CircuitCo debuted an HDMI- and flash-free OEM version of the BeagleBone Black called the “BlueSteel-Basic,” to be followed by industrial and COM versions.
Over the past year, a number of traditional single board computer vendors have introduced community-backed, open spec SBCs. Now we’re seeing a reverse migration, first with the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s OEM-focused Raspberry Pi Compute Module computer-on-module (COM), and now with a series of new BeagleBone varieties. This week, long-time BeagleBone manufacturer CircuitCo is launching its BlueSteel-Basic SBC for $55 in single units. A “BlueSteel-IT” (industrial temperature) version and “BlueSteel-Core” COM version are in pre-production, and due to ship later this summer, with pricing to be decided.
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The BeagleBone platform is of particular interest in embedded automation, thanks to the richness of industrial I/O found in its TI Sitara AM3359 SoC. The BlueSteel-Basic is essentially identical to the BeagleBone Black except it’s missing the community-backed model’s micro-HDMI port and eMMC flash: 2GB in the original $45 Rev B version and 4GB in the newly released, $55 Rev C version.
In other words, the BlueSteel-Basic harkens back to the original BeagleBone White. Yet it still has all the other BeagleBone Black attributes, primarily a faster 800MHz Texas Instruments Sitara AM3359 SoC, and a doubling of the RAM to 512MB.
BlueSteel-Basic vs. other BeagleBone models
|Flash||microSD||4GB eMMC, microSD||microSD|
|On-board JTAG||Yes, via USB||Optional||Optional|
|Serial||via USB||via header||via header|
|Power exp. hdr.||Yes||No||No|
|Power||5VDC @ 300-500mA||5VDC @ 210-460mA||TBD|
Like the BeagleBone Black, the BlueSteel-Basic measures 3.4 x 2.1 inches and features USB 2.0 host and mini-USB 2.0 client ports, as well as a microSD slot. It also offers dual 46-pin connectors and supports any capes that are compatible with the BeagleBone Black. Both SBCs can run Android, but are best suited for Linux.
Bluesteel-Basic top and bottom views
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Meeting the needs of OEMs
According to Dave Anders, Senior Embedded Engineer at CircuitCo, some OEMs that had developed products based on the original BeagleBone version (aka “BeagleBone White”) had trouble migrating their designs to the BeagleBone Black. “On the BeagleBone Black, some of the expansion header signals were used to add the eMMC and HDMI, and because the manufacturers’ original designs used all of the signals on the expansion header, there were functionality conflicts,” said Anders in an email. “Some even used a hot air rework station to remove the eMMC and HDMI. With BlueSteel-Basic, they can use all of the signals on the expansion headers, while still enjoying the faster processor and additional memory.”
The BluetSteel-IT and BlueSteel-Core are also based on the BeagleBone Black. The IT version offers an industrial temperature range of -40 to 100°C, and advances from 10/100 to gigabit Ethernet. The BlueSteel-Core is a COM without real-world ports, expressing all I/O via connectors. According to Anders, CircuitCo is also considering expanding the BlueSteel line to encompass other processors.
There is no involvement by BeagleBoard.org in the BlueSteel line, says Anders. Like the BeagleBone Black, the BlueSteel-Basic, IT, and Core designs are open source boards, licensed with the same CC-BY-SA (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike. However, they are not backed by a community project, and they are free of BeagleBoard.org’s restrictions on commercial usage.
“We plan to make sure that the IT and Core will be as close as possible software-wise … to the BeagleBone Black,” said Anders. “In addition, we are in active discussions with a number of third-party value added software vendors that currently provide AM335x SDKs, to … provide support for BlueSteel.”
The BlueSteel-Basic is actually the second OEM-targeted BeagleBone product, following the recent release of the Element 14/Embest variant of the BeagleBone Black, which is resold by Logic Supply. Unlike the BlueSteel, this is a straight-ahead clone, complete with HDMI and flash.
When BeagleBoard.org announced the Rev C version, the project said it was not only using the $10 price hike to help CircuitCo expand production to make up for surging demand, but it was also expanding production to Premier Farnell’s Element14, which is the first licensee in a new BeagleBoard Compliant logo program. Element14, which also manufactures the Raspberry Pi, and Raspberry Pi Compute Module, is paying a small royalty to the BeagleBoard.org Foundation in exchange for the logo.
Element14’s Embest subsidiary, which also offers hacker boards including its own Freescale i.MX6-based MarS Board, has been making BeagleBone Black replicas for the China market since the product launch a year ago. Embest’s logo compliant boards that ship in the U.S. will be sold under the Element14 brand.
The BlueSteel-Basic is available for pre-order now at $55, with discounts available for volume purchases. Shipments are said to begin June 30. The BlueSteel-IT and BlueSteel-Core will go on sale later this summer. More information may be found at CircuitCo’s BlueSteel-Basic product page, as well as this BlueSteel-Basic wiki.