Industrial boards are regular design boards that embed multiple functions in one single unit or board, allowing users to interface smoothly with any application as per their needs.
Hrishikesh Kamat, CEO, Shalaka Technology, recalls the challenges faced by one of his clients due to their machine operators’ lack of understanding of a machine. The CNC machine, which cost over ₹ 100,000, broke down and plant administrators and operators could not figure out the fault in time. Unfortunately, the company had to replace the costly CNC machine.
Had there been an industrial board instead of the regular board in the CNC machine, it would have indicated to the administration specific breakdown points, ensuring long-term efficient functioning of the machine with no room for errors.
Understanding the Need for Industrial Boards
From robotics to embedded systems, factory automation to building automation, smart grid to motor drives, smart lighting to space, avionics and defense, industrial developer boards are significant in almost every aspect. These are quite handy for designers as they need not rework the PCB layout for different applications, with just the controller programming serving the purpose. Industrial developer boards are customer-centric as against regular developer boards, which are more product-centric in design.
For instance, a regular power supply has inbuilt over-voltage, over-current and over-load protection. But if an industrial application demands an alarming signal along with blinking of an LED to indicate over-voltage, over-current or over-load conditions, there will be a specified industrial developer board to serve this purpose. This board will then be modified by either using a microcontroller circuit to program the IC or by making changes in the components based on the calculations done.
In microcontroller-based industrial boards, functions can be added by changing the controller program. Industrial developer boards reduce the bill-of-material and space requirements as these can handle SMD components.
Pallav Aggarwal, engineering manager, Toradex systems India, says that factors like longevity, warranty and flexibility make industrial boards a preferred option compared to normal boards. He adds that industrial temperatures may range from -40 degrees to +80 degrees centigrade from industry to industry.
Interestingly, existing industrial developer boards are all geared up for innovation in the year 2017. We bring to you the latest trends in industrial boards used in some of the most dynamic and fast-growing industries.
Moving on from silicon to gallium nitride
Earlier, industrial developer boards used silicon technology field-effect transistors (FETs) for power electronics applications in automotive electrical and electronic systems, and commercial, industrial or residential utilities. However, these have now graduated to gallium nitride as it can support higher-frequency-driven systems like boost LED drivers of higher wattages and systems utilising higher voltage output (up to 1kV). GaN FETs are commonly used in servers and LED drivers. The design of these FETs improves thermal dissipation, providing much better efficiency as well as high-speed switching.
Equipped with RF transmitter
One of the major changes in industrial boards has happened in the robotics segment. Keeping up with the latest trends, industrial developer boards have now been revamped with both hardware and software upgrades.
Earlier, robots were manually controlled to avoid unnecessary power consumption by them. To address this issue, the design of industrial developer boards used in these robots has been upgraded.
According to Akshat Garg, analogue application engineer from Texas Instruments, manufacturers have now equipped these boards with an RF-based detector that uses antenna instead of optics. In order to make the board compact, the antennae are embedded in the system. This has not only condensed the board but also reduced the processing time.
Besides, the industrial developer board software has been completely transformed from normal image processing to focus more on XYZ coordinates in order to enable robots to easily identify objects in 3D space.
These developer boards are now being used by designers in heavy automation segments like conveyor belts, pick-and-place machinery, oil drilling rigs (which go very deep and impossible to operate manually), and placement of gems or diamonds on jewellery.
One of the major changes in industrial developer board design is the transition from Bluetooth 4.2 to the latest version Bluetooth 5.0.
Earlier, the lighting application (primarily in sectors such as lighting, automotive and aviation) used Bluetooth 4.2, which did not have mesh facility in the developer board. Thus, the connectivity between different systems was limited. Nevertheless, with advancement to Bluetooth 5.0, systems are now interconnected with each other and can be accessed by a single remote. This has further enhanced the exchange of data exponentially as the speed of data transfer has increased and the time reduced. This facility is embedded in the microcontroller on the development board itself.
Prahlad Supeda, senior application engineer, Texas Instruments, adds that till recently, customers were provided with different industrial boards for different applications. However, this is changing as the demand for a compact and complete industrial board is rapidly growing.