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Hackable SODIMM-style ARM9 COM has onboard display

May 16, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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Crystalfontz America has announced availability of an SODIMM-style COM (computer-on-module) with an optional onboard 128 x 32-pixel OLED display. The tiny CFA10036x module is built around Freescale’s 454MHz ARM9-based i.MX28x SOC (system-on-chip), includes 128MB or 256MB of RAM, and houses its open-source embedded Linux OS in a microSD slot.

We’re used to hearing about Kickstarter winners, but there are plenty of losers, too — and it’s not always the end of the game. OEM display manufacturer Crystalfontz America raised about a third of its Kickstarter project’s $30,000 goal when the funding period ended on Feb. 16. Yet, the project attracted enough interest among Crystalfontz’s own customers that it decided to move forward with production on its own dime.



Crystalfontz COM with/without its OLED display
(click images to enlarge)

 

The ultra hackable open-source Linux module, which is available with full schematics, differs from most COMs in that it offers several hacker-friendly features: an optional, tiny display for status and debugging, and a microSD slot instead of soldered flash. The microSD storage “opens up fantastic user data and logging possibilities,” according to the project’s entertaining and in-depth Kickstarter page. In addition, the module provides an onboard micro-USB port, offering direct access to the file system and command terminals via a USB cable.

The 68 x 42mm CFA10036 is equipped with an ARM9-based, 454MHz i.MX28x SOC (system-on-chip) from Freescale. The CFA100365 uses the i.MX283 processor while the CFA-100366 uses a more I/O-rich i.MX287.



Freescale i.MX28x SOC block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

 

The i.MX287 chip enables the CFA-100366 to add a second 10/100 Ethernet port, dual CANBus ports, S/PDIF, an L2 switch, and additional GPIO (126, up from 91). Each COM version is also available without the plug-in, 128 x 32-pixel OLED display, with the CFA100361 and CFA100362 models respectively.

The CFA10036 is available with 128MB or 256MB of DDR2 RAM, although the CFA100366 and CFA100362 come standard with 256MB. Aside from the onboard microSD and micro-USB connections, all other I/O is expressed via a 200-pin SODIMM connector to a carrier board, such as the optional CFA10037. The module’s I/O includes one or two Ethernet ports, four serial ports, and a USB 2.0 host interface, among many other peripherals.

The COMs are also offered as part of a pair of development kits, shown below.



COM development kits with/without TFT touchscreen option
(click images to enlarge)

 

The development kits include either the i.MX287 or i.MX283-based COM (equipped with the onboard OLED display) and a development baseboard, which offers convenient access to all of the COM’s I/O connections by virtue of a prototyping area with a pattern of holes on 0.1-inch centers. The baseboard also provides mounting holes for an optional add-on color TFT touchscreen (shown above).

“We made a set of holes that line up with shields designed for an Arduino Uno R3,” says the company. “By using 0.1-center headers and socketed hook-up wire, you can connect any of the pins on the CFA10036 to any location on the prototype area.”
 

Summary of specifications

Specifications listed for the CFA10036 include:

  • Processor — Freescale ARM9, 454MHz i.MX283 (CFA100365 and CFA100361) or i.MX287 (CFA100366 and CFA100362); each with 16k I-cache and 32K D-cache
  • RAM — 128MB, upgradable to 256MB DDR2 (CFA100365 and CFA100361) or 256MB DDR2 (CFA100366 and CFA100362)
  • Flash — microSD slot supporting up to 64GB
  • Display — optional 128 x 32 Crystalfontz “CFAL12832D-B” monochrome passive OLED display (22.4 x 5.6mm)
  • Onboard I/O — micro-USB 2.0 OTG port
  • Other I/O (via SODIMM connector):
    • 10/100 Ethernet (2x Ethernet on CFA100366/CFA100362)
    • USB 2.0 host
    • 4x synchronous serial
    • 2x CAN (only on CFA100366/CFA100362)
    • 5x UART plus debug UART
    • 2x I2C (1x shared by OLED)
    • LCD, keypad, rotary encoder interfaces
    • 4x 32-bit timers; RTC
    • 8x PWM
    • 5x 12-bit 428KS/s ADC
    • 12-bit 2MS/s ADC
    • 91x GPIO (CFA100365 and CFA100361) or 126x GPIO (CFA100366/CFA100362)
  • Power — 5v supply needed (3.3v/1.8v/1.5v supplies internally generated)
  • Dimensions — 67.6 x 41.8mm; 289-ball BGA 17×17 grid on 0.8mm pitch
  • Operating system — Linux

 

Further information

The CFA10036x COMs appear to be available now in a variety of configurations, with single-unit prices ranging from $76 to $100, depending on procesor (i.MX283 or i.MX287) and whether the optional onboard OLED display is included. The development kits, which include the COMs, their on-board OLED displays, and prototyping baseboards, are listed at $165 and $199 for the i.MX283 and i.MX287 versions. For further information, visit the Crystalfontz CFA10036 web page.
 

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