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Designing own NPIX extension modules
#1
This post is an extend to the posts:

a. Custom NPIX modules: https://forum.hilscher.com/Thread-Custom-NPIX-modules
b. NPIX Board-outline: https://forum.hilscher.com/Thread-NPIX-board-outline

What HAT (Hardware Attached on Top) modules are for the Raspberry Pi the NPIX modules are for netPI. They are add-on boards extending basic devices with physical hardware to add more connectivity to them.

HAT modules are attached onto RPi3B 40W GPIO headers whereas NPIX module are shifted into a slot at netPI's bottom. The good thing is that NPIXs' connecting host signals (not all supported) are the same as those known from HAT. So in the end only the modules' form factor is different. This means that the official HAT introduction on Raspberry HATs applies for NPIX as well.

There is a set of Hilscher netPI NPIX extension modules already released. The manual for those can be obtained from the download section here.

But how about designing own NPIX modules?

For designing own NPIX modules you should consider the following questions:

  1. Will I be using the standard netPI with preinstalled software or do I use a netPI version without SD card for using my own system software?

    Reason for this question: An NPIX respectively HAT module has an EEPROM needed for automatic Linux onboarding using overlay/device-tree techniques. The content of the EEPROM must match to the used OS. If you are using the original Raspbian system software the HAT's git hub project applies to compile your own EEPROM file. If you are using the standard netPI only Hilscher is able to provide you an EEPROM file based on the settings you need to tell us.

  2. Is it possible for me to design an NPIX module that reuses one of the existing mounting brackets or do I need a new bracket with a new front?

    Reason for this question: NPIX modules need brackets for proper mounting. For Hilscher's NPIX we have a set of brackets already in stock ready to be offered to you for sale at a price of 7EUR/piece at 100pcs. The following brackets are available through us


    .pdf   NPIX-RCAN-bracket.pdf (Size: 212.47 KB / Downloads: 2)

    .pdf   NPIX-AIDIO-bracket.pdf (Size: 214.69 KB / Downloads: 4)

    .pdf   NPIX-IOL-bracket.pdf (Size: 23.11 KB / Downloads: 3)

    .pdf   NPIX-RJ45-bracket.pdf (Size: 104.29 KB / Downloads: 1)

    In any case it is possible to receive our brackets directly from our manufacturer in Taiwan. This will lower the price for you. In such case we would inform the manufacturer for your subscription of an order permission for those.

    For new brackets it is possible to deal with the manufacturer directly. In this case Hilscher is in the loop no more and delivers best price ratio. The manufacturer just needs a drawing of the new bracket's front and he will provide you an offer. Usually he will not charge you with an initial tooling fee until it is only the
    bracket's front that is different to existing brackets.

  3. Will all signals provided by the NPIX mPCIe connector cover my NPIX hardware setup in mind?

    Reason for this question: The standard 40W PIN header of RPi3B provides a lot of signals and features the design of full featured HAT module. On the NPIX connector a subset of all those singals is available. On netPI some are already in use like the SPI0 for the netX industrial network controller so it doesn't make sense to offer them in NPIX. So study the NPIX documentation and the connector's pinout well before starting a design.

  4. Have I evaluated my design in mind with a mock-up using an NPIX-EVA evaluation board before?

    Reason for this question: We offer a board that routes the inner NPIX mPCIe connector signals on a pin header. This allows you to make a design study with ease and avoids unwanted surprises if you have started directly with the PCBA design and are recognizing them with the first prototypes.

Thx Armin
You never fail until you stop trying.“, Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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