We have been developing a unique vending machine after hours that requires a lot of high current I/O to be distributed and controlled by something with a bit of computing power. It incorporates many motors, switches, LEDs, audio and some hi-res video. (More on this is a few weeks!)
We ruled out using a PLC due to us wanting to have videos, sound and remote comms for statistics and management so we settled on developing the prototype machine around one of our favorite SBC, the Beagle Bone Black
To cut down on the amount of wires we need to route and to generally make things a bit neater we wanted to make the wiring harness as simple as possible. This should also have the benefit of helping to keep costs down. So we have developed a couple of boards that can be connected via Cat 5, can be daisy chained together and provides us with enough I/O to expand.
As mentioned above the brains of the machine are handled by a trusty Beagle Bone Black, onto this we attach our new “AziHead” cape that provides the RJ45 connectors and electronics to connect to the “AzIO” slave board. The electronics provide a reliable, fast and simple link that can theoretically extend to over 30m which should be plenty for our vending machine cabinet. The prototype boards were duly ordered and testing has shown them to be reliable and proved to work quite well. The next slave boards will also add a bit of intelligence for some cool lighting effects but for now we are happy with what we have got.
As part of this we have decided to make a cut down version of the simple slave board and, once we are happy and it tests out OK we plan on releasing the board as open source hardware and will provide some example source code for the Beagle Bone and maybe the Raspberry Pi
We need to gauge if there is any interest so we would like to hear back from the open source communities to see if this is something that may be of some use?