Computer/Embedded Technology


Fourth generation PC/104 SBC extends product lifecycles

31 March 2021 Computer/Embedded Technology

Diamond Systems has introduced Athena IV, a wide-temperature, COM-based SBC (single board computer) with integrated data acquisition and PC/104 I/O expansion. This combination of features makes the compact 10,7 x 11,4 cm board appealing to a wide range of embedded computing applications.

As its name implies, Athena IV is the fourth generation in the Athena series of SBCs from Diamond, a popular platform that has been serving long-life applications in military, transportation, agriculture, and industrial industries since 2004. Athena IV maintains backwards compatibility in terms of form factor, features, and I/O connectors with previous generations of the product, while incorporating the newest technologies to enable long-term applications to stay current with the state of the art as well as attain increased CPU performance.

Customers using previous generations of Athena can easily upgrade to Athena IV with dramatically reduced re-engineering effort, compared to migrating to an entirely different SBC. In addition, embedded systems using competitor PC/104 SBCs approaching end of life can migrate to the Athena platform to extend their product lifetimes practically indefinitely, due to its use of the COM architecture.

A COM-based SBC consists of three layers: the COM, or computer-on-module, containing the processor and associated circuitry; a carrier board, containing additional I/O, power supply, and I/O connectors; and a thermal solution, consisting of either a heatsink or heat spreader (which also serves as a mounting plate).

Athena IV incorporates a full-fledged precision data acquisition (DAQ) subsystem with analog I/O and digital I/O features, saving the size and weight of a second I/O board for applications requiring DAQ. The analog circuitry features programmable input ranges, 150 kHz sampling rate, and Diamond’s signature auto-calibration, which enables the circuit to be calibrated under software control at any time to maintain accuracy over the life of the system.

All I/O features are supported by Diamond’s Universal Driver programming library, which includes sample code, executables, and a novel GUI control panel that can be used for quick bring-up, application modelling, and even system debugging.

For applications requiring additional I/O, Athena IV offers the industry-leading PC/104 expansion socket, enabling it to be used with hundreds of I/O boards from companies all over the world. PC/104 today still offers the industry’s most appealing solution for I/O expansion due to its wide vendor base, rugged board interconnection method, long product life, and ideal size that allows a greater amount of I/O and more rugged I/O connector options than minicards.

The -40°C to +85°C operating temperature range (tested and guaranteed) as well as the 50% thicker PCB round out Athena IV’s benefits package and make it an excellent choice for rugged environments involving temperature and shock/vibration extremes.

Development kits are available to assist with application development. They include the Athena SBC, a cable kit, and a ready-to-run operating system image on a Flash disk. Both Linux Ubuntu and Windows 10 64-bit operating system images are available.


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