HomeRaspberry PiThis isn't made for you: reTerminal E10-1

This isn’t made for you: reTerminal E10-1

It's probably made for me

When SeeedStudio released reTerminal, an industrial-looking panel based on a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 I was excited about a prospect of a heavy-duty terminal for makers. In my review, I outlined how cool it is, and how doing away with USB 3.0 ports was a less than a stellar idea, but reTerminal carried the promise of bringing PCIe port to the table via a custom connector at the back. There was one problem, these add-ons were nowhere to be found. Until now… Meet reTerminal E10-1.

reTerminal E10-1

reTerminal E10-1

reTerminal E10-1 is the first reTerminal add-on (backpack!) which latches to the PCIe port at the back and expands the terminal’s functionality. Just like reTerminal, reTerminal E10-1 won’t charm you with its spartan design. The add-on is purely functional in form and style.

When I removed the silicone cover from the PCIe port and rubber seals, I expected a satisfying latching click when both devices joined. Instead, reTerminal E10-1 barely presses itself against the back of the reTerminal and in a true industrial manner relies on two M4 screws to keep it in place.

reTerminal E10-1 is actually thicker than the terminal itself and bears no features to make the use of it more comfortable. Basically, it’s a box with all the ports industrial automation could think of. On one side we have a 9-pin D-SUB sporting an RS-232 connector placed close by the CAN/RS485 familiar 6-pin terminal. On the opposite face, a DC jack (12V/4A recommended) brings power to the device and a PoE-enabled RJ45 offers extra Gigabit Ethernet to keep your reTerminal connected to the Internet as well as to the robot.

reTerminal E10-1 PCB

To discover more features, we have to dive inside. First, a small flap at the bottom of the reTerminal E10-1 houses two 18650 batteries, should you desire portable power. A peek under the hood reveals support for M.2 SSD storage (key B) in 2242/2280 configurations (SATA 2.0). Just underneath the port, a familiar PCB outline indicates support for PCIe cards.

Around the board, you will find a SIM slot (3G – unsure as not clear in docs, 4G is supported via PCIe expansion card & 5G via M.2 expansion card) 2 microphones and a tiny speaker. In case things get toasty, there is an optional GPIO-controlled fan to cool down expansion cards.

All wireless protocols can deploy custom antennas thanks to 4 glands exposing antenna mounts on the top of the device.

Expand your expansion and add-on module add-ons

reTerminal E10-1

This is where things get out of hand. Looking at the SeeedStudio promo page for reTerminal E10-1, the module brings support for further expansions. The need to add the SSD inside is one thing, but expanding the expanding module with LTE/LoRa WAN feels a bit daft.

I have to give it to them, that reading the whole list of supported modules is quite impressive, but you have to be aware that some of that stuff you are not getting by default.

The expansions not included are:

The installation of the M.2 SSD reveals one more thing, a tiny switch which enables PCIe cards OR M.2 SSD port. You won’t be able to use both at the same time. I understand the limitation of this, but hiding the toggle deep inside perhaps is not the most optimal solution. It means that reTerminal E10-1 isn’t an all-in-one terminator but a built-for-purpose machine tailored to your specific and probably niche needs.

It’s not made for you

All my remarks about the reTerminal E10-1 won’t encourage you to purchase one. That’s ok, as reTerminal E10-1 isn’t made for you. While reTerminal was somehow marketed as a cool device for makers, the target customer for reTerminal E10-1 isn’t you. No offence, it’s probably not you, even if you know about most of the things I mentioned above.

reTerminal already comes with faster storage (eMMC), and while it won’t compete with M.2 SSD it beats the microSD card most of the time. Battery backup is nice, but a USB-C power bank will take care of that too. The average maker rarely needs CAN bus or RS stuff. Exceptions apply, but I think I made my point.

It’s probably made for me

reTerminal E10-1 and a robotic arm – both use the same communication protocol

My official job title is: Robotics Engineer and Project Leader at Labman Automation. We make bespoke robots that automate various industries. I’m not saying this to brag, in fact, I know much less than my title seems to suggest, but after almost 2 years and dozens of robots built and delivered to the customer, I can totally appreciate where the SeeedStudio is going with the reTerminal E10-1.

I’m looking at the reTerminal E10-1 and already thinking that I have a LED array to test at work. Normally, a maker would simply hook up one of their cool Arduino boards and use the FastLED library, but in the world of industrial automation, this job is outsourced to custom LED boards controlled by 24V and RS-485. It’s not that it’s impossible, but trying makeshift controllers on robots can cost in excess of £500.000 is generally frowned upon, although not unheard of.

As the shortages of components are real, having something like reTerminal E10-1 can honestly help out a lot. The board which drives my robot (and is used to communicate with the PC) won’t be in stock till Feb 2023. While there is nothing I can do about it but wait, I could build the rest of the machine in the meantime, and test individual components as far as I can, waiting for the brains to arrive.

Can I test these in any other way? Yes, will it be as cool as using reTerminal E10-1 with reTerminal? No. Spending £200 on a reTerminal + £100 on reTerminal E10-1 to test various devices isn’t a lavish bill, trust me. I can see a value in that, especially that I can also see real value in a £350+ Molex crimp tool even if I wouldn’t buy one for myself.

Getting started

It’s a new product from SeeedStudio, so there isn’t a lot out there to guide your hand, but the Wiki article provided by the Studio itself. The page contains samples for each protocol and a guide showing you how to install external modules and take advantage of them. Give it a browse if you are looking for a leg up.

Shop at SeeedStudio

Get reTerminal, reTerminal E10-1 and other components and development modules for your projects.

What am I going to do with it? I’m tempted to get an ODB2 adapter for my Audi Q3 as it also uses the CAN bus to talk with peripherals. Providing I can extract information about the current fuel levels, and consumption and pull data from the UK’s fuel prices I would like to add a simple dashboard to my car that shows the current speed in: pence per second!

Honestly, knowing how much you spend per second to keep your car moving, overtaking and racing to the next red light will keep your foot off the accelerator. It’s probably one of the most creative ways to make drivers slow down. If introduced, could result not only in safer roads but more economical driving styles which are great for the environment.

Final thoughts

It’s not made for you unless you are looking for specific capabilities listed in my article. I understand who SeeedStudio is targeting, but as they made quite a splash with their reTerminal among makers too… can we have makers-orientated expansions, please? For now, I’m going to take this to work and pitch it there. I already know other project leaders that will be overly enthusiastic about all those geeky connectors. SeeedStudio – great job with reTerminal E10-1 – now can we have more of these to pick from? Thanks. Let me know what expansions would you like to see from SeeedStudio in this Reddit thread.

🆓📈 – See the transparency note for details.


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