Turning The Beaglebone On A Chip Into A 3D Printer Controller

It’s understood that 3D printers and CNC machines need to control motors, but there are a few other niceties that are always good to have. It would be great if the controller board ran Linux, had support for a nice display, and had some sort of networking. The usual way of going about this is either driving a CNC machine from a desktop, or by adding a Raspberry Pi to a 3D printer.

The best solution to this problem is to just drive everything from a BeagleBone. This will give you Linux, and with a few motor drivers you can have access to the fancy PRUs in the BeagleBone giving you fast precise control. For the last few years, the Replicape has been the board you need to plug a BeagleBone into a few motors. Now, there’s a better, cheaper solution. At the Midwest RepRap Festival this weekend, [Elias Bakken] has unveiled the Revolve, a single board that combines Octavo Systems’ OSD3358 ‘BeagleBone On A Chip’ with silent TMC2130 motor drivers from Trinamic. It’s an all-in-one 3D printer controller board that runs Linux.

The specs for the Revolve are more or less exactly what you would expect for a BeagleBone with a 3D printer controller. The main chip is the Octavo Systems OSB3358, there are six TMC2130 stepper drivers from Trinamic connected directly to the PRUs, 4 GB of eMMC, 4 USB host ports, 10/100 Ethernet, 1080p HDMI out, and enough headers for all the weird and wonderful 3D printers out there. The software is based on Redeem, a daemon that simply turns G-code into spinning motors and switching MOSFETs.

The price hasn’t been set, but [Elias] expects it to be somewhere north of $100, and a bit south of $150. That’s not bad for a board that effectively does everything from online printer monitoring to real-time motion control. There’s no date for the release of this board, but as with most things involving 3D printer, the best place to check for updates is Google+.

The Tiny, $25 PocketBeagle

It was announced a day or two ago, but now the PocketBeagle has made its first real-world appearance at the World Maker Faire in New York this weekend. This is a tiny, tiny Linux computer that’s small enough to fit on a keychain, or in an Altoids mini tin. It’s only $25 USD, and from the stock lists on Mouser and Digikey, there are plenty to go around.

The specs for the PocketBeagle are more or less exactly what you would expect from any BeagleBone. There’s an ARM Cortex-A8 running at 1GHz, 512 MB of RAM, and SD card storage. I/O is eight analog inputs, up to 44 digital GPIOs, up to 3 UARTs, 2 I2C busses, 2 SPI busses, and 4 PWM outputs. All of this is packed into the OSD3358 System on a Chip from Octavo Systems.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Octavo Systems’ ‘BeagleBone on a Chip’ — Before the release, head Beagle herder [Jason Kridner] built a PocketBone in Eagle, which was shortly followed by [Michael Welling]’s similar efforts in KiCad. The PocketBeagle has been a reality for months, but now it’s accessible to hackers who don’t want to deal with soldering BGA packages.

This version of the PocketBeagle is getting close to as Open Source as you can get, with the design files available in Eagle and KiCad. One interesting feature of the PocketBeagle is which pins, busses, and peripherals are enabled by default. The killer feature of the BeagleBone has always been the PRUs — programmable real-time units — that enable vast arrays of LEDs, fast steppers for CNC machines, and DMA tomfoolery. The pins for the PRUs on the PocketBeagle are set up by default, with no need to screw around with configurations, modules, or drivers.

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An Even Smaller BeagleBone

The BeagleBone famously fits in an Altoids tin. Even though we now have BeagleBone Blacks, Blues, and Greens, the form factor for this curiously strong Linux board has remained unchanged, and able to fit inside a project box available at every cash register on the planet. There is another Altoids tin, though. The Altoid mini tin is just over 60×40 mm, and much too small to fit a normal size BeagleBone. [Michael Welling] has designed a new BeagleBone to fit this miniature project box. He’s calling it the Pocketbone, and it’s as small as the mints are strong.

The Pocketbone is based on the Octavo Systems OSD355x family, better known as the ‘BeagleBone on a chip’. This chip features a TI AM355x ARM Cortex A8, up to 1GB of DDR3 RAM, 114 GPIOs, 6 UARTs, 2 SPIs, 2x Gigabit Ethernet, and USB. It’s housed in a relatively large BGA package that makes routing easy, and as a proof of concept [Jason Kridner] built a PocketBone in Eagle.

[Michael]’s version of the Pocketbone is based on the earlier proof of concept, with a few handy additions. There’s an IO expansion header, provisions for a battery input, a few fixes to the USB, and all the parts are on one side of the board facilitating easier assembly. This version of the Pocketbone was created using KiCad, which will endear the project to the Open Source community.

Hackaday Links: February 19, 2017

The ESP-32 is the Next Big Chip. This tiny microcontroller with WiFi and Bluetooth is the brains of the GameBoy on your keychain, emulates an NES, and does Arduino. There are ESP32 modules that are somewhat easy to acquire, but so far the bare chips have been unobtanium. Now you can buy them. One supplier has them for $3.60 USD/piece. That’s a lot of computational power, WiFi, and Bluetooth for not much money. What are you going to build?

What is the power of artisanal product videos? The argument for this trend cites [Claude C. Hopkins] and how he told consumers what no one else would tell them. In other words, if you and your competitors have product designers working on the enclosure, tell the consumer you have product designers working on the enclosure before your competitors do coughapplecough. In other words, marketing your product as ‘artisanal’ is simply telling consumers what all products in your market do, and this type of advertising is the easiest to create. See also: music with whistling, clapping, a ukulele, and a Fisher Price xylophone – it’s popular because it’s very easy to make.

Over on hackaday.io, [Michael Welling] is stuffing a BeagleBone in one of those mini Altoids tins. This build is based on the Octavo Systems OSD3358, otherwise known as the BeagleBone on a Chip. This is an absurdly small build, but surprisingly something we’ve seen before. Before the Octavo chip was released, [Jason Kridner] built a mini BeagleBone breakout for this chip in the mini Altoids form factor. [Jason] did it in Eagle, [Michael] is doing it in KiCad. Awesome work, and just what you need if you want Linux in your pocket.

Every month or so, Hackaday (or at least the Hackaday Overlords) hold events in LA, NYC, and San Francisco. These events are free, there’s usually pizza, and there’s always a speaker or two giving a talk on a very interesting topic. Waaaaaay back in July, we had the monthly Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic meetup in SF, with two great talks. [Jason Cerundulo], a CastAR engineer gave a talk about various ways of driving a LED. [Werner Johansson], a former Sony designer, talked about software-defined power supplies. There’s mention of a ‘transverter design’ which sounds like excellent Berman-era Trek technobabble but is really a power converter without a transformer. Both of these talks can be seen below.

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New Part Day: Wireless BeagleBones On A Chip

The BeagleBone is a very popular single board computer, best applied to real-time applications where you need to blink LEDs really, really fast. Over the years, the BeagleBone has been used for stand-alone CNC controllers, the brains behind very large LED installations, and on rare occasions has been used to drive CRTs. If you just want a small Linux board, get a Pi. If you want to do something interesting with hardware, get a BeagleBone.

The BeagleBone ecosystem has grown a lot in the last year, from the wireless and Grove connector equipped BeagleBone Green, the robotics-focused BeagleBone Blue, the Zoolander-inspired Blue Steel. Now there’s a new BeagleBone, built around a very interesting System on Module introduced earlier this year.

The new board is called the BeagleBone Black Wireless, and it brings to the table all you know and love about the BeagleBone. There’s a 1GHz ARM355x with two 32-bit 200MHz PRUs for the real-time pin toggling. RAM is set at 512MB, with 4GB of eMMC Flash and Debian pre-installed, and a microSD card for larger storage options. The new feature is wireless connectivity: a TI WiFi and Bluetooth module with provisions for 802.11s replaces the old Ethernet connector.

Taken at face value, the new BeagleBone Black Wireless deserves a mention — it’s a BeagleBone with wireless — but isn’t particularly noteworthy. But when you get to the gigantic brick of resin dropped squarely in the middle of the board does the latest device in the BeagleBone family become very, very interesting. The System on Module for this version of the BeagleBone is the BeagleBone On A Chip released a few months ago. The Octavo Systems OSD335x is, quite literally, a BeagleBone on a chip. It’s a BGA with big balls, making it solderable with hand-applied solder paste and a toaster oven reflow conversion. In fact, the BeagleBone Wireless was designed by [Jason Kridner] in Eagle as a 6-layer board. It’s still a bit beyond the standard capabilities of OSHPark, but the design can still be cut down, and shows how this BeagleBone on a Chip can be applied to other Open Hardware projects.