Modding in the digital age… Choose your controller

Matthew Olmstead
by Matthew Olmstead
February 22, 2013

As promised, I am featuring a new blog series on modding using advanced controller chips. The main chips I will be using are the DNA20D from Evolv and the Nivel chip. You can use other controllers if you wish, for instance if you have the Sigelei ZMAX and the 510 connector is broken, you can remove the chip from it and mod it into something else. I may touch on that at a later date, but for now, I am sticking to the commercially available modders boards previously mentioned.

**Disclaimer** Mod at your own risk. Ecig Advanced will not be held liable should you make a mistake and do something dangerous, causing injury to yourself.

To decide which controller you want to work with, you first have to ask yourself what it is you want your device to do. The DNA20 is variable wattage only. It has a range of 7-20W. The screen is full of useful information like atomizer resistance, voltage output, battery life remaining, and set wattage. The wattage can be easily changed up or down using tact switches wired to the board. Of the 2 boards discussed here, this by far has the easiest user interface. The downside is that it only goes down to 7 watts. If you like less than that, you probably won’t like this board.

The Nivel chip is both variable voltage and variable wattage and has a range of 3-6V or 3-15W. The interface is controlled by a solitary button with a menu system similar to the ProVari or ZMAX. The output display is similar to the ProVari as well, with a 2 digit LCD and a LED light.

Below are examples of the Nivel chip on the left and the DNA20D on the right.

The Nivel chip and DNA20D in their packaging

Once you’ve chosen your controller, you have to prepare it for use in your mod. The Nivel chip comes prewired and pretty much ready to go. There are no intructions that come with the chip, but they can be downloaded here as a *.PDF file. Once you figure out what’s what, I highly recommend wiring up your chip on a breadboard, to ensure you got it right before making a permanent mistake.

The Nivel chip wired up on a breadboard

The DNA20D does not come prewired, so all leads must first be soldered to the board before you can attach anything to it.

The DNA20D all wired up.

The board does have the holes marked as to what goes where, so take your time, and don’t use too much solder. You don’t want to create a short on the board. I found it to be most helpful to solder just the leads onto the board. You can connect the leads to their respective components later. Also, when soldering, make sure your iron is clean and functioning well. Use soldering flux on all wires, as that will help with even distribution of the solder. It is recommended that you use something to hold the wires and components in place. I use a cheap soldering clamp stand from Radio Shack, shown in the photo below, on my very messy desk.

Soldering clamp stand with magnifier

Again, I can’t emphasize enough, how much I recommend wiring up everything on the breadboard before making permanent connections. The DNA20D doesn’t come with instructions, but they can be downloaded as a *.PDF file here.

The DNA20D on the breadboard

Now that we have chosen our desired controller, wired it up, and ensured that it is working correctly, it’s time to think about what to put it in. The next blog in this series will cover choosing your enclosure.


31 Responses to “Modding in the digital age… Choose your controller”

      Michelle on February 22nd, 2013 9:12 pm

      Great series Can’t wait for part two!!

        mongrel on February 22nd, 2013 10:23 pm

        Love the atomizer mounted to your breadboard.

          Ralph on February 22nd, 2013 10:25 pm

          too intense for me

            Amanda Mayer on February 23rd, 2013 12:25 am

            Thanks, Matt! I can’t wait until the next one, hurry! lol. Now, in the DNA all wired up photo, what’s the pcb all the way to the right?

              MattO on February 23rd, 2013 12:27 am

              Amanda- The PCB on the right is the DNA board, the screen hangs off toward the left of it. The really small PCB at far left almost out of the shot is the USB charging board.

                slap_maxwell on February 23rd, 2013 5:45 am

                Can’t wait to see the rest of this series. An a Navy electronics tech and a radio air-talent and engineer, I love any chance to bust out the soldering station and Build Stuff (or Spiff Stuff Up). Keep ’em coming!

                  Zane on February 23rd, 2013 5:51 am

                  Whoa, that is awesome!!

                    Chad on February 23rd, 2013 7:43 am

                    Awesome post. I’m really looking forward to this series.

                      Aaron on February 23rd, 2013 10:07 am

                      Wow That’s awsome. Love it

                        Karla Lyle (MsV8PR) on February 23rd, 2013 10:58 am

                        Very cool. I would love to make my own ecig. Just not sure i could find enough spare time. Maybe I will just buy one from you. 🙂

                          Amanda on February 23rd, 2013 1:03 pm

                          Thats really cool!

                            saboiniaune on February 23rd, 2013 2:05 pm

                            way above my head but thanks for the information

                              chuckss on February 23rd, 2013 11:10 pm

                              Nice mod, very detailed!

                                Tyler on February 24th, 2013 8:13 am

                                Very cool wish i was awesome enough to do this

                                  Ralph on February 24th, 2013 8:47 am


                                    mrcrunch08 on February 24th, 2013 11:29 pm

                                    I have been eyeing the dna20d since it’s release. I have never enjoyed vaping anything below 7 watts so that isn’t an issue for me. I have also been waiting for new devices to feature that board and hopefully save me the trouble of building one. I do plan to do so at some point but don’t think I’m there yet. Looking forward to part two. thanks

                                      Johnathan Brown (Sepsis) on February 25th, 2013 1:44 am

                                      Awesome! I’ve been thinking of using the DNA20 for a while now, just havent taken a crack at it yet. Seemed easy enough when i researched it. I’ve only heard of the Nivel a few times, but had yet to look at anymore info on them, had only heard that they were like russian or german or some other european manufacturer. Thanks for the info;.

                                        GhOsT DoGg 79 on February 25th, 2013 5:20 am

                                        cant wait

                                          Todd on February 25th, 2013 7:32 am

                                          Looking forward to more. Not sure I’d be handy myself at something like it myself but still very cool to see!

                                            RCO67 on February 25th, 2013 7:44 am

                                            I’m always eager to learn something new. Thank you.

                                              Morrinb on February 25th, 2013 8:53 pm

                                              Thanks for sharing, looking forward to more.

                                                John "Shub" Fellhoelter on February 25th, 2013 9:38 pm

                                                Thanks for sharing. The progress is looking good.

                                                  Mike Z on February 27th, 2013 3:33 am

                                                  Very nice work!

                                                    Hannah on March 1st, 2013 5:34 am

                                                    love it

                                                      Chad on March 1st, 2013 11:21 am

                                                      I’m already getting antsy for the next post in this series.

                                                        Chad on March 3rd, 2013 5:40 am

                                                        REady for the next post!

                                                          robovape on March 5th, 2013 3:24 am

                                                          great guide, excellent work!

                                                            brianwilson on March 15th, 2013 11:59 pm

                                                            nice detail!

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                                                              keep up writing.

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