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Second-Generation Mesh Extender

DFAT Funded Refinement of Mesh Extender

As part of the Pacific Humanitarian Challenge (PHC) grant that we have received from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), we are in the process of redesigning the Mesh Extender for use in tropical-maritime environment, and generally addressing the productisation of the Mesh Extender, so that we can easily produce robust and reliable Mesh Extenders that are required for the grant activities, but also so that after the grant, Mesh Extenders can be readily produced for other potential users.

Software Development

The primary repository for the Mesh Extender is:

If you wish to develop on the individual packages, then these are the relevant repositories:


  • Full custom-designed injection-moulded housing.
  • Designed to meet IP65 or IP66 (although we do not have funds to subject it to certification).
  • Integrated flexible power options: 12v/24v automotive, solar (with integrated MPPT), 5V USB and/or LiFePO4/LiIon/SLA battery (with integrated charge controller).
  • microSD slot for Rhizome bulk data storage (replacing the previous energy consuming and unreliable USB memory-stick interface).
  • Slot for RFD900/RFD868 radio
  • External UHF and Wi-Fi antennae for improved radio performance
  • Mesh of Things/Internet of Things (MoT/IoT) interface with 2x opto-isolated digital inputs, and 60W load rated relay switched output. These sensor/controller interfaces will be MeshMS-controllable via future software-update.
  • 2x Internal ethernet ports (1x giga-bit and 1x 100Mbit). These are not routed to the outside of the IP65/66-designed enclosure, due to the cost that this would entail.
  • Option for USB charging port.
  • Internal USB port for future accessories.
  • Serial EEPROM in power/radio cable to allow control of radio regulatory parameters, without having to configure the Mesh Extender device itself.

Radio Regulatory Control

One of the significant challenges for the Mesh Extender, is that it must be easily importable during the acute phase of a disaster. Problems can easily arise when importing radio equipment in such circumstances, as the customs/border protection officers are typically very busy during such events. It must, therefore, be very easy for them to establish that the hardware conforms with local regulatory requirements.

To facilitate this, Mesh Extender hardware will only operate using Wi-Fi, unless the serial EEPROM in the power cable indicates otherwise. That is, it can be honestly said that a shipment of Mesh Extenders can transmit only in the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band, if they are shipped separate from their power cables. This allows a single inventory, possibly regionally positioned, regardless of target country (subject to radio band compatibility, which will be discussed later). Kits of power cables, encoding the local regulatory parameters for each target country can then potentially be pre-positioned in-country ahead of time. Or failing this, such cables can be rapidly prepared using a special programmer, and then shipped either together with the Mesh Extenders, or in a separate consignment from the Mesh Extenders themselves.

A secondary use of the serial EEPROM is to inform the Mesh Extender whether it is allowed to accept unsigned firmware updates, or whether it is legally permissible to have arbitrary firmware installed. This is to address regulatory problems in places like the USA, where their national regulators are (unwisely in our view) moving towards such requirements.

See EEPROM memory layout for more information.

It should be noted that all tools required to program the serial EEPROM form part of the open-source source-code of the Mesh Extender system, and thus these measures go no further than necessary in preventing the kind of unintentional or accidental behaviours that national radio regulators typically require. That is, where there is a legitimate operational requirement to change the behaviour of the system, the tools required to do so exist – as indeed they exist for most programmable radio systems already approved for use in the relevant markets.

RFD900/RFD868 Radios

At present, the only difference in inventory is whether a Mesh Extender is physically fitted with an RFD900 or an RFD868 UHF packet radio. The RFD900 is suitable for transmitting from about 900MHz to 930MHz, and is thus suited for the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, many Pacific nations, and a handful of other countries. In contrast, the RFD868 is designed with the European/African 868MHz band in mind, and is thus suitable for those regions. Unfortunately, there is no single version of the radio that can operate in both bands, and ever were there such a version, it would require different antennae.

Thus, while it is possible to have regionally commonalised Mesh Extender hardware, there will still be two slightly different versions for the EU/African vs Americas/Oceania markets.

It should be noted that the RFD900/RFD868 radio module can be replaced inside a Mesh Extender by simply unplugging and replacing the radio module, so where there was an operational need to repurpose the radios between the differing regions, this could be done at reasonable cost.

Custom-Designed Injection Moulded Housing

The housing has been designed, and the injection-moulding tools are in the process of being fabricated. We expect the first shots from the injection-moulding to be received in early April.

Industrial design for the housing was by ProEn, South Australia. ProEn are also organising the manufacture and testing of the injection moulding tools. Injection moulding will be performed by Garon Plastics, South Australia, after the initial test phase, which will likely involve the tool-makers in China producing a test-run of perhaps 100 parts, that we will use for the first stage of the DFAT pilot, while waiting for the tool to be shipped to Australia.

The housing requires a BS154 o-ring to provide the seal between the two halves of the case. We currently source these from Statewide Bearings ( for AU$0.53 each in lots of 100.

The following images show 3d models of the housing, as well as how the PCB and antennae cabling will connect.

Perhaps the greatest challenge with the housing is to ensure that it will be IP65/66 rated, so that it can endure tropical-maritime and hot/cold outback conditions, while still being able to reject enough heat to keep the internal ambient temperature below 70C for proper operation of all components. This requires that the cases be light in colour, and ideally, have an optional shade fitted if they are to be used in full-sun situations.

Custom-Designed PCB

The PCB is currently undergoing the third revision to address outstanding errata.

First revision PCB, front and rear:

First revision PCB, front and rear

Power/Utility Cable

We are engaging with Arkidelo to design and fabricate a low-pressure encapsulation mould for the D-SUB 25 connector, to provide appropriate environmental sealing of the cable head, from which the power input connector, battery connector and (optional) external USB charge ports will emerge. This will also need to include provision for the thumb-tighten screw-ins for the connector. The purchase order for Arkidelo to begin work is due to be raised on 03MAR17, and will take approximately 7 weeks before we receive the first parts.

For the power input / USB charge port connector, we are currently intending to use (AU$1.38 each, for IP65-rated 4-pin 1A connectors)

For the battery connector, we are currently intending to use the 3-pin version of the above (these are not mateable with the 4-pin ones)

We will also need IP65/66 rated D-SUB 25-pin female connectors, which we have yet to source.

Bill of Materials

The current bill of materials is as follows, but note that this is subject to change, and is currently incomplete.

Also, for many items the purchase quantities are small, and pricing is retail rather than wholesale, and considerable cost savings are expected with bulk wholesale purchases. Prices exclude shipping, except where specified.

Electronics 0 0
Part Source Cost Quantity Unit Cost Stock On Order
RFD900+/RFD868+ UHF packet radio module RFDesign AU$120 1 AU$120 ? 0
2.4GHz Wi-Fi antenna TBA TBA TBA TBA 0 0
900MHz 3dB or 9dB antenna (2 per unit) TBA TBA TBA TBA ? 0
16GB microSD card AU$9.99 1 AU$9.99 0 0
Electronics SUB-TOTAL AU$120.00
Power/Radio/USB cable 0 0
Part Source Cost Quantity Unit Cost Stock On Order
Female IP67 D-SUB 25 solder-cup connector (they don't make IP65/66 ones). These are proving a problem, due to limited available stock (a little cheaper, 28 in stock immediately). (a little more expensive, 9 available now, 50 more 17MAR2017). AU$420.56 28 AU$15.02 28 100
4-pin + 3-pin power leads (100cm male, 75cm female), IP67 certified, UV-stable (uncertified) 18AWG Shenzen Bett Electronic Co. LTD ( US$61+$69+$76+$92 + $168 shipping 100 US$4.66 0 100
2KB I2C 8-pin DIP EEPROM for power/radio ID cable AU$0.348 1 AU$0.348 45 0
Thumb-screws. Imperial thread. $0.881 1 $0.89 50 0
Low-pressure over-moulding of power/radio cable, including assembly of cable components. To be provided by Akidelo. TBA 1 AU$15.00 0 0
Power/radio cable SUB-TOTAL AU$31.26 + US$4.66
Housing 0 0
Part Source Cost Quantity Unit Cost Stock On Order
Injection-moulded housings, produced from our custom injection-moulding tools. ~AU$400 to mount tool in machine, then fixed unit cost thereafter. Self-supply via Garon Plastics TBA TBA ~AU$10 ? 0 0
BS154 o-ring seal for housing Statewide bearings ( AU$65.45 100 AU$0.66 98 0
reverse-sma fly-lead with bulk-head connector RFDesign? TBA TBA TBA 0 0
fly-lead from Domino Core to reverse-sma bulk-head connector GL-INET or RFDesign? TBA TBA TBA 0 0
Internal and external serial number and product identification labels. TBA - likely a Trotec laminate + adhesive, plus local manufacture. It is also possible we might be able to get the cases laser-marked. TBA TBA TBA 0 0
Goretex breather hole adhesive membrane spots. Shelf life of unused adhesive may be short (<1 year), also they need to confirm the most appropriate part and carry out a fitness for purpose appraisal. 500 is the normal minimum order, but they may be willing to entertain a smaller job-lot for us, Sydney office, +61 2 94736800 AU$1600 + GST + delivery 100 AU$5.81 0 0
Housing SUB-TOTAL AU$16.47
GRAND TOTAL AU$168.73 + US$4.66

Quality Control and Testing

We need to establish quality control, programming, test and qualification procedures for the Mesh Extender units. To be confirmed.

Mesh Extender PCB Test & Programming Rig

To be designed and implemented with Theo. Test rig that will allow flash programming and testing of all functions of the PCB.

  • Super-cap safe shutdown
  • Ethernet port 1
  • Ethernet port 2
  • Wi-Fi (access point)
  • Wi-Fi (ad-hoc)
  • Servald and LBARD operate
  • Internal UHF packet radio operation (sniff serial port?)
  • Internal UHF packet radio reads, honours and reports Power/Radio cable I2C EEPROM status
  • External radio operation
  • Relay-switched output
  • Opto-isolated inputs
  • microSD card bulk storage
  • Control of ssh login via microSD card special file
  • Control of ssh login via Power/Radio cable I2C EEPROM
  • Web-server operates
  • Web-server reports radio regulatory settings
  • Over-the-air update operates
  • Over-the-air update BID can be configured via microSD card special file
  • Over-the-air update BID can be configured in Power/Radio cable I2C EEPROM, and is honoured

Power/Radio Cable Test & Programming Rig

To be designed and implemented with Ryan. Largely based on our flash-rfd900 utility to probe and program cable, combined with functional indication through a set of LEDs.

Informal IP/Environmental Testing of Enclosures

Details to be confirmed.

Suggested tests:

  • Hot weather test (operation in full sun and high humidity to 45C).
  • Temperature and humidity cycling test.
  • Water spray test with Power/Radio cable connected.
  • Repeated sudden power-loss
  • … ?

Success criteria:

  • Uninterrupted operation through tests (confirm via pingability via Wi-Fi?).
  • System reboots cleanly.
  • No condensation or dust ingress at conclusion of testing.
  • … ?


The ME2.0 has not yet been subjected to any certifications. We intend to pursue Australian/New Zealand, EU and US certifications of the electronics, and IP65 or IP66 certification of the hardware.

content/meshextender/2ng.1489555821.txt.gz · Last modified: 14/03/2017 22:30 by Paul Gardner-Stephen