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Sitara AM437x dev kit targets Linux-based industrial apps

Mar 10, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 1,694 views

TI launched a kit for its Sitara AM437x SoC, focused on multi-protocol industrial communication and motor feedback. with dual PRU-linked Ethernet ports.

In only a week, embedded Linux developers looking to tap the powers of the Texas Instruments Sitara AM437x system-on-chip have seen their options advance from one to three. Last week, MYIR launched a $99 “Rico Board” SBC built around TI’s Cortex-A9 based AM437x, and now TI has spun a “AM437x Industrial Development Kit” (IDK). The board is optimized for motor feedback applications and industrial Ethernet protocols controlled by the SoCs quad-core Programmable Real-time Unit (PRU). The AM437x IDK joins TI’s more feature-rich, $599 AM437x EVM, which was released when the chipmaker announced the SoC last June.

AM437x Industrial Development Kit
(click image to enlarge)

The AM437x IDK helps developers optimize motor control industrial system design to evaluate multi-protocol, industrial communication and feedback interfaces on the SoC, says TI. It supports two of the four AM437x models — the AM4377 and 3D-enabled AM4379 models — both of which enhance the PRU subsystem with additional support for industrial protocols like EtherCAT. The PRU, which is also available in an earlier dual-core version available on TI’s Cortex-A8-based Sitara AM335x, is designed for customizing I/O that requires deterministic, real-time processing and ultra-low-latency.

Sitara AM437x block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The specialized IDK evaluation board was developed to meet the growing trend toward “connected drive solutions” with “digital motor feedback,” says TI. In such applications, industrial Ethernet protocols can reduce the latency between communications and control, says the company. The AM437x IDK is said to offer “certified, production-ready” industrial communication protocol support that provides a single-chip drive solution for Inverter, servo drive, or AC premium drive systems, says TI.

The AM437x IDK improves synchronization between communication and control, resulting in lower latency, and provides Field-oriented Control (FOC) for variable-frequency drives, says the company. Other applications include programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and Human Machine Interface (HMI), among others, says TI.

AM437x Industrial Development Kit block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The AM437x IDK supports up to 1GB of DDR3L SDRAM, as well as 512KB of SPI flash. A microSD slot is also available. Other real-world ports include a micro-USB port, a gigabit Ethernet port, and two 10/100Mbps Ethernet transceiver ports controlled by two of the four PRU cores.

The board is further equipped with a 2-megapixel camera module, dual ADC inputs for motor control, and three phase brushless DC motor drivers, which use a PWM interface. A serializer for industrial 24v digital inputs is available to handle the input from the board’s 60-pin and 40-pin expansion connectors. Additional features include eQEP and ENDATA interface connectors, a JTAG connector, and eight Industrial output LEDs.

The IDK supports protocols including EtherCAT, EnDat 2.1, BiSS, PROFINET, CANOpen, PROFIBUS, PowerLink, Ethernet/IP, SERCOS III, and IEC61850, says TI. The platform offers further support for motor axis position feedback and Sigma Delta Decimation filters.

AM437x EDM

By comparison, TI’s main AM437x EDM board lacks the IDK’s two Fast Ethernet ports and other motor control interfaces. However, it offers other features for more general evaluation and development purposes,m including an HDMI port, USB 2.0 OTG and host, dual CAN ports, and audio I/O. It also features a touchscreen and a second camera module.

No details were mentioned about Linux or any other software except for support for TI’s Code Composer Studio IDE. TI does note, however, that the $599 EVM solution ships with mainline Linux support. The “production-ready” IDK ships with schematics, BOM, user guide, benchmarks, software, demos, and other documentation, which already appears to be available for free download.

“The Sitara AM437x processors, with the quad-core PRU, offer the highest degree of integration enabling multi-protocol communication and feedback interface for an industrial single-chip drive solution,” stated Punya Prakash, marketing manager at TI.

Further information

The AM437x Industrial Development Kit (IDK) is available for $329. More information and links to direct sales are available at TI’s AM437x IDK product page.

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