Improving industrial embedded system development by taking advantage of the maker ecosystem

terça-feira, 24 de julho de 2018

ColibriRaspberry Pi and Arduino are probably the most significant symbols of the Maker Movement. They are, without a doubt, the electronics hardware which boosted and triggered the Maker Movement that is changing the world! Both initiatives were aiming to make electronic devices popular and were planned as teaching tools, especially for programming and basic electronics skills. Due to their success in the academic realm, they have rapidly become a worldwide phenomenon and giant communities based on a sharing philosophy have developed an ecosystem around these boards.

These products transcended the teaching area and were quickly incorporated into industry. However, they are not rugged enough for many environments in industry, and are therefore facing challenges in more demanding applications. Limitations such as working temperature, lifecycle, supply chain, vibration resistance, pin-compatibility, form factor, licenses and many more inhibit the use of Raspberry Pi and Arduino in professional and industrial equipment.

The importance of this kind of hardware in preliminary phases of an embedded system design is undeniable. Engineering teams all over the world use these Maker platforms and respective add-on peripheral boards and Shields ecosystems to create a proof of concept (PoC) and to get prototypes done faster. Once the project or the idea is validated, then many companies need more reliable and professional platforms which fulfill the industry requirements.

Considering the growing demand for accelerated time-to-market, Toradex developed a new product: the Aster Carrier Board. This Carrier Board is for the entire Colibri family of System on Modules (SoMs), and the board has one header compatible with Arduino Shield and another header similar to Raspberry Pi’s, as we can see in the figure below:

Aster Carrier Board

Besides Raspberry Pi and Arduino compatible headers, the Aster Carrier Board has a VGA connector and Unified Display Interface (a combination of resistive touchscreen and RGB display exists in every Toradex carrier board) as digital video interfaces. It also has USB ports, Ethernet, SDCard and a micro USB that can power the board and also work as a serial port for accessing the Linux terminal (UART A through FTDI IC is already embedded in the board). See below for the block diagram representing the board:

Toradex Carrier Board Block Diagram

One of the great advantages of using this board is to enable the professional equipment developers to benefit from the extensive Arduino and Raspberry Pi ecosystem of shields and compatible boards to develop proof of concept and prototypes in a reliable industrial platform for their final application.

Illustration below:

Aster with Arduino shields

Consequently, the rework needed to develop a final product gets reduced for a number of reasons:
  • The software is developed on the proven platform
  • There is no difference between the field equipment performance and prototype performance since the prototype was developed on the same hardware (and same SoC)
  • Toradex offers resources to accelerate the embedded system design. Besides the local technical support, you can take advantage of Toradex Community, Getting Started, Developer Portal, Carrier Board Design Resources and Technical Webinars
  • Colibri Family offers pin-to-pin compatibility between the different modules; you can scale your performance from a Single Cortex-A5@400MHz (Colibri VF50) on the cost-sensitive side to a Quad Cortex-A9@1.3Ghz on the full-featured graphics side (Colibri T30)
  • Aster design data (in Altium) is fully available for download just like all Toradex Carrier Boards. You can benefit by this from a mature and reliable reference design for your own product. See image below:
Toradex Carrier Board Illustration - Top View
Toradex Carrier Board Illustration - Bottom View

Once you choose to get started with Aster Carrier Board, you get a complete, scalable and reliable Arm Colibri family of System on Modules. Across the Colibri family, the modules are pin-compatible and based on the well-established application processors of NXP (i.MX 6, i.MX 7, Vybrid) and NVIDIA (Tegra 2, Tegra 3).

The SoMs in the Colibri family have a lifecycle of at least 10 years and new members join the family almost every single year. For example, check out the new product release Colibri iMX6ULL, which is pin-compatible with older Colibri revisions. With this update system, your product can virtually have an infinite lifecycle; as soon as you receive a notification that your module will go end-of-life, it is easy to migrate to a newer module with the same pin-outs.

Accelerate your next design by buying your own Aster Carrier Board directly from Toradex Webshop.

Autor: Guilherme Fernandes, CEO, Toradex Brasil

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