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Web service spins custom Linux-friendly SBCs

Aug 1, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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[Updated Aug. 5] — Gumstix unveiled a major expansion of its Geppetto drag-and-drop custom embedded board design platform. In addition to supporting the design of custom baseboards for Gumstix’s Overo computer-on-modules, the browser-based service now lets customers create custom Linux-compatible SBCs based on the TI Sitara AM3354 SoC and receive assembled boards within three weeks.

Announced in February, the Gumstix Geppetto service won’t go online until Aug. 29, but a trial version is already available. In May, the company used Geppetto to design its own new Overo-based Alto35 baseboard.



Typical Geppetto design, as modeled using the online platform

 

Geppetto is a web-browser based service that lets customers design and order a custom baseboard or SBC using a Chrome-optimized online GUI. Users can choose the size of the board, and delineate which CPU modules, components, and I/O to include.

Initially, the service was announced as supporting only Gumstix’s own array of Overo computer-on-modules (COMs), based on various OMAP35x SoCs from Texas Instruments, but now the company is adding at least one individual SoC to the program: TI’s Sitara AM3354.

Like the OMAP35x, the industrial-focused Sitara AM335x processors are single-core Cortex-A8 SoCs. The low-cost, industrial-focused SoCs have been featured in COMs including CompuLab’s CM-T335 and DAVE’s Diva.

The AM3354 SoC, clocked by Gumstix to its current maximum of 720MHz and paired with 256MB of DDR2 RAM, supplies an OpenGL-ready PowerVR SGX530 GPU supporting 3D graphics. Unlike some other models, however, its interfaces can only be used in master mode, and cannot act as a “slave” device. It also lacks support for PROFIBUS. Other features are similar to higher-end SoC models, including support for EtherCAT, Profinet, and Ethernet/IP, as well as more common interfaces such as CAN, I2C, and SPI.

With Geppetto, users can now drag and drop the TI SoC into a 3D rendering of an SBC design, just as they can with an Overo module. Other components can be added, including USB plugs, network connectors, and LEDs. Geppetto also alerts users to any requirements or conflicts, such as power voltage issues.

As with an Overo-based design, users can save the design, and optionally share it with others, including the Geppetto developer community. Users can also order Gumstix to build the custom board, with typical turnaround time in 20 days, compared to as little as 15 days for an Overo-based solution. Geppetto’s products support the Yocto Project build system, giving it widespread compatibility with embedded Linux distributions.

“The Sitara processor platform provides an affordable development environment that is effective for a rapid go-to-market strategy,” stated W. Gordon Kruberg, president and CEO of Gumstix, Inc. “Geppetto users are now able to design a complete, customized, single-board Linux solution with exactly the features they want.”

The Sitara AM3354 module, including RAM, is priced at $45 as part of any single-board Geppetto design, says Gumstix. The Geppetto service launches Aug. 29, but is available now in preview mode. Geppetto requires a one-time $1,999 setup fee. The optional manufacturing costs were not listed for a complete Sitara-based design, but the manufacturing cost for Overo-based boards start at $6.30 per unit, up to about $50 per unit for under 60 units. More information may be found at the Gumstix Geppetto website.
 

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