(Source: Mouser Electronics)
Design engineers are faced with more technical challenges today than ever before. The depth of knowledge of modern-day designs encompasses many generations of encapsulated experience.
The first personal computers used a single 8-bit microprocessor to drive a display, control removable and non-removable storage, scan a keyboard, decode a mouse, load, run, store, and debug programs, and communicate through I/O. In contrast, present-day single-chip multicore processor arrays can hold up to 1,100 processor cores that can perform 32- and 64-bit operations at GHz speeds. Also, the trillion-transistor wafer-scale technology level we have achieved makes it possible to do tasks that were unimaginable only a few years ago.
We can no longer operate at the bit level when designing, coding, and instantiating complex functional blocks into designs. Instead, we use less granular and more sophisticated building blocks to create digital and mixed-signal structures. Each technological advance raises the bar. What once was leading-edge becomes another cut-and-paste element of our next design. Reusability, not redesign, is vital, and this approach extends to code. Using higher level integrated functional blocks systems elements that are well debugged and proven along with application-specific software coupled with well-documented and debugged drivers and APIs help glue the system design together into usable and reusable code regardless of whether using company proprietary generated code or open-source software as high-level blocks.
As new designs become a copy-and-paste task, you no longer need to operate or understand the underlying workings. This happened with transistors, integrated circuits, microprocessors, and system boards. Smaller and leaner designing teams can leverage generations of expertise by designing at a more sophisticated level. In this blog, we explain how designing at a higher level using highly integrated, fully functional building blocks enable you to develop next-generation designs more efficiently.
Many engineers like to create schematics, PCB layouts and watch as a new computer comes to life. While this micro-design approach might be an excellent learning opportunity for the DIYer, this would not be the preferred or recommended approach to a company’s proprietary computer design. To reinvent the wheel means schematic entry, printed circuit board (PCB) layout, fab, test, debug, and code. Even if you make your boards, these are delicate prototypes, not hardened and rugged systems that can be put through their paces, especially for rugged or industrial designs. What is the alternative?
Leveraging board-level functionality can save time and money when developing new, advanced products. Board-level computers are not a new concept. Going back to 8-bit Von Neumann processors, single-board computers have always been an option. Although simpler, they provided the same quick time-to-market and higher level springboard from which to launch your design.
The complexity, flexibility, and completeness of modern-day single-board computers and stackable systems are new. It is not uncommon for modern designs to have hardwired Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi®, Bluetooth®, removable SD storage, high-speed disk interfaces, high-speed memory, high-end multiple graphics ports, 3D imaging and capture, USB 2 and USB 3, and advanced user interfaces. What’s crucial is an OEM high-level system solution such as the Intel® NUC 8. The NUC 8 is a well-engineered, fully tested, ruggedized, fully documented OEM system that includes both live and self-service support tools.
Offering more than just the system board, the Intel® NUC family includes tight tolerance, ruggedized chassis that encompass the I/O and ports, and antennas for wireless standards such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This out-of-the-box Intel NUC Rugged Board and Chassis (Austin Beach) use both NUC 8 and 11 Compute Element that have a range of processors from Celeron up through Core i7 vPro.
These items work in conjunction with your keyboard, mouse, and amplified sound system. Additionally, Lidar cameras can connect for 3D applications and even high-end gaming. The design makes these units ideal for factory-automation inspection systems, self-driving vehicles, kiosks, signage, and high-end embedded computers for virtually any application.
These cost-effective units are certified to comply with international standards. These units also are backward and forward compatible as new generations emerge, and they support Windows, Linux, and real-time operations. With all these features, you can see how this is a win-win situation all around.
Design engineers face more technical challenges today than ever before. The in-depth knowledge needed to design a modern-day proprietary computer from scratch can be a daunting task and requires a considerable amount of time. The Intel® NUC family of high-level modular compute elements enables design engineers to focus on innovation for next-generation products. The family features fully functional building blocks that are modular, easy-to-upgrade, scalable, rugged, backwards/forwards compatible, and compliant with international standards. Using the Intel® NUC family, designers can achieve a faster time-to-market with less design, debug, fab, and test time through a trusted brand.
After completing his studies in electrical engineering, Jon Gabay has worked with defense, commercial, industrial, consumer, energy, and medical companies as a design engineer, firmware coder, system designer, research scientist, and product developer. As an alternative energy researcher and inventor, he has been involved with automation technology since he founded and ran Dedicated Devices Corp. up until 2004. Since then, he has been doing research and development, writing articles, and developing technologies for next-generation engineers and students.
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