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Compact industrial box-PC expands via PCIe

Jul 13, 2015 — by Eric Brown 1,380 views

Axiomtek announced a fanless, Linux-friendly EtherCAT controller with a 4th Gen Core CPU, SATA storage, PCIe expansion, and extended temperature support.

The new IPC932-230-FL-ECM industrial computer is a variant of Axiomtek’s earlier IPC932-230-FL, and it’s very similar to the IPC934-230-FL, but more expandable. Since we missed the latter two systems, all three are covered below. They are all barebone systems that can run Linux or Windows on a 4th Generation “Haswell” Intel Core processor.

Unlike the IPC932-230-FL and IPC934-230-FL, the new IPC932-230-FL-ECM is billed as being an “open real-time EtherCAT master controller featuring high speed, accuracy, simplified cabling, and distributed time synchronization.” EtherCAT employs accurate alignment of distributed clocks, adjusted based on run-time offset of other clocks, thereby enabling a very precise network-wide time base with a jitter less than 1 microsecond, says Axiomtek.

IPC932-230-FL and IPC934-230-FL
(click images to enlarge)

Typically, with Axiomtek’s EtherCAT master controller, process cycle times are said to be 50~250 µs, while traditional fieldbus systems take 5~15 ms for an update. This accuracy is well suited for synchronized motion control, as well as integration of measurement tasks within the same network, says the company. Line, Star, and Tree topologies are supported, and the EtherCAT master controller is said to require only one Ethernet port to cascade communications to the distributed network of slave devices.


The device is verified to work with IntervalZero EtherCAT Master solution KingStarIO32. In addition, it supports IntervalZero Windows real-time extension RTX2012, as well as the Acontics EtherCAT master stack. It’s unclear how much, if any, EtherCAT support is provided if you run Linux instead of Windows.

“Following the EtherCAT standard, the Axiomtek IPC932-230-FL-ECM is verified for interoperability with the IntervalZero EtherCAT Master solution, the KingStarIO32,” stated Mercy Peng, product manager for Axiomtek’s Product Marketing Division. “Supporting IntervalZero RTX on Windows 7, this master controller helps simplify hardware and software implementation and is designed for industrial positioning equipment.”

Aside from EtherCAT control, applications for the IPC934-230-FL-ECM , as well as the IPC932-230-FL and IPC934-230-FL, include industrial motion control, factory automation, multi-task machine control and Internet of Things applications. The systems are rated to withstand a temperature range of 10°C to +50°C, and feature an aluminum extrusion, cold-rolled steel enclosure with IP30 protection.

Both the existing IPC932-230-FL and IPC934-230-FL support up to 16GB of DDR3-1333/1600 RAM, but the new IPC932-230-FL-ECM is said only to be recommended with 8GB. Other than that, the EtherCAT support, and the PCI/PCIe expansion, the three systems are identical.

IPC932-230-FL detail views
(click images to enlarge)

The IPC932-230-FL-ECM and its older siblings ship with dual SATA HDD sockets with RAID 0/1 support. There’s also a CFast interface. Two gigabit Ethernet ports are provided, and on the new ECM model, one of them is designated for EtherCAT.

A front-panel DVI-I port enables direct connections to LCD panels. There are six USB ports, two of them 3.0, as well as four COM ports, with two of them RS232/422/485. Other I/O includes a DIO port, audio I/O, and a PS.2 connector.

Although technically fanless, you can load up the IPC932-230-FL-ECM and the other systems with an optional cooling fan
(click image to enlarge)

For expansion, the IPC932-230-FL-ECM and IPC932-230-FL each offer a PCIe x1/PCIe x4 combination, while the latter also provides a SKU with PCI and PCIe x4 slots. The larger IPC934-230-FL has four slots, which can be all PCI or a mix of PCI and PCIe.

Specifications listed for the new IPC932-230-FL-ECM, as well as the IPC932-230-FL and IPC934-230-FL include:

  • Processor — Intel 4th Gen Core (“Haswell”) with Intel QM87 chipset and Intel HD Graphics
  • Memory — 8GB DDR3 recommended on ECM model; up to 16GB DDR3 1333/1600MHz via 2x SODIMMs supported on other two models
  • Storage:
    • 2x SATA with 2.5-inch bay with RAID 0/1
    • CFast slot
  • Display — DVI-I port
  • Networking — 2x gigabit Ethernet ports (1x with EtherCAT support on ECM)
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x USB 3.0 ports
    • 4x USB 2.0 ports
    • 2x RS232/422/485 ports
    • 2x RS232 ports
    • DIO (4x in, 4x out)
    • Audio mic-in, line-out
    • PS/2
  • Expansion:
    • IPC932-230-FL-ECM (HAB100) — PCIe x1; PCIe x4
    • IPC932-230-FL — (HAB100) — PCIe x1; PCIe x4
    • IPC932-230-FL — (HAB103) — PCI; PCIe x4
    • IPC934-230-FL — (HAB104) — 4x PCI
    • IPC934-230-FL — (HAB105) — 2x PCI; PCIe x1; PCIe x16
  • Other features — LEDs; optional fan module
  • Power:
  • Ruggedization — IP30 protection; aluminum extrusion heavy-duty cold-rolled steel
  • Operating temperature — -10 to 50°C
  • Dimensions and weight:
    • IPC932-230-FL-ECM and IPC932-230-FL — 251.8 x 185 x 159.9mm; 6.2 k
    • IPC934-230-FL — 251.8 x 185 x 200.54mm; 5.9 k
  • Operating system — Fedora, Red Hat, or Ubuntu Linux; Windows 7 (WES7 default for ECM model)

Further information

The new IPC932-230-FL-ECM, as well as the IPC932-230-FL and IPC934-230-FL, are all available now. More information may be found on the Axiomtek product pages for the IPC934-230-FL and IPC934-230-FL, and in the IPC932-230-FL-ECM data sheet [PDF].

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