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Rugged sandwich-style SBC runs Linux on Core

Nov 5, 2014 — by Eric Brown 1,120 views

Diamond’s rugged, sandwich-style “Vega” SBC consists of Intel Core-based COM Express Basic modules stacked with a same-sized baseboard via the EMX standard.

Diamond Systems released the EMX standard in 2011 as an industry standard supported by its organization. The only EMX format SBC we’ve seen so far, however, is Diamond’s Intel Atom E680T-based Altair SBC, which is a true single-board design. Now, Diamond is offering a ruggedized, EMX-sized, sandwich-style SBC that incorporates COM Express Basic modules powered by Intel’s 3rd Generation “Ivy Bridge” Core CPUs. The “Vega” SBC is designed for rugged industrial, medical, on-vehicle, and military applications, and is also offered as part of a rugged “Raptor-Vega” embedded PC (see farther below)

Diamond Vega
(click image to enlarge)

The Vega SBC is available with three Ivy Bridge-based COM Express Basic computer-on-modules, each measuring 125 x 95mm. These interchangeable COMs are based on the 2.1GHz Intel Core i7-3612QE, the 1.7GHz Core i7-3517UE, and the 1.4GHz Celeron 827E CPU, respectively. The modular approach is said to support 10-year lifespans for the SBC.

The Vega is available in eight SKUs. Each processor — including 4GB DDR3 RAM and 8GB RAM versions of the i7-3612QE version — can be bought with standard I/O or in a version that also includes extensive data acquisition I/O on the baseboard. The i7-3612QE comes standard with 4GB RAM while the Celeron 827E ships with 2GB of RAM, but it appears that all the processor modules can be expanded to 16GB. All eight SKU options can then be further customized with three, stackable EMX I/O modules (see farther below).


EMX I/O architecture

The EMX standard, which can also integrate 95 x 95mm COM Express Compact modules, supports “the most popular expansion buses while reserving sufficient pins for future definition,” says Diamond. The 100-pin EMX expansion connectors are said to be smaller than most connectors, thereby supporting higher feature density. The expansion bus provides four lanes of PCI Express x1, along with USB, SATA, and LPC signals. EMX uses a standard, 14mm stacking height for I/O modules.

The Vega adopts the EMX heat spreader design, which in this case enables -40 to 85°C industrial temperature support as a standard feature. The bottom-mounted, conduction-cooled design “simplifies the installation of I/O expansion modules by eliminating interference or airflow problems that can occur with traditional heat sinks,” says Diamond. The Vega offers thicker PCBs than normal, as well as latching I/O connectors, and provides shock and vibration resistance compliant with MIL-STD-202G specs, says Diamond.

Vega side view
(click image to enlarge)

In order to conserve on space, the Vega uses high-density connectors for its I/O interfaces. The stack’s standard I/O includes a pair of gigabit Ethernet ports, as well as SATA and mSATA ports, with the latter supported by optional wide-temperature SLC or MLC SSDs up to 64GB. The four USB 2.0 ports are also available with optional flashdisks up to 8GB.

For display, you get a choice of dual-channel LVDS, VGA, and a connection that supports both HDMI or DVI, all on nonstandard high density. connectors. Dual display support is available. Other standard I/O includes four RS-232/422/485 ports, audio I/O, and a USB port designed to plug in a keyboard and mouse.

The optional data acquisition circuitry includes 16x 16-bit analog outputs and eight analog inputs, both with autocalibration. You also get 30 DIOs, four 24-bit PWM interfaces, a waveform generator, eight programmable counters and timers, and a watchdog. The DAQ model is supported by Diamond’s free Universal Driver data acquisition programming library. An interactive graphical DAQ control panel is available for Linux and Windows.

Vega block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Expansion is provided by a mini-PCIe slot, as well as the EMX expansion connectors. Three EMX I/O modules are available: one with dual gigabit Ethernet ports, another with six serial ports, 14 GPIOs, WiFi, and optional GPS, and a third with all of the above.

The Vega offers a wide-range 7-36V power supply. Linux and Windows are supported with development kits, software development kits, and a cable kit, says Diamond.

Specifications listed for the Vega SBC include:

  • Processor (via COM Express Basic COMs) — Intel 3rd Gen. Core with QM67 or PCH HM65 controller hub:
    • Intel Core i7-3612QE (4x Ivy Bridge cores @ 2.1GHz)
    • Intel Core i7-3517UE (2x Ivy Bridge cores @ 1.7GHz)
    • Intel Celeron 827E (1x Ivy Bridge core @ 1.4GHz)
  • Memory (via COM Express Basic COMs) — 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB, 1.3MHz DDR3 (depending on module SKU), expandable to 16GB via 1x SODIMM
  • Storage:
    • SATA port
    • mSATA MLC port with optional SSDs from 8GB to 64GB
    • Optional USB flashdisks up to 8GB
  • Display:
    • Dual-channel LVDS interface
    • VGA port up to 2048 x 1536
    • DVI or HDMI
    • Dual display support
  • Networking — 2x gigabit Ethernet ports (1x on COM Express module, 1x on baseboard (Intel 82574IT)
  • Other standard I/O:
    • 4x USB 2.0 ports
    • USB keyboard/mouse port
    • 4x RS-232/422/485 ports
    • Audio mic-in, stereo-in, stereo-out (Realtek ALC262)
  • Data acquisition I/O (DAQ SKUs only):
    • 250KHz max. sample rate
    • 2048-sample FIFO with programmable threshold
    • 16x 16-bit analog inputs with autocalibration
    • 8x 16-bit analog outputs with autocalibration
    • 30x programmable digital I/O lines
    • 8-channel waveform generator
    • 4x 24-bit pulse width modulators (PWM)
    • 8x 32-bit programmable counter/timers
    • Watchdog timer
  • Expansion:
    • Mini-PCIe slot (dual use as mSATA)
    • EMX (PCIe) stackable I/O expansion with optional I/O modules:
      • EMX-ESG777 — 2x gigabit Ethernet, 4x RS-232/422/485, 2x RS232 serial, 14x GPIO, WiFi, optional Trimble Condor C2626 23-channel GPS
      • EMX-ESG614 — 4x RS-232/422/485, 2x RS232, 14x GPIO, WiFi, optional Trimble Condor C2626 23-channel GPS
      • EMX-ESG200 — 2x gigabit Ethernet
  • Power supply — +7-36V DC/DC
  • Power consumption at 12V:
    • Core i7-3612QE — 14.52W
    • Core i7-3517UE — 13.93W
    • Celeron 827E — 14.7W
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 85°C
  • Shock/vibration resistance — MIL-STD-202G, Method 213B and 213A
  • Dimensions — 125 x 95mm (4.92 x 3.74 in.); EmbeddedXpress (EMX) Basic form factor with wings
  • Operating system — Linux; Windows Embedded Standard 7; Windows Embedded CE


The Vega SBC is also available in a rugged embedded computer called the Raptor-Vega. This highly-customizable system not only offers all the processor, DAQ, and EMX add-on options of the Vega but also provides a variety of storage options, and enclosure customizations. The latter include modifications to the case size and finish, the connector types and finishes, as well as optional protection caps, additional heat sinks, custom mating cables, and custom labeling, says Diamond.

(click image to enlarge)

Standard features include up to 16GB RAM and SSDs ranging from 8GB to 64GB loaded with the OS of your choice. You get a VGA port, a USB keyboard/mouse port, two to four gigabit Ethernet ports and four USB 2.0 ports. Other features include up to two RS-232 ports and up to eight RS-232/422/485 ports, as well as a programmable watchdog.

The 4.5-pound system offers all the ruggedization features of the Vega, including industrial temperatures. The aluminum T6061, HBW, or anodized chassis is sealed per IP65. The standard dimensions are 7.5 x 6.5 x 2.8 inches, but you can extend the 7.5-inch dimension to 9.5, depending on options. The computer uses MIL-DTL-38999 Series III TV K-finish passivated stainless steel M connectors for I/O.

Further information

The Vega EMX SBCs are available are available now starting at $1,300 (single unit), depending on processor module and options. More information, including full data sheets, with additional voltage range info on the DAQ circuitry, may be found at the Vega SBC product page and the Raptor-Vega product page.

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