Diamond Systems recently unveiled EmbeddedXpress (EMX), a new industry standard form-factor for embedded computers that combines COM Express CPU modules with stackable I/O expansion in an SBC format.
EMX boards offer increased flexibility, scalability and longevity in the final product by providing interchangeable processor modules along with stackable I/O expansion. This combination yields the best of both SBCs and COMs: off-the-shelf embedded computing solutions with easy I/O expansion, plus performance scalability and increased product lifetime.
EMX defines two sizes of boards: EMX Basic (95 x 125 mm, the same as COM Express Basic) and EMX Compact (95 x 95 mm, the same as COM Express Compact). Traditional single-board computers (SBCs) as well as COM carrier boards can be designed in either size, while I/O modules are defined only in the Compact size.
EMX COM carrier boards provide a convenient and efficient way to utilise the wide selection of COM Express modules available from multiple vendors worldwide, resulting in performance scalability, protection from CPU obsolescence, and earlier access to the latest CPU technologies.
In addition, EMX COM-based SBCs offer efficient conduction cooling by means of a bottom-mounted heat spreader that contacts the system enclosure. Conduction cooling enables a higher ambient operating temperature rating for the SBC, while simultaneously keeping the electronics inside the enclosure cooler, thereby improving reliability.
One of the key highlights of EMX is the use of a new, significantly more efficient expansion bus connector. The EMX expansion connector is smaller and lower cost than other stackable I/O standards, helping to reduce cost and increase the availability of PCB area for processor and I/O circuitry.
The connector includes all the most popular expansion buses utilised by current and planned processors, chipsets and peripheral chips, ensuring compatibility long into the future. Furthermore it contains ample reserved pins, ensuring a long lifetime for the standard by providing the capacity to incorporate new features as they become available and desirable.
EMX is intended to become an open standard available to the market without payment of any royalty or licence fees. As the creator of EMX, Diamond Systems plans to maintain the standard and provide technical assistance to product designers until the standard is eventually housed by an appropriate standards organisation.
Because EMX utilises COM modules and also provides a complete SBC-like solution, it appeals to a wider range of high- and low-volume customers than either COMs or SBCs alone. Furthermore it enables COM module vendors to sell fully functional, off-the-shelf solutions using their COM modules, reaching traditional SBC customers by offering a complete solution.
Since EMX offers the ability to use COM modules as the computing engine, it eliminates the need for traditional SBC vendors to design complex processor circuits, enabling them to get to market faster with a wider range of products, as well as providing longer lifetime and greater return on investment for their products. Customers enjoy earlier access to new CPU technology, longer product lifetimes, wider choice of processors, better protection from CPU obsolescence, and performance scalability.
For designers, EMX eliminates the need to design a custom baseboard for many applications, so they can select the COM module that best suits their needs, and match it to the baseboard of choice to get an instant off-the-shelf solution with no custom design.
The size of EMX Basic is larger than PC/104. Designers of EMX SBCs can fit more processor circuitry on the board without resorting to shortcuts or form-factor extensions. Customers can be assured of standard size and shape boards that will fit into their systems without worrying about non-standard board shapes and sizes.
The size of EMX Compact is roughly equivalent to PC/104, providing sufficient room for common I/O designs. The expansion connector is optimised for size, cost, interconnectivity, PCB area and PCB coastline, plus it contains sufficient reserved pins for future upgrades.
Simultaneously with the announcement of the EMX form factor, Diamond introduced Altair, the world’s first EMX Basic SBC, and Vega, the world’s first EMX Basic COM-based SBC.
Altair features an Intel Atom E680T processor at 1,6 GHz, onboard memory, a full suite of I/O features, PCIe Mini Card socket, and latching connectors for enhanced ruggedness. It operates over the industrial temperature range of -40°C to +85°C and has passed MIL-STD-202G shock and vibration testing. Readers can find out more about the board in ‘Conduction-cooled EMX SBC’.
The Vega family of EMX COM-based SBCs is a two-board solution (COM Express module plus baseboard) that offers an impressive host of features for its footprint. In addition to the processor and full complement of COM Express peripherals (Ethernet, VGA, LCD, USB, SATA), Vega includes a wide-range power supply capable of delivering up to 96 W for the COM module and add-on boards, a full auto-calibrating analog I/O circuit with 16-bit A/D and D/A, a second gigabit Ethernet port, and four RS-232/422/485 serial ports.