VDD pin on SD Card socket
  • imp001 is not be exposed to voltages exceeding VDD
  • imp001 pins do not source or sink more than 4mA per pin
  • External pull-up or pull-down resistors used on nets which must not float when the imp001 resets
  • Switching power supply has been routed according to manufacturer’s recommendation
  • Power lines routed cleanly and directly, with high-speed lines routed at next-highest priority
  • Ground pours included on top and bottom layers
  • Ground pours stitched together around board edge, especially nearest open end of SD socket
  • No copper past mechanical pads on SD Card socket on any layer

Document History

Version Date
1.1 2015-02-10