1/16th Brick DC-DC Converter Provides 9-36 VDC Voltage Input

Murata has announced the introduction of its UWS-Q12 series, the latest in a line of 50 W, 9-36 Vin range DC-DC converters. This series was developed for a wide range of applications including, network equipment, industrial, railway, power grid and transportation. In an industry standard 1/16th brick pinout, the solution provides a basic I/O insulation system rated at 2,250 VDC isolation with a fully regulated DC output. The series also offers single output modules with outputs of 3. 3V, 5 V, 12 V, 15 V, and 24 V DC all rated at 50 W. Further, with a universal Vin range, requirements for Intermediate Bus Converter (IBC) architecture are readily met.

The UWS-Q12 series provides numerous standard features including positive or negative ON/Off control, output over current protection, over temperature protection, Input under Voltage lock-out, short circuit protection, Pre-Bias protection, Vout trim, and Vout sense function. The line has a galvanic isolation barrier between the input and output of the module with a basic insulation system rated at 2,250 VDC. Each converter is designed to deliver 50 W of power with efficiencies reaching 91 percent on the 5 V, 12 V, 15 V and 24 Vout versions and 89.5 percent on the 3.3 Vout model. Given this level of design flexibility, greater operating and cost efficiencies are realized.

Murata Power Solutions | www.murata-ps.com

 

Single-Chip Motor Driver Enables Virtually Silent Motor Operation

Trinamic Motion Control has unveiled an ultra-small single-chip motor driver that uses StealthChop technology to enable virtually silent operation. The device is designed to drive two-phase stepper motors up to 1.2 A RMS and with a voltage range of 1.8 VDC to 11 VDC. With a standby current draw of < 50 nA, it can provide a solution that requires only one or two Li-Ion cells or two AA batteries.

The TMC2300 incorporates three exclusive Trinamic technologies: StealthChop2™: A high-precision algorithm that produces drive waveforms which enable motors to be inaudible – both in motion and at standstill; StallGuard: Sensorless motor load measurement, a combination of on-chip circuitry and firmware that enables the driver to perform sensorless homing and detect mechanical obstacles; and CoolStep Sensorless: Load-dependent current control that optimizes the motor’s energy consumption on the fly, enabling energy savings of up to 80% over conventional motor drives, according to Trinamic.

The TMC2300’s industry-leading low-power characteristics are made possible by Trinamic’s StealthChop2 chopper circuit and the device’s extremely low RDSon, supported by an integrated charge pump. When used in combination with the driver’s CoolStep feature, the TMC 2300 can reduce a motor’s energy consumption by up to 90% over standard chopper, enabling your battery-powered applications to enjoy longer running time and cooler operation.

Offering extreme energy efficiency, silent operation, and advanced development tools for fast, easy customization, the TMC2300 is the perfect platform for IoT and handheld devices, battery-operated equipment, point-of-sale devices and printers, toys, miniature medical devices, office and home automation products—including smart thermostatic radiator valves—and more.

Able to power stepper motors off battery voltages as low as 1.8 V, and equipped with all the latest available current control and diagnostics technologies, Trinamic’s TMC2300 allows for smarter, more efficient, and totally silent battery-operated devices.

Available starting in September, Trinamic’s smallest, single-chip motor driver sets the standard for advanced low-voltage and highly efficient stepper motor drivers.

Features and Benefits:

  • Smart, silent, efficient motor control for two-phase stepper motors requiring up to 1.2A RMS
  • Supports a wide operating voltage range (1.8–11V DC), enabling more battery options for portable applications (e.g., two AA / NiMh cells, or one to two Li-Ion cells)
  • Standby current draw of < 50nA (typ) extends operating time
  • Single wire UART and Step/Dir interfaces for easy, reliable motor and control connections
  • Up to 256x microstepping for extreme precision
  • StallGuard4 & StealthChop2 enable sensorless homing, integrated motor protection, and silent operation
  • CoolStep technology provides energy saving and automatic standby current reduction
  • Available in a compact QFN20 (3×3) package

Trinamic Motion Control | www.trinamic.com

3 W AC-DC Supply Offers 1.1” x 0.9” Form Factor

RECOM has introduced the RAC03-K which it claims is the smallest 3 W AC-DC power supply solution on the market. This converter can be used in a wide range of applications due to complete certifications for ITE and household standards. In a compact 1in² footprint, these modules deliver an output power of 3 W from -40°C to 60°C and 2 W up to 80°C. Despite such a high power density and small footprint, the RAC03-K series is a complete solution supporting Ecodesign Lot 6 standby mode operation for worldwide applications in automation, Industry 4.0, IoT, household and home automation.

With an input voltage range from 85 to 264 VAC and international safety certifications for industrial, domestic, ITE, and household applications, RECOM claims these are some of the most versatile power modules on the market. Due to their reinforced class II installation rating and their significantly wide margin to class B emissions compliance without external components, these are the easiest to use modular power solutions in the industry. Samples and OEM pricing are available from all authorized distributors or directly from RECOM.

RECOM | www.recom-power.com

 

Family of 2.5 A Buck-Boost Converters Feature Tiny Footprint

Texas Instruments (TI) has introduced a family of four high-efficiency, low-quiescent-current (IQ) buck-boost converters that feature tiny packaging with minimal external components for a small solution size. The integrated TPS63802, TPS63805, TPS63806 and TPS63810 DC/DC noninverting buck-boost converters offer wide input and output voltage ranges that scale to support multiple battery-driven applications, helping engineers simplify and accelerate their designs.
Each of the devices in the family automatically selects buck, buck-boost or boost mode according to the operating conditions. Their complete solution size of 19.5 mm2 to 25 mm2 – up to 25% smaller than similar devices – is a result of compact packaging, an advanced control topology requiring few external multilayer ceramic capacitors, and tiny 0.47-µH inductors. The devices offer a wide 1.3-V to 5.5-V input and 1.8-V to 5.2-V output voltage range, which helps engineers speed their designs and encourages reuse across multiple applications, says TI.

These DC/DC converters are the latest addition to TI’s industry-leading low-IQ power-management portfolio, providing low 11- to 15-µA IQ for excellent light-load efficiency while minimizing power losses and extending run times in battery-driven applications such as portable electronic point-of-sale terminals, grid infrastructure metering devices, wireless sensors and handheld electronic devices.

Key features and benefits:

  • The TPS63802 is a 2-A buck-boost converter with low 11-µA IQ consumption suitable for pulsed-load applications such as industrial Internet of Things devices.
  • The TPS63805 is a 2-A buck-boost converter with a 22-µF output capacitor and 0.47-µH inductor resulting in a small solution size of 19.5 mm2 that meets the requirements of handheld industrial and personal electronics applications.
  • The TPS63806 is a 2.5-A buck-boost converter with a focus on improved load-step regulation for applications with an aggressive load profile that require tight regulation, such as time-of-flight sensors in smartphones, cameras or augmented reality devices.
  • The TPS63810 is a 2.5-A buck-boost converter with I2C interface for dynamic voltage scaling through either a two-wire interface or the VSEL pin, enabling the device to serve as a pre-regulator or voltage envelope tracker for systems found in smartphones, wireless hearing aids or headphones.

The TPS63805 and TPS63806 devices are available in production quantities through the TI store and authorized distributors. Pre-production samples are also available for the TPS63802 and TPS63810 devices. Pricing ranges from $0.98 to $1.09 (1,000s).

Texas Instruments | www.ti.com

 

Isolated Output Driver Eyes Industry 4.0 Factory Migration

Analog Devices has announced the ADuM4122, an isolated, dual-drive strength output driver that uses iCoupler technology. It’s designed to empower designers to harness the benefits of higher efficiency power switch technologies. Electric motor-driven systems account for 40% of global electricity consumption, according to the International Energy Agency, and improvements in motor efficiency can have wide-reaching economic and environmental benefits.

With the increased adoption of industrial automation and IoT within smart factories, there is a growing demand for intelligent technology and features within systems to ensure maximum efficiency. The ADuM4122 is the first simple solution that accomplishes this by controlling how fast or slow a MOSFET or IGBT turns on or off by user command, on the fly, thereby controlling motor currents.

The new ADuM4122 is a simple dual-drive strength output driver that efficiently toggles between two slew rates controlled by a digital signal. Smaller than existing discrete or complex integrated solutions that have 20 or more pins, the ADuM4122 features only eight pins and works in a variety of operating conditions. The ADuM4122 further improves system capabilities with high common-mode transient immunity and low propagation delay for high performance applications such as motion control, robotics and energy.

Pricing for an ADuM4122 an 8-lead SOIC package starts at $2.53 (1,000s).

Analog Devices | www.analog.com

Tuesday’s Newsletter: Analog & Power

Coming to your inbox on Tuesday: Circuit Cellar’s Analog & Power newsletter. This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including ADCs, DACs, DC-DC converters, AC-DC converters, power supplies, op amps, batteries and more.

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

Microcontroller Watch. (10/8) 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. (10/15) 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.(10/22) The focus here is on both standard and non-standard embedded computer boards that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

RX65N MCU-Based Cloud Kit Eases Connecting IoT Devices to AWS

Renesas Electronics has announced the Renesas RX65N Cloud Kit featuring onboard Wi-Fi, environmental, light and inertial sensors and support for Amazon FreeRTOS connected to Amazon Web Services (AWS). The kit gives embedded designers a fast start and secure connection to AWS. Using Renesas’ e2 studio Integrated Development Environment (IDE), IoT applications are easily created by configuring Amazon FreeRTOS, all the necessary drivers, and the network stack and component libraries.

Based on the Renesas RX65N MCU, the RX65N Cloud Kit provides an evaluation and prototyping environment, enabling embedded designers to create secure end-to-end IoT cloud solutions for sensor-based endpoint equipment. Employing Renesas’ browser-based software, users can visualize their sensor data using a smart device cloud dashboard to monitor a wide range of applications including networked smart meters, building, office and industrial automation systems, as well as home appliances.

Renesas’ 32-bit RX65N MCUs offer dual bank flash for secure and easy program updating via the network, as well as remote over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates. Having dual bank flash integrated on the RX65N MCUs enables both BGO (Back Ground Operation) and SWAP functions, making it easier for system and network control manufacturers to securely and reliably execute in-the-field firmware updates. The MCUs also include Trusted Secure IP (TSIP) as part of their built-in hardware security engine. The TSIP driver uses strong encryption key management with hardware accelerators—AES, 3DES, SHA, RSA and TRNG—as well as a protected boot code flash area to securely boot customers’ IoT devices.

Key Features of RX65N Cloud Kit:

  • RX65N R5F565NEDDFP 32-bit, 120 MHz MCU Target Board with 2 MB code flash memory and 640 KB SRAM
  • Pmod Module with Silex SX-ULPGN Wi-Fi communications
  • Cloud Option Board with two USB ports for serial communications and debugging, and three sensors for sampling and sending measurement data to the cloud:
    • Renesas ISL29035 digital light sensor for ambient/infrared light measurement
    • Bosch BMI160 MEMS sensor for 3-axis acceleration and gyroscopic measurement
    • Bosch BME680 MEMS sensor for gas, temperature, humidity, and pressure measurements
  • Renesas e2 studio IDE allows designers to develop IoT applications with powerful features:
    • Create the latest Amazon FreeRTOS project from GitHub directory and immediately build it
    • Set up Amazon FreeRTOS network stack (TCP/IP, Wi-Fi, MQTT) and component libraries, like Device Shadow, without requiring detailed knowledge
    • Embed additional functions (based on Amazon FreeRTOS) such as USB and file-system on the IoT endpoint device

The RX65N Cloud Kit is available now from Renesas Electronics’ worldwide distributors with a recommended resale price of $50.00 USD.

Renesas Electronics | www.renesas.com

5 W AC-DC Converter Boasts Wide Input Voltage Range

Aimtec has announced a 5 W AC/DC converter, the AMEL5-277NZ, that has been designed to offer greater economies of scale due to greater production automation, leading to improved reliability and performance. Offering a wide industrial input voltage range of 85- 305 VAC and an output voltage range from 3.3-24 V, this series offers many benefits for embedded systems designs.

This new series offers wide operating temperatures, from -40℃ to 70℃ and isolation of 4, 000 VAC for improved reliability and system safety. Furthermore, a high MTBF of 300,000 hours, output short circuit protection (OSCP), output over-current protection (OCP) and an output over-voltage protection (OVP) come standard with the series. The AMEL5-277NZ is well suited for street lighting controls, grid power, instrumentation, industrial controls, telecom and industry 4.0.

Aimtec | www.aimtec.com

Assortment of Tech Solutions Enable the Smart Home

IoT-Leveraged Living Spaces

From preventive maintenance for appliances to voice-controlled lighting, the subsystems that comprise a modern Smart Home continue to evolve. Providing the building blocks for these implementations, IC vendors are keeping pace with specialized MCUs, sensors platforms and embedded software to meet diverse requirements.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

The evolution of Smart Homes is about more than pure convenience. Smart Home technologies are leveraging IoT concepts to improve energy efficiency and security, thanks to intelligent, connected devices. The topic encompasses things like power-saving motor control systems, predictive maintenance, cloud-based voice assistance, remote monitoring and more.

Clearly the market is an attractive one. According to the latest Smart Home Device Database from market research firm IHS Markit, the global Smart Home market is forecast to grow by nearly a factor of five to reach more than $192 billion in 2023, up from $41 billion in 2018 (Figure 1). The report says that the fastest-growing device types in the market include lighting, smart speakers and connected major home appliances.

Figure 1
According to research from IHS Markit, the global Smart Home market is forecast to grow by nearly a factor of five to reach more than $192 billion in 2023, up from $41 billion in 2018.

While it’s impossible to cover all the bases of Smart Home technology in a single article, here we’ll examine the microcontrollers (MCUs), analog ICs and special function chips that MCU vendors are developing to address Smart Home system designs.

Aware Appliances

An important piece of Smart Home technology is the idea of outfitting major home appliances with sophisticated maintenance features. With that in mind, in January Renesas Electronics launched its Failure Detection e-AI Solution for motor-equipped home appliances, featuring the Renesas RX66T 32-bit MCU. This solution with embedded AI (e-AI) enables failure detection of home appliances—such as refrigerators, air conditioners and washing machines—due to motor abnormality (Figure 2).

Figure 2
The Failure Detection e-AI Solution with embedded AI (e-AI) enables failure detection of home appliances—such as refrigerators, air conditioners and washing machines—due to motor abnormality.

Property data showing the motor’s current or rotation rate status can be used directly for abnormality detection, making it possible to implement both motor control and e-AI–based abnormality detection with a single MCU. Using the RX66T eliminates the need for additional sensors, thereby reducing a customer’s bill of materials (BOM) cost.

When a home appliance malfunctions, the motor operation typically appears abnormal when running and being monitored for fault detection in real-time. By implementing e-AI-based motor control-based detection, the failure detection results can be applied not only to trigger alarms when a fault occurs, but also for preventive maintenance. For example, e-AI can estimate when repairs and maintenance should be performed, and it can identify the fault locations. This capability provides home appliance manufacturers the means to boost maintenance operations efficiency and improve product safety by adding functionality that predicts faults before they occur in their products.

The solution uses the Renesas Motor Control Evaluation System and an RX66T CPU card. This hardware is combined with a set of sample program files that run on the RX66T MCU as well as a GUI tool that enables collecting and analyzing property data indicating motor states. In order to detect faults, it is necessary to learn the characteristics of the normal state. Using the GUI tool, system engineers can immediately begin developing AI learning and optimized fault detection functionality. Once the AI models are developed, the e-AI development environment (composed of an e-AI Translator, e-AI Checker and e-AI Importer) can be easily used to import the learned AI models into the RX66T. …

Read the full article in the October 351 issue of Circuit Cellar
(Full article word count: 3115 words; Figure count: 9 Figures).

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Note: We’ve made the October 2017 issue of Circuit Cellar available as a free sample issue. In it, you’ll find a rich variety of the kinds of articles and information that exemplify a typical issue of the current magazine.

Debug Tool Adds Hypervisor Level Tracing Capability

Lauterbach has announced that Hypervisor trace capability is now available for Arm Cortex-A and NXP QorIQ. Hypervisor tracing, which also means multicore tracing, requires high bandwidths from the off-chip tracing interface. The TRACE32 debug tool can now be used to trace all components in a Hypervisor based embedded system, as well as debug them.

A Hypervisor is a low-level piece of code, or operating system that allows multiple ‘guest’ operating systems to run on a single piece of physical hardware. Each guest operating system is partitioned and is unaware of the existence of the Hypervisor or the other guest operating systems which share the system with it. Hypervisors are increasingly used in embedded systems, for example in the cockpit of a car: applications that are under the control of an AUTOSAR real-time operating system run in parallel to the infotainment managed by a rich OS such as Linux.

Program flow and data trace are very important items in the embedded engineer’s toolbox. They allow a developer to see the path that has been taken through the code and to step backwards from an error or exception to see the root cause. Tracing from multiple cores allows a developer to easily see the interaction between software executing on disparate processors and readily identify bottlenecks, logic bombs or other errors that may only show up at runtime. Trace filters at task or virtual machine level allow developers to reduce the amount of trace generation to show only areas of interest in the system.

Program flow trace can be timestamped, allowing a picture of how long or how frequently something is executed to be built up. From this data it is also possible to determine code coverage metrics to satisfy the demands of safety certification for embedded systems.

Lauterbach | www.lauterbach.com

 

Fuel Gauge ICs Provide 2-Level Li-ion Battery Protection

Maxim Integrated has announced fuel gauge ICs which that company claims offers the most configurable settings for battery safety in the industry and uniquely allow fine tuning of voltage and current thresholds based on various temperature zones. The newest 1-cell, pack-side ICs in this portfolio are the MAX17301 and the MAX17311. These ICs also offer a secondary protection scheme in case the primary protection fails. This secondary protection scheme permanently disables the battery by overriding a secondary protector or blowing a fuse in severe fault conditions.

All ICs in the family are equipped with Maxim’s patented ModelGauge m5 EZ algorithm that delivers highest state-of-charge (SOC) accuracy that on average offers 40% better accuracy than competitive offerings and eliminates the need for battery characterization. These fuel gauges also offer the industry’s lowest quiescent current (IQ) – up to 80% lower than the nearest competitor according to Maxim, and feature SHA-256 authentication to safeguard the systems from counterfeit batteries.

Conventional battery protectors monitor voltage and current, and in some cases include temperature monitoring. These options make the system vulnerable to unexpected crashes because battery state-of-charge (SOC) isn’t factored in when triggering an undervoltage cut-off decision. The market lacks a solution that allows deeper configuration of voltage or current thresholds based on multiple temperature environments.

With a growing market of battery-operated applications, there is a need for a simple, compact solution that protects from unsafe charging conditions that can lead to extensive battery damage including over-voltage, short circuit, over/under temperature and more. Additionally, system and battery designers continue to push the limits of capacity-constrained batteries in order to provide the longest possible run-time without damaging the cell. Currently, there are very few highly-configurable solutions that are still simple to implement. Designers are also looking for a way to protect the system by ensuring that only genuine batteries are used, which can eliminate unexpected shutdowns and crashes caused by potentially unsafe, counterfeit batteries.

Key Features:

  • Advanced Battery Protection: Ensures safe charging and discharging in a wide range of applications with 2-level Li-ion protector control for abnormal voltage, current and temperature conditions. Delivers protection against counterfeiting and cloning with SHA-256 authentication and provides unique as well as dynamic key for every battery.
  • High Accuracy: Delivers best-in-class SOC accuracy without battery characterization, says Maxim. Cycle+ age forecasting provides easy-to-understand prediction of remaining battery life for battery replacement planning or to control fast-charging. Battery life logging stores the history of operating conditions experienced by the pack over its lifetime.
  • Low IQ: Supports long product shelf-life and runtime with operating IQ of 24 µA active/18 µA low power with protector FETs on and 7 µA with protector FETs off.

Pricing for products in the ModelGauge m5 EZ fuel gauge IC portfolio starts at $1.14 (1,000-up). Pricing for all evaluation kits in this portfolio is $60.

Maxim Integrated | www.maximintegrated.com

Industrial Embedded Computing Technology for Smart Robots

Modules for Cooperative Robotics

The Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences is developing a modular software framework to make it easier to program robots. The goal is to provide software components that can be used universally, for instance to swap robotic gripping arms from different manufacturers as required to generate new robotics solutions via plug and play. The team at Ulm University relies on congatec to address the need for highly scalable and standardized embedded computing hardware.

By
Zeljko Loncaric

Marketing Engineer, congatec

Prof. Dr. Christian Schlegel
Service Robotics Research Group’ Ulm University of Applied Sciences

Today’s modern robots are highly complex constructions with numerous subsystems. They use manipulators with various axis and drive units, at the ends of which specific tools, gripper systems or measuring instruments are installed. Additional sensor systems are needed for controlling the kinematics as well as for object and position recognition, for example in pick-and-place applications. With the advent of autonomous and collaborative robots—sharing the same workspace with humans—many more tasks and building blocks are added. Examples include localizing and navigating mobile robots in industrial settings and safe man-machine interaction. In Industry 4.0 environments, an M2M interface to the surrounding machines and systems is also required. The goal is mutual task coordination. All of these different robot types—from autonomous to cooperative to collaborative—require enormously powerful software components and high-performance embedded systems.

Collaborative robotics needs hardware and software components that can be modularly assembled to suit their task. There should be minimal to no programming effort—it should be enough for the modules to be parameterized. (Source: Zentilia |
Dreamstime.com (ID 18864362)

High market demand for smart robots

Market demand for smart robots will grow rapidly in the coming years. For example, the market for autonomous robot systems is expected to grow at a CAGR of 23.7% until 2023, while the new market segment of collaborative robots is due to grow twice as much at an average 59% per annum. OEMs are under immense pressure to develop and to bring such new systems to market maturity as quickly as possible in order to participate in this high market growth. But the software development is a particularly great challenge for OEMs, system integrators and users: More subsystems have to be integrated into the already complex autonomous robotics solutions if they are to become collaborative and/or cooperative.

The Software Challenge

Today, the software for robots is frequently still implemented as a closed system— usually with individually tailored x86 or Arm hardware including ASICs or FPGAs. Often, the software is even individually tailored for each robot making reuse difficult. All tasks such as manipulator control, navigation, machine vision, task coordination and HMI are programmed as a unit. It is therefore currently nearly impossible to exchange software components even for the most frequently required functions or to use them on another hardware platform. This means that for every new design, the robotics software has to be re-implemented. This is both error-prone and time-consuming, and can significantly delay the rollout of much-needed innovative solutions—not to mention the hassle this causes operators who have to program each robot initially for its specific task.

Modular and Reusable

The development team of the Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences under Professor Schlegel is now replacing this closed system approach, which perpetually creates new software projects for the system integrator and user, with a modular software approach that divides the complex overall robot system into several independent functional units, and then in a second step specifies the interaction between the individual units via fully and transparently defined interfaces. This concept, which is called SmartSoft, is now being expanded and widely marketed at the European level (EU H2020 project “RobMoSys – Composable Models and Software for Robotic Systems”) and national level (BMWi PAiCE project “SeRoNet – a platform for the joint development of service robot solutions”) in cooperation with partners from industry and research.

Essentially, this approach aims to make it possible to assemble robotic systems from fully developed and tested modular software building blocks. This allows software developers to focus on individual function modules without having to consider the internals of the other components. More importantly, it makes it possible to combine functions such as the cooperative or collaborative elements as well as the logic for specific manipulators and a lot more in a modular way – even across manufacturers. Ultimately, this also reduces the effort required for system integrators and end users to make customer-specific adaptations, and will significantly drive the widespread adoption of robotics.

So, let’s assume you have a manipulator from company A, combined with a chassis from manufacturer B, and a stereoscopic machine vision system from manufacturer C. The dedicated control software, for instance for use in intralogistics applications, is then easily assembled from the ready-made software components thanks to the high level of abstraction and requires only minor adjustments. This application is by no means a dream of the future, but already being tested in the real world. For example, the Ulm team has already implemented the service robotics duo Larry and Robotino, which, in a pharmaceutical intralogistics application for Transpharm Logistik GmbH, assembles drug packages from individual trays completely autonomously and takes them to a specified delivery point. In a slightly different configuration, the two robots have autonomously taken coffee orders and delivered them to the customer’s table. Thanks to the ready-made, freely combinable software components, the redesign took only a few hours. The video to see the two robots in action is posted here:

Containers with Clearly-Defined Interfaces

To enable virtually any assembly of elements, the team from the Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences has developed a software model with individual service-oriented components and a model-driven open-source software toolchain for the Eclipse development environment. This environment provides component developers with tools that they can use to build their own code for each functional unit and then secure those algorithms by automatically generated component containers. These containers communicate with other containers based on uniform communication interfaces. In addition, the wrapping also protects the component developer’s IP. The team has already developed several such functional modules and makes them available for use in own projects. These include navigation modules, machine vision, HMI, manipulator control and task coordination, to name just a few examples. As a unifying communication interface, SmartSoft also relies on OPC UA. This allows manufacturers to focus on specific containers and build their core competencies here. Customers benefit from a much more flexible offer.

The SmartMDSD Toolchain allows component developers to develop software components for individual functional units that can be combined as required and reused in new robot designs. The underlying hardware should therefore be flexibly scalable.

Generic Embedded Hardware Instead of
Proprietary Designs

For the logic hardware, the Ulm team uses x86 technology to decouple the software development as far as possible from any specific hardware. With the appropriate glue logic, such an approach is particularly easy to implement with x86 technology also as far as the later migration of such systems is concerned.

Embedded x86 hardware is also particularly apt in this context because of the high standardization and comprehensive documentation. The form factors are standardized not only as regards dimensions but also in terms of the application programming interface. This facilitates replacement of hardware – provided the boards comply with the eAPI specification of the PICMG or SGET’s UIC standard. Under those circumstances, it is even possible to vary freely between different form factors such as motherboards and Computer-on-Modules depending on the requirements of the application without having to significantly change the way of accessing the hardware during the migration. One supplier who attaches great importance to this standardization and its documentation as well as the simplest possible hardware integration is congatec, whose products the Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences uses in its projects.

“Next to basic requirements such as maximum computing power, energy efficiency and reliability, we also attach great importance to high standardization and the capability to migrate universally,” explains Matthias Lutz from Ulm University of Applied Sciences. “Every additional abstraction level in the software requires additional computing performance, so we’re currently working with powerful dual-core technology. A standardized approach to board components and GPIOs to control the robotics modules also gives us the abstraction required for independence at the embedded computing level.”

The autonomous picking robot Larry with congatec conga-IC175 Mini-ITX carrier board: High computing power, little heat waste, small form factor and highest reliability are the key factors here.

The choice ultimately fell on the fully industrial Mini-ITX carrier board conga-IC175. That’s because the standardized Mini-ITX form factor offers many advantages for developing the prototypes of the innovative software components into real systems: It already integrates all interfaces on a standardized board, and congatec lets you realize the power supply via standard ATX power supplies, industrial 12 V feed-in, or SMART batteries, which is essential for mobile robots such as Robotino and Larry. Extensions can also be implemented quickly and efficiently via PCIe expansion cards. The board is highly energy efficient and uses robust embedded components, so it can be operated without expensive cooling.

Evolution of embedded computing hardware from congatec for smart robots: Depending on the design concept and lot sizes in the series, OEMs can choose either embedded Mini-ITX motherboards (1), standardized carrier boards (here Mini-ITX) with Computer-on-Modules (2), customized carrier boards with Computer-on-Modules (3), or full custom designs (4), which congatec can implement comparatively quickly and easily on the basis of module upgrades.

Future commercial robot designs from Ulm will be implemented on Computer-on-Modules. But regardless of whether it’s a Mini-ITX motherboard, module with standard Mini-ITX carrier, module and individual carrier, or full-custom design: It is the Total cost of Ownership (TCO) that ultimately matters to OEMs, and when using modular software this is also determined by the software support of the hardware. To make it even easier to integrate more functionalities in the future, comprehensive support for real-time hypervisor technology can bring added benefits. This will give customers the option to integrate additional functionalities, such as their own IoT gateway, without having to use a dedicated hardware platform, which saves hardware costs.

“We see clear benefits in such modular approaches as they mirror the modular approach of our software. In this respect, it is very interesting to see that with the acquisition of Real-Time Systems congatec now has virtually direct access to the hypervisor technology of these robotics and automation experts,” concludes Lutz.

Coupled with the Technical Solution Center (TSC), in which congatec consolidates all its OEM services, this results in a complete package for customers such as the Service Robotics Research Center of Ulm University of Applied Sciences or Transpharm Logistik GmbH.

SIDEBAR:

Intralogistics Application at Transpharm Logistik GmbH
Picking tasks are performed by a heterogeneous robot fleet in an intralogistics application at congatec’s industrial partner Transpharm Logistik GmbH. The autonomous picking robot Larry is equipped with a UR5 manipulator module and uses a Segway chassis. The transport robot Robotino has a conveyor belt instead of a manipulator to take the picking robot to any point. Orders are received directly from the warehouse management system via WLAN. The fleet management system selects two picking robots, which then execute the order. The application is based on results from the BMBF project “LogiRob – Multi-Robot Transport System in a Shared Human-Machine Workspace” and “ZAFH Intralogistics – Collaborative Systems to Increase Intralogistics Flexibility”
(Baden-Württemberg and EU ERDF 2014-2020).

About the Authors
Zeljko Loncaric is Marketing Engineer, congatec. Prior to joining congatec mid-2010, he held various positions with international companies in product management, marketing and sales marketing in Germany and Australia. Zeljko holds an MBA in business management and a degree in Media Technology from the University of Deggendorf.

Prof. Dr. Christian Schlegel is in the ,Service Robotics Research Group’ Ulm University of Applied Sciences. Christian Schlegel (45) has been a professor at the Faculty of Computer Science at Ulm University of Applied Sciences since 2004. Schlegel, who received the Science Prize of the City of Ulm in 2010, is the coordinator of the “Service Robotics” joint project.

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congatec is a leading supplier of industrial computer modules using the standard form factors COM Express, Qseven and SMARC as well as single board computers and EDM services.                  www.congatec.com

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RK3399-Based Raspberry Pi Clone Starts at $75

By Jeff Child

FriendlyElec has released an upgraded version of its Rockchip RK3399 based SBC, the NanoPi-M4. Called NanoPi M4V2, the new $70 board is mostly identical to its predecessor, but offers 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, along with two user buttons for power and recovery.

A little over a year ago, FriendlyElec rolled out its third RK3399 based SBC of 2018, the NanoPi-M4. The board seemed to hit on a sweet spot tradeoff in terms of an affordable SBC with a decent amount of RAM. Now the company has launched an upgraded version, the NanoPi-M4 that has 4GB or RAM while moving to the more advanced LPDDR4, in contrast to the NanoPi M4’s LPDDR3. While the NanoPi-M4 costs $75 in its 4GB version ($50 for 2GB), the new NanoPi-M4V2 with 4GB costs only $70. The new board adds two new users buttons—for power and recovery—that were not on the original NanoPi-M4. Other differences on the new NanoPi M4V2 include 2×2 MIMO support and an inconsequential heavier weight of 50.62 grams (versus 47.70g).


 
NanoPi M4V2, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

Some power management features are listed in the specs of the new NanoPi M4V2 that aren’t in the NanoPi M4’s specs. On the new board, the RK808-D power management chip in cooperation with the DC/DC converter provides support for enabling DVFS, software power-down, RTC wake-up and system sleep mode.


 
NanoPi M4V2, with and without optional heatsink
(click images to enlarge)

Like its predecessor, the NanoPi M4V2 has the same form factor as the Raspberry Pi B3+ and has ports and interfaces that are compatible with the RPi B3+. The compact 85 x 58mm board, has an onboard 2.4G & 5G dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth module, 4x USB 3.0 Type A host ports, 1x Gigabit Ehternet port, 1x HDMI 2.0 port, 1x 3.5mm audio jack and 1x Type-C port. You also get a Raspberry Pi compatible 40-pin connector, dual MIPI-CSI camera interface, PCIe x2, USB 2.0, eMMC socket and an RTC. The NanoPi M4V2 can be booted from either an SD card or an external eMMC module.



NanoPi M4V2 layout and interface details
(click image to enlarge)

The NanoPi M4V2 supports Ubuntu Desktop 19.04 (64-bit), Lubuntu 16.04 (32-bit), Ubuntu Core (64-bit), Android 8.1 and Lubuntu Desktop with GPU and VPU acceleration. According to the company, the NanoPi M4V3 is designed for applications including machine learning, AI, deep learning, robots, industrial control, industrial cameras, advertisement machines, game machines, and blockchain.

Specifications listed for the NanoPi M4 include:

  • Processor — Rockchip RK3399 (2x Cortex-A72 at up to 2.0GHz, 4x Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5GHz); Mali-T864 GPU
  • Memory:
    • 4GB LPDDR4 RAM (dual-channel)
    • eMMC socket
    • MicroSD slot for up to 128GB
  • Wireless — 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5GHz) with Bluetooth 4.1; 2x IPX antenna connectors
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Media:
    • HDMI 2.0a port (with audio and HDCP 1.4/2.2) for up to 4K at 60Hz
    • MIPI-DSI (4-lane) with MIPI-CSI co-lay
    • 1x or 2x 4-lane MIPI-CSI (up to 13MP) with dual ISP support; (2nd CSI available via DSI)
    • 3.5mm analog audio I/O jack
    • Mic interface
  • Other I/O:
    • 4x USB 3.0 host ports
    • USB 3.0 Type-C port (USB 2.0 OTG or power input)
    • Serial debug 4-pin header
  • Expansion:
    • 40-pin RPi compatible header — 3x 3V/1.8V I2C, 3V UART, 3V SPI, SPDIF_TX, up to 8x 3V GPIOs, 1.8V 8-ch. I2S
    • 24-pin header – 2x USB 2.0, 2x PCIe, PWM, PowerKey
  • Other features — RTC; 2x LEDs; optional heatsink, LCD, cameras, power button and recovery button
  • Power — DC 5V/3A input or USB Type-C
  • Operating temperature — -20 to 70℃
  • Weight — 50.62 g
  • Dimensions — 85 x 56mm; 8-layer PCB
  • Operating system — Android 7.1.2; Lubuntu 16.04 (32-bit); FriendlyCore 18.04 (64-bit), FriendlyDesktop 18.04 (64-bit)

 Further information

The NanoPi M4V2 with 4GB RAM is available now for $70. More information may be found at FriendlyElec’s NanoPi M4V2 shopping pagewiki, and GitHub page.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on September 10.

FriendlyElec | www.friendlyarm.com

Qualcomm IPQ4019-Based SoM and Dev Board Run OpenWrt Linux

By Jeff Child

The “Habanero” module from 8devices runs OpenWrt on Qualcomm’s IPQ4019 SoC. The $55 open spec board supports dual-band, MU-MIMO 802.11ac (Wave2). A development kit for with module adds 5 Ethernet ports and USB.

8devices has added the Habanero as a new member to its line of dual-band system-on-modules (SOMs). The SOM is available in two versions. The Habanero, based on Qualcomm’s IPQ4019 SoC, is open for pre-orders for $55. And the Habanero-I, based on Qualcomm’s IPQ4029 SoC can be bought on pre-order for $69. A $119 development kit, the Habanero DVK, provides the IPQ4019 SoC along with Ethernet, USB and other I/O.

8devices provides a number of modules that run OpenWrt Linux, the most recent of which was its Komikan SOM based on a MIPS24k-based Realtek SoC. The Habanero appears to be the company’s 2nd module based on a Qualcomm SoC, following its IPQ4018 SoC-based Jalapeno board.


 
Habanero SOM top (left) and bottom
(click images to enlarge)


The Qualcomm’s IPQ4019 and IPQ4029—used on Habanero and Habanero-I, respectively, both feature Wave2 (or Wave 2) — the revised version of 802.11ac (WiFi 5) radios with dual-band MU-MIMO technology for simultaneous WiFi connections to multiple devices. Incorporating a quad-core Arm Cortex-A7 processor with NEON and FPU, the 40nm IPQ4019/IPQ4029 SoCs have Qualcomm security features and support for up to 5x Ethernet ports. In June, we covered three boards that sport a Qualcomm IPQ4019 SoC: the Dakota DR4019, MicroTik’s RB450Gx4 and the Kefu DB11 dev kit.



Habanero SOM block diagram
(click image to enlarge)


The 45 x 49 mm Habanero module, which came to our attention from an electronics-lab.com post, has a QCA8075C PHY that supports 5x Gigabit Ethernet ports. It also has USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports and supports other miscellaneous interfaces (details below), which can be configured as general-purpose I/O pins. Hardware based NAT engine and security features like crypto engine and secure boot make the SOM well suited for high-end, fast and secure networking applications. The Habanero comes in commercial 0 to 65°C, and industrial -40 to 85°C temperature range versions.

For memory, the Habanero SOM provides 32 MB NOR flash and 512 MB DDR3L RAM. There’s also up to 1 GB NAND available externally on the Habanero-DVK. Interfaces on the module include 46x GPIO, 1x PCie 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB2.0, 2x UART, 1x SPI, 2x I2C, 4x PWM, 1x JTAG, 1x I2S/TDM, 5x Ethernet ports, 1x RGMII, 1x SDIO3.0/eMMC and parallels for NAND flash memory and an LCD controller.



Habanero development board details
(click image to enlarge)


The Habanero DVK board provides several sockets and connectors that developers can use to take advantage of the SOM’s capabilities. The DVK has 5 Ethernet ports, an eMMC socket, an SD card socket, a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port, LEDs, buttons for GPI08 and Reset and 12V-24V power socket.


 
Habanero dev board with shield covering SOM (left) and shield (right)
(click images to enlarge)

 
Further information

The Habanero module and Habanero-DVK (including module) are available for pre-orders with shipments beginning September 23. More information may be found on 8devices’ Habanero product pages well as the HabaneroHabanero-I and Habanero-DVK shopping pages.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on September 12.

8devices | www.8devices.com

iWave Demos Xen Virtualization on its I.MX8QM-Based Module

iWave Systems has announced that it has successfully demonstrated the Xen virtualization hypervisor on their i.MX8 QM SoC based System on Module. The SMARC R2.0 compatible SOM is based on the i.MX8 QuadMax SoC. The SoC is comprised of 2x Arm Cortex-A72  cores at 1.8 GHz and 4x Arm Cortex-A53 cores at 1.2 GHz and 2x additional Cortex-M4F cores at 266 MHz.

On the i.MX8 QM, iWave has implemented the virtualization of hardware using the open-source type 1 Xen hypervisor. The Xen hypervisor enables multiple virtual machines to be created over a single hardware resource, each virtual machine capable of running its independent operating system. This enables i.MX8 QM SOM (shown) to run multiple operating systems concurrently on the same physical board. The Xen hypervisor allows maximum utilization of resources thereby improving overall system performance and efficiency.
Xen is an open-source type-1 hypervisor developed by the University of Cambridge and is now being developed by the Linux Foundation. Xen runs directly on the hardware to manage guest operating systems. Hence, it’s also considered as a bare-metal hypervisor. Xen has less overhead enabling faster performance and operating systems are more secure because they don’t rely on base OS for installing the hypervisor.

A system running the Xen hypervisor contains three components:

  • Xen Hypervisor
  • Domain 0 (Dom0) – Privileged virtual machine running on the hypervisor that can access the hardware directly and interact with other unprivileged virtual machines running on the system.
  • Multiple Domain U (DomU) – Unprivileged virtual machine running on the hypervisor and have no direct access to the hardware (e.g. CPU, memory, timer, and interrupts cannot be directly accessed)

During the initial system start-up, Xen hypervisor launches the Dom0 that runs the Linux operating system. The Dom0 has unique privileges to access the Xen hypervisor compared to other Domains. Dom0 manages the DomU, the unprivileged domains running on the system. Dom0 allocates and maps hardware resources for the DomU domains.

The solution has the follow advantages:

  • Less overhead compared to type-2 hypervisors since type-1 hypervisors make use of ARM virtualization extensions.
  • Having faulty/buggy OS in the DOM-U domain will not disrupt the functionalities of DOM-0 OS.
  • DOM-U driver domains can support legacy hardware drivers no longer supported by the new OS.
  • Have completely isolated workspaces with different requirements. For example: gaming and multimedia.
  • Better resource management since resources rarely used will not be powered on if the domain it belongs to is not booted.

In iWave’s Xen Demo on i.MX8QM Board, the DOM-0 OS runs Linux 4.9.88 from eMMC and DOM-U runs Android Oreo 8.1 from USB drives. Such a system can be used where there is a need for both faster, highly reliable OS (such as Linux) and more multi-featured slightly slower OS (such as Android) to be running on the same hardware.

iWave Systems | www.iwavesystems.com