A home-grown alternative to a Raspberry Pi

Friday, September 8, 2017 - 11:15

It has become a lot easier to get hold of prototyping boards in South Africa than in previous years, but while Raspberry Pi’s are easy to get hold of, sadly there are still import taxes and shipping costs to be taken into consideration. These factors push the price up considerably.

Arrow Altech Distributions have created new options for makers by producing the locally made Cherry Blossom, based on the AM335x reference design from Texas Instruments and similar to BeagleBone black. This home-grown alternative is available for a much more affordable price.

“The locally designed, produced and supported Cherry Blossom eliminates most supply and support issues that currently exist on BBB today,” says Dirk Venter, Field Application Engineer at Arrow Altech Distribution, “It also enables the developer to quickly and effectively use the processing power of a high-end processor without the hardware complexity normally associated with this type of design.”

This means that you have access to the existing resources that have been created to work with the BeagleBone.  You will also find full integration with the software, which will allow access to other compatible software such as Android and Ubuntu and you have a choice of three processors:

AM3352 – 600MHz

AM3358 – 800MHz

AM3358 – 1GHz.  

Lehlohonolo Ramongalo, Managing Director of Figtory, a company that has already started developing projects on the Cherry Blossom platform, had this to say about his experiences with the product:

 “The beauty of the Cherry Blossom as compared to other options on the market is that it is robust enough to be deployed at an industrial scale. It bridges the Internet of Things (IoT) paradigm from a hobbyist kind of tool to a building block that enables novel ways to solve problems in the industry and the enterprise space. The locally produced unit has the potential to be a a world class building-block in the Industrial Internet. Deploying one of our applications was very easy and the AM3352 – 600MHz proved to be very stable for the purposes we needed it for. Should there be a need to run heavier applications the AM3358 – 800MHz and 1GHz provide more computing power even allowing for CPU intensive tasks such as video processing to be completely doable. I wish I had known about this product much earlier.”

Additional Features

  • 55mm x 55mm, 1.6mm PCB
  • 5V in (1A max) via USB or expansion connector.
  • 3.3V out (200mA max) via expansion connector.
  • 512MB DDR3 DRAM (256MB DRAM for AM3352 – 600MHz)
  • 2GB eMMC storage on-board (Used for boot, filesystem – no SD needed)
  • JTAG - 20 pin CTI connector
  • Serial debug header (Terminal output from Linux)
  • USB Micro – Device port (High speed)
  • Micro-SD card for storage
  • EEPROM for parameter storage
  • 3 Expansion connectors (1.27mm pitch)
  • The I/O can be re-mapped on the processor for different functions – refer to the Data Sheet. The following shows the interface primary functions:
  • oP1(50 way):
  • MMC interface (shared with on-board eMMC)
  • LCD interface (Can be used for HDMI interface – driver circuitry needed)
  • GPIO’s
  • Timers, PWMs, Counters
  • oP2 (50 way):
  • Power in (5V)
  • Battery interface (Li single cell supported)
  • 3.3V supply out (200mA max)
  • Power control
  • Reset
  • I2C
  • SPI
  • Analog inputs
  • GPIO
  • Clock output
  • oP3 (30 way):
  • Ethernet MII port
  • USB Host port
  • I2C
  • Hardware configurable to run standard BeagleBone Software.

For more information please contact:

Dirk Venter
Engineer: Field Application
Arrow Altech Distribution

+27 (0) 11 923 9666
+27 (0) 82 339 8648




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