Turn-key PCB assembly services in prototype quantities or low-volume to mid-volume production runs

How hard can it be to build Linux mini computer

Today this is not a problem to get a Linux based development board really cheap. Raspberry Pi or Beagle Bone are the first that come to mind. Having those on your desk you wouldn’t think about building one by yourself. Unless you want to challenge yourself. Henrik thought it would be fun to build a Linux board with BGA processor. We all know that soldering BGA at home can be tricky, but doable. So he’s chosen cheap ARM processor with memory management – AT91SAM9N12. It comes in 217 BGA package with 0.4mm balls and distance between 0.8mm. Next to it he added DDR2 RAM which also comes in BGA package. Another challenge was to find PCB manufacturer which would make small pads and vias reliable and cheap. OSH Park seemed to be right choice. Once boards has arrived, next step was to solder chips and other SMT parts. He applied soldering paste with stencils and placed chips. He had to be careful because even 0.4mm error would cause row offset of ball array. Obviously soldering was done with reflow oven… Continue reading

Low profile wall mounted Raspberry Pi server

Raspberry Pi has everything you need to run as simple Linux computer on your desk. There are USB, audio, HDMI, Ethernet and SD socket. But not all applications require all that connectivity. In most project connectors a taking space. Domipheus has faced the high profile of Raspberry Pi problem. He wanted to build wall mounted Raspberry Pi home server that wouldn’t pop out, and so he started his journey to stripping the board to get it as thing as possible. As enclosure he intended to use cheap thermostat. It already has mains to 5V built in so the only thin was left – fit raspberry pi and LCD in. He desoldered most of RaspPi connectors including Composite out, audio out, HDMI, camera interface. He used RasPi model A with no Ethernet as he intended to use WiFi for internet access which connects via USB. After stripping all out he was able to achieve 10.5 mm height of Raspberry Pi plus LCD display. To see more pictures of success story follow Flickr. Continue reading

New Raspberry Pi Model B+

Raspberry Pi is a great Linux based development board that found its place in hobby market. It’s cheap, have all features required for small computer to be run and there is quite big ecosystem where you can find tons of tutorials, guides and projects. No matter ho good all boards are, we always love new stuff. So here it is – new version of Raspberry Pi called Model B+. This update is dedicated to layout improvements and extending some of its current features. So in one hand you may be a little bit disappointed because you will find same processor – BCM2835 running at 700MHz and 512RAM. As for processor this is OK because it’s very well understood and adapted. As for RAM 1GB wouldn’t hurt. But who love using this board for prototyping and building stuff should enjoy following improvements. First of all it got rid of sticking out SD card. Its been replaced with MicroSD socket which stays behind the board. GPIO was extended from 26 to 40 pins. First 26 pins are same as in model B.… Continue reading

Raspberry Pi weather station with TFT display

Raspberry Pi is a great tool for extracting data from the internet. Jacobean has built a weather station where Raspberry Pi pulls data from weather.com and displays it on Adafruit 2.8” touchscreen TFT display also known as PiTFT. Python already has a great module which allows to pull data from several weather services on-line. Weather display shows current day temperature, barometric pressure, humidity and other information. Also it displays information for several next days. Small graphical icon makes it look more live. Continue reading

Reading boiler temperature with Raspberry Pi using camera

In digital systems we usually use digital temperature sensors or somehow integrate analog sensors by using ADC. But if you want to modernize existing system where analog gauges are used, this may be tricky. You may think of adding additional sensor that would be easy to read with MCU. But there may be more interesting but challenging approach. Seb decided to implement Raspberry Pi based setup which would read gauge image with camera and try to read its arrow position with simple image processing algorithm. So first of all he attached simple circuit to Raspberry Pi GPIO – a simple transistor driven relay that switches boiler heater. Then pointed RasPi camera to temperature gauge, then he focused on software part. He implemented email driven control protocol where several python scripts reads specially constructed email messages and gives command to turn heater on or off. Then comes part to read if temperature reached desired level. He uses openCV package to work with captured images. The trick of reading gauge is rather simple. He captures image then selects white region and cunts… Continue reading

Want more out of Raspberry Pi? – try Banana Pi

Raspberry Pi became pretty standard Linux based development board/minicomputer. It’s been quite a while since it’s been here and we would like to see some improvements in performance and functionality for same price. Single core 800MHz processor and 512MB of RAM sometimes is too slow especially when you are dealing with media or other heavy loads. Of course there are other alternatives to select from, but some of you probably would like to have same Raspberry Pi feel. And probably most of all same GPIO where you could attach your existing expansion boards. It appears that such improvement exists. It’s called Banana Pi. When comparing to Standard Raspberry Pi model B it has several significant improvements like dual core A20 CPU running at 1GHz, 1GB of DDR3 RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, built in microphone, IR receiver, SATA socket, three buttons and other same connectivity Raspberry Pi have. Its price tag is pretty same as Raspberry Pi same. So why not switch to Banana Pi if you need twice performance and still have same experience as before. Continue reading