Project image
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$3,653
pledged of $20,000pledged of $20,000 goal
28
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Wed, March 4 2015 9:28 PM UTC +00:00
Last updated March 4, 2015

ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi

ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi is the ultimate add-on board for prototyping industrial solutions using the latest Raspberry Pi boards.

ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi

ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi is the ultimate add-on board for prototyping industrial solutions using the latest Raspberry Pi boards.

$3,653
pledged of $20,000pledged of $20,000 goal
28
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Wed, March 4 2015 9:28 PM UTC +00:00
Last updated March 4, 2015

About

"We couldn't be more excited to launch our campaign on the same day the Raspberry Pi 2 was released.  ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi will ship with compatibility with the new Raspberry Pi 2, along with the RPi Model B+."

At MobileApp Systems, we manufacture and sell the Proto Armour brand of protective enclosures for the very popular Raspberry Pi single board computer. In just two years we've sold thousands of these rugged enclosures to customers all over the world. Based on customer feedback and product reviews, we are pleased to say that Proto Armour is living up to our high expectations!

With a Raspberry Pi wrapped in Proto Armour in-hand, you've been empowered to create the next big thing - industrial vision systems, theatrical stage controls, digital signage, equipment health monitors, and much more. Up until this point we've left the creative work to you when it comes to the application side of things. On occasion we've been asked to modify our cases to accommodate a special connector, or even a custom add-on board.

Over time we developed an understanding for how our customers are using the Raspberry Pi in their applications, and what kind of challenges they face when interfacing with external sensors and actuators. To help our customers succeed in commercializing unique solutions based on the Raspberry Pi, we decided to create our very own Raspberry Pi add-on board called ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi.

Product concept utilizing ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi.
Product concept utilizing ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi.

Initial Prototype

We developed a prototype add-on board as a way to flesh out some ideas.  The board connects to the Raspberry Pi Model B 26-pin header, and includes several spring terminals for simple connection to external devices.  The Raspberry Pi 2 and Model B+ now use a 40-pin header and permit the use of a larger circuit board, so we are transitioning the design to this larger format.  The prototype add-on board has everything:  wide-range input switching power supply, robust digital I/Os, analog I/O, relay, LEDs, realtime clock, battery backup, and ARM Cortex-M4 MCU for real-time operation independent of the RPi.  The prototype board serves as our reference for functionality, manufacturability, and costing.

The PCB top surface contains the following major components:

  • Wide-input switching voltage regulator (7-36 VDC)
  • 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 MCU
  • High-current low-side driver (digital outputs)
  • Filtering input buffer (digital inputs)
  • SPDT relay
  • Programmable LEDs
  • SWD debugger/programmer connector
Initial prototype of ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi.
Initial prototype of ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi.

The PCB bottom surface contains the following major components:

  • Lithium coin-cell (for RTC and MCU memory)
  • GPIO header (connects to RPi GPIO header)
  • Spring-terminal block
Lithium coin cell for RTC and memory backup.
Lithium coin cell for RTC and memory backup.

Proto Armour for Raspberry Pi Enclosure

ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi integrates neatly with existing Proto Armour for Raspberry Pi cases. These rugged aluminum enclosures are already available for purchase online and will accommodate the ProtoPLC add-on board.

ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi installed in Proto Armour cases.
ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi installed in Proto Armour cases.

Functional Description

The ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi add-on board adds the following features to the Raspberry Pi single board computer:

  • Compatibility with Raspberry Pi 2 and Model B+ (ID EEPROM).
  • Efficient wide-input switching power supply that powers both the ProtoPLC and Raspberry Pi boards.
  • Filtered digital input channels (6*).
  • High-current digital output channels (6*).
  • Analog input and output channels (1/1*).
  • Battery-backed real time clock.
  • Programmable LEDs.
  • Relay (SPDT).

* Minimum values are shown as channel count is not yet finalized. 

ARM Cortex-M4 MCU

The ProtoPLC board contains a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 MCU that manages the newly added features.  Communication with the Raspberry Pi is done over the UART using a command line interface (CLI).  The CLI provides a simple way to setup and operate ProtoPLC using common tools like Minicom or the pySerial library for Python.  Performance of the system is not limited by the UART speed as explained next.

Real-time Performance

The ProtoPLC MCU runs a real time operating system (RTOS) that handles communication with the Raspberry Pi and can manage deterministic behavior of external I/O if that is needed.  While the external digital I/O channels are physically tied to MCU GPIO, a pass-through mode is planned that maps Raspberry Pi GPIO to external I/O from ProtoPLC. This pass-through mode provides basic compatibility with existing applications that use the RPi GPIO natively.  Performance of pass-through mode is expected to be near-native.

Open-Source Advantage

The software source code will be available online for download, and will include a permissive license to help you understand how ProtoPLC works and help you build custom versions of the on-board runtime environment if needed.

PCB design files and parts list will also be available online for download. Again the idea is to help you understand how ProtoPLC works.

Raspberry Pi 2 / B+ vs Model B

While our initial prototype was developed for the Raspberry Pi Model B, we plan to focus on compatibility with the Raspberry Pi boards having a 40-pin GPIO header (Raspberry Pi 2 and Model B+).  The obvious advantages of the newer model includes more GPIO, two additional USB ports (for a total of four), a micro SD slot, consolidated audio/video, and a significant reduction of power consumption.  Moreover, the speed advantage of the RPi 2 is hard to ignore.

ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi PCB (RPi Model B on left; Model B+ on right).
ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi PCB (RPi Model B on left; Model B+ on right).

Development Continues

As we head into the next phase of the project, we are firming up the design and making sure the feature set will help you build solutions quickly and cost-effectively.  Your input along the way will help us create a robust solution platform that balances features, ease-of-use, and cost.

When the campaign is successfully funded, we'll step-up efforts to complete the design and prototyping of ProtoPLC that is compatible with the Raspberry Pi 2 and Model B+.  Initial prototype hardware will then be provided to those premium pledges wanting to participate in a deeper way.  The beta software development kit (SDK) will go online afterwards, with schematics to soon follow.  We are targeting a late Spring 2015 release to production.

We Ask For Your Help!

In general, we self-invest in the development of products that deliver good value and have well-define ROI for our business.  As a way to offer solutions such as ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi at an accelerated pace, we are launching this crowdfunding initiative to help offset development cost and build initial inventory.  A successful campaign will also validate market need and confirm our plan is solid.

If you just aren't ready to commit to a pledge at this time but would like to have a meaningful impact on the development of ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi, please consider taking our ProtoPLC Survey that was set up to gather opinions about which features would help you most with developing solutions with the Raspberry Pi.

Thank You!

MobileApp Systems Team

Risks and challenges

We've already invested a fair amount of resources into the development of ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi. Since prototypes have already been built, we've already sourced parts and made sure the add-on board integrates seamlessly with our existing Proto Armour for Raspberry Pi enclosures.

Refinement of the design continues with changes necessary for compatibility with the Raspberry Pi Model B+. That effort is straightforward as we already produce custom add-on boards for our customers using the Raspberry Pi Model B+.

A key area of development centers around producing a useful and high-quality SDK. The SDK needs to help one build something quickly, without adding confusion to the inventive process. Our experience with quality control tells us this is an area where time is best invested. While we will work feverishly to deliver value quickly, a big priority for us is to match value with quality. That process takes time - we hope not to disappoint.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Just a good ol’ pledge of support to keep the project moving forward. A classy gesture for those believing in creating good Karma - we thank you and will pass it on!

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    Pledge $45 or more About $45

    Proto Armour for Raspberry Pi B+ Enclosure Kit, ProtoPLC Edition. This enclosure kit is compatible with the Raspberry Pi 2, B+, and ProtoPLC add-on board. It is laser-marked with ProtoPLC branding and port identifications, and has a black anodized aluminum finish.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    ProtoPLC Add-on Board, Standard Production Run. You’ll be next in line after Early and First Access pledges to get your hands on the ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi add-on board. We expect having a backlog as we go into production, so make your pledge of support today!

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    ProtoPLC Add-on Board First Access. Get started developing solutions quickly by having first access (after Early Access pledges) to production ProtoPLC hardware. You’ll go to the front of the line with production order fulfillment. We expect having a backlog as we go into production, so make your pledge of support today!

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    ProtoPLC Add-on Board Early Access. Help shape development by having early access to a prototype version of ProtoPLC hardware. You’ll also be first to get the final version of ProtoPLC once we go into production, so make your pledge of support today!

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $175 or more About $175

    Fully assembled and tested ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi System. Includes the Proto Armour for Raspberry Pi B+ ProtoPLC Edition case, Raspberry Pi 2 single board computer, ProtoPLC add-on board, and Micro-SD card imaged with the latest OS and ProtoPLC SDK.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    5-Pack of ProtoPLC Add-on Boards, Standard Production Run. You’ll be next in line after Early and First Access pledges to get your hands on five ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi add-on boards. We expect having a backlog as we go into production, so make your pledge of support today!

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $350 or more About $350

    5-Pack Early Access: Help shape development by having early access to a prototype version of ProtoPLC hardware. You’ll also be first to get five production ProtoPLC for Raspberry add-on boards. We expect having a backlog as we go into production, so make your pledge of support today!

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    10-Pack of ProtoPLC Add-on Boards, Standard Production Run. You’ll be next in line after Early and First Access pledges to get your hands on ten ProtoPLC for Raspberry Pi add-on boards. We expect having a backlog as we go into production, so make your pledge of support today!

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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $600 or more About $600

    10-Pack Early Access: Help shape development by having early access to a prototype version of ProtoPLC hardware. You’ll also be first to get ten production ProtoPLC for Raspberry add-on boards. We expect having a backlog as we go into production, so make your pledge of support today!

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Funding period

- (30 days)