dvochin
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Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production...

Sun Jun 29, 2014 7:14 pm

Hello Pi community!

After an hour of 'googling' I wasn't able to self-answer the question on how one can proceed to prototype & possibly produce products based on the BCM2835 as used in the Raspberry Pi...

It's hard to believe that it would be this tricky / difficult to but the SoC at the heart of such a popular board!

Has anyone been able to successfully build their own board & build a working prototype on top of the BCM2835? This would of course require the ability to buy a small batch of chips, the full datasheet and other EE resources to build a board...

Can it be done?? What are the recommended steps to gain access to all needed resources? How much does the BCM2835 cost in 1K quantity?

Thanks for any hint in the right direction!

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joan
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Sun Jun 29, 2014 8:19 pm

I'm going to guess that the minimum order quantity will be several hundred thousand.

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rpdom
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Sun Jun 29, 2014 8:23 pm

The Raspberry Pi Compute Module is the closest you're going to get to buying the BCM chip in those sort of quantities. It's just the SoC, some RAM and an eMMC chip for storage on a convenient small carrier board which fits into a standard SODIMM connector (but with different piout, obviously).

dvochin
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Sun Jun 29, 2014 8:42 pm

Hi rpdom and joan,

Thanks very much for taking the time.

It's just surprising to me that a super-popular board that has sold over 4 million copies would not incite hundreds of engineers to want to make their own product based on this battle-tested reference design.

I'm surprised to find that after all this success that no support exists to encourage BCM2835-based design into more products that have a chance to create market-worthy inventions.

Heck of an opportunity Broadcom is missing by not making everything needed for engineers to re-use this older chip into designs.

Oh well... my objective with my design is to find a low cost application processor that can decode a CMOS imager. As I can't go further BCM2835 I am looking at other choices, possibly the sub $6 i.MX25.

Any ideas on a good Linux-friendly app processor that can talk to CMOS imagers (without glue logic)?

Thanks!!

rmwebs
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Sun Jun 29, 2014 10:06 pm

What are you trying to prototype that cant be done on a Pi, or the compute module? Once you've prototyped, if your product is to go to market and you can provide Broadcom with details on your plans and such, you'd presumably you'd be ok to enter talks to order a few hundred thousand chips.

As with any SOC, you either pay a massive amount up front for a big order, or you buy an existing board that uses the SOC you need. To chip designer is going to be willing to put in time to work with random people if they cant guarantee it'll be worth their time, otherwise right now Broadcom would have tens of thousands of Pi users demanding all sorts of SOC's and such.

dvochin
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Sun Jun 29, 2014 11:01 pm

Hi rmwebs, thanks very much for taking the time.

In this case I'm trying to build a high volume cost-sensitive fire prevention product based on a sub-$5 CMOS imager and a sub $7 app processor.

Currently the best part for the job appears to be the $7 Freescale i.MX25, which is available in single quantities from many suppliers, has awesome public documentation and a decent Linux BSP & Linux drivers in source code format.

However, given the high-end video features of the BCM2835 (because of Roku) and a large community at Raspberry Pi, I'm nonetheless attempting to gauge if the BCM2835 could beat the MX25 in our design. I really admire large communities such as this one and Beaglebone as there is so much knowledge & excitement around them!

Unfortunately, Broadcom really appears hostile to the small startup with neglecting to service a budding community such as Raspberry Pi and support budding inventors with chips & documentation. Doesn't make much business sense to me!

Thus far it appears to be an uphill & uncertain battle for us to gamble the company on this chip, and this is unnecessary & unfortunate.

However, one can only hope this platform will become truly open over time!

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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Mon Jun 30, 2014 7:34 am

You gamble on the chip whatever you chose!

Broadcom are simply not set up to service small scale purchases and the associated support - no team to handle it. In order to provide tech support for such a complicated device you would need probably 100k minimum guaranteed sales, probably a lot more. Remember, Brcm are used to selling chips in the millions, and even then the profit sucks.

This is the EXACT reason the Compute Module was developed. The Foundation has produced a board with the chip on, with some memory, and that's about it. They have also produced a Linux that works on it, and a DK for prototyping. They have been able to do this BECAUSE they order a hell of a lot of chips. The CM means it is easy to produce a board that uses the Brcm2835, and it's a quick route to product. Designing a bare chip like the 2835 in to product isn't easy. The CM takes away that R&D burden.

The CM is what you want. Think of it as buying a bare chip but with all the hard work taken away. It will be available for purchase in very large numbers, has a easy to use mechanism for attachment, an already working OS and a broad community of support.
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glamprecht
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 6:46 am

It is the case for most chips and most companies starting with R&D. I cant speak for a company like Bosch or Samsung, but most companies I know dont buy more than 100 chips in the first year of designing, unless they get government or some external investment. So for this reason companies like Digikey, Farnell, Mouser, Arrow and so buy larger volumes from manufacturers and keep it in stock, to sell it at a premium price to companies and individuals who then design something, that hopefully will grow into millions.

So the question rather is why wont these large distributors keep the BCM chip?

As for the Compute Module. It is a clever idea, but we have an application where space is exteremely limited, I cannot use this module - it, with the connector is just way too big. We have another project on rail where vibration is a key design factor. The manufacturer of the Compute Module connector has not qualified it for vibration and it is not suitable for this application.

The community around the PI saves us a lot of time and we like to be part of it, but in these cases we need to revert to our own ARM processors and often end up doing much more work on the hardware and software than we would have if we just put the BCM chip on our own board. I dont mind paying as much for the chip as I would for the whole Compute Module, because I have to do my own PCB anyway for my CCD and other parts, so why dont Raspberry Pi just sell us the chip at the Compute Module price - I am sure the dont stand to loose anything?

fruitoftheloom
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:22 am

glamprecht wrote:It is the case for most chips and most companies starting with R&D. I cant speak for a company like Bosch or Samsung, but most companies I know dont buy more than 100 chips in the first year of designing, unless they get government or some external investment. So for this reason companies like Digikey, Farnell, Mouser, Arrow and so buy larger volumes from manufacturers and keep it in stock, to sell it at a premium price to companies and individuals who then design something, that hopefully will grow into millions.

So the question rather is why wont these large distributors keep the BCM chip?

As for the Compute Module. It is a clever idea, but we have an application where space is exteremely limited, I cannot use this module - it, with the connector is just way too big. We have another project on rail where vibration is a key design factor. The manufacturer of the Compute Module connector has not qualified it for vibration and it is not suitable for this application.

The community around the PI saves us a lot of time and we like to be part of it, but in these cases we need to revert to our own ARM processors and often end up doing much more work on the hardware and software than we would have if we just put the BCM chip on our own board. I dont mind paying as much for the chip as I would for the whole Compute Module, because I have to do my own PCB anyway for my CCD and other parts, so why dont Raspberry Pi just sell us the chip at the Compute Module price - I am sure the dont stand to loose anything?
The Raspberry Pi Foundation do not sell the BCM2835/6 they are sold by Broadcom, you will need to speak to Broadcom and be prepared for Bulk Buying and NDA ;)
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glamprecht
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:31 am

Yes I noticed that is unfortunately the case searching futher on the net. The NDA is ok, but getting new products off the ground does not guarantee the volumes that Broadcom would typically need to even respond to companies like us. I guess it leaves us with Raspberry PI for consumer grade projects and Beaglebone for either industrial or stuff that will become high volume eventually. It is much easier in my experience to deal with TI than with Broadcom. And the AM3359 is readily available just about everywhere. It seams a much more attractive migration path from prototype to flexible volume production.

Maybe the PI Foundation can consider the little bit more expensive TI SOC's?

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RaTTuS
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:45 am

you possibly can get a sample of 5k 2935's from broadcom if you have a design etc...
see hardkernel
YMMV however...
http://www.broadcom.com/products/set-to ... processors
gives you a bigger list..
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BMS Doug
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 9:12 am

Didn't Odroid manage to procure a sample batch of 5000 BM2835?
I heard they ran into problems when they couldn't continue to buy small (<100000) batches.

I would recommend confirming that you can buy the batch size you want from Broadcom (who apparently have a reputation for crazy minimum volume sales)

BCM2835 on Alibaba minimum order of 10, I'm not sure that I'd trust that you will actually get a BCM2835.


something else to bear in mind:
It turns out that even if you did get away with making a SBC using the BCM2835 and the foundations documentation you couldn't legally use it because the binary bootloader required to start Linux on the BCM2835 is ONLY licensed for use on Raspberry Pi's. Without this license you cannot make a Pi equivalent even if you did manage to somehow source the BCM chips.

Interestingly enough this breach of license is possibly one of the other reasons Broadcom ceased supplying Odroid with the chips. However I have no evidence of this apart from the license agreement on the binary blob which clearly states its for Raspberry Pi's only.
This Thread on the Odroid Forum may be interesting (clearly Odroid are not able / willing to discuss the key issue but it may factor in your choice of processor).
Doug.
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jamesh
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 9:51 am

I doubt there will be any change in Pi SoC for some years. The Foundation has spent quite a bit of cash on Raspbian and optimisation that would be wasted if moved to another SoC (mainly with regard to the GPU).

The Foundation specifically produced the CM to get round Broadcom not wanting to sell in smaller quantities. It was to allow people to use the 2835 without large volumes. Of course, the CM will not cater for the whole market, there will always be people who don't want the whole package for some reason. But for a lot of products, it's fine (see Slice for example). The development costs using the CM are way way lower that a DIY board using 2835 as well, and of course you can prototype easily with the standard Pi.

But again, its not for everyone. And for those people who cannot use the CM, the best option would be to look at another SoC entirely.
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glamprecht
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 9:57 am

There are many computer on module using the familiar memory card/edge connector. It may be easiest and cheapest to make a computer on module by just adding gold plated tabs to the end of the PCB, but this problematic in most industrial applications. It is more common to use board-board connectors such as what Gumstix uses, which also allows the carrier board to be fixed at 4 places, and not depending on spring action to keep a side of the board in its location.

So maybe they would consider more of a "gumstix" kind form factor. (size) and connectors. I personally prefer that type of setup. The current Raspberry PI Mudule together with its mating connector is huge for the silicon it carries.

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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 10:58 am

If the Pi's SOC were easily available in reasonable quantitities, there would be dozens (if not hundreds) of Pi knockoffs available by now.....
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henryhanselscott
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 1:11 pm

This is the EXACT reason the Compute Module was developed.
The CM is what you want.
Sorry if this seems like a hijack of the thread, but speaking of the CM, any time table for upgrades to the 4 core and more memory? I do have an embedded application that is in the prototype stage using the Rpi2. At first it ran on the Rpi B+ but struggled with some of the task. Runs great with the model 2.

Henry

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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 2:03 pm

henryhanselscott wrote:
This is the EXACT reason the Compute Module was developed.
The CM is what you want.
Sorry if this seems like a hijack of the thread, but speaking of the CM, any time table for upgrades to the 4 core and more memory? I do have an embedded application that is in the prototype stage using the Rpi2. At first it ran on the Rpi B+ but struggled with some of the task. Runs great with the model 2.

Henry
I've not heard anything past the 'might have time to look at it later on this year' comment when the Pi2 first came out.
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 2:23 pm

jamesh wrote:
henryhanselscott wrote: Sorry if this seems like a hijack of the thread, but speaking of the CM, any time table for upgrades to the 4 core and more memory? I do have an embedded application that is in the prototype stage using the Rpi2. At first it ran on the Rpi B+ but struggled with some of the task. Runs great with the model 2.

Henry
I've not heard anything past the 'might have time to look at it later on this year' comment when the Pi2 first came out.
I'm hoping that they are dedicating their time and resources to making the (long promised) display, perhaps once that is out the CM2 will follow. I'd be surprised to get advanced warning though, I'm expecting that the next thing I hear about the display will be "Just released, In shops NOW!"
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 4:12 pm

BMS Doug wrote: I'm hoping that they are dedicating their time and resources to making the (long promised) display, perhaps once that is out the CM2 will follow. I'd be surprised to get advanced warning though, I'm expecting that the next thing I hear about the display will be "Just released, In shops NOW!"
Likewise. At present, I can think of three things in the queue ahead of the CM2. They're the display module, the AstroPi HAT, and the official case that was being used at the Maker Faire last month. All three of those are--apparently--pretty close to getting to market.

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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 4:20 pm

W. H. Heydt wrote:All three of those are--apparently--pretty close to getting to market.
Where's your evidence for that? The "official" display has been vapourware for more than two years.
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 4:21 pm

Likewise, four Pi here all desperately waiting for a display.
Memory in C++ is a leaky abstraction .

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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 6:40 pm

DougieLawson wrote: Where's your evidence for that? The "official" display has been vapourware for more than two years.
The pi display was "finally coming" "before the end of the year or early next" on the 21st of october 2014.

(Educated guess follows) Then the BCM2836 was ready much sooner than expected so work on the display was abandoned until the Pi2 was released, picking up from that I hope the display will be ready for release soon.
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:15 pm

BMS Doug wrote:
DougieLawson wrote: Where's your evidence for that? The "official" display has been vapourware for more than two years.
The pi display was "finally coming" "before the end of the year or early next" on the 21st of october 2014.

(Educated guess follows) Then the BCM2836 was ready much sooner than expected so work on the display was abandoned until the Pi2 was released, picking up from that I hope the display will be ready for release soon.
There have been comments about issues with getting the FCC and EC compliance done.

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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Thu Jun 11, 2015 10:49 pm

So nothing new then, no change from October. Still no projected date when the mythical display might appear.
Note: Any requirement to use a crystal ball or mind reading will result in me ignoring your question.

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Heater
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Re: Where / how to buy BCM2835 for prototyping / production.

Fri Jun 12, 2015 12:16 am

Hey, what do you expect from a charitable foundation, charity?

:)

There are little displays available for the Pi already if you really need one.
Memory in C++ is a leaky abstraction .

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