Beckhoff has expanded the “Industrial Motherboards” line of business into an independent product segment, with in-house board development, design and production. Beckhoff can thus offer Industrial PCs and Embedded PCs in all performance classes with motherboards developed in-house.
In addition, the own motherboard and BIOS development initiatives enable Beckhoff to respond more quickly to new technologies in the PC market and to customer-specific requirements. Motherboards and accessories available as stand-alone products from Beckhoff are described below.
Flexible PC BIOS software
Full BIOS source code access for Phoenix and Award BIOS makes it possible to adapt to special board functions or introduce specific customer requirements. BIOS functionality very much depends on the field of usage for a motherboard: Commercial applications typically require a balance between power dissipation and program load, the industrial usage often requires full CPU availability at any time. For example, settings for speed stepping and thermal monitoring need to be adapted in the BIOS to reflect the different usage modes.
Standard and specialised form factors, optimised for space
ATX, slot CPU, 3½-inch and PC/104 are the supported standard form factors. More standards will follow shortly. One special format – the “compact” board – features outer dimensions of only 80 x 120 mm, with integrated 24 V DC power supply and all signals routed to connectors. Thus, all user interface connectors can be positioned specifically to the device and easily connected through cables. Hence, no baseboard or other electronics are required to build a ready-to-use device.
In general, Beckhoff will aim at providing all form factors with one chipset: The chipset Intel® 855, for example, is available on all of the above mentioned board shapes. This allows the construction of a family with architecture-identical devices.
Simple cooling adaptation
The layout of the boards is optimised for simple and efficient cooling adaptation: All parts that need cooling are arranged on one side of the board. In order to facilitate the engineering of fanless devices, Beckhoff is offering boards with low-voltage and ultra low-voltage CPUs with low thermal design power. A very low TDP can be achieved by using CPUs with ARM-based architecture, while still having the luxury of running a Windows CE operating system.
Design compatibility throughout board generations
Board size and connector positions are kept identical as much as technologically possible for the different generations of one board, making devices easily upgradeable. Of course this cannot be done to a 100 % because new technologies often generate new connectors, which have to be integrated as well.
Boards are made available for a minimum of five years, based on the general market availability of the components. All components are selected according to the longevity of supply. CPUs and chipsets, for example, are selected only if they are part of the embedded product line of the manufacturer.
The Ethernet ports of the boards are well suited to run EtherCAT, the real-time Ethernet fieldbus featuring extreme fast control performance, flexible topology and simple configuration. EtherCAT together with a powerful CPU can be utilised for submillisecond control cycles in all areas.
Auxiliary on-board interfaces
On-board touch screen controller, I²C, SMB, and GPIO reduce the overall bill of material for a device. Some boards integrate a Mini PCI socket: Beckhoff has a range of useful cards for this socket like fieldbus master/slaves (PROFIBUS, CANopen, DeviceNet, SERCOS), Ethernet with 10/100/1,000 Mbit/s, and cards with non-volatile memory (NOVRAM) with 128, 256 and 512 kB in size.
Operating system support
Beckhoff supports all Microsoft operating systems like Windows NT, 2000, XP, XP Embedded, Windows Vista and Windows CE. In the community of Embedded System, Beckhoff is a Microsoft Embedded Gold Partner, recognized for excellence as a proven industry leader with exceptional expertise in building and enabling Windows embedded solutions. While the board hardware may be suitable to run other operating systems like Linux, QNX, etc., the support for this is left with third parties or the customer. In these cases, Beckhoff can help only with the technical details of the hardware and the BIOS. Of course, ARM-based architectures will not run the “huge” operating systems like Windows XP or Vista – but they are able to run Windows CE with the appropriate board support package BSP. If desired, Beckhoff can build and supply the ready-to-use device preinstalled with the operating system software and licence.
Since Beckhoff is using many of the motherboard products in their own PCs, quality is the number one goal. The focus is robustness and reliability; only high quality electronic components are used. All boards must pass a visual, electrical and functional inspection. The manufacturing date and serial number are clearly marked on the boards.
Customer-specific adaptation and integration services
Board and BIOS can be adapted to meet the needs of a customized device. Furthermore, Beckhoff is experienced in designing and producing complete embedded units, including the housing, display, various other electrical and mechanical interfaces, operating systems and application software.
Beckhoff Motherboards – Hightech from Westphalia, Germany
The complete engineering and design cycle as well as manufacturing of the boards takes place in Westphalia, Germany, at three locations: Münster, Dortmund and in the Beckhoff headquarters in Verl. This local geographical context ensures short turnaround cycles between engineering, production and quality control. It also ensures that reaction time on customer feedback is the shortest possible.