Balena Introduces DIN-Capable Pi Compute Module Carrier Board

Although you don’t hear about it very much over the clamor of emulating old video game systems, one of the biggest uses of the Raspberry Pi outside its educational roots is in industry. The Pi makes for a great industrial control system, and if you mount it to a DIN rail, you’re golden. This is the biggest reason the Pi foundation is still making the Pi 1, and it’s one of the big motivations behind the Pi Compute Module.

Now that the Pi Compute Module 3 and 3+ have been out for a while, it’s only fitting that these modules get a great carrier board. The balenaFin 1.1 is out now, and it’s the perfect carrier board for the Pi compute module.

Balena (formerly resin.io) is a software stack designed for managing fleets of Linux devices, and there’s no better example of that than a factory filled with Pis fiddling relays and such. Balena has found its way from tracking sea turtles to monitoring oil rigs, and with that comes a need for a developer kit. The Pi compute module is supposed to have a very long support life, so the obvious solution is to make a great carrier board for this fantastic module.

Features of note include two camera connectors, PoE (with a Hat), USB headers, an RGB indicator LED, an industrial temperature range, and a case designed for a DIN rail. So far, so goo, but there’s also a microcontroller with a Bluetooth radio that can operate without the compute module being turned on, and an RTC for time-based operation. There’s a mini PCI express slot designed for cellular modems, and a SIM card slot just for fun.

While most Pi builds we see could make use of these features, they are assuredly one-off builds. You’re not going to be deploying hundreds of Pis if you need to 3D print an enclosure for each one. That’s when actual engineers need to get involved, and if you’re doing that, you might as well go with the Raspberry Pi compute module. If you’re looking for a fleet of Pis, you could do worse than to look at this very nice compute module carrier board.

17 thoughts on “Balena Introduces DIN-Capable Pi Compute Module Carrier Board

    1. I used a Linux PC to buy every Raspberry Pi I own. In fact, for well over 10 years, the only Windows I use at home is a VM that runs at most a few hours per year.

      The attraction of a Pi is the low cost. As such, it makes a very affordable 1080p HTPC if very casual/retro gaming is sufficient. (I would like to see the next Raspberry Pi with 4K playback and at least 2GB RAM, in order to be a great 4K HTPC for those who don’t want to build a Ryzen APU machine.)

      1. For something that could be replaced with a 3d printed case? I would say anything more than $25 is going to be targeted at suckers only (schools and very stupid engineers working in industry).
        This unit offers very little functionality over buying a generic model 3+ board, as far as I can tell all you get is a 6-24v input power supply (although they suggest just plugging in the stock poe board to power it, in which case the power supply is worthless), pads for eMMC flash to replace the SD card, RGB led, and real time clock.

        When you consider that just the compute module costs more than a model B, unless this board has some kind of functionality that a hat on a model b couldn’t give you it will never be worth it.

  1. Sigh. I know it is deeply unfashionable and I will be howled down, but deploying a Pi based solution for industrial automation is probably not a great idea in the longer term. The issue is maintenance and as I work in industrial automation maintenance, I know something of this. No plant where I work employs an engineer full time, but they do employ electricians – because they are cheaper and (arguably) more versitile on a factory floor. Many, many electricians know how to fault find and program using IEC 61131-3 standard programming languages “ladder”, Function Block Diagrams and Sequencial Function Charts and these schemes are specifically designed to be easy for electricians to use for fault finding and to use for changing the machine functionality. Far fewer tradies understand Structured Text or Instruction Lists well enough to program their own fault finding tools and I would argue almost none will know a low level programming language like C or have experience with the software tools needed to fault find or modify a linus based system. The shine of the relatively low cost pi based control system running a production line wears off pretty quickly when the factory management realises none of their technical staff can fault find or repair it and they are either locked to the developer for maintenance and functional modification or must obtain the relatively expensive services of a specalised engineer.
    Flame war starts now…

    1. +1. And to add to that, you want reliable operation ffom an industry controller. For a vehicle gate controller, not a big deal, but in a production line, if the thing decides do coredump, it would be a very big hassle.

      But for an industry that really decides to use it, that Pi arrangement could be useful, but with the price, they should have arranged for a PoE solution in the same board, not needing to use a hat. Also, i would prefer all the components in the same side of the board, to simplify maintenance.

    2. Another +1. I work in the automation industry and would only ever use a pi for things like driving a TV display for OEE reporting, etc. FYI: Codesys 3 supports deploying all 61131 languages on a pi.

    3. I have done it with some level of success. It was not a raspberry but one of the other pi style devices. It was very handy during prototyping and setup. Later it was replaced with a ‘real’ industrial controller when the functionality and algorithms were finalized.

  2. “You’re not going to be deploying hundreds of Pis if you need to 3D print an enclosure for each one.”
    If only there where companies that could print, clean-up, inspect, package and deliver hundreds of copies to you.

  3. there is so many companies that use this SODIMM format, but you think they are all compatible? no no, all have to use their own type of carrier board, all wired differently, you’d think that using SODIMM, they’d use the JEDEC standards with at least the power, so if i was a silly boy and stab one of these into a laptop, it wont just go up in smoke..

  4. So this is a carrier board which takes the version of the Pi without USB, Ethernet and header pins and adds back the USB, ethernet and header pins? I’m 100% missing something here because this seems entirely pointless.
    If it’s a “dev kit” for developing stuff to run on a compute module, why not do that on a regular Pi?
    If it’s to add external connectivity to the compute module, why use the compute module in the first place? Just use a Zero W or a full fat Pi which already has those things.

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