With over 17 million units sold worldwide, the Raspberry Pi is the most popular single-board computer ever. But it’s not only passionate hobbyists who make use of the versatile small format computer that was originally designed for educational purposes. Raspberry Pi uses for industrial computer technology are somewhat untapped…
Innovation Instead of Tradition
When it comes to measuring and control technology (MSR), the RPi mini-computer breaks old barriers and creates room for innovation.
Thanks to an open-source principle and a large number of freely available software libraries, programming languages and manuals, the RPi offers more flexibility than any other system. Its hardware can be adapted and expanded as required by attachable add-on modules, such as the PI HATS, which can be used to create additional interfaces. This allows prototypes to be implemented directly into the production environment without having to go through long development cycles.
Tailor-made Raspberry Pi based solutions also have a relatively low cost compared to traditional industrial products, making them a cost-effective solution for businesses.
Limits of the Raspberry Pi
As a small form, single-board computer, there are some limitations to what the RPi can do, as would be expected. The original Raspberry Pi can reach its limits when used in harsh industrial environments. Due to the compact size of the computer, even slightly higher ambient temperatures cause the core temperature to rise sharply. The compensating CPU throttling leads to massive performance losses.
Additionally, the microSD cards used as hard disks are only capable of a very limited number of write cycles so are not suitable for retentive memory use. This means that they aren’t capable of meeting some industrial requirements.
However, the newest version of the mini-PC, the Raspberry Pi 3B+, is capable of Gbit Ethernet and WiFi connectivity, making it a viable solution for Industry 4.0 applications. But there are still no industrial interfaces like RS485 or CAN.
Overcoming RPi Industry Barriers
Despite these limitations, there are options and solutions to overcome these hurdles. The PiXtend is a professional expansion board for the Raspberry Pi that can be used for both control and regulation tasks, as well as a learning environment for control, circuit and software technology. It offers industrial serial interfaces (RS232, RS485 and CAN bus), a remanence memory and real-time monitoring.
Furthermore, the PiXtend resists temperatures of up to 50 degrees and thanks to high quality housings, it can be installed directly into a control box.
Another solution is the Andino X1 Kit – a combination of Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards. The Kit provides an industrial solution with its own microcontroller, precise signal preprocessing and adaptation of signal transmitters, and actuators. It also protects all essential interfaces of the RPi according to industry standards because the supported digital inputs and outputs are galvanically isolated, preventing overvoltage of the Pis.
What Does the Future Hold for Raspberry Pi?
As the body responsible for the popular single-board computer, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is dedicating more resources to developing software that can support 3D software, AI and IoT applications. So we can expect to see some exciting software opportunities in the near future. In terms of hardware, the market is in constant change. The performance of the RPi needs to be maximised continuously so it can still perform even in extreme conditions, while still retaining its compact format.
Business and industry demands today require more compact, efficient and cost-effective solutions. An industry standard Raspberry Pi and its capabilities could make waves in the technology sector by meeting these needs. Developers can benefit massively from the existing knowledge of the Raspberry Pi community on what’s possible and we could soon see this popular single-board achieving even bigger things.