RS485 Hardware Network 1 – Getting Started

For another project I’m currently working on, I need a way to control multiple microcontrollers in a multi-point, multi-drop network configuration. Luckily, we live in amazing times. As I write this, you you can buy a fully assembled breakout board for the MAX485 chip from Maxim Integrated for a mere $0.45 USD shipped from China.

I bought a 5 pack, here are some of the boards:

RS485 is an old protocol, but is the logical next step for devices I’m already communicating with via RS232. For this example, I’m using 4 Arduino boards of various types.

  • An Arduino Micro as the master
  • 2 Slave Arduino Leonardos
  • 1 Slave Arduino Pro Mini (5v)

Here is a video of the setup:

The schematic is really straightforward as well. The only tricky bit is that I’m using a software serial port on each of the Arduinos for ease of debugging. Here’s a schematic:

The code to acomplish this is really intuitive as well.

Here is the code for the master Arduino:

This is the code for the slave Arduinos:

In subsequent posts, things will start getting more advanced. For now however this should be enough to start from scratch.

Thanks for reading.


  1. how does the setup determine which one is master and which one is Slave. Does the master send only? and the slave receive only as well?

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