Multi-core processors boost data output per watt performance

21st February 2013

The power consumption of multi-cores remains the same as traditional CPUs: however, data output per watt rises dramatically. A multi-core processor can run Windows and control the human-machine interface on one core, and can run a RTOS for the machine control system on the another core.

Standard and unique solutions are offered for commercial and industrial applications. ATX boards have the largest size and the longest history; MicroATX boards are medium size; and Mini-ITX boards are the smallest. Standard size ensures easy compatibility with readily available enclosures, simplifying installation and enabling quick upgrades. Most connectors and interfaces are directly implemented on standard boards. Since the connectors are identically arranged, making external interfaces is easy, especially during system updates. The use of standardised power supplies helps in the selection of optimal power units for each scenario.

Commercial motherboards are not suited to industrial use. Industrial motherboards are built to withstand high shock and vibration, while functioning through an extended temperature range. Strict version control guarantees that industrial boards retain the same design to ensure that installations will function consistently and reliably. With version changes, extensive compatibility tests are needed to guarantee that a new board will function exactly like its predecessor. Long-term availability of components is crucial so that longevity can be guaranteed for at least five years.

Highly integrated Mini-ITX boards have rich functionality, the smallest (170mmx170mm) footprint, consume less than 100 Watts and have one expansion slot. They are suitable for fast-emerging kiosk, POS, gaming, lottery and other markets that need a compact and power-efficient platform. Advantech’s AIMB-254 is a high-end motherboard that can use Intel Core Duo or Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs and up to 4GB SDRAM. The 945GM chipset supports four COM ports, eight USB ports and a multitude of other connectivity.

Measuring 244mmx244mm, MicroATX boards are as integrated as ATX with balanced performance and expandability. Advantech’s AIMB-554 supports Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs and up to 4GB of DDR 2 SDRAM. SATA II, PCIe and two PCI interfaces are offered. RAID 0 & 1 is also supported.

Measuring 304mmx244 mm and supporting up to seven expansion slots, ATX boards are built for servers and high-end markets. Advantech’s AIMB-764, supports the most demanding applications by using an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and up to 8GB of DDR 2 SDRAM. Five SATA II, PCIe and five PCI connectors enable extensive expansion. RAID 0, 1, 5 & 10 is also supported.

A number of chassis for MiniITX boards are available on the market but they are generally developed precisely for a specific application such as home entertainment, Thin Client or the like, and are not suitable for industrial use. In addition, they often lack the flexibility of standard industrial PC chassis. How can this requirement be met?

MiniITX boards offer advantages over conventional ATX mainboards in many industrial applications. MiniITX boards have integrated all computer functions into the smallest possible space. Apart from the processor, these include a wide range of functions such as graphics, LAN, parallel, serial, USB 2.0, SATA, PS/2 and PCI.

Despite the compact design, almost all typical components – such as hard drives or other drives – can be installed, and standard operating systems such as Windows or Linux and their corresponding application software can be run. However, this extensive functionality makes it difficult to assemble in a chassis which is extremely compact yet continues to allow the broad functionality and meets the requirements for use in a rough industrial environment. Are these requirements to be met by a single chassis or is a chassis series the solution?

The same requirements apply for MiniITX chassis for industrial use as for ATX mainboard chassis. The most important factors include the robustness of the chassis, a high degree of flexibility for the selection of installed components and a wide range of mounting options, all in an extremely compact chassis. An entry-level MiniITX system could be a MiniITX board with Pentium M processor, which makes it possible to have a fanless system due to the low power consumption.

If no PCI expansion card is required and the existing interfaces suffice, the chassis can effectively be built directly around the MiniITX board. All MiniITX with corresponding performance data would fit in this kind of chassis. However, due to the large number of interfaces a MiniITX board has and the expansion possibilities offered by a PCI card, a fully expanded MiniITX system may also require a significantly larger chassis volume. The base must be at least the size of a MiniITX board and it must be high enough to enable a PCI card to be inserted.

From the realisation that there is not one single all-embracing solution in the field of MiniITX for industrial applications, Advantech developed a highly flexible chassis series that is designed in accordance with the well-known ARK principle: highly modular, highly flexible and extremely compact.

The most compact version, ARK-6310 for MiniITX boards with Intel Pentium M processors and measuring just 232x6x232 mm, is a fanless system. In addition to the existing interfaces, a 2.5-in HDD can be installed in a shockproof and vibration-proof assembly.

As with all ARK-6000 systems, the mainboard can also be accessed from underneath the unit. The top model ARK-6610, which measures 250x156x250mm, offers sufficient space for all expansions, leaving you wanting for nothing. Apart from an internal 3.5-in hard disc drive, a slim-line CD/DVD drive can also be installed in a shockproof and vibration-proof assembly. A PCI expansion card and numerous additional interfaces can be accessed easily from the front.

Wolfgang Heinz-Fischer is European Marketing Director with Advantech Europe GmbH, Feldkirchen, Germany.




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