HDMI-APIX3 converter makes testing displays easy

30th April 2020
Alex Lynn

The automotive industry is increasingly turning to the 3rd generation of Automotive Pixel Link (APIX) technology to meet the high requirements of modern infotainment systems. APIX3 is one of the technologies that supports UHD resolution in the latest vehicle displays, and the new HDMI-APIX3 converter aims to make test and validation of displays easier.

Until now, technical testing of the image display with APIX3-compatible components was only possible with a special developer board, which had to be connected with a separate microcontroller platform to display more complex scenarios. This made it very difficult to set up a test environment for APIX3 components.

ARRK Engineering, a specialist for vehicle interior electronics, has developed a compact HDMI-APIX3 converter that conveniently shows the display of video signals from any HDMI source on APIX3-compatible panels. The converter uses a customisable firmware to enable simple analysis of APIX3 displays and easy debugging of components. With its compact design, the versatile platform also offers new possibilities for rapid prototyping of HMI concept ideas.

Until recently, APIX3 displays could only be tested with the help of a developer board from the APIX semiconductor manufacturer Inova Semiconductors. However, it was not possible to use this board as a stand-alone solution as it required an additional computer to be set up and configured for each specific application, which was a cumbersome process.

“We’ve developed the prototype of an HDMI-APIX3 converter for user-friendly testing of APIX3 displays,” said Bernd Schmieder, Development Engineer at ARRK Engineering. “The result is a practical box that, despite its small dimensions, simulates all of the necessary functions of the original image source.”

The new APIX3 converter from ARRK avoids the complexity of setting up a test environment. The converter can be quickly and easily adapted to any vehicle and enables the display of video signals from any HDMI source on APIX3-compatible display devices.

The HDMI–APIX3 converter is 105x46x80mm and weighs just 250 g. Its extremely compact design makes the box very easy to use. The front features an interface for USB, Ethernet, and HDMI connections, while the APIX3 components to be tested, the supply voltage, and a replaceable SD card can be connected to the back.

“All of the important features of the APIX3 converter can be controlled using the integrated microcontroller,” explaind Schmieder. “It controls the HDMI display data channel, for example, so that the video data can be transmitted in the proper format for the display connected.”

The resolution of the HDMI interface can also be adapted dynamically during run-time. This way, the desired image content can be easily reproduced on the display device to conduct comprehensive tests and analyses. The sideband channel data can also be tested and used by connecting the converter to a computer.

The USB interface enables easy access to the heart of the box: the internal microcontroller, which can, among other things, simulate part of the on-board computer.

“A great flexibility of the converter has been important to us in order to be able to handle all possible use cases in a most realistic way,” added Schmieder. “That’s why we designed the system so that all of the parameters can either be saved internally or predefined on an SD card that can be replaced as needed.”

This ensures the comprehensive configuration of all parameters that are necessary for producing an image on the display. In this way, the converter provides an adaptable test environment for a wide range of applications. User-friendliness was also a top priority during development.

The prototype of the APIX3 converter is presently being optimised and validated for series production by, for example, ensuring it is resistant to electrostatic discharges and the compliance with electromagnetic compatibility regulations. The next step allows the device to be individualised for any given vehicle model as the displays and infotainment systems of different manufacturers are often based on a fundamentally different architecture.

 “We can also configure the APIX3 converter for any manufacturer,” continued Schmieder. “It is even possible to individually adapt the control software. This way, features that facilitate display calibration or temperature monitoring, for example, can be integrated on request.”

This flexible solution allows OEMs and system suppliers to quickly implement tailored applications without requiring costly equipment.

The APIX3 converter can be used in various ways. Thanks to its compact design, for example, it can be used for lifetime tests of displays. These tests require many different image sources, which have to be controlled with as little technical influence as possible and integrated into the existing test environment. The device also makes it easy to test an OEM’s new concept ideas and develop HMIs tailored for specific applications.

“We support our customers with our expertise in APIX3 technology and offer consultation on implementing a suitable test environment so the customer receives the best possible quality for the infotainment experience in their vehicle,” concluded Schmieder.

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