Hilscher cifX M.2 and half-size mini PCIe cards powered by the company’s NETX 90 network-on-chip multi-protocol Cortex-M4 SoC bring real-time Ethernet and FieldBus to compatible systems.
The tiny cards are designed for PC-based devices such as IPC’s, HMI’s and robots, and support various firmware for PROFINET IO-Device, EtherNet/IP Adapter, EtherCAT Slave, or OpenModbus/TCP.
The company claims its cifX M.2 (A+E key) and half-size mini PCIe cards are the smallest multiprotocol PC cards on the automation market with a size of 22×30 mm and 30×26.8 mm respectively. The cards also support extended temperature from -20°C to 70°C and offer one hardware platform for all real-time Ethernet slave protocols.
Besides PROFINET IO-Device, EtherNet/IP Adapter, EtherCAT Slave, and OpenModbus/TCP, Hilscher will provide support for CC-Link IE Field Basic and Ethernet POWERLINK Slave in new firmware available in Q4 2020, and OPC UA and MQTT functionalities are planned for future releases. The cards are supported in PC-based devices running Windows, Linux, INtime, RTX, and QNX, and the company also provides C Toolkit for custom device drivers. It’s unclear whether the real-time Ethernet cards can also work on Arm hardware or other non-x86 architectures.
Hilscher offers detached network interfaces with AIFX-RE adapter board featuring two RJ45 connectors, and AIFX-RE\M12 with two M12 connectors instead. The detached network interface can be delivered with
cable lengths of 15 or 20cm for Real-Time Ethernet and 15 or 30cm for Fieldbus applications.
The NETX 90 Network-on-Chip has a pretty interesting design with two clusters each equipped with a 100 MHz Arm Cortex-M4(F) core, and a custom-designed 32-bit RISC xPIC core also clocked at 100 MHz. One of the clusters is for industrial applications with 64KB SRAM and 512KB flash, and the other for industrial communications with 579 SRAM (ECC), 1024KB flash, and 96KB Mask ROM.
The solution has been integrated into many form factors and it’s a proven platform with the M.2 and half-size mPCIe cards recently joining PC/104, PCI-104, PCI, PCIe, Compact PCI, Mini PCI, PCI Express, and Mini PC Express cards.