Venice, Florida — Altium, an EDA supplier of PC Board development tools, is elevating the abstraction level of board design with the introduction of a new design environment and the extension of its NanoBoards family of products. Nick Martin, Altium's CEO, described a change in the needs of electronics designers as follows: "Today the hardware engineer sees the product as a collection of off-the-shelf components, programmable components, and a processor running the code. The software developer sees the product as functionality running on a processor, being fed inputs and expressing outputs via the connected hardware. The system designer sees the product as a set of design requirements, delivered through a system combining software, soft hardware and off-the-shelf hardware."
To implement the company philosophy Altium has launched the Altium Innovation Station that combines the Altium Designer unified electronics design software with the newly-extended Altium NanoBoard range of reconfigurable hardware platforms.
A NanoBoard is a hardware development environment that consists of a FPGA containing the supporting firmware, called NanoTalk, a configurable amount of hardware IP and a USB port. The Innovation Station provides all required software drivers and interface module at no extra charge.
Methods commonly associated to ESL applications are thus made available to PC Board designers. Using the Altium Innovation Station, designers can design in the soft domain, without having to pre-determine the hardware platform on which the product will be delivered. Its unified environment allows them to easily exploit today's low-cost, high-performance programmable devices to create and deliver the intelligence they need to create sustainable differentiation. They can then quickly and easily test, analyse and debug the design using the Desktop NanoBoard reconfigurable hardware development platform which is integrated with Altium Designer. The reconfigurable Innovation Station allows designers to compare the performance benefits and trade-offs of different FPGAs without changing their design.
Using the Altium Innovation Station provides advantages to designers after the initial design and development is complete by allowing them to protect their intellectual property, retain their source documents, and in the future connect their devices to new 'ecosystems' in various ways.
A number of significant benefits flow from this approach:
- The design IP is programmed into the system, rather then manufactured on the board.
- This IP is much easier to protect (the source code is not shipped with the product so is much harder to copy).
- Soft design can happen before the hardware platform is designed and can continue even after the prototype hardware is manufactured.
- Soft design can continue after the hardware is deployed to the end customer.
- Aesthetics implemented in the soft design can be changed after the product is manufactured and deployed.
The Altium Innovation Station, including the latest release of Altium Designer, the desktop development NanoBoard, and a preview of the new deployment NanoBoards, is being launched worldwide this month.
The NanoBoards family
The extended range of deployment NanoBoards, available later this year, features the same mother board and choice of daughter and peripheral boards as the Altium Desktop NanoBoard. Designers will have the choice of using a deployment NanoBoard as a final product, or integrating their deployment NanoBoards into larger systems such as mechanical devices. They will also be able to do semi-custom hardware design using the templates included with the Innovation Station product.
The Desktop NanoBoard from Altium.
The Modular Commercial Enclosure System
The Modular Commercial Enclosure system comprises basic units available in two sizes, a 1.0 and a 0.5 module. They can be configured by designers and come with a range of interchangeable components for an array of installation options.
The system is designed to support the pluggable NanoBoard hardware deployment platform and includes all of the templates, mounting details and graphics specifications required to produce a fully customised application. The standard enclosures accommodate a mother board with a choice of FPGA daughter boards and a 3.5 inch touch screen display. The standard 0.5 module provides for a maximum of two peripheral boards while the 1.0 module supports up to four peripheral boards.
The main cover provides a four point locking system that secures and completes the product.
The Commercial Enclosure's casing will be available in a choice of colours, allowing engineers to deploy a distinctive and marketable product, different from the traditional grey or beige enclosures.
Industrial Hand Held Unit
The Industrial Hand Held Unit is a user-configurable device comprising two 3.5-inch touch screen displays and a user-definable pushbutton interface. The mother board supports an FPGA daughter board and single peripheral board. The completed electronics subassembly can be fully assembled, configured and tested prior to clipping it into the robust enclosure.
An array of industry standard ports is supplied on the mother board and the user-defined peripheral board offers electronics designers the flexibility to create a fully customizable application.