I received a Website submission pointing me to an Indiegogo campaign for an industrial automation interface for Raspberry Pi.

It is named Monarco HAT: Industrial interface for Raspberry Pi for Monitoring, archiving and control. It offers analog and digital I/O, RS-485 and 1-Wire in compact form.

REX Controls from Plzeň/Pilsen, Czech Republic is the developer.

Is there a place for “toys” in industrial automation?

The heading is from the Indiegogo page. First off, are you familiar with crowdsourcing funds? There is an offer–usually first run of product. It is an investment, so, you may lose your money like any investment. I’ve participated in one before. I’m considering investing in this one. Exploring Raspberry Pi has been on my list, but there have just been too many other things going on. This may be a way.

Raspberry Pi (and Arduino for that matter, and there are others) look enticing for Internet of Things applications. If you need edge devices and don’t need the power that, say, a Dell IoT device gives, this could be just the device you need. They are actually pretty powerful little devices in their own right.

Here is a teaser from the site:

  • Have you ever tried to find a versatile device to collect data from sensors and devices and process it locally? Or store it on a database server?
  • Have you ever struggled with simply too many communication protocol gateways or data bridges?
  • Have you ever wished to have a compact programmable device fitting both in your mini-project and your restricted budget?
  • Have you ever thought about using the Raspberry Pi minicomputer in an industrial environment?

Well we have. All the questions above are based on our very own experience. As a group of control engineers at REX Controls we have tackled such challenges many times. We have come to a conclusion that although the Raspberry Pi minicomputer is a toy (a fun toy and a real game-changer in many fields, but still a toy from the industrial automation point of view), it definitely has a place in the world of PLCs, PACs, IPCs, especially in the era of IoT and Industry 4.0.

With this campaign, we would like to validate our opinion and we’d be thrilled if you joined us on our way and supported our new hardware product.

Monarco Raspberry Pi for Industry

They must be dressed properly

Our journey with Raspberry Pi started the day it was introduced to the market. As a company focused on advanced automation and control solutions, we strongly believe in the power of fine-tuned control algorithms and the importance of minimizing their computational demands. So wouldn’t it be nice to demonstrate what we can squeeze out of the Raspberry Pi? Yes it would!

We started using the Raspberry Pi as a demonstration platform and as an experimental gadget for students of automation and control system theory. Later on also as a programmable controller for several hobby and DIY projects. Slowly but inevitably we started to think about using it also in industrial applications. We have been so excited about its potential however we have faced several problems:

  • 5 VDC power supply is not very common in industrial automation, not mentioning the microUSB power supply connector.
  • There was no enclosure nor DIN-rail mount for the Raspberry Pi available.
  • There were no add-on boards with analog inputs and outputs to interface with standard industrial sensors and devices.
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