4zerobox, industrial module by italian startup with ESP32 heart

With great pleasure, I want to introduce you today the project of an Italian startup4zerobox.

4zerobox is a module, DIN-rail mountable (9 modules), designed to complement or replace a classic PLC in industrial automation applications. As the name suggests, the features of 4zerobox can help companies interested in implementing Industry 4.0 solutions.

4zerobox-001

4zerobox is a project by the italian startup TOI (Things On Internet), born within the University of Pisa. Currently a Kickstarter campaign is active to found the production.

The “heart” of 4zerobox – and that’s the reason why I’m writing about it in this blog – is the esp32 chip. Thanks to the partnership with Zerinth (I’ll blog about it more widely in a future article) you can program the module using the Python language and leverage already available high-level libraries for the different I/O and communication interfaces.

In details, 4zerobox offers:

  • wifi, ethernet, BLE, serial (RS-232 e RS-485) and CAN connectivity
  • 4 analog input channels configurable as 4-20mA (single-ended o differential) or 0-10V
  • 4 analog channels for RTD or contact/proximity sensors
  • 2 opto-isolated digital inputs
  • sink digital output
  • 3 non-invasive current sensor channels
  • 2 NO/NC relays
  • a MicroSD slot
  • the possibility to connect and manage a LiPo battery
  • 2 mikroBUS sockets

4zerobox-002

Very interesting is the possibility to connect, using the MikroBUS bus, several external devices. MikroBUS is indeed a standard interface (defined by MikroElektronica) and soon adopted by many manufacturers: there are already more than 300 different boards that offer the MikroBUS interface and can therefore directly connected to 4zerobox.

In conclusion 4zerobox can allow companies to respond easily to integration, IoT, cloud… requirements that are relevant to the Industry 4.0 trend.

ESP32, the new Wemos Lolin32 LITE

On my blog I’ve already posted about the development board Wemos designed for the esp32 chip and that, on many webstores, you can find boards that “copy” the Lolin32 name but are instead clones of other opensource projects.

Few weeks ago Wemos published on its official site and make available on its store on Aliexpress a new revision of the board, now named Lolin32 LITE. Thanks to my friend Mauro Alfieri I was able to test a copy:

lolin-lite-001 lolin-lite-002

The main features of the board are the same as the old one:

  • esp32 chip
  • PH-2 (2mm) connector for a LiPo 1S battery
  • charging circuit via USB (max 500mA)

At a visual comparison it is immediately noticeable that the LITE is slightly smaller than the previous, being 5mm long compared to the 5.8mm of the Lolin32:

lolin-lite-003

The smaller length forced Wemos to reduce the number of available pins (19 instead of 26) and to abandon the use of the ESP-WROOM-32 module soldering the esp32 chip and flash memory directly onto the PCB, which also accomodates the antenna.

Speaking of components, for the LITE version Wemos decided to change the chip used to perform the USB-serial conversion and adopted the CH340G IC (which I also used in this project). Finally, the card in my possession uses the latest revision of the esp32 chip (labeled 302017):

lolin-lite-004

 

esp32, chip revisions

In the same way that software programs have bugs, even hardware chips may have problems due to errors in their design. Producers resolve these errors by producing a new chip revision and keeping updated a document with the known bugs for the different revisions and the possible workarounds.

Espressif manufactured two different revisions of the esp32 chip to date:

lolin-lite-005

If you want to know the revision of a chip, you can use the espefuse.py utility included in the esptool package:

lolin-lite-008

specify the serial port (-p) your board is connected to and the summary command.

Observing the values of CHIP_VERSION and CHIP_PACKAGE you can determine the revision of the chip, for example my Lolin32 board has a chip with revision 0:

lolin-lite-006

while the new Lolin32 LITE a chip with revision 1:

lolin-lite-007

Another MickMake competition – thanks to Tindie.

Yet another MickMake competition. This time my favourite source of electronics goodies, (Tindie), has provided the prizes. Winners Are Grinners! Makers have been around for thousands of years and have made lots of cool stuff. One thing I love doing is meeting Makers and seeing what they’re up to. The Continue reading Another MickMake competition – thanks to Tindie.

Posted by Mick on MickMake - Live. Learn. Make.

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