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Modular PLC platform runs Linux on Allwinner H5

Mar 22, 2018 — by Eric Brown 2,871 views

UniPi’s “Axon” line of 13 DIN-rail PLC systems for smart home and building automation run Linux on an Allwinner H5, and offer GbE, WiFi, BT, and varying configurations of DIDO, analog I/O, relays, and serial I/O.

UniPi launched its flagship, Linux-based UniPi building automation add-on board for the Raspberry Pi Model B on Indiegogo back in 2014, and followed up with a more advanced Neuron PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) that integrated a Raspberry Pi 3. This week, UniPi left the Pi behind to launch a UniPi Axon line of 13 PLC computers that run Linux on a quad-core, Cortex-A53 Allwinner H5 SoC.

UniPi Axon L205 (left) and three UniPi Neuron systems
(click images to enlarge)

The UniPi Axon is designed for MaR/HVAC systems control — we’re not sure what the MaR stands for — as well as smarthome applications, and automation and monitoring in light industry. Despite the shift in processors, the board supports the same wide range of development software and PLC protocols as the Neuron, including UniPi’s open source EVOK API (see farther below).

The Axon product line is offered in three sizes and six model lines, with 13 individual products. There are 8x Axon S models, which have a size of 4x DIN modules (70 mm). The product line also includes 3x Axon M models with an 8-DIN (140mm) size and 2x Axon L models that span 14 DIN modules for a 210mm size.

UniPi Axon S105, M205, and L205 (left) and Axon feature comparison chart
(click images to enlarge)

All the Axon models feature the 1.2GHz Allwinner H5, which is found on several NanoPi and Orange Pi hacker boards such as the Orange Pi Zero Plus 2. All 13 Axon models provide 1GB RAM, 8GB eMMC, a Gigabit Ethernet port, WiFi, and Bluetooth. The Axon S155 has 2x GbE ports.


The large number of model options is enabled by Axon’s modular system of swappable I/O circuit boards. These include analog and digital inputs and outputs, relay outputs, and 1-wire, RS485, and RS232 buses. One model — the S605 — is equipped with 4x IEC 62386-standard, DALI-compatible channels for smart lightning control.

Entry-level Axon S105 (left) and dual-GbE Axon S155
(click images to enlarge)

The entry level Axon S105 has a 1-Wire digital bus for connecting up to 20x digital sensors such as thermometers and humidity meters. It also supports RS485 and RS232 lines, 4x digital I/O’s, and a single analog I/O.

The most comprehensive I/O configurations are found in the M and L models. They also have the maximum number of specific interfaces, with the exception of the S115, which has the most RS485 interfaces (4x). Other maximum numbers of I/O include 36x DI, 4x DO, 8x analog in, 8x analog out, 28x relay, and 4x RS485.

Original UniPi
sith RPi Model B

UniPi can also create custom I/O configurations and custom variations on the black, eloxed aluminium, DIN-rail mountable cases. The Axon “is fully certified for applications in households, commercial facilities and light industry,” says UniPi.

Axon supports a wide range of commercial PLC applications including CODESYS, Mervis, and REX. It also supports open source software including at the most basic level, Sysfs, which does not require a communication protocol specification, and “allows programmers an easy access to inputs and outputs of the unit on the file level.” UniPi adds: “As an overlay, the user can use the standard TCP Modbus protocol to gain access to I/O’s.”

UniPi also provides its own open source EVOK API, which is designed for “easy remote access to UniPi PLC’s without a need for extensive programming.” EVOK provides “six unified methods serving as a replacement,” which means that “the user thus does not have to write his own code.”

Further information

The UniPi Axon systems appear to be available now at an undisclosed price. More information may be found on UniPi’s Axon product page.

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