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Honey, I shrunk the BeagleBone Black!

May 9, 2016 — by Rick Lehrbaum — 4,072 views

Octavo Systems has packed nearly all the functions of a BeagleBone Black SBC into a BGA module that only requires a few external components to boot Linux.

Much excitement has been generated in recent months by the introduction of a series of ever-smaller, low-cost single board computers. A few of these have included Inforce’s 85 x 54mm 6309 Micro SBC, Next Thing’s 60 x 40mm Chip, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s 65 x 30mm Raspberry Pi Zero, and MediaTech’s 56 x 26mm LinkIt Smart 7688.

Now, Octavo Systems has taken this trend a major step further, by cramming nearly all the core functions of a complete BeagleBone Black Rev. C SBC into a single, chip-like BGA package that’s roughly the size of a quarter.

The chip-like OSD3358 is roughly the size of a quarter
(click images to enlarge)

Within the OSD3358 BGA package are three Texas Instruments active components: the AM335x processor, TPS65217C PMIC, and TL5209 LDO (low-drop-out) regulator. Additionally, the module integrates up to 1GB of DDR3 RAM along with more than 140 passive components, including resistors, capacitors, and inductors.

This level of integration reduces the size and complexity of an embedded design, says Octavo Systems. This “allows designers to focus on the key aspects of their system without spending time on the complicated high-speed design of the processor/DDR3 interface,” which “can significantly decrease the time to market for AM335x-based products.”

Simple (left) and detailed OSD3358 block diagrams

The OSD3358’s data sheet says the module’s 20 x 20 BGA footprint is a super-set of the TI AM3358 processor’s 18 x 18 BGA package footprint, with most of the signals of the the TI AM3358 BGA package’s pins being mapped to the corresponding pins of the OSD3358’s BGA package. Presumably this similarity of signal assignment would ease the task of redesigning an existing AM3358-based board around the OSD3358. Assuming so, the higher integration of the OSD3358 would allow for either a simplified, lower-cost board design or an increased density of on-board features.

Summary specifications listed for the OSD3358 “system-in-package” module include:

  • Embedded processor — TI AM3358 or AM3352 SoC, including:
    • ARM Cortex-A8 CPU @ up to 1GHz
    • 8-channel 16-bit SAR ADC
    • 2x 10/100/1000 Ethernet
    • 2x USB 2.0 HS OTG + PHY
    • 2x MMC, SD, SDIO interfaces
    • LCD controller and 3D graphics engine
  • Internal RAM — up to 1GB DDR3
  • External I/O — access to all AM335x GPIOs and peripherals
  • Power:
    • Input — from USB or Li-Ion battery
    • Output — 1.8V, 3.3V, and SYS
  • Package:
    • Footprint — 400-ball BGA (20 x 20) at 1.27mm pitch
    • Dimensions — 27 x 27mm
  • Operating temperature 0 to 85°C; -40 to 85°C “coming soon”

OSD3358 SBC reference design

To support development projects based on the OSD3358, Octavo Systems has released a detailed SBC reference design based on the module that implements a BeagleBone Black Rev C compatible design, both physically and functionally. In addition to the OSD3358 BGA module, the SBC reference design appears to add several active components, including an eMMC flash storage chip, plus signal conditioning and power regulation components, and I/O connectors with functions and locations that match those of the standard BeagleBone Black.

OSD3358 SBC Reference Design (left) vs. BeagleBone Black front views
(click images to enlarge)

Unlike most companies that offer chip-level embedded products, Octavo Systems currently has no plans to sell ready-to-use copies of its reference design. Instead, the company is working with a hardware partner (see farther below) that will offer its own board-level implementations — an SBC and a COM — based on the OSD3358. Additionally, Octavo is making its reference board schematics and PCB design files available for free download from its website, “for anybody to take and build their own,” a company representative explained in an email.

OSD3358 SBC Reference Design (left) vs. BeagleBone Black back views
(click images to enlarge)

According to the OSD3358 reference design’s application note, an embedded application that does not require all of the BeagleBone Black’s peripheral interfaces can eliminate many components “without impacting” the ability to run the BeagleBone Black’s standard Linux OS. Specifically, the application note states that the following minimal set of added components is required for booting a standard BeagleBone Black Linux build on an OSD3358-based design:
  • OSD3358 module, reset circuit, and power supply
  • MicroSD card for development, eMMC for production
  • USB PC (client) interface, for power input and Linux console port
  • ID EEPROM (optional)
  • Boot configuration for MicroSD card

As noted above, Octavo Systems hardware partner GHI Electronics has developed both an SBC development kit and a computer-on-module based on the OSD3358.

GHI Electronics OSD3358 Development Board (left) and OSD3358 System on Module
(click images to enlarge)

Both boards are currently listed on the GHI Electronics website as “preliminary,” with shipments expected to begin in “about 4 weeks.”

Further information

The Octavo Systems OSD3358 system-in-package module will become available through DigiKey “early next week,” according to an email from the company. Pricing for the module with 512MB of RAM will list around $30 for 1K volumes. More details, including data sheets, application notes, and reference board schematics and PCB design files, may be found at the company’s OSD3358 product page.

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One response to “Honey, I shrunk the BeagleBone Black!”

  1. Nobody of Import says:

    Doesn’t look shrunk much to me. If you (carefully) look at the BBB and the Octavo ref board- the SoC dominates the board and fills much of the area between cape connectors. Contrast this with the BB- there’s about a third less real-estate on the board spoken for by BBB compared to the other.

    Now…being able to EMBED the thing may be *EASIER* than wedging a BBB or similar into your design because it’s all ready to rock and roll- but shrunk…hardly.

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