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Sfera Labs to open up module specification as its starts production

Sfera Labs to open up module specification as its starts production

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By Nick Flaherty

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Sfera Labs in Italy is starting production of its Strato Pi Max and plans to release the specification for its modules.

“We are starting to ship the Strato Pi max based on the CM4 now and the CM5 when it becomes available,” said Ulderico Arcidiaco, CEO and founder of Sfera Labs tells eeNews Europe.

“We are going to release both the mechanical and electrical specification for other companies who may want to develop their own board for customers to add in.”

“We will also have a development board for the module so you can do your own board or for other through hole or SMD components. There is the connector and a 5V to 3.3 LDO regulator for the board as well as a one wire EEPROM for identification for the main board to understand what board is in a slot. It doesn’t even need power from the board,” he said.

Sfera Labs adds Raspberry Pi CM4S core to Iono Pi Max industrial I/O module

Strato Pi Max retains the same watchdog, isolated RS-485 port, and USB ports with independent power control and fault detection built into existing members of the Strato Pi family.

“This is the culmination of everything we have learned over the years with the Strato Pi with a single board on a Pi model B and then we added more and more functions CAN bus, other ports, and we always had the problem of customers asking for something else,” he said.

“So our first try at addressing this was to develop the Iono Pi Max with 6 modules and lots of IO by combining everything we had in one unit. But the problem is it has more than 1000 parts in it, it is pretty complex and customers may not need everything, and there were still customers asking for more. I use it as a test tool, an instrumentation device.

“So we decided it was time to go to a modular framework in the same way as the PC with expansion cards. We have two versions, one four slots and one with one slot.”

“It’s our own mechanical format to offer a fair amount of real estate, with screw securing. There is space between one board and another eg for tall components such as a DC-DC converter. The connector can carry a significant amount of current for example for a UPS expansion board and also fast data.  It also supports an M.2 LTE Modem board and M.2 SSD on the board for storage which is 10x faster than an SD card.” 

“The problem with the expansion boards is M.2 is not large enough for terminal blocks so we need something larger that still fits into the DIN rail format.”

The Strato Pi Max has a modular design for DIN rail-mount, Wi-Fi and BLE wireless connectivity, dual Ethernet ports, dual SD, eMMC, and/or SSD storage options, and two USB ports.

“There is nothing around with the same ingredients we need, that’s why we developed our own,” he said. It supports up to four embedded expansion boards, expanding its capabilities to include serial (RS485/RS232) and CAN bus interfaces, digital I/O, additional wireless connectivity, and support for an uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

Sfera Labs ships I/O module with Raspberry Pi RP2040

Additional models of expansion boards will add new functionalities during 2024.

The modules are designed to provide an identification code so that the central controller can power up the system in the right order.

“We have power control on each board so we can remove power from each module and the RP2040 probes the eeprom on each slot and if it gets a reply it knows there is aboard and what board version you have without having to power the board. For example we only support one UPS board so if there is a UPS board in the wrong slot or more than one the microcontroller doesn’t turn the power on, or if there are conflicting boards for example one radio device for certification.”

A collaboration with Zymbit adds security to the Strato Pi Max via a Secure Compute Module.

sferalabs.cc/product/strato-pi-max-xl/; sferalabs.cc/product/strato-pi-max-xs/

 

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