Embedded mini-modules achieve low power dissipation

15th November 2016
Alice Matthews

Two mini-modules which use the CPU architecture ARM Cortex-A7 have been developed by TQ, the TQMa7x and TQMa6ULx. With the choice of this CPU architecture in connection with the variety of interfaces of the NXP CPUs i.MX6UL and i.MX7, TQ creates a future-oriented basis in order to continue to support its customers with products in the ARM field.

The i.MX7, an ARM dual Cortex-A7 core with up to 2x 1GHz, is used in the TQMa7x embedded module. This processor achieves a high processing performance with low power dissipation. TQ has provided two CPU options, with the essential difference being that one is a single core version and the other a dual core version. This embedded module has been especially optimised for a low power dissipation.

The i.MX6UL processor, also an ARM Cortex-A7 core with up to 700MHz from the manufacturer NXP, is used in the second ARM module, the TQMa6ULx. There are up to four pin-compatible derivatives of this CPU, which differ in terms of the extension of the interfaces. One of the CPU options is trimmed to a low power dissipation. This module is therefore scalable in terms of its function.

An LGA option is also planned for the TQMa6ULx and this should be available in the first quarter of 2017. This option will enable systems to be implemented in the smallest of spaces. Furthermore, the LGA option of TQMa6ULx is compatible in terms of function and software.

The TQMa7x and TQMa6ULx embedded modules have been designed so that an optimum of interfaces can be used directly on the module. This means that the embedded modules are suitable for use as a platform concept across departments and companies can therefore reuse know-how that has already been acquired. In many projects this not only saves valuable time, but also reduces costs during the development process.

All CPU signals that can be used externally, are available via industry-compatible connectors with a grid of 0.8mm, which have already been tried and tested by TQ for more than 15 years. On 200 or 320 pins, the user can utilise 2x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x PCIe, USB host/USB OTG controller, up to eight UARTs and two CAN interfaces for communication. Additional functional units can be connected via SDIO, SPI, I2C and I2S.

In each of the embedded modules there is an optimum DDR3L memory for each system (TQMa7x with 512 MB and TQMa6ULx with 256MB) and up to 32MB eMMC Flash for program and data implemented. Quad SPI NOR Flash is available as an option. In each case, there is also an EEPROM and a real-time clock with battery backup from the motherboard.

With both of these CPUs, NXP has succeeded in providing a balanced combination of CPU performance, interfaces and performance features for an appealing module design. Due to the interface variety and very compact size of 54x44mm2 (TQMa7x) and 46x32mm2 (TQMa6ULx), as well as low power consumption, the ARM modules from TQ will become a useful basis for applications in the fields of man-machine interfaces, industrial control systems and Internet of Things (IoT) gateways. Furthermore, a diversity of additional application options are also conceivable for these embedded modules.

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