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Expansion board for Raspberry Pi :  easy software; control things with relays; read inputs/sensors and prototype your own circuits
Expansion board for Raspberry Pi : easy software; control things with relays; read inputs/sensors and prototype your own circuits
105 backers pledged £2,458 to help bring this project to life.

About

Matboard: Easy to use GPIO board for Raspberry Pi Computer project video thumbnail
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The Matboard is designed to be an extremely easy to use expansion board for the Raspberry Pi that will enable anyone with even the most basic knowledge of programming and electronics to create projects in the real world i.e. turning things on and off and responding to inputs.

The Raspberry Pi generation are the future programmers, engineers and hackers that will be the technology architects of tomorrow. The Matboard has a part to play in helping to inspire them.

WHAT TYPE OF PROJECTS CAN YOU DESIGN WITH A MATBOARD?

What you can design and build with a Raspberry Pi and Matboard depends on your imagination and of course your engineering skills.

Here is a list of possible projects for inspiration:

  • Quiz game with multiple buttons
  • Disco lights control
  • Automatic holiday plant watering
  • Automatic cat or dog feeders
  • Robots, robots, robots...
  • Bedroom defence systems
  • Sneak attack systems
  • Electric water gun controller
  • NERF gun control
  • Home automation
  • Bird nest monitor
  • Security and alarm systems
  • Camera monitoring systems
  • Toaster controller
  • iPhone controlled gadgets

WHY DEVELOP THE MATBOARD?

When our Raspberry Pi first arrived my son (who is 10 years old) and I immediately wanted to start using it in real world physical computing projects.  Basically we just wanted it to do something quickly! 

We started with all of the classic GPIO tutorials that show you how to turn on LEDs/relays and read switches. One of the first projects was to build a "Simon Says" type game that generates a random sequence of LEDs that you then duplicate by pressing switches.

Even the hardware setup on the breadboard for this is reasonably complex using (inc wires) 30 parts on the breadboard. See picture below.

4 switches and 4 LEDs connected to GPIO
4 switches and 4 LEDs connected to GPIO

We then decided that we wanted to control other things with the Raspberry Pi for example instead of switching LEDs,to turn on large lights and use bigger buttons. Although there are several Raspberry Pi expansion boards available many of them are quite complicated and not suited for beginners. We also wanted something with built in relays so we could just connect directly to the outside world without any risk of damage to the Raspberry Pi

We started to build our own GPIO interface circuits using strip board, which is great fun but takes time and needed to be different for every project idea we came up with. 

I spoke to other Raspberry Pi users (and Parents of users) and many of them said that after an initial burst of activity many of the Raspberry Pi's were gathering dust as it wasn't straightforward to get them to do anything without knowledge of electronics design and programming experience. 

Very Early Matboard Prototype built from Veroboard using 2 x Relays
Very Early Matboard Prototype built from Veroboard using 2 x Relays

The idea was born to create the "Matboard" - which was named after my son "Matthew".

THE MATBOARD CONCEPT

The Matboard was designed to be very easy to use with the basic GPIO commands that can be run from within Python or Scratch. It plugs directly into the Raspberry Pi GPIO bus with a standard ribbon cable connector.

The board is immediately usable as it has four coloured LEDs and coloured switches . Straightaway you can start testing your project ideas and developing code. Using the LEDs and Switches to confirm outputs are working and inputs are being read.

The board also has 4 x relays which are rated at 2A - 250VAC and 220VDC. (Note : For safety reasons we do not recommend using the Matboard with AC mains supply).These are connected to terminal blocks that can be used to control anything with a switch. For example lights, water pumps, valves, security strobes, garden lights, motors etc. The Raspberry Pi uses 3.3V logic and the GPIO pins are connected directly to the heart of its microprocessor so we have used a darlington pair transistor buffer to drive the relays and buffer the inputs making them safe to experiment with.

There are also four switch inputs connected to a terminal block, that can be used to receive a signal from a switch, pressure pad, PIR sensor or other circuit that the Raspberry Pi can react to. These inputs can be used either by connecting switches or by applying an external voltage of up to 30VDC without damaging the Raspberry Pi.

The first project was the full version of the "Simon Says" game which was used at a school fete , here arcade style switches with in built 12V lights are used to implement the game. (See the Test Box picture below)

PROTOTYPING AREA - For Hackers and engineers

We also wanted the board to be useful to the many aspiring hardware hackers that have adopted the Raspberry Pi as the platform of choice. For this reason the board has a matrix of holes (approx. 40 x 40mm) that can be used to solder components . There is a 5V and 0V power bus which is also connected to a terminal block. We have also connections to 3.3V and I2C (SDA and SCL) next to the prototyping area.

Prototyping Area
Prototyping Area
Prototype Area in Use
Prototype Area in Use

MECHANICAL

The Matboard is a 100 x 100 mm board and has 4 x 3.2mm Diameter mounting holes in the corners of the board for installing the board. There are also 4 holes that can be used to mount the Raspberry Pi on top of the Matboard

DEVELOPMENT

The prototype PCB Model A was designed and used to build the "Simon Says" game and also a watering system for a green house. 

Matboard Model A
Matboard Model A

As a result of building the projects we realised that there were several improvements we could make to the board to make it easier to use and also to provide more functionality.

  • Change terminal blocks to larger 5 mm pitch
  • Add silkscreen with clear labelling
  • Move to 4 layer board with ground and power planes, for better aesthetics 
  • Redesign of prototype area
  • Add additional mounting holes to enable Raspberry Pi to be mounted on top of the board, which makes it easier to install
  • Add real time clock and high efficiency dc-dc designs as part of project
  • Review bill of material to reduce cost and delivery times

Here is the model B version

Matboard Model B
Matboard Model B

The second version of the PCB is much nicer looking, with easy to read labelling larger. The easier to use prototype area is larger and it uses less fiddly terminal blocks for connecting things up.

PROJECTS 

The larger terminal blocks mean that several external components can be connected quite quickly. For example this test box which uses arcade button with built in LED lights  was built in less than 1 hour which included drilling the holes . 

Test Box - Arcade Switches with LED Lights
Test Box - Arcade Switches with LED Lights

It was easy to hook the Matboard up to the NERF gun, one channel used to activate the gun, another to read the motion sensor, another to fire on command and two channels to display "arming" and "safe" LEDs. 

Matboard connected to NERF gun
Matboard connected to NERF gun

Heres the Matboard being used to control a 12V submersible water pump and water level sensor. Only one step from here to designing a customised plant watering system.

Matboard, 12V pump and water level sensor
Matboard, 12V pump and water level sensor

We had an idea this weekend to put some mood lighting into our garden, using a simple Python program and the Matboard. We made a short 30 second video to show you how easy this kind of thing is to do.

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MORE ABOUT THE PROTOTYPING AREA

We will also include with the Matboard the plans for two simple but useful projects that can be built on the board. (You can see them on some of the Matboard pictures)

1) High Efficiency DC-DC Converter. This has an input of 6.5 - 18VDC and can be used to run the Matboard and Raspberry Pi from a Battery. As it is typically 90% efficient it does not get as hot or use as much power as a linear regulator

2) As the Matboard is excellent as the basis for a control project ,we have added the plans for a real time clock. (The Raspberry Pi does not have a clock as standard). This contains a small IC, a crystal and a battery backup. Its a relatively simple project that we think will be quite useful for projects where events have to happen at specific times e.g.. watering plants, garden lights, taking pictures, firing toy guns etc.

The prototyping area will enable you to build your own sensors and experimental circuits on the board.

Prototyping area with DC-DC converter and Real Time Clock Projects
Prototyping area with DC-DC converter and Real Time Clock Projects

 We have also included some mounting holes on the PCB so the Matboard can be mounted and also the Raspberry Pi itself can be mounted on top of it on a piece of perspex (or similar)

This means you can also connect the popular RPi Camera while using the Matboard

Raspberry PI mounted on top of Matboard (without ribbon cable) - SIM card at bottom
Raspberry PI mounted on top of Matboard (without ribbon cable) - SIM card at bottom
Raspberry Pi mounted on Matboard (with Ribbon Cable) - SIM card at top
Raspberry Pi mounted on Matboard (with Ribbon Cable) - SIM card at top

Note : In the production model of the Matboard we have moved the 26W GPIO Connector (the one that connects to the Raspberry Pi) to the right hand side of the board.

This means that the ribbon cable does not cover the LEDs and Switches when the Raspberry Pi is mounted on Top. A basic 3D CAD model of the production PCB layout is below

3D CAD of Final PCB layout with 26W Connector moved to right hand side of PCB
3D CAD of Final PCB layout with 26W Connector moved to right hand side of PCB

Overview Specification

Size : 100 mm x 100 mm PCB

Interconnection: 26W PCB header for RPi interface, 5mm terminal Block for GPIO I/O

Input channels : 4 x Inputs via onboard switches or terminal blocks, colour coded (GPIO 7,11,13,15)

Input channels:  (with Jumpers removed) : 4 x 3.3V - 30VDC

Output channels : 4 x LED and 4 x channels rated 2A @ 250VAC or 220VDC (GPIO 12,18,16,22)

Prototyping area: Approx: 40 x 40 mm. Footprint for DC input connector, powerbus for 5V, 3.3V and 0V. Easy connection to I2C (SDA and SCL)

WHY DO WE NEED YOUR HELP AND THE REWARDS

We really need your help and backing to get the Matboard into the final stages of production. In order to produce the product at a suitable price point we need to commit to some production volumes in order to get better material costs. In particular the PCB and the Relays are extremely expensive to buy in low volume.  By getting some economies of scale we can pass on the benefits to our backers.

The hardware rewards are:

Blank Matboard PCB with components list and software examples. If you  are an electronics geek you will likely have many of the components the Matboard uses already. In which case you can buy the bare PCB and save some money

Matboard self assembly kit: Includes components, build instructions, software examples and project ideas. Building your own Matboard, is a great project in itself. The PCB uses standard pitch components (mostly 0.1"/2.54mm) which are easy to solder. My 10 year old son built the board in less than 1 hour and it worked first time.  We highly recommend ordering the Matboard as a kit, as there is an incredible satisfaction and much to be learnt in building your own board.

NOTE : The first 50 units are EARLY BIRD units we are giving these away at terrific price

Matboard Self Assembly Kit of Parts
Matboard Self Assembly Kit of Parts

Matboard deluxe self assembly kit : Exactly as above but with the components for the dc-dc converter and real time clock projects included. These are slightly more advanced projects but they will enable you to use the Matboard in more interesting projects

Fully assembled Matboard ; Fully assembled Matboard and Ribbon Cable ready to use. Exactly like the picture at the top of the project.

Personalised board: Exactly like the Self Assembled Kit but with a personalised PCB text on the silkscreen. For example if the board is a present for an aspiring engineer you could add some personal text as below. 

Example of personalised silkscreen text
Example of personalised silkscreen text

NERF GUN PROJECT ONLY 1 AVAILABLE AS SHOWN ON OUR KICKSTARTER VIDEO: Get the modified NERF Havoc gun as shown in the Video. Includes Raspberry Pi bundle , Assembled Matboard plus modified NERF gun, NERF darts and PIR motion sensor. Everything you need for this project except the display. Also includes some software written for this project. Totally unique item and we are only selling 1 unit. Whats great about this modification is only one hole was drilled in the Nerf gun case, so you can still use it as normal when you aren't using it as in automated motion sensing mode.

There are also a couple of other ways of backing us either by just donating to the project or we have a unique Matboard mousepad that will be quite unusual and look great on your desk, Everytime you click your mouse you will get a warm fuzzy feeling that you have helped make the Matboard a reality

COMMUNITY

We have setup the website www.wlabs.co.uk

Our intention is to use this website to build a community of users around the Matboard. We would love for you to send us pictures of your projects and creations so we can publish them on the website. We will reward the coolest projects with cool stuff !! At the moment its just a holding page but keep checking back as we add content

AND FINALLY………...

Thanks for reading this and taking an interest, we hope you like the Matboard product and that you can support us in our project to turn this product into reality.

This product is aimed at beginners and students, the younger and the keener the better. They are the "Raspberry Pi generation" and the future of technology lays in their hands. We believe the Matboard has a part to play in developing those engineers, programmers and hackers of the future

If you have any questions or suggestions we would love to hear from you . You can send email to info@wlabs.co.uk 

Risks and challenges

The risks and challenges are right now are quite manageable most of the heavy lifting has been done. We have built several prototypes and have been using the Matboard ourselves to develop fun projects for several months, so we know that it works and is easy to use.

We need to complete the assembly documentation for the Matboard Kit, a user manual and complete documentation of the programming examples. The goal is to make the product very accessible and easy to use for beginners, students and newbies.

Much of the project is effectively a mass components buy, to enable us all to take advantage of deals we have negotiated with our main suppliers. The suppliers we are using are all well known, franchised suppliers so we know that the component quality is guaranteed.

We intend to make one more prototype PCB, with a few small tweaks to the silkscreen and component positions to make the board absolutely perfect. Also this is an opportunity to implement any feedback from our Kick-starter backers that could improve the product.

This phase will take 2 weeks to complete mostly due to the delivery time of the PCB.

After this point the design will be frozen and we can complete the manufacture of the first volume production of Matboard. Most of the components we are using are available from stock. The main long lead-time item is the PCB which will take around 3 weeks to arrive.

At this point we will ship the Matboard self-assembly kits first and about 2 weeks later we will ship the fully assembled boards.

The total delivery plan is 7 - 8 weeks from successful funding, so we hope all rewards will ship before the end of August. If this delivery slips due to events outside of our control into the first weeks of September then we apologise in advance. We will of course keep all of our backers updated every step of the way.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £1 or more About $1.68

    Get updates on how the project is progressing and a warm fuzzy feeling that you are helping develop a great product

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    Pledge £8 or more About $13

    Unpopulated Matboard PCB with list of components, instructions and python software examples. Shipped by Royal Mail Tracked.

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    Pledge £9 or more About $15

    Unique Matboard Mousepad. This is a high resolution image of the Matboard on a Mousepad. Get a great feeling every-time you use your mouse that you have helped to bring a great product to market. Shipped by Royal Mail Tracked.

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    VERY EARLY BIRD SPECIAL : Reduced Price - Matboard Self Assembly Kit of components, instructions and python software examples. Shipped by Royal Mail Tracked.

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    EARLY BIRD SPECIAL :Reduced Price - Matboard Self Assembly Kit of components, instructions and python software examples. Shipped by Royal Mail Tracked.

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    Pledge £29 or more About $49

    Fully Assembled Matboard PCB with instructions and python software examples. Shipped by Royal Mail Tracked.

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    Pledge £42 or more About $70

    Matboard Self Assembly Kit of components including parts for DC-DC Converter (This allows the Raspberry Pi to be run from a battery) and also the parts for a real time clock project. Includes instructions and software examples.Shipped by Royal Mail Tracked.

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    Pledge £120 or more About $201

    Fully Assembled Matboard and a Raspberry Pi Model B with 4GB Simcard (with Matboard software example pre-loaded), Power Supply, Keyboard, Mouse,WiFi Dongle, USB Hub and cables- ready to use Includes Instructions and software. If you are new to the Raspberry PI and want to get going FAST this is the one to go for. Shipped by Royal Mail Tracked.

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    Pledge £132 or more About $221

    CUSTOM Matboard PCB with your own specified text included on the PCB silkscreen (for example your name or if it is a present a message to the recipient). Includes a Self Assembly kit of components, instructions and python software examples. Shipped by Royal Mail Tracked.

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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge £170 or more About $285

    Buy the modified Nerf N-Strike Elite Havok Fire EBF-25 Blaster. as shown in the Video. Includes Raspberry Pi bundle (as above) , Assembled Matboard plus modified NERF gun, NERF darts and PIR motion sensor. Everything you need to build this project and more (except the Monitor/Display). Also includes some software written for this project. Totally unique item and we are only selling 1 unit.

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Funding period

- (30 days)