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Tough Linux micro-box boasts isolated serial ports

Apr 29, 2013 — by Eric Brown 1,091 views

Artila Electronics has announced an ARM9 micro-box computer with eight isolated RS-485 serial ports and two versions of preinstalled embedded Linux, enabling boot-up from data flash in the event of NAND-boot failure. The Matrix-516 is equipped with a 400MHz Atmel AT91SAM9G20 SOC (system-on-chip), 64MB of RAM, dual Ethernet ports, and two USB 2.0 ports.

The Matrix-516 appears to be a variation of the company’s Matrix-518, substituting eight 2.5KV-isolated RS-485 ports for the earlier model’s RS-232/422/485 ports. As far as we can see, this is the only difference, aside from the lack of the previous model’s audio out.

Artila regularly spins out different variations on its time-tested line of Linux-ready 6.3 x 4.1 x 1.26-inch Matrix boxes. In 2011, for example, it released a Matrix-522 version that replaced six of the eight serial ports with dual CAN bus ports. The Matrix-516 is designed for similar industrial applications, including building automation, factory automation, and specialized vehicles, presumably with a special focus on environments prone to power-surge problems.


The Matrix-516 is based on Atmel’s popular AT91SAM9G20 ARM9 processor, which consumes a mere 80mW and runs at 400MHz. The Matrix-516 is equipped with 64MB SDRAM and a 128MB NAND flash drive with Linux 2.6.29 preinstalled. The 2MB data flash contains the backup Linux file system, which is bootable in case of NAND failure. In that case, a menu pops up to help users restore NAND flash images from a USB pen drive or a flash card inserted in the available microSD slot.

Artila Matrix-516 industrial micro-box computer

The Matrix-516 further integrates dual 10/100Mbps Ethernet ports, two USB 2.0 host ports, 21-pin GPIO, and the eight RS-485 ports, protected with 2500Vrms isolation. Like other Matrix boxes, the Matrix-516 features a robust metal case design, fanless operation, and both DIN-Rail and wall-mounting. It supports temperatures up to 70 degrees C, says Artila.

Specifications listed for the Matrix-516 include:

  • Processor — 400MHz Atmel AT91SAM9G20 (ARM9-based) SOC
  • Memory — 64MB SDRAM; 128MB NAND flash; 2MB data flash with backup boot
  • Flash expansion — microSD slot (up to 32GB)
  • Networking — 2x 10/100 Ethernet (1.5KV magnetic isolation)
  • Other I/O:
    • 8x isolated RS-485 (2500Vrms isolation
    • 2x USB 2.0
    • 21-pin GPIO
  • Other features — watchdog; RTC; buzzer
  • Power — 9-40V DC input; 190mA @ 12VDC power consumption
  • Operating temp. — 0 to 70° C
  • Dimensions — 6.3 x 4.1 x 1.3 inches (160 x 104 x 32mm)
  • Operating system — preinstalled Linux 2.6.29, Busybox, and GNU toolchain, plus backup Linux file system

Atmel AT91SAM9G20 SOC block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

No details were offered by Artila on the pricing or availability of the Matrix-516. More information may be found at the company’s Matrix-516 product page.

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