Ultra-compact rugged computer - Embedded.com

Ultra-compact rugged computer


The folks at Mercury Computer Systems, who specialize in providing embedded, high-performance computing systems and software for complex image, sensor, and signal processing applications, have released configuration and performance details regarding their PowerBlock 50 real-time computing system.

Measuring approximately 4″ x 5″ x 6″ and weighing less than 7 pounds, the PowerBlock 50 is said to establish a new class of rugged embedded computing capability, putting processing power next to the sensor in space-constrained platforms such as unmanned vehicles.

Within its compact chassis, the PowerBlock 50 has six slots for control, processing, or storage modules, interconnected by a high-bandwidth PCI Express switch fabric. Module options include:

  • SBC-3800, implementing a Freescale PowerQUICC III processor
  • FPGA-4600, with a Xilinx Virtex-4 FX-60 Series FPGA
  • FPGA-4110, with a Xilinx Virtex-4 FX-100 Series FPGA
  • Vector-2000, featuring a P.A. Semi PA6T-1682M vector processor
  • SATA-250HD, with 250 Gigabytes of hard drive storage
  • SATA-128SSD, with 128 Gigabytes of solid-state drive storage

A maximum performance configuration of the PowerBlock 50 is achieved with six Vector-2000 modules, delivering a total of 172 GFLOPS from the 1.8 GHz dual-core processors. External I/O and networking is provided through the use of integrated daughtercards attached to the processing modules. The initial daughtercard configuration includes Gigabit Ethernet and RS-232 interfaces.

The PowerBlock 50 is supported by a Linux BSP development environment which includes cross-compile and debug tools targeting the P.A. Semi PA6T-1682M and PowerQUICC III processors. Mercury's expertise in high-performance signal processing is accessible to applications in the form of the PA6T Math Pack 1.0. This software package includes three algorithm libraries – the SAL, VSIPL, and CSAL – which are optimized for operation on the P.A. Semi PA6T-1682M processor.

The PowerBlock 50 chassis is designed throughout to isolate its internal electronics from all external environmental and physical conditions, allowing deployments in harsh environments. Each module uses an aluminum heat spreader to transfer heat from electronic components to the chassis walls.

State-of-the-art liquid cooling through the walls removes heat from the system, allowing efficient operation at any altitude. Rugged features include o-ring sealing for pressure, humidity, and EMI isolation; high-reliability connectors; extended temperature ranges; and locking modules for shock and vibration immunity. Availability of a conduction-cooled chassis is planned for early CY2009.

The PowerBlock 50 is available today. For more information, visit www.mc.com/powerblock50, contact Mercury at (866) 627-6951, or e-mail your request to .

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