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Compact COM Express-based subsystem packs plenty of DAQs

Nov 14, 2017 — by Eric Brown 501 views

Diamond’s rugged, Linux-ready “Zeta” subsystem combines a COM Express Mini Type 10 module based on Apollo Lake or Bay Trail SoCs with a DAQ-rich carrier.

Diamond Systems has launched an Intel-based data acquisition SBC called the Zeta, which unlike most sandwich-style SBCs, has a top and bottom layer that match perfectly. The Zeta’s COM Express Mini Type 10 module sits between a similarly compact, 84 x 55mm carrier board and a bottom-mounted heat spreader plate. The combined SBC supports -40 to 85°C temperatures, and offers 6-36V DC input power operation.

Diamond Zeta
(click image to enlarge)

The Zeta COM Express Mini Type 10, which Diamond does not appear to be promoting as a standalone computer-on-module product, supports the quad-core Atom E3940 and Pentium N4200 from Intel’s Apollo Lake generation, as well as a dual-core Atom E3825 from the earlier Bay Trail family. The announcement implies that Diamond will eventually follow up with a COM Express Mini Type 10 module with a future Atom processor so you can upgrade the system without discarding the carrier board and heat spreader.

Zeta (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

According to Diamond, the 84 x 55mm Zeta offers functionality and performance equivalent to Diamond’s Bay Trail-based Aries PC/104 SBC, at just 40 percent of its 116 x 102mm size. Other recent Diamond SBCs include the 3.5-inch, Skylake based Venus. Back in 2013, Diamond released a sandwich-style, Intel Atom E6x0T based Falcon EPU boardset that combined a COM Express Type 10 Mini with a baseboard. Like all these boards, and other Diamond SBCs such as last year’s Vortex86DX3 based Helix, the Zeta lacks real-world ports.

The Zeta ships with 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB RAM depending on whether you’ve selected the Atom E3825, Atom E3940, or Pentium N4200. There’s also a microSD slot, as well as a mini-PCIe slot with mSATA support. Standard features include 2x GbE, VGA, LVDS, USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0, and 4x RS-232/422/485.

Zeta front and back detail views
(click images to enlarge)

The Zeta also adds an extra helping of data acquisition I/O. Each of the three processor models are available in two SKUs: one with 16x DIO lines, and the other with an FPGA-driven data acquisition circuit that replaces the 16x DIO with a 27x DIO connector. The second SKU also adds 16x channels of 16-bit analog inputs, 4x channels of 16-bit digital outputs, and 8x- 32-bit counter/timers, among other features.

Zeta’s data acquisition circuit (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

If that’s not enough DIO for you, there’s also an additional 16x DIO on an optional Zeta-DB-01 expansion daughterboard. This add-on also offers a full-size mini-PCIe slot, an M.2 M-key 2242 for an SSD, and audio I/O.

Zeta daughterboard expansion connector closeup (left) and optional Zeta-DB-01 daughterboard block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

All the data acquisition I/O’s are supported with Diamond’s free Universal Driver programming library. An interactive graphical control panel for Ubuntu 16.04 and Windows 10 IoT enables control of all DAQ features. Both platforms are supported with downloadable drivers, or you can buy an extra-cost development kit with cables that provides SDKs with one of the OSes pre-installed on an SSD.


Specifications listed for the Zeta SBC include:

  • Processor — Intel Apollo Lake or Bay Trail:
    • Atom x5-E3940 — 4x Apollo Lake cores @ 1.6GHz/1.8GHz; 9W TDP
    • Pentium N4200 — 4x Apollo Lake cores @ 1.1GHz/2.5GHz; 6W TDP
    • Atom E3825 — 2x Bay Trail cores @ 1.33GHz; 6W TDP
  • Memory/storage:
    • 2GB (E3825), 4GB (E3940) or 8GB (N4200) RAM
    • MicroSD slot (bootable for Linux)
    • mSATA via mini-PCIe slot
    • M.2 M-key 2242 for SSD on optional daughterboard
  • Display — VGA; LVDS
  • Networking — 2x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0
    • 4x USB 2.0
    • 4x RS-232/422/485 (software-programmable with termination)
    • 16x DIO with selectable 3.3V/5V logic levels
    • Optional DAQ circuit (separate SKU):
      • 27x DIO with selectable 3.3V/5V logic levels (replaces original 16x DIO)
      • 16x 16-bit analog inputs
      • +/-10V, +/-5V, 0-10V, and 0-5V input ranges
      • 100KHz max sample rate with 2048-sample FIFO
      • 8x differential voltage inputs
      • 4x channels of 16-bit analog outputs
      • 8x 32-bit counter/timers.
      • 4x 24-bit PWMs
  • Expansion:
    • Mini-PCIe slot with PCIe, USB, and mSATA support
    • Expansion daughterboard:
      • Full-size mini-PCIe slot with PCIe and USB
      • M.2 M-key 2242 for SSD
      • HD audio (Realtek ALC892) line-in, mic-in, line-out
      • 16x DIO (via I2C) with configurable 3.3V/ 5V logic levels and Pull-up/down resistors
  • Other features — watchdog; heat spreader; dev kit version with cables and SDKs
  • Power — Optional 9-36V input
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C
  • Dimensions — 84 x 55mm (COM Express Mini Type 10)
  • Operating system — supports Linux (Ubuntu 16.04) and Windows 10 IoT with optional SDKs

Further information

The Zeta SBC appears to be available for order at an undisclosed price. More information may be found on the Diamond Systems Zeta announcement (PDF), product page, and almost identical datasheet page.

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