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Embedded computing platform

Piano-playing robot

Congatec has introduced a virtualized embedded computing platform for PLC (programmable logic controller) and UI (user interface) hardware consolidation. It features a Classical CAN interface.

The product features CANopen and Devicenet connectivity (Photo: Congatec)

The demo platform with a hexapod robot playing a piano is based on a standard embedded hardware platform from Congatec, hypervisor technology from Real-Time Systems (RTS), IEC 61131-3 compliant Codesys SoftPLC running on real-time VxWorks OS, and a virtualized graphical user interface (GUI) based on Microsoft Windows 10. Using standard building blocks, the platform’s logic includes everything needed for the control of motion systems in a modular and cross-platform-capable format.

The platform’s demo controller connects to the three servomotors of the hexapod and is programmed to press piano keys. The GUI is operated by Microsoft Windows and, resembling a jukebox, is used to select the music to be played by the robot. To demonstrate the independence of the real-time operating system from Microsoft Windows running in parallel, the GUI can be rebooted while the robot keeps playing piano.

The hypervisor-enabled hardware can be adapted to any required communication logic on a project basis. This includes multiple hardware interfaces including CANopen and Devicenet. A 60-day licensed version of the Real-Time Hypervisor is available on request.

“The combination of Congatec hardware and RTS hypervisor technology creates an embedded computing platform for smart motion controllers that OEM customers can leverage to achieve very fast time to market as both the hardware building blocks and the SoftPLC are standards based, industry proven, modular, cross-platform capable components ready for installation; plus the hypervisor supports all common RTOS and general-purpose operating system (GPOS) combinations OEMs might need,” explained Martin Danzer, director of product management at Congatec.

The platform’s fundamental building blocks have been validated to work together smoothly. Congatec’s acquisition of the hypervisor vendor RTS contributes to this interaction between hardware and hypervisor.

The underlying hardware platform is built on Congatec computer-on-modules and RTS real-time hypervisor, simplifying efforts to allocate and adapt the real-time processing power to any smart motion control or robotics demand. In a quad-core configuration with Intel Xeon E3-1505M V6, the platform can support up to eight threads to control up to eight real-time axis drives in parallel or include smart vision and deep learning support. The design is based on the conga-TS175 COM Express Type 6 computer-on-modules.

The products are also equipped with the high-end dual-chip versions of the Intel Xeon and Gen 7 Intel Core processors (codename Kaby Lake). The modules are mounted on a conga-IT6 carrier board. Users of this Mini-ITX based carrier board for computer-on-modules can scale their applications across all relevant processor generations and manufacturers as required.