AQ7 Design

Designing Hardware for ARM-based Freescale i.MX6 Platforms

  2016/1/25 下午 07:24:27      Administrator      General   0 Comments

Designing Power Solutions: Designers may choose MCU-complemented discrete power ICs, or, with an I2C interface and SoC serving as the bridge, the Freescale i.MX-exclusive PMPF0100 Power Management ICs (PMIC)(image 1), which packs the synchronized step-down DC/DC converter, low-dropout (LDO) regulator for the core, memory, I/Os, and the power of SoCs. With the use of a PMIC, comes with advantage of dynamic voltage regulation, adjusting the output voltage dynamically depending on the system’s status (normal/idle/at sleep) for lowering overall power consumption, shutting down power draining sources that are dormant while the system is at sleep or idle modes for boosting power efficiency, and simplifying the use of external PMICs for saving room and reducing system complexity.

(Image 1) i.MX6-exclusive Power Management ICs (PMIC) – PMPF0100

All-in-one Design: Regardless of single, dual/ dual lite, or the high-end quad-core processors, using the pin-to-pin IC structure allow hardware designers to use all types of processors on the same printed circuit board assembly with only slight adjustment to the external electrical resistance. This not only allow designers to present the most precise solution to their user through using different processors based on application requirements, it also shortens the duration for R&D and mass manufacturing.
Booting Up: The i.MX6 supports various types of boot-ups. The boot-up device, which can be set as SD/eMMC/SATA/SPI, etc, can be selected by configuring the EIM level, providing users the customizability and flexibility for software development.
Memory Calibration: In observation of PCBs of different sizes and layout with traces of differing lengths, designers may calibrate the parameters of the memory specifically with Freescale’s DDR Calibration tool during development to boost the system’s stability and also the overall performance and reliability.
Wide Temperature Design: To satisfy the requirement of different applications, such as in the consumer market, industrial market, and inside vehicles, different SKUs with various operating temperatures are designed (table 1). Vehicle-specific applications may reach as high as 125°C, but the designer must also observed the parameters of the system’s components in order to make a wide temperature design possible.

(Table 1) Operating temperatures for SKUs for different markets

Display Interface: The system supports both LVDS and HDMI, but a debug console tool will be needed for switching between the two. It equips a built-in 2D/3D/VG accelerator and a H.264 video encoder/decoder for both 1080p and dual 720p videos.
Rich I/Os: The system supports USB 2.0, I2C x 3, CAN Bus x 2, USB 2.0 OTG, SATA 3.0 Gbps, RGMII Ethernet and other interface with built-in UART (4.0 Mbps) x 5 to fulfill the need for serial ports in industrial automation applications. The i.MX6 is also fitted with the PCIe (Gen 2) interface, a rare commodity in ARM-based platforms, for even more expansion options, for instance PCIe-to-UART, PCIe-to-USB3.0, PCIe-to-SATA, etc.
Power Consumption: Compared with the traditional x86-based platforms, the power consumption of the ARM-based i.MX6 platform is superior: only up to 5.5 W for even quad-core CPUs, and 0.3 W when idle (table 2).

(Table 2) Power consumption for i.MX6 SoCs with different cores

Software Debugging and Download: The OS image can be burnt into the eMMC and SD card with the USB OTG port and appropriate software (image 2). Software debugging and command execution can be done through a UART connection with the computer.
(Image 2) Image Burning

(Image 3) Debugging

Product Lifecycle: Unlike the consumer market, the industrial automation market demands a long, stable supply of stock. In that regard, the 15-year life cycles offered by i.MX6 makes it an ideal solution for any industrial and embedded computing needs.
(Image 4) Freescale i.MX6 Q-seven CPU module (AQ7-iMX6) developed by AAEON

Conclusion: Low power consumption and speedy development are gaining prominence among designers in recent years. With the high-performing ARM-cortex-A9 architecture, the i.MX6 is not only excellent in terms of display capabilities and power consumption, software and hardware for single, dual, quad-core CPUs are totally compatible with each other, making it very conducive for use in the industrial automation market as well as quick development of a stand-out product to boost competitiveness.

Q7 Audio design

  2015/8/26 上午 11:36:45      Administrator      General   0 Comments
AQ7-LN is Q7 platform with a CPU Module and a client-designed carrier board. The client commented that when the OS is loaded, noises can be heard coming out of the speakers. The Q7 module itself provides only a HD Audio interface, leaving the client responsible for the audio codecs. As tests done on AAEON-designed carrier boards showed nothing abnormal, initial investigation conducted after obtaining the routing and board files of the client-designed board revealed inconsistency between audio codecs on both boards. The audio verb table in the BIOS, while originally written for Realtek ALC 888, is applied for ALC 269 instead in the client’s board. While this may still serve its purpose, this mismatch in may result in unexpected results; since the BIOS verb table performs LINE-IN, LINE-OUT, and mic settings based on the codec, optimal performance can only be achieved when audio codecs are paired with their own matching verb tables. 

Regardless, the main culprit of the noise is later found to originate elsewhere; in the design guide of the audio codec, it is stated that the digital power and signals must be isolated from the analog signals, an instruction not duly carried out by client-designed board, resulting in the failure differentiate between the digital ground and analog ground, causing both digital and analog signals to be mixed and ultimately generating the noise. Our findings are thus presented to the client, who revised the board with accordance to our recommendations and “silence” the noise thereafter. 

Recommended audio codec PCB layout:

Compared to the relatively simplistic design of normal mainboards, the complexity of designing a carrier board often leads to occurrences of compatibility issues. Therefore, we suggest our clients to first consult our Q-service team before going ahead with the design of their own board. With our recommended design input, we believed both the development and troubleshooting duration will be significantly reduced.