The natural progression of controllers and computers is one of ever shrinking size, increased performance, and lower costs. For embedded machine control applications, this progression is perhaps best expressed by the computer-on-module (COM) trend, and more specifically by the COM Express specification.
The COM Express spec is hosted and supported by PICMG (www.picmg.org), a consortium of companies that collaboratively develop open specifications for high performance industrial computing applications. A COM Express module contains all of the components for a host computer attached to a single carrier board.
Machine builders have embraced COM Express products for various applications. “Information from market research firm VDC and from our own experience show significant COM Express penetration in industrial control applications for machine and robot builders,” says Christine Van De Graaf, product marketing manager for the embedded modules division at Kontron.
“In market studies, COM Express products are classified as customer and other solutions and have about 25 percent market share, and that is expected to hold fairly steady for the next two years,” adds Van De Graaf.
“Key features that make COM Express attractive include the availability of PCI Express, Serial ATA and Gigabit Ethernet interfaces. These features create the data bandwidth required for machine and robot control systems. The availability of these advanced interfaces as well as the scalability of using a standard modular solution have made COM Express the fitting integration path for industrial HMI and portable devices as well,” observes Van De Graaf.
A white paper by Diversified Technology (http://www.dtims.com/whitepapers/comonomics.pdf) shows how COM Express can help machine builders save time and money in industrial applications, a summary of the paper follows.
You can also read my February 2009 Mojo column for more info.