The birth of Ratherboard:
We have all known and used the Raspberry Pi for years, and it has always been in the back of our minds, unspoken, that it would be so nice if we wouldn’t have to design custom hardware for every single project based around a RPi, but we had to wait until the summer of 2015 for this thought to emerge and crystallize. /Raspberry Pi is a trademark of the Raspberry Pi Foundation/
At the time we were developing an Aquaponics system for one of our partners, AquaShield. We needed a water- and dust tight case, 5 V power supply for the Raspberry, 3.3 V power supply for some extra components, analog signal measurement, and output switching. Since we had taken categorizing our product development very seriously for about a year then, we had already tested, ready-made solutions for all of these problems at hand. The first specification for the Ratherboard was formed here and it is because of this project, that the foreman of AquaShield, Gábor Sulcz, is a member of the Ratherboard team today.
We have developed our custom industrial casing technology in 2015 as well, and this was the first time we have used U-Blox GPS modules. Both proved to perform great in our other devices, so they got their place on the Ratherboard (RB) too. “The very best from everything” was our motto.
On the RPi, you can find a micro-SD card, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and plenty of processing power. It is a real workhorse, no wonder that more than 10 million people are using it around the world. These features combined with the robustness and peripherals of the Ratherboard already made an excellent combination. Only one thing had to be solved: retaining the universality of the RPi.
The Raspberry Pi can be used to solve virtually any problem, since its 40 pin header connector can be interfaced with just about anything. If we simply provided access to these pins on the case of the RB, you would have to build all extra hardware outside the box, which is unacceptable. The solution comes in the form of interchangeable extension boards inside the RB, which are connected to the pins of the RPi (you can see the first three versions in the pictures labelled E1, E2, and E3). On the extension boards you can create any project-specific hardware, and then the pin-headers of the extension boards are routed to the connectors on the case. By changing the extension boards, you can create a device for any task, either by using their pre-built functionality, or the breakout area to place your own components. Of course, you can even make your own extension board, which simplifies your development process, since the majority of work has already been done for you on the RB.
In addition to all of the above, we wanted to give our customers a trendy, good-looking product, hence we had to pay attention to the smallest detail such as creating a completely custom, red-black coloured PCB, where all the user-configurable options are on the red side, while the serious Sith magic is on the dark side!
From here the road was paved to the prototype, all we needed was hard work, but that’s another story for another time!