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Design board, Community board, Industrial board: Pluses and Minuses

We’re often exposed to those terms seen everywhere. Sometimes they are used interchangeably by mistake. And sometimes, we may discover the seemingly minor but, in fact, huge differences between those very different classes of products when it’s too late to start over.
Let’s try to clarify exactly what these terms really mean: (These apparently non-dangerous classifications) and how those adjectives affect the products we want to do with them.

Let’s start analyzing what they seem.

Before going in deep and analyze the effect of those – may be true- classifications (yes, some sellers on the market spin the story...) on our problem s solving, and how each kind of product can help us – or hinder us – let’s try to be clear on the meanings.

First of all, let’s point out that an international standard does not exist nor does a control authority that verify claims about those classifications, especially on the web or through some other sales channel, so your next ice-cream can defined as community ice-cream if it could help the seller to sell. So, we should try to carefully evaluate what we read or hear.

Generally speaking, the major part of “our” engineering community agrees on the following descriptions:

01

A Design board

is a board developed and manufactured, directly or indirectly, by a semiconductor maker (typically the CPU’s manufacturer) to help developers in the professional community to understand how to use his products, and to provide a good starting point while they evaluate this chip, with the target to convince them to start designing with their specific IC.
A CPU’s development board is, normally, a well working and well documented small Single Board Computer where you can see how “it works”.
Some examples

Qualcomm Dragonboard

Qualcomm Dragonboard

Intel NUC boards

Intel NUC boards
02

A Community Board

is a board made from a “community“ of customers and developers, mainly hobbyist or passionate students used as a “development motor “by somebody that does business by building that. Could be, because of this very democratic DNA, a well done product used to start exploring a “new” technology, and give the nice and welcome added points of a “lot” of developed software and a very active “answering community” on the web via their blogs.
Some examples

Raspberry Pi 3

Raspberry Pi 3

Orange Pi PC

Orange Pi PC
03

An Industrial Board

is a board made by a private company, with the target to accomplish the requirement of a certain segment of customers that need to solve specific things, in specific environments, rules, industrial flow and so on.
It’s like a technical dress for high altitude exploring. If you need it, you need it.
Some examples

Novasom Industries U5C

Novasom Industries' U5C - Industrial board

Novasom Industries' M8FT

Novasom Industries' M8FT
Now that is a bit clearer what those adjectives seem to mean, let’s try to go a little more in depth in their usage, or misusage and their typical applications.

If you are a hobbyist

there is nothing better than a community board to fill your time, and to enjoy an inexpensive toy with a lot of ready software to be reused while an active community of hobbyists are there ready to collaborate with you.

If you are a developer

your needs are different, as you can understand. The quality, accuracy, depth and completeness of the documentation and the “way of doing” of the board you bought as a design board, might be more focused on the overall CPU’s functions, with a clear setup of the CPU’s functions simply posted out. This is what a developer needs: food for brain, and technical docs, complete and with minimal bugs. This is a totally different focus compared with the community board of above, where docs shall be clear and probably accurate, but forced to be simple and focused on an immediate general example usable in everyday life, like playing music.

Is this what you are?

Because if you are an OEM or a system integrator trying to use one of those boards in your industrial application, you are likely to find some issues after the nice price and the checkout of your shopping list in terms of IO or RAM you may need. Mostly hidden until it’s too late. Let’s start from the kind of peripherals you may need. A field ready port, IO, connectors, power stage are all designed by an industrial board manufacturer to resist failures, to be ready for a heavy usage. MTBF is important in the real world, isn’t it?

Those are big initial differences from a “build to last” and a “build to show” board.

Then, do you know that semiconductors have the different classification? Commercial grade semiconductors for example, are made with a mission profile of a few years and a low % usage during the day, by considering that a TV or a mobile phone will not be used differently. So, money shall be saved.
Industrial grade semiconductors are made in a different way. More expensive, but more reliable.

Last: An industrial board, needs to be certified, documented, designed to be reliable, with a long life, available and supported. But also, to be manufactured on volume and shipped using a Just in Time method almost everybody needs.

Yes, do you know that neither community boards nor design boards can be purchased in this way?

How can your volume-based production depend or being supported by a product that, may be available, or may not?

So, be aware that you have to use the right tools.

Hobbyist should use the Community Board

Engineers wanting to learn about how to use a CPU use the Design Board

And those wanting to use a board in production must use an Industrial Board.


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Step 1 - Fill in the form

Step 1 - Fill in the form

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Step 2 - Access credentials

At the e-mail address entered in the initial form, an e-mail will be sent with access credentials.
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Step 3 - Login with the credentials you receive

Reconnect to the site and, with the your credentials, do the "Login"
Step 4 - Read Documentation or open a Support Case

Step 4 - Read Documentation or open a Support Case

Once logged in you will have the opportunity to choose between "Documentation" and "Cases"

"Documentation" is the section where you can find manuals, application notes and other documentation useful to make your product work. TIP: before opening a case, try to take a look at this section, the resolution of your problem could be at your fingertips.

"Cases" is the section where you can open the real requests for assistance and have a direct contact with our support team. Our target is to help you in the shortest time we can, but our main purpose is to give you a good and proper answer. Those things require time, to understand, because those things are complex and every customer is important to us.
Thanks for understanding
Step 5 - To open the Case go to

Step 5 - To open the Case go to "Cases" and select New Case

Step 6 - Fill the technical support form

Step 6 - Fill the technical support form

A new form will open and you’ll be able to insert the type of request and the type of problem. We ask you to be as precise as possible including, in addition to the problem encountered, and the identification data of the board/product (product number, serial number, DC, order code); in this way we could offer you the best possible support.
After entering all the data, press "Send". The request comes directly to our support team who will try to give you the best assistance in the shortest possible time.
TIP: to make the support as efficient as possible install on your computer Team Viewer, headphones and microphone: they may be useful to communicate with our team.

Move to below step 7

Step 7 - How to see all open Cases (will this be by company or by individual?  If individual you can indicate “your” open cases.)

Step 7 - How to see all open Cases (will this be by company or by individual? If individual you can indicate “your” open cases.)

Pressing "List Case" you’ll have the history of all the open Cases and you will to be able to monitor their statuses, maintain a dialog with our support team and to close once resolved.

Request that once a case is opened you try to maintain a dialog within the case and not start a new case unless it is for a separate “problem” warranting a separate technical investigation.