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i.MX6 UL based COM/SBC hybrid has FPGA with programmable ZPU core

Feb 14, 2018 — by Eric Brown 1,829 views

Technologic’s rugged, open-spec “TS-4100” COM/SBC hybrid runs Linux on an i.MX6 UL, and offers a microSD slot, 4GB eMMC, a micro-USB OTG port, optional WiFi/BT and baseboard, and an FPGA with a programmable ZPU core for offloading real-time tasks.

Technologic Systems has begun sampling its first i.MX6 UL (UltraLite) based board, which is also its first computer-on-module that can double as a single board computer. The 75 x 55mm TS-4100 module features a microSD slot, onboard eMMC, a micro-USB OTG port with power support, and optional WiFi and Bluetooth. Like most Technologic boards, such as the popular, i.MX6-based TS-4900 module, it offers long-term support and -40 to 85°C support, and ships with schematics and open source Linux images (Ubuntu 16.04 and Debian Jesse).

TS-4100, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

An additional novelty is the addition of a low-power (4k LUT) MachX02 FPGA from Lattice Semiconductor. Technologic has enhanced the FPGA with an open source, programmable ZPU soft core that “allows for offloading CPU tasks as well as harder real-time on I/O interactions.” The 32-bit, stack-based ZPU CPU architecture offers a full GCC tool suite. In this implementation, it’s imbued with 8K of BlockRAM, which can be accessed by the i.MX6 UL, and has full access to all FPGA I/O.

The design enables a “larger bi-directional communication channel” between the CPU and ZPU, and “can be used to reprogram the ZPU on the fly for dynamic applications,” says Technologic. On the TS-4100, the FPGA is connected to multiple I/O banks, in particular a 46x pin GPIO array and an optional 16-pin header that offers DIO, SPI, I2C, and connects to optional, USB-powered daughter cards that are said to enable SBC-like performance. It’s unclear what cards are available, however.

TS-4100 with optional WiFi/BT module and 16-pin daughter board interface (left) and daughter board schematics
(click images to enlarge)

The board also includes a dual 100-pin “TS-SOCKET” interface that connects to the optional TS-8551 baseboard (see farther below).


The low-power i.MX6 UL and its power management IC are exploited to provide a claimed 300mW typical power usage. The module is available with 512MB to 1GB DDR3. The spec list mentions only 4GB MLC eMMC or 2GB of “robust” SLC eMMC as options, but the block diagram suggests you can load up to 64GB eMMC.

TS-4100 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The TS-4100 is equipped with a pair of 10/100 Ethernet controllers plus LCD and I2S interfaces for media. There are also several serial and USB interfaces in addition to the micro-USB OTG port.

Other interfaces include accelerometer, SPI, I2C, and PWM, and according to one of the two spec lists, 2x CAN buses. You get a watchdog and an optional interface to the baseboard’s SuperCap UPS interface (TS-SILO).

Specifications for the TS-4100 include:

  • Memory/storage:
    • 512MB to 1GB DDR3 RAM
    • 4GB MLC eMMC or 2GB SLC eMMC (possibly up to 64GB eMMC)
    • MicroSD slot
  • Wireless — 802.11 b/g/n with antenna; Bluetooth 4.0 BLE
  • Networking — 2x 10/100 Ethernet controllers
  • Media interfaces:
    • Parallel LCD
    • I2S audio
  • Other I/O:
    • Micro-USB OTG port (with power support)
    • USB 2.0 OTG (with power support)
    • 2x RS232
    • RS232 for Linux console
    • SPI, I2C, 2x CAN buses
    • Optional FPGA/ZPU-linked 16-pin expansion header (5x DIO, 1x SPI, 1x I2C) for optional daughter cards
    • 46x DIO (linked to FPGA)
    • 8x PWM
    • Accelerometer/gyro
  • Other features — Watchdog
  • Power:
    • 5V input via USB or via baseboard
    • 0.3W typical consumption
    • Optional interface for baseboard TS-SILO supercap UPS
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C
  • Dimensions — 75 x 55mm
  • Operating systems — Linux 3.14.52 (Ubuntu 16.04 and Debian Jessie)

TS-8551 baseboard

The TS-8551 baseboard is designed for the TS-4100, as well as a TS-4400 module that has yet to be announced, but which appears to have the same dual 100-pin TS-SOCKET board-to-board interface. The 149 x 122.5mm baseboard has the same industrial temperature range and open schematics as the module.

TS-8551 baseboard solo (left) and populated with TS-4100
(click images to enlarge)

The TS-8551 is equipped with 10/100 and 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet ports. When equipped with the TS-4400 mystery module (could it be an i.MX8 COM?), you get an M.2 SATA socket, but TS-4100 users will have to get by with the module’s own onboard microSD and eMMC, as well as the baseboard’s sole USB 2.0 host port. There is also a micro-USB OTG port in addition to the one on the module.

TS-8551 (left) and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The less than detailed spec list suggests there are 2x RS-232, 1x RS-485, and 1x CAN ports available on DB-9 ports. The photos, however, show only a single port, so maybe you need to choose which interface you want to apply to it.

TS-8551 portside view
(click image to enlarge)

As noted, you can select an optional TS-SILO supercap UPS that can last 20 to 30 seconds, depending on the citation. You also get a battery backed RTC, reset and user buttons, and various toggles and jumpers.

Further information

The TS-4100 module and TS-8551 baseboard are available for order, with shipment due in Q1 2018. The TS-4100 starts at $157 in single units and $119 in 100 units ranging up to $207 and $169 with all the options. The TS-8551 sells for $110. More information may be found on the Technologic Systems TS-4100 and TS-8551 product pages, respectively.

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