A group of board-level computer makers is now supporting a next-generation 4.5 x 6.5-in. (29.4 sq. in.) embedded single board computer platform. Dubbed EPIC, for Embedded Platform for Industrial Computing, the mid-sized platform will be larger than a 3.6 x 3.8-in. PC/104 module. On the other hand, it will be smaller than the 5.75 x 8-in. EBX board form-factor.
Vendors supporting the de jure EPIC standard include Micro/sys, Octagon Systems, VersaLogic, WinSystems, and Ampro Computers. Presently, these five founding members that defined it own the standard. However, the group is looking for a suitable technical standards body to oversee the specification.
These vendors supporting the standard claim other form-factors proposed during the last several years tried to fill the void between PC/104-sized and EBX-sized boards. However, these alternatives were plagued with inconsistent connector locations and expansion schemes.
EPIC proponents say alternatives failed to address the needs of I/O-intensive applications, such as those of many industrial users. As such, they haven't evolved into a widely supported published spec.
A PC/104 module has 13.4-sq. in. of area. Included in this area is a PC/104 and PC/104-Plus connector. Together, these connectors can take up to 13 percent of available board area, so it can be a challenge for board makers to place a microprocessor and I/O on a board of this size, for example.
On the other hand, an EBX board has 46-sq. in. of area. This permits larger, more powerful microprocessors with cooling fans. However, EBX can be too large for some applications.
EPIC is, however, big enough to support larger, more power CPUs with their fans and heatsinks, as well as industry-standard I/O connectors.
It also provides specific I/O zones to implement, for example, multiple Ethernet ports, four or more serial ports, lots of general-purpose I/O, video, and even application-specific I/O such as IEEE-1394 FireWire.
A Bridge To The Future
The creators of EPIC also have provisions for long-term technology support. Unlike other mid-sized boards, they say, space is reserved to support PC/104 and PC/104-Plus I/O modules, as well as emerging high-speed bus technologies such as PCI Express---without sacrificing I/O capacity.
Also, compliant implementations can smoothly migrate legacy ISA-based systems to fast serial interfaces of the future.
Are any EPIC products available? Not yet. Founding members say they've defined a specification independent of any product, but they expect to have product announcements later in the year.
Click here for Rev. 1.0 of the spec in .PDF format
Other details can be found on-line.
Or, contact Bob Burckle at Winsystems, Arlington, Texas. Phone: (817) 274-7553. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org