BoardX: The Open Source Miniature Motherboard
BoardX: The Open Source Miniature Motherboard
BoardX is a collection of open source hardware that stack on top of one another to share resources and make electronics easier.
BoardX is a collection of open source hardware that stack on top of one another to share resources and make electronics easier. Read more
About this project
BoardX is a collection of electronic circuit boards that stack on top of one another to share resources, communicate, and extend the functionality of one another. This system is built on the motherboard that acts as both an electrical and structural foundation.
Unlike similar products (but much like a familiar PC system), the motherboard does not come with a processor pre-installed. Processors come as simple, low cost add-on boards, which allows any processor - or multiple processors - to be used with the system.
How I Started
UPGRADE INDUSTRIES was founded out of necessity, because I couldn't keep waiting for a company to design the product I needed.
Let me take you back to a time when I was just an undergraduate engineering student, trying to make ends meet as the captain of one of Virginia Tech's lesser-known student design teams.
My team and I were designing a solar-powered robot that would use a compass and accelerometer to navigate its environment. We didn't have much design experience back then, but we needed an easy way to combine several different circuit boards into one for our robot. We also needed to make sure that we could swap them out in case one was destroyed or burnt out, which was known to happen from time to time.
Rather than design our own circuit board with all the parts permanently attached, I designed a very small motherboard for all the various third party sensors to plug in to. This was a huge hit with the team and also a time saver, since we could now build our system piece by piece and choose which parts we wanted to design and which we would buy.
Expanding on that idea, I added a breadboard, standardized the size of the ports, and stylized the design so it would look as good as the rest of my projects. After researching existing products like Arduino or Beagle, I made it a point to fix certain weaknesses that I felt were holding those platforms back such as weak current allowances, fixed processors, and large add-ons.
- BoardX works transparently with Arduino SDK! That means it works out of the box - if you plug in an AVR-X Add-on, it can be programmed over USB using Arduino's programming language and development software.
- PIC, ARM, AVR, it doesn't matter - although we only have an AVR processor built at the moment, ARM boards are in development and you can always develop your own processor add-on using our free templates.
- Processor-independent hardware – the hardware is compatible with any processor, and even multiple processors (since they come as add-ons)
- Choice of full size add-ons, or cheaper, miniature add-ons
- Multiple, independent add-on sockets to reduce vertical growth to 1/3 that of Arduino
- BoardX automatically routes Power, USB, SPI, UART, I2C and GPIO to the other add-ons so you don't have to wire anything by hand
- A Breadboard is included on the motherboard for quick prototyping
- High current allowance permits direct powering of motors, servos and other power hungry applications
- An upgradable power supply feature allows the use of any conceivable power source and regulation method. It also plugs in, just like a normal add-on.
- A unique shape and color, which resembles its name - BoardX. The rounded edges and isolated mounting holes make handling BoardX more comfortable and easier to install in robot chassis.
Why Open Source
Open source continues to be a huge part of my learning process and I'd like to give back what I can. I chose to license all my designs under the Creative Commons 3.0 share-alike license because I want others to hack and create derivative products. All of my designs will be available for free on my website, along with code examples for every add-on I make. Hopefully by providing these, the community will grow - and more users means more great project ideas floating around on the internet.
Why I Need Funding
I need funding because I want to price these boards as low as I can so that everybody can afford one. Unfortunately, it just isn't possible unless I buy a lot of these boards and have them assembled in a factory. I've assembled countless prototypes by hand but I'd rather spend my time designing new products than assembling things by hand.
All of the primary design work is complete, and the boards have already been tested. Now it's time to order them in bulk and get them in the hands of students, hobbyists and engineers around the world - and for me to get back to designing the next set of add-ons.
Rewards are our way of saying "thank you" to those of you who decide to support us. Rewards are made up of various items that we are selling, and are past the prototyping stages. Most rewards levels are discounted from our online store price*.
*A few of the rewards are priced above what you'd pay on the website for a product. These come with the "Your name on the website forever" clause, and are intended for those who want to give something extra to get that warm, fuzzy feeling.
An ADC-X Analog to Digital Converter Add-on is shown with heat shielding IR tape (the yellow) protecting its address selection switches after reflow soldering. http://www.upgradeindustries.com/product/13/ADC-X-Add-on
Here's a shot of the under side of an unpopulated BoardX Motherboard
Everyone loves LEDs, right? Here's a photo of a BoardX Motherboard with an FRAM-X Memory Add-on installed (right) as well as an AVR-X Processor Add-on (top left)
How many add-ons can we stack at once? A lot!
If this were an Arduino, it'd be a foot tall. BoardX comes in around 3 inches with 6 add-ons
Other Photos Just for Fun
An early stage prototype of BoardX Motherboard
Where the magic happens!
Yes! Arduino SDK can't tell the difference between our system (a BoardX Motherboard + AVR-X Add-on) and a normal Arduino Duemilanove
The documentation is available on the new website, http://www.upgradeindustries.com. Some of it is preliminary, but I'm working on that.
Probably not without substantial hacking (which can be a good thing). I guess I should make it clear that I didn't set out to create another Arduino. Their shields are designed to be used with a single, specific family of processors which runs counter to my design methodology. I wanted users to be able to create very small, very cheap add-ons that don't take up lots of space and it just wouldn't happen with an Arduino sized shield layout.
Additionally, the size of an Ardunio shield makes it incompatible with the layout of BoardX. They just wouldn't fit. That doesn't mean somebody couldn't make an adapter board if there's an arduino shield that somebody simply must have, but it's not in the works on my end.
I liked Arduino's software so it's compatible with that, but that's where the similarities end and I tried to set BoardX apart.
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