A typical industrial system may require multiple hardware and software updates over its life span as designers and management strive to optimize factory automation equipment and lower production costs. Typical hardware changes include a wide range of new high-speed I/O requirements, interactive displays, and signal analysis circuitry plus the related control software. To cope with these frequent updates, industrial designers are adopting an extensible design concept based on Intel® Core™ architecture with scalable technology that can be easily customized to match future needs. Both the second and third generation Intel® Core™ architectures provide a modular and expandable framework that designers can use to boost performance, reduce the system component count, lower power requirements, and enhance I/O flexibility while simplifying future product changes and software updates.
The Intel® Core™ processor family provides an easily expandable I/O configuration for industrial automation platforms allowing designers to modify functionality as requirements change. The processors combine a variable number of CPU cores, Last Level Cache (LLC), a System Agent, and an optional integrated graphics processor. The System Agent is the heart of the I/O system and includes multiple PCI-Express lanes, Direct Media Interface (DMI), a dual-channel memory controller, and the display engine. Combined with an external chipset, the combination can also produce a wide range of I/O such as Serial ATA, up to 14 USB 2.0 ports, and multiple display outputs including HDMI, DVI, VGA, DP, LVDS, and Intel® SDVO. The latest 3rd-Generation Intel® Core™ processor architecture, based on tri-gate transistor design and 22 nm process technology, delivers enhanced performance features that are ideal for rugged, industrial applications supporting high-speed, high-definition image analysis and multiple video displays.
Industrial automation designers can take advantage of the adaptable features of Intel® Core™ architecture by integrating COTS products from Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance members into their new projects. For example, CompuLab offers industrial PCs designed for customization and extensibility that are based around Intel® Core™ processors. Their Intense PC family benefits from low power draw and quiet operation yet features up to 16 GB of DDR3 system memory, dual-head high definition displays, surround sound digital audio, dual Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports, up to six USB 2.0 ports, dual eSATA, two mini-PCIe sockets, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 and an RS232 serial port (See figure 1). In addition, the PCs offer custom functionality and I/O modularity courtesy of the Function and Connectivity Extension (FACE) modules. Taking the form of an internal extension board with a sheet-metal panel to the front, FACE module specifications and reference designs have been published to allow for third party design of custom boards for seamless integration into the Intense PC family. Several FACE modules have been designed by CompuLab to extend functionality, including one that offers more Gigabit Ethernet ports and another that makes two mini-PCI-Express slots available.
Alliance member AAEON Technology also offers off-the-shelf products with expandable architectures for industrial applications. The recently introduced IMBM-B75A is a Micro-ATX form factor industrial motherboard based on the 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processor and Intel® B75 Express chipset (See figure 2). "This industrial motherboard supports up to ten USB ports for system integrators in need of numerous and flexible interfaces," said Jill Chu, Product Manager of AAEON’s Industrial System Division. "Furthermore, IMBM-B75A enables support for up to three independent or simultaneous Full HD displays via HDMI or VGA, making it ideal for Multimedia, Control Room, Building Automation and Industrial Factory applications.” Additionally, this board offers five COM ports, three Audio jacks, one keyboard/mouse and an eight-bit digital I/O. Users can also increase board functionality with both sixteen and four lane PCI-Express interfaces plus an optional onboard Trusted Platform Module.
These products are just a couple of examples where designers of industrial systems can take advantage of Intel® Core™ architecture to prepare for the unavoidable upgrades and modifications needed to support a state-of-the-art factory production environment. With this built-in flexibility and a little advanced planning, design teams can create industrial systems that can be easily transformed for the next generation. If you think that Intel® Core™ architecture fits your next factory automation project or if you have already started a project please share your concerns, questions, and successes with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community. You can keep up with the latest technical articles and product announcements at the Embedded Computing Design archives on Intel® Architecture.
To learn more about the design of industrial systems, see “Top Picks – Industrial”
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AAEON Technology is an Associate member of the by Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. CompuLab is a General member of the Alliance.