Developers of industrial robots and automation systems will soon have a family of processors that combine the functionality of field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and microcontrollers in a single chip.
Known as the QorIQ LS1 family, the new processors are targeted at robotics, automation, industrial control, and fan-less, convection-cooled applications. “This takes a two-chip solution down to a single chip,” Nick Sargologos, senior product marketing manager for Freescale Semiconductor, told Design News. “So you reduce cost, power consumption, and complexity.”
All three members of Freescale’s LS1 family incorporate dual ARM Cortex A7 cores. The LS1020A processor (shown) is targeted at enterprise and consumer networking, as well as gateways and security appliances. (Source: Freescale Semiconductor)
The new family of processors employs dual ARM Cortex A7 cores to provide high performance (6,000 CoreMark) at 3W or less. By keeping the power down, the processors can be used in applications where packaging is tight, Freescale said. “There are many industrial applications -- such as programmable logic controllers, motion controllers, process automation gateways -- where you have to withstand high ambient temperatures in a fan-less design,” Sargologos told us.
The family includes three different processors. The LS1020A processor is aimed at enterprise and consumer networking, while the 1021A targets factory industrial automation, and aerospace and defense. The 1022A focuses on entry-level consumer and industrial designs. The products include a variety of features, ranging from virtualized Gigabit Ethernet and integrated LCD controllers to support of ProfiBUS, ModBUS, CANopen, and DeviceNET.
In many such applications, design engineers previously employed a combination of FPGAs and microcontrollers. But those solutions typically consumed more power and added greater complexity than Freescale’s new 3W designs, Sargologos told us. ”This part is really like a Swiss Army knife,” he said. “The level of performance it delivers at low power allows it to be designed into all kinds of small-footprint applications.”
It seems that whenever I do an electronics story, naperlou, the theme is power. With so many systems moving to smaller footprints and even handheld design, low power is the ever-present design requirement.
Chuck, I have worked with the POWER Architecture versions of this product. The ability to have multiple cores of a standard processor and the QUICC communications engine on one chip is amazing. This is the trend these days, but it is no less amazing. The ARM processor brings low power to the part, as you point out. This can extend its use to battery powered units. That would be something.
Are they robots or androids? We're not exactly sure. Each talking, gesturing Geminoid looks exactly like a real individual, starting with their creator, professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University in Japan.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.