AVR Microcontrollers Get MPLAB X IDE Support

Designers who have traditionally used Microchip’s PIC microcontrollers and developed with the MPLAB ecosystem can now easily evaluate and incorporate AVR MCUs into their applications. The majority of AVR MCUs are now beta supported with the release of MPLAB X Integrated Development Environment (IDE) version 5.05, available now from Microchip Technology. Support for additional AVR MCUs and enhancements will be added in future MPLAB versions. AVR support will continue to be added to Atmel Studio 7 and Atmel START for current and future AVR devices.

MPLAB X IDE version 5.05 provides a unified development experience that is both cross-platform and scalable with compatibility on Windows, macOS and Linux operating systems, allowing designers to develop with AVR MCUs on their hardware system of choice. The tool chain has been enhanced with support for Microchip’s code configuration tool, MPLAB Code Configurator (MCC), making it easy for developers to configure software components and device settings such as clocks, peripherals and pin layout with the tools’ menu-driven interface. MCC can also generate code for specific development boards, such as Microchip’s Curiosity ATmega4809 Nano (DM320115) development board and existing AVR Xplained development boards.

More compiler choices and debugger/programmer options are also available when compiling and programming AVR MCUs using MPLAB X IDE 5.05. Compiler choices include the AVR MCU GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) or the MPLAB XC8 C Compiler, providing developers with additional advanced software optimization techniques to reduce code size. Designers can also accelerate debugging and programming using MPLAB PICki 4 programmer/debugger tool or the newly released MPLAB Snap programmer/debugger tool.

The majority of development boards available to evaluate and program AVR MCUs are supported by the MPLAB ecosystem and MCC. Xplained development boards are compatible with START and are now compatible with MPLAB X IDE. Xplained development boards are cost-effective, fully integrated MCU development platforms targeted at first-time users, makers, and those seeking a feature-rich rapid prototyping board. The Xplained platform includes an integrated programmer/debugger and requires no additional hardware to get started.

MPLAB X IDE version 5.05, MPLAB XC8 C Compiler and AVR MCU GCC are available for free on Microchip’s website. The MPLAB PICkit 4 (PG164140) development tool is available today for $47.95. The MPLAB Snap (PG164100) is available today for $14.95. The ATmega4809 Curiosity Nano board (DM320115) is available today for $10.00.

Microchip Technology | www.microchip.com

Reinforced Isolated Amplifier Boasts High Precision

Texas Instruments has introduced a new reinforced isolated amplifier. The company claims that devices provides the industry’s highest precision and working voltages and longest lifetime reliability. The combination of better nonlinearity, lower offset and gain error, and higher temperature stability, is expected to enable engineers to overcome performance limitations and design high-precision systems.

The new amplifier is designed for isolated voltage sensing in factory automation and control, grid infrastructure, rail transport and motor drive applications. TI’s capacitive isolation technology enables long lifetimes and 50 percent higher working voltages than required by isolation industry standards, common-mode transient immunity (CMTI) of up to 80 kV/µs and robust operation over an extended industrial temperature range of -55°C to +125°C.

TI’s next-generation isolated amplifier delivers higher working voltages, longer lifetimes, more stable and accurate measurements over an extended temperature range, and reduced board space

The high-precision ISO224 enables more accurate measurements of ±10-V signals, which are widely used in industrial applications, with 25 percent better nonlinearity, eight times lower gain error, lower offset drift and faster system response than similar competitive devices, according to TI. Engineers can reduce board space with the ISO224’s 60 percent smaller package than the previous-generation ISO12x amplifiers as well as its output that supports direct connection to an ADC with 5-V input. The ISO224 also features a single, high-side supply with integrated voltage detection that simplifies the design and system-level diagnostics.

Designers can download the TINA-TI SPICE model and then simulate and analyze their circuit behavior with the ISO224 isolated amplifier by downloading the SIM TINA-TI reference design, the ISO224 TINA-TI SPICE model, or by using the ISO224 evaluation module. Preproduction samples of the ISO224 are available now through the TI store. The ISO224 is available in an 8-pin, 5.85-mm-by-7.5-mm small-outline integrated circuit (SOIC) package. Pricing starts at $6.49.

Texas Instruments | www.ti.com

Signage-Oriented Mini-STX SBC Taps Ryzen V1000

By Eric Brown

Sapphire, which makes AMD-based graphics cards and motherboards, offers a 147.3 mm x 139.7 mm Mini-STX (5×5-inch) form factor SBC that runs Ubuntu 16.04 or Windows on AMD’s new Ryzen Embedded V1000 SoC. AMD’s Ryzen V1000 is highly competitive on CPU performance with the latest Intel Core chips, and the Radeon Vega graphics are superior, enabling four 4K displays to run at once.


FS-FP5V
(click image to enlarge)
The only other Ryzen V1000 based SBC we’ve seen is Seco’s open-spec, 120 x 120mm Udoo Bolt, which ships to Kickstarter backers in December. Sapphire’s commercial FS-FP5V is available for sale now with shipments beginning later this month, according to the Tom’s Hardware post that alerted us to the product.

The FS-FP5V starts at $325 for a model equipped with the dual-core, quad-thread V1202B version of the Ryzen V1000 with lower-end Vega 3 graphics. The three models with the quad-core, octa-threaded versions of the SoC go for $340, $390, and $450, with ascending clock rates and graphics ranging from Vega 8 to 11.



AMD Ryzen Embedded V1000 models, all of which are available with the FS-FP5V
(click image to enlarge)
Pricing, which does not include RAM or storage, seems to be a bit higher than the Udoo Bolt. The Bolt also adds an Atmega32U4 MCU for Arduino and Grove compatibility but is limited to the two lower-end V1000 SoC models. The Bolt seems more like a general purpose embedded board while the FS-FP5V, which has up to 4x DisplayPorts, is more directly aimed at digital signage and other media-centric applications including electronic gaming, medical imaging, thin clients, and POS terminals.

Unlike the Udoo Bolt, there’s no microSD slot or eMMC. There is however, a SATA III slot with power headers, as well as an M.2 M-key 2280 slot for SATA III or PCIe. A separate M.2 E-key 2242 connection supports PCIe devices including WiFi modules.

 
FS-FP5V portside views
(click images to enlarge)
It’s unclear if the cited prices include all four DP++ ports, which are listed as “up to 4x.” The board is further equipped with an audio jack, 2x GbE ports, serial and GPIO headers, and 3x USB 2.0 host ports. There’s also a USB 3.1 Type-C port, which does not appear to be used for DP. It’s unclear if it’s used for power.

 
Bleujour Kubb enclosure for FS-FP5V (left) and upcoming FS-FP5V-based 2×2 display wall from Seneca Data
(click images to enlarge)
This is Sapphire’s first Mini-STX SBC. Its other AMD-based motherboards include AMD R-Series based Mini-ITX boards and some 4×4-inch eNUC form factor boards such as the G-Series based LX 210.

In the YouTube video farther below, a Sapphire rep says his company can make custom boards based on the Ryzen V1000. The video also shows a Kubb enclosure for the FS-FP5V from Bleujour, as well as an upcoming 2×2 digital signage display wall from Seneca Data that taps the FS-FP5V to generate 4x 4K displays.

Specifications listed for the FS-FP5V include:

  • Processor — AMD Ryzen Embedded V1000 (see chart above)
  • Memory — 0GB to 32GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM up to 3200MHz with ECC support via 2x sockets
  • Storage:
    • M.2 M-Key 2280 slot for SATA III or PCIe x4)
    • SATA III connector with 5V SATA power
  • Wireless — M.2 E-Key 2242 for WiFi and other PCIe x1
  • Networking — 2x Gigabit Ethernet ports (Realtek RTL8111G)
  • Display/media:
    • Up to 4x DisplayPort++ available via 2x dual-role USB 3.0 Type-C ports
    • 4x simultaneous 4K@60 displays
    • Radeon Vega 3, 8, or 11 graphics with DirectX 12, EGL 1.4, IOMMU 2.0, OpenCL 2.1, OpenGL ES 1.1, 2.x, and 3.x (Halti), OpenGL Next (Vulkan), OpenGL 4.6, 10-bit HEVC decoder (H.265), VP9 decoder, up to 10-bit, limited profile 2, Eyefinity
    • 3.5mm audio jack (ALC262 HD 4CH)
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.1 Type-C port
    • 3x USB 2.0 host ports
    • RS232/422/485 header
    • GPIO headers
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 50°C
  • Dimensions — 147.3 x 139.7mm
  • Operating system — Ubuntu 16.04 with Linux 4.9 or 4.14.14; Windows 7/8.1/10 etc.


 

AMD’s promo video for FS-FP5V
Further information

The FS-FP5V is available now starting at $325, with shipments due later this month. More information may be found at Sapphire’s FS-FP5V product page, which links to an order form.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on July 9.

Sapphire | www.sapphiretech.com

Slim Signage Player Features Radeon E8860 GPU and 6 HDMI Ports

By Eric Brown

Ibase’s new SI-626 digital signage and video wall (VW) player combines high-end functionality with a slim 30 mm height—1.5 mm thinner than its AMD Ryzen V1000 based SI-324 player. Like the SI-324, the SI-626 features hardware based EDID remote management with software setting mode to prevent display issues due to cable disconnection or display identification failures.


 
SI-626 from two angles
(click images to enlarge)
The system is notable for providing AMD’s Radeon E8860 graphics, which can drive six HDMI 1.4b displays. There’s also hardware EDID emulation for remote operation, as well as a “flexible VW display configuration setting.”

Like Ibase’s recent SI-614 and OPS-compatible IOPS-602
players, the SI-626 supports Intel’s 7th Gen “Kaby Lake” Core processors, and like the IOPS-602, it also supports 6th Gen Skylake parts. The system supports 7th and 6th Gen chips with FCBGA1440 sockets and Intel QM170 or HM170 chipsets by way of a “MBD626” mainboard.


SI-626 front view
(click image to enlarge)
The product page notes that the Core CPUs have 35 W TDPs or lower. Yet, the press release notes only one model: the quad-core 2.8 GHz/ 3.5 GHz Core i7-6820EQ from the Skylake family, which has a 45 W TDP. OS support is listed as “Win7 64-bit, Win10 64-bit Enterprise, and Linux Ubuntu 64-bit (Installation).”

The SI-626 can load up to 32GB of DDR4-2133 RAM and offers an M.2 M-Key 2280 slot for storage. There’s also a 2.5-inch SATA bay and an M.2 E-Key 2230 slot, as well as a full-size mini-PCIe slot for WiFi/BT, 4G LTE, and capture cards.

The SI-626 is equipped with 6x HDMI 1.4 ports with independent audio output and “ultra-high resolution” support. You also get 4x USB 3.0 ports, 2x RS-232 serial ports with RJ45 connectors, and dual GbE ports (Realtek RTL8111G). The system is further equipped with an audio jack, watchdog, mounting brackets, and 2x LEDs.

The 290 mm x 222 mm x 29.9 mm, 2.2 kg signage player provides a 0 to 45°C range with 5 grms, 5~500 Hz, random vibration resistance (with SSD). A segregated ventilation system is said to reduce internal dust.

The SI-626 offers a 12 V DC jack with a 150 W power adapter supported with Ibase iControl power management and Observer remote monitoring technologies. These work together to provide automatic power scheduling, power failure detection, and restoration to default state in the event of a system crash. You can even boot up the system “under low ambient conditions,” says Ibase.

Further information

The SI-626 appears to be available now at an undisclosed price with a standard configuration of 16 GB RAM and a 128 GB SSD. More information may be found at Ibase’s SI-626 product page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on September 20..

Ibase | www.ibase.com.tw

SDM-S-Based Display Module for Digital Signage

Axiomtek has introduced the SDM300S, a signage computer module with the latest small Intel Smart Display Module (Intel SDM-S) architecture. The SDM300S is powered by the onboard Intel Pentium processor N4200 or Celeron processor N3350 with the Intel HD Graphics 505 or 500 chipset. It can be externally plugged or integrated into a display and is well-suited for space-constricting applications. The smart display module is optimized for digital signage, interactive kiosk, point of sale (POS) and video wall applications.

The all-in-one SDM300S measures only 100 mm x 60 mm (roughly the size of a credit card) and doesn’t have a housing, so it is well-suited for thin displays. The Intel SDM Small (Intel SDM-S) module has one GbE LAN port (built-in Intel Ethernet controller i211AT) and two USB 3.0 ports. The SDM300S has high-speed PCIe connectivity with a custom I/O receptacle board that eliminates the need for external I/Os. It has built-in USB 3.0, HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, Serial TX/RX and I2C signals. Additionally, one M.2 Key E 2230 slot is available for a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth module. The SDM300S features one 4 GB or 8 GB LPDDR4 memory onboard, plus an onboard 32/64GB eMMC.

According the company, the SDM300S was developed for the interactive whiteboard and digital signage markets. It can be easily connected to a SDM-compliant display via its high-speed PCIe edge connector–which supports 4K resolution displays and video capture.

Some Key Features:

  • Intel Smart Display Module Small (Intel SDM-S) specification Intel Pentium processor N4200 or Celeron processor N3350
  • Option of 4 GB or 8 GB LPDDR4 memory onboard
  • 32/64 GB eMMC onboard
  • One M.2 Key E 2230 slot for Wi-Fi or Bluetooth options
  • One GbE LAN and two USB 3.0 ports
  • Small design for easy integration into slim displays

Axiomtek | us.axiomtek.com

MCUs Provide Inductive Sensing Solution

Cypress Semiconductor has announced production availability of the PSoC 4700S series of microcontrollers that use MagSense inductive sensing technology for contactless metal sensing. The series also incorporates Cypress’ industry-leading CapSense capacitive-sensing technology, empowering consumer, industrial, and automotive product developers to create sleek, state-of-the-art designs using metals and other materials. The highly-integrated MCUs enable cost-efficient system designs by reducing bill-of-material costs and provide superior noise immunity for reliable operation, even in extreme environmental conditions.
Cypress also announced availability of the new CY8CKIT-148 PSoC 4700S Inductive Sensing Evaluation Kit, a low-cost hardware platform that enables design and debug of the MCUs. The kit includes MagSense inductive-sensing buttons and a proximity sensor, as well as an FPC connector to evaluate various coils, such as a rotary encoder. The PSoC 4700S series is supported in Cypress’ PSoC Creator Integrated Design Environment (IDE), which allows users to drag and drop production-ready hardware blocks, including the MagSense inductive sensing capability, into a design and configure them easily via a simple graphical user interface.

The PSoC 4700S MCUs integrate:

  • A 32-bit Arm Cortex-M0+ core
  • Up to 32 KB Flash and 4 KB SRAM
  • 36 GPIOs
  • 7 programmable analog blocks
  • 7 programmable digital blocks

Support for up to 16 sensors, enabling implementation of buttons, linear and rotary encoders, and proximity sensing.

The CY8CKIT-148 PSoC 4700S Inductive Sensing Evaluation Kit is available for $49 at the Cypress online store and from select distributors.

Cypress Semiconductor | www.cypress.com

Chassis Mount AC-DC Supplies Feature Low Profile Metal Case

CUI’s Power Group has announced a new line of compact, chassis mount AC-DC power supplies housed in an enclosed metal case. The VGS-B series offers power ratings from 35 W to 350 W with low 30 mm profiles and compact packages as small as 99 mm x 82 mm x 30 mm (3.89″ x 3.22″ x 1.18″). Delivering no-load power consumption as low as 0.3 W and an operating temperature range of -20°C to +70°C, these rugged, metal enclosed power modules are well suited for reducing standby power usage and optimizing available space within commercial and industrial applications.
CUI’s VGS-B power supplies carry single output voltages of 12, 24, 30 and 48 VDC, depending on the series, and an adjustable output trim. While most of the series are convection cooled, the VGS-250B and VGS-350B series both feature built-in cooling with a temperature-controlled fan. All models further feature a screw terminal interface, along with over current, over voltage and over temperature protections.

Safety approvals for the VGS-B series include UL and EN 60950-1 as well as EN 55032 for conducted and radiated emissions. The VGS-B series are available immediately with prices starting at $14.07 per unit (100s) through distribution.

CUI | www.cui.com

Bonus Newsletter: Digital Signage

Coming to your inbox tomorrow: October has a 5th Tuesday, so we’re bringing you a bonus newsletter: Digital Signage. Digital signage ranks among the most dynamic areas of today’s embedded computing space. Makers of digital signage players, board-level products and other technologies continue to roll out new solutions for implementing powerful digital signage systems. This newsletter looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in digital signage.

Also, we’ve added Drawings for Free Stuff to our weekly newsletters. Make sure you’ve subscribed to the newsletter so you can participate.

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your Digital Signage
newsletter issue tomorrow.

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Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

Our weekly Circuit Cellar Newsletter switches its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Analog & Power. (11/6) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Microcontroller Watch. (11/13) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (11/20) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards. (11/27) This newsletter content focuses on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Bidirectional Buck-Boost Controller Targets Autonomous Vehicles

Analog Devices has announced the Power by Linear LT8708/-1, a 98% efficient bidirectional buck-boost switching regulator controller that operates between two batteries that have the same voltage. This makes them well-suited for redundancy in self-driving cars. The LT8708/-1 operates from an input voltage that can be above, below or equal to the output voltage, making it well suited for two each 12 V, 24 V or 48 V batteries commonly found in electric and hybrid vehicles. It operates between two batteries and prevents system shutdown should one of the batteries fail. The LT8708/-1 can also be used in 48V/12V and 48V/24V dual battery systems.

The LT8708/-1 operates with a single inductor over a 2.8 V to 80 V input voltage range and can produce an output voltage from 1.3 V to 80 V, delivering up to several kilowatts of power depending on the choice of external components and number of phases. It simplifies bidirectional power conversion in battery/capacitor backup systems that need regulation of VOUT, VIN, and/or IOUT, IIN, both in the forward or reverse direction. This device’s six independent forms of regulation allow it to be used in numerous applications.

The LT8708-1 is used in parallel with the LT8708 to add power and phases. The LT8708-1 always operates as a slave to the master LT8708, can be clocked out-of-phase and has the capability to deliver as much power as the master. One or more slaves can be connected to a single master, proportionally increasing power and current capability of the system.

Another application is for an input voltage to power a load, where this same input voltage is used to power a LT8708/-1 circuit that charges a battery or bank of supercapacitors. When the input voltage goes away, the load maintains power without disruption from the battery or supercaps by way of the LT8708’s bidirectional capability.

Forward and reverse current can be monitored and limited for the input and output sides of the converter. All four current limits (forward input, reverse input, forward output and reverse output) can be set independently using four resistors. In combination with the DIR (direction) pin, the chip can be configured to process power from VIN to VOUT or from VOUT to VIN ideal for automotive, solar, telecom and battery-powered systems.

The LT8708 is available in a 5 mm × 8 mm QFN-40 package. Three temperature grades are available, with operation from –40 to 125°C for the extended and industrial grades and a high temp automotive range of –40°C to 150°C.

Pricing for the LT8708/-1 starts at $6.60 (1,000s).

Analog Devices | www.analog.com

Firms Team to Teach Implementing Power Supplies on STM32 MCUs

STMicroelectronics and Biricha Digital Power, an industrial training and consultancy company focused on switched power design and EMC, have developed a workshop to show power-supply engineers why and how to quickly move to a digital implementation. The workshop, aimed at analog PSU (Power Supply Unit) designers and embedded-system engineers who need to build high-performance, stable digital power supplies and Digital PFCs (Power Factor Corrections), will be based on a complementary portfolio of tailored hardware, software, tools, labs and detailed training documentation.

This includes the STM32F334 product line (with its high-resolution timer – 217 ps), a member of ST’s STM32 family of more than 800 MCUs covering the full spectrum from ultra-low power to high performance and supporting ecosystem, combined with Biricha’s Power Supply and PFC design software.

Key sessions will demonstrate how to quickly design digital power supplies and power factor correction from scratch, and how to design stable digital control loops for both voltage and current mode DC/DC and PFC applications. Workshop participants will get a chance to design, code, implement, and test several digital power supplies. The first workshop, an all-inclusive 4-day course hosted by Future Electronics, is scheduled for November 27-30, 2018 in Munich, Germany.

Biricha Digital Power | www.biricha.com

STMicroelectronics | www.st.com

MCU-Based Project Enhances Dance Game

Using Wavelet Transform

Microcontrollers are perfect for systems that need to process analog signals such as audio and do real-time digital control in conjunction with those signals. Along just those lines, learn how these two Cornell students recreated the classic arcade game “Dance Dance Revolution” using a Microchip PIC32 MCU. Their version performs wavelet transforms to detect beats from an audio signal to synthesize dance move instructions in real time without preprocessing.

By Michael Solomentsev and Drew Dunne

We designed a version of the traditional arcade game, “Dance Dance Revolution,” that synthesizes dance instructions from any audio source using the PIC32 MCU. Unlike the original game, in which users must choose from a pre-selected list of songs, our system allows users to plug in their audio device and play songs of their choice. The dance move instructions are then generated in real time by buffering the audio and processing it, using the discrete wavelet transform.

We were inspired by a mutual desire to work on a music-related project, and both of us had fond memories of playing this kind of game. We also wanted to add some sort of novel, interesting component, so we brainstormed the idea of allowing the player to play whatever song he or she wanted. The game is much more fun when the song playing is your favorite tune. All versions of the commercial game have pre-programmed song libraries, so replay value is limited. Our version has no such limitation. The discrete wavelet transform was selected as a processing method because we needed both time and frequency resolution. We also needed a computationally efficient algorithm.

The system requires two kinds of user input: an audio source and button presses from the dance mat floor tiles. The audio input must be processed, so it needs to be delayed or buffered until the processing is complete. Another reason for the delay of the audio output is to give ample time for the user to react to the instructions created from processing the audio. In contrast, the user input needs to be in real time. We use two PIC32s to do the input processing—one detects beats and reads the dance mat input, while the other buffers audio. We use a macOS application to display the beats and handle scoring.

Figure 1
Overview of our entire “Dance Dance Evolution” project fully set up

We built a custom dance mat for the game, consisting of five individual tiles that could each detect when players put their weight on it (Figure 1). They needed to be both durable and sensitive to pressure. To achieve this, we used force sensitive resistors wired in parallel. These were polled at approximately 20 Hz for changes in resistance. These resistors were placed directly between the tiles—which were made out of canvas covered boards—and the supports that raised them off the ground.

Hardware Design

We used a PIC32 development board designed by Sean Carroll, with an DAC socket and GPIO pins brought out, to provide flexibility for development [1]. We also used a second PIC32 on a smaller development board, with connections to the floor tiles and the Serial to USB cable. The floor tiles were wired underneath to a protoboard, and all-important signals were fed up to our main protoboard using a ribbon cable. Figure 2 shows the schematic of the system, incorporating Sean Carroll’s full-size and small PIC32 development boards.

Figure 2
Shown here is the schematic of the system, incorporating Sean Carroll’s full-size and small PIC32 development boards.

We soldered our audio circuitry on a protoboard to make it easier to debug and to reduce noise. Our audio input jack fed into a 500 µF capacitor to cut out any DC component, then we fed it into an offset circuit, such that the ADCs could read it with no clipping. The DAC output was fed directly to an audio jack and speakers.

Another PIC32 MCU handled audio buffering, because SPI communication with both a 128 KB serial SRAM and DAC took too many cycles to perform the necessary signal processing simultaneously. We used our professor Bruce Land’s code for the SRAM chip for reading and writing to the SRAM and writing to the DAC [2]. His code included some read/write methods, and handled the SPI setup and mode changes. We had to add code to read from the ADC in a timer interrupt at 40 kHz, write to a location in the SRAM, and finally read from a different location and write that value to the DAC. The locations written to and read from were incremented each time, to create a loop around the SRAM memory locations. To change how long we wanted to buffer the audio, we just needed to change the values of MAX_ADDR and MIN_ADDR. The closer together they were, the smaller the range of the SRAM we used. This was important, because using the entire SRAM gave us a buffer of about 3.3 seconds, and we wanted only about 2.5 seconds.

The major consideration that affected our tile construction was a desire for resiliency. Because users would probably stomp on each of the tiles fairly hard, we wanted to make sure that our press detection system could withstand a lot of force. We also wanted a simple, easy solution to mock-up and build.

Initially we looked into using strain gauges, but they would require mounting to a base plate and the tile to be pushed. Traditional buttons did not seem like a robust enough option. Instead, we decided to use force sensitive resistors (FSRs). Initial testing revealed that the unpressed FSRs had resistance of approximately 6 MΩ. When pressed, it was approximately 1 kΩ. This huge discrepancy made it easy to probe it for a press. We thank Interlink Electronics, who were gracious enough to donate 10 FSR402s for use in our project. ..

Read the full article in the November 340 issue of Circuit Cellar

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5 W AC-DC Modules Serve Industry 4.0 and IoT Needs

RECOM has expanded its low power AC/DC portfolio with encapsulated 5 W power supplies, which operate up to +90°C. They accept input voltage lines of up to 305 VAC and offer peak power capability up to 6 W. These modules are well suited for Industry 4.0, IoT and smart household applications requiring features that go beyond the industry standard.

With its RAC05-K/277 series, RECOM introduces 5 W AC/DC converters that support peak power needs and are specially designed for extended input lines and reliable operation at extreme temperatures from -40°C up +90°C. The RAC05-K/277 series are built to operate from extended input lines with mains voltages from 85 VAC up to 305 VAC, are EMC compliant to EN55022 class “B” with a minimum 6 dB margin on both radiated and conducted readings without the need for external components.

At a 1” x 1.25” footprint, these new PCB-mount or wired modules feature fully protected outputs and international safety certifications for industrial, household and ITE for worldwide use. The RAC05-K/277 series is an addition to RECOM’s ultra-compact RAC05-K converters with a 1” x 1” footprint, as well as the recently released RAC05-K/480, an AC/DC module dedicated for phase-to-phase operation up to 528VAC and exclusive only to RECOM. Wired versions of the RAC05-K/277 series are due to be released in October of 2018. Samples of the pin-versions and OEM pricing are available from all authorized distributors or directly from RECOM.

RECOM | www.recom-power.com

Have your tasks multiplied with the IIoT? Don’t worry: Add more cores!

Separating tasks in isolated cores makes system designs highly modular and scalable. With the 8th generation of Intel® Core™ and Intel® Xeon® processors now offering six cores and 12 threads, engineers can deploy new edge devices capable of connecting and controlling various devices in real-time.


Have your tasks multiplied with the IIoT? Don’t worry: Add more cores!

By Dan Demers, Director of Sales and Marketing – Americas, congatec

The IIoT and Industry 4.0 trend advances the need to extend the functionalities of existing systems, and to deploy new edge devices that are capable of connecting and controlling various devices in real-time. Separating the tasks in isolated cores makes system designs highly modular and scalable. So it is great to see that the 8th generation of the new Intel® Core™ and Intel® Xeon® processors now offer six instead of only four cores as well as 12 threads. Imagine what new possibilities this creates for automation product designers, when previously they had only one single-core, single-thread machine operating in real-time for each task on a dedicated system. Performance increases were limited by the restrictions on increasing processor frequencies. Thus, the advent of parallel processing was highly welcome to improve performance. At the same time, parallel processing also opened engineers’ eyes to possibilities beyond pure performance increases. Now, they could use the second core not only to raise the performance of a single application, but also to execute different tasks in parallel. Thanks to the simultaneous emergence of hypervisor technologies, engineers were able to build HMI implementations together with the real-time platform. As a result, the number of computer systems in a single machine was reduced for the first time, lowering costs and increasing reliability.

Engineers once thought that the core race has certain limitations due to performance losses within the synchronization process, however with the availability of more cores new heterogeneous design ideas came up for the different cores. In the motion control area, for example, motion axes are being assigned to individual processor cores. In multi-core installations, the data exchange that’s necessary to coordinate the motion sequences can now take place in the system itself. This is much more efficient than connecting separate drive controls – especially since latencies occur even in connected systems, which can reduce the precision of a machine.

Collaborative robotics – a boom market

And nowadays, we talk about collaborative robotics. This is another new and massively booming market for high-performance multi-core systems. MarketsandMarkets predicts that it will grow by 56.94% between 2017 and 2023, reaching a total global volume of 4.28 trillion US dollars[i]. Collaborative robots are virtually insatiable when it comes to core count, as they require additional subsystems such as LIDAR or stereoscopic cameras for situational awareness and adaptive control besides the actual controller. These systems require additional computing instances that can be implemented very efficiently into a single control systems when you have enough processor cores.

IoT and condition monitoring

Automation OEMs also want more computing cores for IoT and Industry 4.0 integration as well as condition monitoring of their machines and systems. At this point, virtualization starts to make massive sense in order to separate the individual tasks from each other. Depending on the software, the real-time controls of individual components can still be executed as multi-threaded software on a single operating system instance; however, the edge system and gateway functionality should be separated from the real-time controls. Similarly, smart condition monitoring can be integrated efficiently by using local rule engines to evaluate and monitor the state of the mechanical components, for example via vibration analysis. This sometimes requires significant computing power. High-end embedded systems for machine control literally cannot have too many computing cores and processing power per core. What is possible today?

Powerful six-packs

Up until recently, quad-core processors were state of the art. With symmetric multiprocessing – Intel calls this hyper-threading – one processor core can handle two different tasks in parallel. This sums up to up to 8 virtual cores. Using 8th generation Intel® Core™ and Xeon® processors, developers can now leverage up to 6 physical and up to 12 virtual cores. Judging alone by these numbers, this is an increase of 50%. And indeed, first tests by congatec show that the core increase of the brand new six-core processors truly translates into 45% to 50% more multi-thread and 15% to 25% more single-thread performance, in comparison to the 7th generation Intel® Core™ processor variants. At a given TPD, system designers can now achieve higher bandwidth with lower overall power consumption. This allows them to install high-end computing power and features even deeper in the field while also significantly increasing the functionality of their applications. And the best is: In all other respects, the processor core is almost identical, so there is no need for any customization on the software side, allowing truly seamless migration to this latest processor generation.

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One of the first COM Express Type 6 modules with up to 6 processor cores and optional ECC support: The conga-TS370 with 8th generation Intel® Xeon® and Intel® Core™ Embedded processors.

And now we come to what we think is the sweet spot for engineers: If OEMs have designed their systems using Computer-on-Modules, they can integrate the new processor technology very quickly, because all that’s needed to upgrade to the next performance levels at a given TDP is a simple module swap. So, coming back to what was mentioned earlier: While systems were previously designed with only one or two cores, or let’s say even four cores for real high-performance, massive parallel processing systems with all the connected machinery, we now need a platform with more than four cores if we want to integrate the IIoT and Industry 4.0 gateway functionality and all the other great features that are enabled, for example, by Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. Therefore it is great to see that we now have 50% more cores in one single processor chassis, and we hope that this is not the end of the Intel roadmap for future scalability to even more cores. But how can engineers benefit best from this trend? How should they design a system today that utilizes 4 or 6 cores and that can be easily and immediately updated once new tasks arise?

There is a simple and clever answer: Use COM Express Computer-on-Modules; and for the high-end systems leveraging the Intel® Core™ and Intel® Xeon® processors that can execute up to 12 threads with up to 4.4 GHz, use the COM Express Type 6 specification!

Fast upgrades with COM Express Type 6

You may wonder why COM Express Computer-on-Modules are so great. It’s because they can save developers around 50% to 90% of the effort required to build a suitable solution at the board level compared to full custom designs. At the same time, developers have just as much flexibility as with full custom designs to tailor their system to the dedicated requirements. The customization happens on the application-specific carrier board. This carries – nomen est omen – the fully developed Computer-on-Module that comes as a ready-to-buy super component already including a complete BSP with all required standard drivers.

If system designers use carrier boards such as the conga-IT6 Mini-ITX form factor board, or the conga-TEVAL, then they can scale their designs across all the different BGA mounted COM Express Type 6 modules available on the global market by simply changing the module.

And thanks to the COM Express specification, it is ensured that all modules from all vendors offer identical form factors, functions and dimensions including the cooling solution. So when developers have to integrate a new processor, they don’t have to dive into the gory PCB routing details of ultra-high-speed interfaces and memory specifications and all that. Instead, they only have to choose the suitable module and plug it in. Upgrades are now a question of minutes and not of days, weeks or months. Your advantages: The development becomes highly agile with a minimum time to market for new solutions. Additionally, developers can also make very efficient re-use of all their designs. And thanks to the huge COM Express ecosystem, they will get long term support as all major embedded vendors support this leading Computer-on-Module standard. OEMs also remain vendor independent and benefit from competitive pricing. Yet, they still have to design a carrier board, but here too, COM Express helps, as comprehensive specifications for the construction of a carrier board are available. This further simplifies the design of industrial-grade computers that are specifically tailored to their own requirements.

 

Virtual machines for IoT connection

In an ever more connected world, Computer-on-Modules help engineers to most efficiently tailor their systems to always meet new needs. But task separation is not only a question of being able to most flexibly equip a system with multiple cores. On top, designers also need the suitable software in form of a hypervisor solution to separate different tasks from each other. With a real-time capable hypervisor, they can supplement their real-time control with additional virtual machines for IoT or Industry 4.0 connectivity. Here they should look out for tested and validated solutions that already have proven themselves in industrial control and other high-reliability sectors like medical. It is important though that the hypervisor can run a wide variety of real-time and general purpose operating systems and is not connected to a dedicated OS. Also, it should not add any extra latency to retain the performance and determinism of real-time applications. And last but not least, users should be able to install and configure it independently and without detailed hardware knowledge. An implementation project or customization that requires a dedicated engineer is too expensive and would add unnecessary efforts and costs. So look for an instantly deployable hypervisor solution, and you’ll benefit from similar advantages you have on the hardware level with Computer-on-Modules.

Designing a platform with hypervisor technologies, such as the RTS Hypervisor from Real-Time Systems that congatec has already pre-qualified for its conga-TS370, makes it quite straightforward to combine hard real-time processes with IIoT connectivity.

Key technical data

The new conga-TS370 modules with Intel® Xeon® and Intel® Core™ i7 processors have a TDP of 35 to 45 watts and support up to 32 GB DDR4 2666 RAM. Even with full virtualization and multiple virtual machines, each instance has more than enough memory as a result. For safety-critical applications, such as situational awareness for collaborative robots, optional Error Correction Code (ECC) support can be provided. In addition, the modules feature an impressive choice of high-bandwidth I/Os, including 4x USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbit/s), 8x USB 2.0 and 1x PEG and 8x PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes for powerful system extensions. Long-term availability of at least 10 years and Intel® Optane™ memory support plus extended security features such as Intel® Software Guard Extensions, Intel® Trusted Execution Engine and Intel® Platform Trust Technology add to the modules’ attraction. They further support all common Linux operating systems as well as the 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows 10 and Windows 10 IoT.

[i] https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/collaborative-robot-market-194541294.html

IAR Updates Dev Tools for Renesas Automotive MCUs

IAR Systems has announced a major update of its development tools for Renesas automotive-focused RH850 microcontrollers. The latest version of the complete C/C++ compiler and debugger toolchain IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850 offers boosted user experience and extended capabilities through a number of new features.

IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850 incorporates a compiler, a debugger, an assembler and a linker in one integrated development environment. It is available in several editions to suit different company needs, including a functional safety edition certified by TÜV SÜD according to IEC 61508, ISO 26262 and EN 50128. Renesas Electronics’ RH850 automotive MCU family includes rich functional safety and embedded security features needed for advanced automotive applications.
Version 2.10 of IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850 adds compliance with the latest C language standard ISO/IEC 9899:2011 and the latest C++ standard ISO/IEC 14882:2014, ensuring high-quality, future-proof code. Renowned for producing very efficient code, the IAR C/C++ Compiler™ in IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850 now supports stack protection and stack usage analysis functionality. Available as an add-on for the toolchain is the static analysis tool C-STAT, which is now updated with a number of new checks. With these additions, developers building RH850-based applications are able to further strengthen code quality, stability and reliability in their embedded applications.

Automotive embedded applications are growing in complexity, which means it can be challenging to make a correct setup of peripherals from scratch. The Renesas Smart Configurator is a tool for combining software, automatically generating control programs for peripheral modules, and pin setting from the GUI with built-in cross-checks to avoid potential contention with multiplexed functions. In version 2.10 of IAR Embedded Workbench for Renesas RH850, automated code generation from Renesas Smart Configurator is made possible through the straight-forward project connection functionality.

IAR Systems | www.iar.com

Next Newsletter: Embedded Boards

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Digital Signage (10/30)  Digital signage ranks among the most dynamic areas of today’s embedded computing space. Makers of digital signage players, board-level products and other technologies continue to roll out new solutions for implementing powerful digital signage systems. This newsletter looks at the latest technology trends and product developments in digital signage.

Analog & Power. (11/6) This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

Microcontroller Watch (11/13) This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. (11/20) Covers what’s happening with Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology–-from devices to gateway networks to cloud architectures. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.