A few decades ago, computers were big, clunky boxes that were full of discrete electronics, daughter boards and expansion slots. Miniaturisation brought us to a slimmer, sleeker form factor but only further increased production costs from an already high starting point. As hobbyist projects moved away from the analog into the digital realm, a need for low-cost, almost “throwaway” computing platforms started being obvious. The ﬁrst Raspberry Pi computer that hit the market (simply named the “Raspberry Pi Model B”) released in early 2012, using an ARM11-based core. Since then, we’ve moved away from now two-decades old ARM11 CPUs and onto modern ARM-A series chipsets.
The second SBC we have our hands on in this release is an interesting one. Hauling from China’s SINOVOIP is the Banana Pi M5. The Banana Pi lineup has been a trusted mainstay of the SBC industry for many years now, competing with the popular Raspberry Pi computers. Even though the latter of the two is wildly more popular, Banana Pi models have remained relevant by providing multiple unique features not present elsewhere, making them the best computers for some projects. Banana Pi’s oﬀering is also signiﬁcantly more diverse than that of most other manufacturers.
Greeting us in the package we got sent, free of charge, by the manufacturer was a blue cardboard box with the model name marked on the back. The insides were also pretty simple – with the computer and not much else in there. Taking a closer look at the board, we see a lot of interesting hardware – an AMLogic S905X3 SoC (4 x A55 cores @ 2.0 GHz, Mali G31 MP2 GPU) , 4 GB of RAM, 16 GB of on-board ﬂash storage and a Realtek ethernet controller capable of 1 Gbps ethernet.
While the hardware itself has some unique features (the aforementioned 16 GB ﬂash storage), the IO selection is even more surprising. There are four USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI connector, a 1 Gbps ethernet jack, a combined A/V 3.5mm barrel jack, a Pi-compatible 40-pin header, a three-pin TX/RX data connector (no PoE HAT connections, though), a USB-C connector running at USB
2.0 speeds (sadly, not a full-featured connector, and as such no USB PD standard here), four switches, a microSD card reader and an IR receiver.
Another year has rolled around and there are new exciting Raspberry Pi products coming out on the market. Most of them are about what you’d expect – reﬁnements and new form factors of the already established Raspberry Pi series of SBCs. We’ve already reviewed one of their newer models – the Raspberry Pi 4B computer in one of our previous issues. But now, the company seems to be dipping its toes into a new product segment that’s long since been dominated by Arduino and TI. MCU development boards have traditionally existed alongside single-board computers with little competition between the two ﬁelds. With the Raspberry Pi Pico, a microcontroller development kit from Raspberry Pi, we might be seeing the start of a new chapter for this market.
With that being said, let’s move on to the review. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has once again kindly provided us with review units of the product in question. The package we received was an envelope with a few of these tiny boards packed in carrier tape. This was surprising, but extremely clever. The packaging costs must have been shrunk to the absolute bare minimum (which we wholeheartedly welcome) to allow for the board’s minuscule $4 price tag. This makes it one of the cheapest development systems available today, but it still managed to punch far above its price class – we’ve seen features here that are absent on systems orders of magnitude more expensive. (On second though, is that not exactly what Raspberry Pi did with their original SBC models?)
After the unboxing (erm… unpacking?) experience, we were greeted with, or should we say, a lack of header pins. This, though, had been quickly overcome with a soldering iron and a tad of patience, and not even a full ten minutes later we had a set-up Pico ready to use on a breadboard! As a side note here, the soldering process was really a breeze, and the copper pads on the PCB were very high quality, so we feel like even beginners could add pin-headers on their board.
Elesa+Ganter has long been market leader also in the use of reinforced technopolymer (SUPER-Technopolymer) for robust industrial applications and specialised environments, among the other metal materials.
SUPER-Technopolymers represent the most recent and advanced development in engineering of polymeric materials. Thanks to the presence of high percentages of glass fibre linked to the base polymer with suitable primers and / or the presence of aramid synthetic fibre, SUPER-Technopolymers are characterized by mechanical and thermal properties far superior to the traditional polymers.
Electrical measurement equipment is an expensive category for many educational institutions. While a single lab workspace is simple and relatively inexpensive to set up with a full set of tools, problems arise when a course calls for a large number of identical workbenches. For many schools, the cost alone will present a major issue, but for even more, the space required for such a setup is simply too large, providing major logistical obstacles.
Digilent attempted to solve most of these issues with their Analog Discovery Studio – a portable prototyping platform based on their popular Analog Discovery 2 USB oscilloscope. In fact, the measurement capabilities of both devices are identical. Where the Analog Discovery Studio shines, though, is in the academia-oriented additions to the Analog Discovery 2 make the Studio a superior device in terms of convenience.
We’d like to take some time here and thank Digilent for sending in a review unit of the Analog Discovery Studio free of charge. On the other hand, this is not a sponsored review and all of the opinions here are our own.
At $599 ($649 for a kit that also includes oscilloscope probes and BNC hook-up cables for the waveform generator), the Studio is competitively priced, providing a wide variety of instruments for much less than their traditional benchtop or rackmount counterparts. The main instruments is offers are a dual-channel oscilloscope, a dual-channel waveform generator, as well as a 16-channel logic analyser. There’s also a pair of variable power supplies along with three fixed ones, as well as instruments that share some of the the inputs/circuitry of others, like the network and impedance analysers which combine the oscilloscope and waveform generator instruments or the voltmeter which uses the oscilloscope inputs.The system is simple to connect and get started with, utilising a USB cable for computer communication, and a supplied barrel-jack power adapter for powering the instruments. The two cables are all the system needs, reducing workspace clutter by a considerable amount compared to a more traditional setup.
LED lighting has become the industry standard, both for commercial and personal use due to its rapidly declining manufacturing costs and high energy efficiency. The long service life of these lamps and the low maintenance they require also made them a favourite between businesses.
Today, we’ve got our hands on the ‘LED it grow’ kit by Würth Elektronik. The kit focuses on Würth’s new horticulture range of visible-light LEDs, and contains the LEDs mounted on heat-spreading panels, as well as the power supply unit based on MagI3C buck regulators (the power supply features 4 channels, with one Magi3C chip per channel).
Our kit has been donated to us by Würth Elektrik, free of charge, for which we are thankful. This did not cause any bias in this review. We will be handing down the kit to a local educational institution for further lab work and tests, as well as for supporting the young and aspiring engineers.
The kit comes packed in an attractive box, with the installation steps printed on the lid, and all components laid out cleanly. After minimal assembly (quite literally – it’s down to a dozen screws and ten cables total), the entire kit comes together and is ready to use with the included power supply. The kit also comes with a simple, but effective heatsink that can be attached to the back of the metal LED carrying plate.
The kit comes with two main sets of LEDs that cannot be used simultaneously. The first, and arguably, the less important one is the set of two plates of RGBW LEDs, with 4 diodes each (one red, one green, one blue and one white LED per plate). These two can be daisy-chained and then controlled via the iOS app.
Pickering’s new 120 Series relays have an exceptionally small footprint, with 20 watts of switching power and 3, 5 or 12 Volt coils are the smallest relays of such performance on the market. With a 2mm by 2mm base, they are almost four times smaller than Pickering’s own 110 series.
Continuing our series on single-board computers, we’ve come across a new contender on the market. LattePanda is not a new name in this field, with the original LattePanda debuting way back in 2016. Since then, the brand made a name for itself by being the first x86-based commercially available single-board computer.
The pneumatically actuated robot quick-change system SCHUNK SWS-046 allows fast and process-reliable change of different gripping systems and tools at the front end. With its four optional module attachment surfaces, it offers a wealth of options for supplying the connected pneumatic, hydraulic or electric effector.
EasyE4 has a simple, efficient and flexible control system adapted for use in industrial environments and buildings. In addition, it is significantly more compact than the easy500, easy700, and easy800 it replaces.
About a month ago, we’ve gotten our hands on another prominent SBC: the RockPro64. Here are our thoughts and opinions on this piece of hardware, as well as several accessories for it.
The single-acting clamping module SCHUNK VERO-S NSE3 138-V4 increases the flexibility in clamping pallets with just one clamping pin: While the pallet alignment on conventional single clamping modules, which are equipped with an anti-twist protection is precisely defined, pallets on the VERO-S NSE3 138-V4 can be rotated in 90° increments.
Robot-guided palletizing systems are an efficient way of increasing the flexibility of machine tools. They help minimizing machine downtime during the production of individual pieces and small series…
The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B came out a few weeks ago, and it brings a major leap forward in general usability and performance compared to its predecessors. The previous major revision of the board, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ paved the way towards a viable desktop replacement, but just wasn’t quite there, whereas the new model promises to finally reach the aforementioned goal of every single-board computer out there – to get onto your desks as a complete alternative to a standard PC.
The new long-arm ARC Mate 100iD/10L welding robot has arrived. One of the latest additions to FANUC’s extensive range of welding solutions, the ARC Mate 100iD/10L robot offers customers a bigger working envelope combined with outstanding axes speed and ultimate precision.
Producing a variety of beverages in glass and PET bottles, cans and cartons, PepsiCo partner SMLC is Lebanon’s biggest beverage bottling company. The implementation of a line management system based on zenon software from COPA-DATA put an end to manual data entry, providing comprehensive information for efficient filling operations
Mersen is launching a brand-new Modulostar® fuse-disconnector for applications with power cylindrical low voltage fuses.
Raspberry Pi today launches its next-generation Raspberry Pi 4, a significantly faster and more capable version of the popular industrial single-board computer. Starting at only $35, it will…