About this project
Our Kickstarter campaign has ended, but don’t despair: the Rocket Blue Automation store is now open for business! Click on over to http://rocketblueautomation.com/solar-pi-platter
Attention Raspberry Pi enthusiasts… Pi Platter makes it all possible
Solar Pi Platter
This is a versatile board that provides the missing expansion ports for your Pi Zero and lets you run it anywhere.
Look at the Pi Zero. It's small, really cheap and sips power. Seems like it's made to wander around, measure weather in the back woods and provide a slice of computing anywhere there's some sun. But it can't do any of this without added circuit magic.
That's Why You Need a Pi Platter
The Pi Platter fits UNDER your Pi Zero to provide the functions you need for UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply), portable and solar power projects. This means the Pi Platter leaves the GPIO expansion header completely available for you to use on your project. The Pi Platter connects to the Raspberry Pi Zero with 4 spring loaded pins. It can also connect to other models of Raspberry Pi through a micro USB connection.
The Pi Platter gives you:
- Smart UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) allows you to power your project directly from an attached USB charger and automatically switch over to the battery if the power fails. The Pi Platter makes sure the battery is charged and warns the Pi of low battery so it can shutdown properly.
- Optimized Solar Charger so you can power your Pi from the Sun for remote applications. Special features allow you to shutdown the Pi when the power is low and the automatically restart the Pi again when the battery is charged.
- Supports a wide range of LiPo batteries to match your specific needs.
Real Time Clock with repeating alarm keeps track of time when the Pi is off and schedule times to start the Pi (great for remote time lapse photography).
- Header that matches a Sparkfun break-out board for adding a direct Ethernet port.
- 3 High Speed USB ports with multiple queues allow different speed devices to operate simultaneously. Much faster than other Pi Zero USB boards that force all USB devices to operate as fast as the slowest device. Two of the USB ports are power-switched so you can optimize power consumption in your application.
- Low Power micro controller interfaces your application to the Pi Platter through a simple USB serial port so it does not tie up any GPIO pins. You still have all the GPIO pins available.
- 2 x 10 bit Analog Inputs let you interface to the real world.
- 2 x 8 PWM Outputs, that can also be configured to drive standard RC servo motors, let you control motors, LEDs and real world devices.
- Store board configuration even when power is off to let you power up without error.
And much more...
- You can find the Pi Platter featured in the Kickstarter section of the July issue of the MagPi on page 89.
- We'll be working closely with SwitchDoc Labs to get the word out.
- We're also a Hackaday.io project.
Pi Platter? Mighty Mite? Versa-Board?
The Pi Platter is so versatile, that we had a hard time figuring out what to call it. Or to explain all it does. So, we're showing it off with some projects. Get ready to fire your imagination.
Here are a few of the other uses we've thought of:
- Hydroponics and greenhouse controller
- Remote weather or data collection station (hook it to a satellite modem!)
- Extend the Internet of Things outdoors
- Portable and remote web cams with pan/tilt camera
- There are loads of amateur radio applications
- Since two of the USB ports can be turned on/off: how about a USB fan with remote control, timer and motion detection?
- Speaking of Iot - check out "IoT Kitteh"
Yes, the last one is for real - Couldn't make this one up. Let your imagination run wild with an un-tethered Pi! By the way, you can also use the Pi Platter with other models of the Raspberry Pi or even other small single-board computers (with a little hacking) so you can un-tether them too! What will you do with it?
During development we realized that this is a super-flexible power board with great peripherals that - for just $5 more - can run Linux.
Silly Fun Fact:
Take your Pi from Zero to hero. Did you know that 4 out of 5 secret agents prefer the Pi Platter over any other Pi accessory?
Technical Specifications (Geek Alert)
Did we mention that the Pi Platter Can be used with other Pi models too?
- Smart Charging system understands when it is connected to a source like a USB charger and when it is connected to a variable source like a solar panel. It can provide up to 750 mA charge current and full three-stage charging for 3.7 volt Li-Ion batteries.
- Power management system automatically switches to battery when USB power fails and monitors the battery voltage to prevent excessive discharge. Can provide up to 2A @ 5V for the Pi and attached peripherals.
- Both standard JST connector and direct wire header for an external LiPo battery ranging from 1000 mA to 5000 mA. Direct wire header supports an external thermistor to protect the battery in harsh conditions.
- Real Time Clock keeps track of time even when the Pi is off.
- Three High speed USB ports can run much faster than any other Pi Zero USB boards. Two are power switched with over-current detection and limiting.
- 10/100 Mbit/sec Ethernet with external Magjack.
- Micro-power PIC micro-controller provides on-board intelligence (yet uses much less power than an Arduino).
- 2 x 10 bit A to D converters interface to the real world.
- 2 x 8 bit ports can be configured for PWM and servo output to control motors and real world devices. PWM outputs operate at one of three configurable frequencies for wide application.
- Expansion port providing power for your external circuitry and remote power control.
- Saves system configuration in EEPROM even when power is off.
And much more...
The Pi Platter looks like a serial device to your Pi and comes with a downloadable utility that lets you easily control it from any scripting language or the command line. You will also be able to download a detailed user manual to help you make the most of it.
The Pi Platter has a carefully balanced mix of parts that give a lot of functions for the price.
As an example where we've not skimped on the quality of parts - take a closer look at the USB Hub. There are really cheap Pi Zero USB boards that use hobbled USB Hub chips that slow down all USB channels to match the SLOWEST device. On the other hand the Pi Platter uses a USB Hub chip that costs a bit more, but gives each USB device it's own "lane" to the Pi Zero. This means that each USB channel can work at it's own speed. So, let's put this in terms of fun graphics:
Other Pi Zero Kickstarters: Slow USB Chip
Our Pi Platter: Fast USB Chip
What Kind of Battery Can be Used With the Pi Platter?
The Pi Platter is designed to work with 3.7volt nominal Lithium Polymer (“LiPo”) rechargeable batteries. It can provide up to 750 mA of charge current and implements a three-phase charging algorithm (Precharge, CC Fast Charge and CV Taper Charge). It optionally supports a 103AT-4 thermistor in the battery package and will limit current or voltage when the battery temperature exceeds the range 10-45°C. The CC Fast Charge period is limited to a maximum of 10 hours. The Pi Platter can require up to 3.8 A of discharge current for a fully loaded system when the battery is nearly discharged. Batteries must be selected to allow this maximum discharge rate and the wiring and connectors sized appropriately. Typical battery sizes that are appropriate range from 1000 mA to 6600 mA depending on application needs. As an example, the popular 18650 battery works well.
Who is it that is bringing you all of this engineering goodness, you ask? Who is Rocket Blue Automation?
Go Ahead - Roll Your Own Pi Platter
So who are the two engineers that started the Pi Platter project? Click on the video to see the faces behind the Pi Platter.
Dan Julio an experienced electrical engineer and embedded systems designer living and working in the foothills above Boulder. He has designed and brought many products to market, for employers, through his own consulting company, danjuliodesigns, LLC , and for clients around the world. His experience includes system architecture, circuit design, PCB board layout, design for manufacturing, and software ranging from tight assembly language, through C to high level application and web languages. Dan is an active member of Boulder, Colorado’s makerspace, Solid State Depot, and met Mike there.
Mike Seiler, MSEE has over 3 decades of engineering, engineering management and entrepreneurial experience. He as done development for large corporations and startups. His broad range of experience allows him to take a product idea and rapidly turn it into a growing business. You can see some of his recent adventures in trade-offs on his blog.
E M David is "off the charts" smart and insightful. She provides business development, marketing, video, social media and PR services. She'll also talk to you intelligently just about any subject but loves talking about music, horses, high tech, anything IoT and space exploration.
William David, is the Video production Tech on the Solar/UPS Pi Platter for Raspberry Pi. With his three years of field experience, William has been an asset to this Kickstarter. He provided SEO, Web Design, and Video Layout.
We also want to thank the Boulder Hackerspace, aka Solid State Depot for the creative environment and encouragement for putting this project together. Thanks everyone for your support, ideas and field testing.
August 2016 - Design for manufacturing compete.
September 2016 - Verify production design and testing.
October 2016 - Manufacture Pi Platter boards.
November 2016 - Test Pi Platter boards and prepare for shipping.
December 2016 - Ship boards to backers.
$5500 - Release Python library for Pi Platter and daemon software for integrated system management. Achieved!
$8000 - Release designs instructions for Solar Information Terminal, Mini Tablet and Raspberry Pi Zero Camera.
How To Get Your Pi Platter
To pre-order the Pi Platter, log in to your Kickstarter account, click the green button on the top of the page and then select the reward you want. That’s it!
First time on Kickstarter? If you are new to Kickstarter and still have trouble backing your reward, please go to the step by step support page.
Risks and challenges
The primary risk in these boards is that of schedule – this is why we've allowed more time than we think we need. It is important to note that Rocket Blue Automation is already committed to bringing the Pi Platter to market, so this kickstarter can be viewed as a low risk item. You do get a great price break, however! The prototypes are in house and working. We have a manufacturer lined up and ready to go. There could be delays in the manufacturing process from parts availability, assembly complications or shipping delays.Of course we'll be communicating with all our backers regularly to let everyone know about our progress.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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