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Robotics savvy BeagleBone Blue SBC turns on the servos

Mar 14, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 2,111 views
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BeagleBoard.org’s $80 “BeagleBone Blue” robotics SBC runs Debian on an Octavo SiP, and adds motion control and battery friendly power to the BB Black.

BeagleBoard.org first showed off a prototype of its robotics-targeted, community backed BeagleBone Blue back in Jan. 2016. The BeagleBone Black spin-off was designed and developed in coordination with the UCSD Coordinated Robotics Lab, and has been tested by hundreds of students. BeagleBoard.org has now launched the open-spec, Linux-driven SBC with Arrow, Element14, and Mouser offering prices ranging from $80 to $82.



BeagleBone Blue
(click image to enlarge)

The BeagleBone Blue has largely retained the specs of the prototype with one major exception. The TI Sitara AM3358 SoC, which is also found on the BeagleBone Black, has been replaced with the same Octavo Systems OSD3358 SiP (system-in-package) module used on the BeagleBone Black Wireless.


The chip-like OSD3358 is roughly the size of a quarter
(click images to enlarge)

The OSD3358 SiP integrates a the 1GHz Cortex-A8 AM3358 SoC along with a TI TPS65217C PMIC, TI TL5209 LDO (low-drop-out) regulator, 512MB DDR3 RAM, and over 140 passives devices including resistors, capacitors, and inductors, within a single BGA package. SiP’s cost more than SoCs, but they simplify PCB layout and reduce the number of components required by an SBC design, thereby reducing risks and accelerating custom embedded development.

With its SiP processor, lack of Ethernet, and TI WiLink 8 WL1835MOD module with WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 LE, the BeagleBlue Blue is like a BeagleBone Black Wireless with additional motor control and battery support. For motor control, you get 4-amp regulated, PWM-driven 8x servo and 4x DC motor outputs, as well as 4x quad encoder inputs. There’s also a 9 axis IMU and a barometer. The other key feature for robotics is the 2-cell (2S) LiPo battery connector and 9-18V charger input.



BeagleBone Blue detail view
(click image to enlarge)

Otherwise, you’ll find mostly familiar BeagleBone Black features like 4GB eMMC, a microSD slot, micro-USB client and USB 2.0 host ports, and a wide range of onboard interfaces ranging from the usual ADC and CAN interfaces to new GPS and DSM2 radio links. You also get plenty of user LEDs and buttons to play with.

The Octavo SiP presumably offers the same PowerVR GPU found on the BeagleBone Black Wireless, but there are no graphics or audio interfaces. In her Arrow blog announcement, Laura Hughes writes “A little digging should yield a USB camera with a good Linux driver.” She adds: “You can also connect a TFT display via SPI for simple printouts.”



BeagleBone Blue bot built at UCSD (left) and BeagleBoard.org’s Jason Kridner shows off a connected BB Blue on YouTube.
(click images to enlarge)

The Arrow product and shopping page offers a wide range of Adafruit robotics add-ons, including motors, batteries, power supplies, displays, and various chassis, wheel, and encoder options. Other accessories include cable sub-assemblies, servo motors, USB cameras, and a GPS breakout.

The BeagleBone Blue runs a Debian distribution that uses a real-time Linux kernel, and it also supports Ubuntu Core (“Snappy”). The board can be further developed with robotic-specific platforms like ROS and ArduPilot, and you can build GUIs with the Cloud9 IDE on NodeJS with BoneScript.

Specs listed for the BeagleBone Blue include:

  • Processor — Octavo OSD3358 SiP with TI Sitara AM3358 @ 1GHz with 2x 32-bit 200MHz PRU MCUs
  • Memory/storage — 512MB DDR3 RAM (on SiP); 4GB eMMC flash; microSD slot
  • Wireless — 802.11bgn (2.4GHz) and Bluetooth 4.1 BLE via TI WiLink 1835; ext. antennas; GPS and DSM2 radio interfaces
  • Motor control:
    • 8x 6V servo out (4A reg.)
    • 4x DC motor out (4A reg.)
    • 4x quad encoder inputs
  • Sensors — 9 axis IMU; barometer
  • Other I/O:
    • Micro-USB 2.0 client port with power support
    • USB 2.0 host port
    • 6x UARTs
    • 8x GPIOs
    • 2x SPI
    • 4x ADC
    • CAN, I2C
  • Other features — Power, reset, boot, and 2x user buttons; 11x configurable LEDs; power and charger LEDs; JTAG
  • Power — 2-cell (2S) LiPo battery JST-XH connector with balancing; 9-18V DC jack; micro-USB
  • Operating system — Debian with real-time kernel; optional Ubuntu Core; supports ROS, ArduPilot, Cloud9 IDE on NodeJS




Jason Kridner shows off BeagleBone Blue and its many bot babies

 
Further information

The BeagleBone Blue is available at various locations where you can also find detailed product information. In the U.S., these include Arrow ($79.94), Element14 ($79.95), and Mouser ($82). More information, as well as links to GitHub Eagle schematics and other open source materials, are available on BeagleBoard.org’s BeagleBone Blue page.
 

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