New Processors for Industrial Use

July 24, 2014
The new Sitara AM437x processor from Texas Instruments offers real-time processing and support for industrial automation protocols.

News about processor advances for the industrial sector has seen a major upsurge in the past year. Just since the publication in early 2013 of my article on how embedded systems are changing automation technologies, we have seen numerous announcements about microprocessors created specifically for advancing industrial applications. (See links at bottom of this article to some of those announcements).

You can now add another new family of processors to this list with the release of Texas Instruments’ Sitara AM437x processor. According to TI, the Sitara AM437x integrates support for industrial automation protocols as well as new features such as a dual camera port for data terminals with bar code scanning.

The new processors reportedly enable real-time processing through the use of quad core programmable real-time units (PRU). TI says the PRU offloads real-time processing from the ARM to manage deterministic tasks such as controlling motors and enabling complex functions like handling of multiple industrial fieldbus protocols. The combination of a 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 and integration of peripherals and the PRUs positions the processor for industrial applications such as PLCs, Internet of Things gateways, and HMIs.

Specific Sitara AM437x capabilities include:

  • Quad core PRU-ICSS (industrial communications subsystem) connectivity peripheral enables dual, simultaneous industrial protocols such as EtherCAT, EtherNet/IP, Profibus, Profinet-RT/IRT, Ethernet Powerlink, Sercos III, IEC61850, as well as motor feedback protocols such as EnDat or interfaces for sensors and actuators like BiSS.
  • On-chip quad core PRU co-processor achieves deterministic, real-time processing, direct access to I/O and ultra-low-latency requirements.
  • Peripheral options include: dual port 1Gb Ethernet switch for networking; two parallel camera ports for applications such as bar code scanners; two independent, up to 867ksps, eight-channel ADCs for servo motor control, audio sampling and sensor monitoring; improved Vector Floating Point unit for motor control and audio algorithms; and nine-channel Sinc3 filter sigma-delta ADC for higher precision current sensing in industrial drives.

Recent Automation World coverage of embedded systems designed for industrial automation applications:

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