Why did we make Fairywren?
Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized single-board computer, and it's extremely affordable. Part of the reason for this small size and low cost is that some components are not included with the board. To get a fully functioning Raspberry Pi system, you need to find 5V micro-USB power supply, SD card, keyboard and mouse, monitor, network connection. And maybe plus a USB hub and an external hard drive, etc. Oh, don't forget the power supplies of the monitor and the USB hub.
Now look at the stuffs on your table. I guess they don't look neat, do they? Perhaps you reckon it's not too bad. But to me, or a person who has to work with the Raspberry Pi everyday, I have to face this issue. My desktop is always full of these accessories, cables and power supplies, sometimes I can hardly find a place to put my mouse :-(
One day, I was angry. I put all these things in a spare Mini-ITX case. And hey, it looked better! So how about build all the annoying stuffs in a single motherboard, and put the motherboard in the Mini-ITX case? It's probably a good idea! Our gifted engineer started working. The first version of the design had been finished in only couple of days. After another 5 weeks, I got a functional prototype of the motherboard (The one you see in the video).
- XBee socket built in!
- Arduino UNO built in! We updated the programmable switch system, made it more powerful. It now uses a 328P micro controller, with Arduino UNO bootloader. You can use this built-in Arduino to control the ON/OFF of the Fairywren, or talk to the XBee, or control the cooling fan.
- Arduino mounting holes. You can mount either a HDD or a standard Arduino on the Fairywren board.
- Whole new designed acrylic case. The lid now can be opened, which would make your life easier if you use an Arduino or a Xbee on the Fairywren.
- 17×17 cm Mini-ITX size motherboard
- ATX 24-Pin power socket, always gives you enough power
- Programmable power system
- Built-in 4-port USB hub
- 2.5 inch SATA hard drive area
- RS232 serial port, for terminal connection
- Raspberry Pi 26-pin GPIO broken out
- Built-in IR remote module, wonderful for XBMC
- 3.3V, 5V and 12V power output, for you monitor or other devices
- RTC (Real-Time Clock)
- Built-in temperature sensor for the cooling fan (Controlled by program running on the Raspberry Pi)
How do we work?
We usually talk about making new products online. When we get a good idea, we always keep improving it until we're all happy with it. Then Herman Liu, our hardware guy, designs the circuit board for the product. As an experienced engineer, designing PCBs is his everyday job, it's like a piece of cake for him. Meanwhile one of our other team members, Wei Zhang, who owns a security system company, designs the other parts(enclosures, cases, etc.) and get them manufactured in his company. When everything is ready, I start working on the software part of the product.
So what have we made? You can find our GeekRoo 'All-in-One' GPIO board and 'Clockatoo' LED clock board online (https://www.modmypi.com/raspberry-pi-expansion-boards/geekroo-raspberry-pi-breakout-boards), also 'Echidna' power supply board for Raspberry Pi. The photo below shows all the GeekRoo products we have made. Yes, for us, a small size team, that's a lot of produts. We are pretty confident to make hardwares like them.
From the photo you probably can see, actually we have made some other Raspberry Pi products which we haven't put them in the market yet. They are all good products but we can't afford the manufacture for all of them. We had to:
sell something out -> save some money -> start next one...
But when we got the Fairywren, we didn't want to wait. We really love it and want to start it as soon as possible. That's why we are asking for your help.
How did we make the Fairywren?
Like our other products, Herman designed the PCB of the Fairywren. It took him only couple of days. Then he got the PCB manufactured. He knows a lot of PCB manufacturers in China. These manufacturers are very reliable. Herman has been working in this area for a long time so he knows how to get everything done smoothly and quickly. Like I said, this is his everyday job, no worries! Then it was Wei's turn. After he received the Fairywren, he designed and made the back panel and the acrylic case. I tested the whole thing, took photos and put it on Kickstarter.
What have we got so far?
- We have two Fairywren prototype boards, which are fully functioning and working like a charm. You can see one of them in the video of this project.
- We have one acrylic case which fits the Fairywren board very well. But we need to do some adjustments to make the cables in the case not look too messy. Also, we need to make the case more beautiful.
- We have one back panel for the Fairywren. It is compatible with the two Mini-ITX cases that I have. We need to make sure it works with most Mini-ITX cases in the market.
What is our next step?
We set the funding duration of this project to 40 days. So the whole process would be ended by mid August. In this 40 days, we'll watch how it's going every minute. We'll try to answer your questions as soon as possible. If anyone has a good idea or suggestion for us, we'll carefully think about it and Herman will try to work out how he can modify the original Fairywren PCB to add the new features in. When there are 10 days left, we'll stop modifying the PCB and make sure everything by then is working well.
What is our plan if this project is successfully funded?
We'll start the manufacturing as soon as the project is successfully funded. The new version (with your suggestions and ideas) of the Fairywren board would be ready in two weeks after the project is funded, which would be late August or early September. Then Herman and I will test the new board, especially the new features on the board. Meanwhile Wei will measure the new board, design and make the new back panel and acrylic cases. We'll try to finish all our work in September. In early October, we'll get everything ready for the backers. Then pack and post (directly from the manufacturer in China) the products.
Why did we name the motherboard 'Fairywren'?
One early morning I saw some tiny little birds jumping in my backyard. They are quite common in Australia. I just realised this could be a good name for the motherboard. A fairywren may be small, but it has all the vital organs to make it alive. Yes, it's small but complete.
Risks and challenges
Part-time work is a pain. We're all trying our best but no one can guarantee a full eight-hour work at night.
Furthermore, we don't have enough money to manufacture more Fairywren boards or get the devices we need to do the further research. So we can only start doing everything after the project is funded and we get the money for the backers. It would be bit rush.
How can we tackle that? If the project is successfully funded, we'll spend some money on hiring someone to do some casual works for us. Like assembling, testing, packing and whatever. So that we can concentrate on working on the Fairywren.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (40 days)