For the past few years now, it’s become more evident that the biggest changes coming to industry via new automation technologies will largely take place at the chip level. From greater use of FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays—chips that can be reprogrammed in the field) to new developments in computing power and security specifically geared toward industry, it’s clear that the chip manufacturing industry has its sights set on the manufacturing and processing industries as much as it has historically been focused on the consumer markets. (See links at the bottom of this article to read more about what’s been happening in this area).
One of the more recent advances in this area comes from Texas Instruments (TI), which just released its SitaraTM AM57x processor family, which it claims to be the highest performance devices in this processor platform. The processor features ARM Cortex-A15 cores for high-performance processing (as well as the ability to run a high-level operating system), along with TI’s C66x digital signal processors (DSPs) for analytics and real-time computation, programmable real-time units (PRU) and ARM Cortex-M4 cores for control functions, as well as video and graphic accelerators for advanced user interfaces.
According to TI, these new processors bring more than 40 percent greater performance than the quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processors and 280 percent greater performance than standard dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processors typically found in the embedded market.
For OEMs, TI says the Sitara AM57x processors allow designers to use a single chip for computing, real-time control, connectivity, and multimedia capabilities of their systems. The company notes that this level of integration is “ideal for applications involving Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), factory automation, machine vision, embedded computing, human machine interface (HMI), robotics, medical imaging, and avionics.”
A closer look at the compute, control, and connectivity capabilities of these processors shows:
- In terms of compute capabilities, the chip comes with two different types of computing cores, both with up to two ARM Cortex-A15 cores and C66x DSPs that can each perform a different task.
- The AM57x processors include two ARM Cortex-M4 cores and four PRUs for the low-latency, real-time control functions necessary for industrial applications such as controlling a motor or monitoring sensors.
- The processors are equipped with an industrial communication subsystem (ICSS) for real-time fieldbus protocols and other industrial communication, and can be integrated with high-speed peripherals such as PCIe, SATA, Gigabit Ethernet, and USB 3.0.
- In addition, the AM57x EVMincludes a connector for plugging in one of TI’s WiLink 8 modules, enabling both Wi-Fiand Bluetooth connectivity.
Recent coverage from Automation World about industrial embedded developments: