Hardware

Mini-box Voom PC: 12VDC Mini-ITX

Posted 17 Oct 2005 at 16:19 UTC by steve Share This

VIA and Mini-box recently announced the Voom PC, a computer designed for automotive applications but also ideal for outdoor robotics platforms. The Voom PC supports any of the Mini-ITX motherboards coupled with a 12 or 24 VDC power supply and enclosed in case that doubles as a massive aluminum heatsink. The system can optionally be provided with a with an off-the-shelf embedded Linux distribution that boots from CompactFlash. More info on the Voom PC can be found in a recent LinuxDevices article. Depending on the choice of motherboards, prices for the Voom PC range from $299 to $399.


Big battery required, posted 18 Oct 2005 at 05:19 UTC by marcin » (Journeyer)

With a 100W PSU (the smallest that they sell, as far as I could see) you would want your robot to have a really big battery just for the computation. Why can't they have mobile technology processors?

Make it yourself at home..., posted 18 Oct 2005 at 08:31 UTC by JamesBruton » (Master)

You could just make your own small PC along the same lines by going here and buying the bits:

http://www.mini-itx.com/store/

get the low power EPIA 5000 fanless board and a PSU which they sell down to 60W - the PC will only take the power it needs so it won't run too hot with no drives connected etc. The small 'plugin' or single board PSUs take 12v in from a mains adapter / battery.

Then use:

http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/

which boots from a flash drive / usb key (and supports wireless etc)

I have the EPIA 800 board at home which I plan to do just this with. I was going to just screw the board and PSU to a piece of plywood and cover it with some cardboard and tin foil for screen it. It's in a plastic box right now but it doesn't get too hot so no need for a really big heatsink.

Not sure how much power it will take but I'll be writing about on my website at some point. The mains adapter supplied is rated at 5A but I think it will much less with no hard disk / CD ROM.

you want to be carefull, posted 18 Oct 2005 at 12:19 UTC by c6jones720 » (Master)

Ive tried similar stuff before just powering a 486 running dos off batteries can take over 13Amps at 5v mind!

robot size, posted 18 Oct 2005 at 13:25 UTC by steve » (Master)

I'm thinking these would be perfect for something the size of a Grand Challenge robot. For small robots that need a PC onboard, a gumstix would be a better plan. Less power and tiny size but about the same capabilities.

White Box 914, posted 18 Oct 2005 at 13:51 UTC by JamesBruton » (Master)

although, the White Box PC924 bot uses mini-itx boards.

http://www.914pcbots.com/ http://www.whiteboxrobotics.com/2005/

I'll measure the power my EPIA 800 takes later from it's 12v PSU input and we'll see how hungry it is - it's less than 5A as I say, because that's what the 12V mains adapter is rated at...

Mini-itx power calculator, posted 18 Oct 2005 at 14:41 UTC by JamesBruton » (Master)

right, found this to save me the trouble of getting my multimeter out:

http://www.epiacenter.com/powersim/powersim_v2/epiasimulator_v2.htm

It tells me that with my EPIA 800 running with just one compact flash drive it will consume a total of between 11 and 22 watts which is approx between 1 and 2 amps at 12v; depending on if it's idle or playing a DVD...

Obviously the more you add, wireless cards etc it be will be a little more. But not too bad considering it will run Windows if you really want it to. Also of course it supports standard PC bits and pieces, PCI cards and standard drives, input devices etc.

And the answer is..., posted 18 Oct 2005 at 17:51 UTC by JamesBruton » (Master)

I measured the consumption on my board at 800mA idle with a 2.5" hard disk connected,1.9A when booting. I've put all the details along with photos here:

http://www.xrobots.co.uk/modules/news/article.php?storyid=20

so that's 9.6 watts idle, it'll be less with no disks...

Better get one I suppose, posted 19 Oct 2005 at 11:52 UTC by c6jones720 » (Master)

Looks like I better get one then. Looks like all of a sudden PCs have become power efficient!

it was suprising, posted 19 Oct 2005 at 11:59 UTC by JamesBruton » (Master)

yes, it was suprisingly low. when I have it booting from a USB stick and running the OS, communicating on the network etc, I'll measure it again but I don't expect it to be over 2 amps when it's doing lots of processing.

The other boards consume more power, the P4m board says 50watts on the calculator thing...

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