ARM® Cortex® modules for the next generation: Energy-efficient and powerful with new CPU technology

ARM® Cortex® modules for the next generation: Energy-efficient and powerful with new CPU technology

With the TQMa7x and TQMa6ULx, TQ is planning two minimodules in which the new ARM Cortex-A7 processor architecture is used. Through the targeted selection of the technology, TQ is creating a forward-looking basis in order to continue supporting its customers with innovative products in the ARM sector.

A performance-optimized ARM Cortex-A7 Core with up to 1GHz will be used on the TQMa7x embedded computing module. This is based on the i.MX7 by NXP. This processor generates very high processing performance with very low power loss. TQ envisages two options, which basically differ in that there will be a single-core and dual-core version. This embedded module will particularly be optimized for very low power loss.

On the second new TQMa6ULx ARM module, the i.MX6UL processor, as well as an ARM Cortex-A7 Core with 528 MHz by the manufacturer NXP, is planned. There are up to four pin-compatible derivatives of this CPU, which differ in terms of the extension of the interfaces. Therefore, this module is scalable in terms of its functions.

With both of these CPUs, NXP has succeeded in providing a balanced combination of CPU performance, interfaces and performance features for an appealing module design. The new ARM modules by TQ will become an ideal core for applications from the fields of man-machine interfaces, industrial controls and Internet-of-Things (IoT) gateways, due to the variety of interfaces with a very small size of only 54x44 mm² (TQMa7x) and 46x32 mm² (TQMa6ULx), as well as the low power consumption. Furthermore, diverse additional application options are conceivable for these embedded modules.

With the LCD controllers and camera interfaces that are integrated into the processor, system developments can also be realized, which place requirements on the display and touch in accordance with the CPU, as well as applications that require a direct camera connection. This provides an enormous cost advantage.

The TQMa7x and TQMa6ULx embedded modules are customized for system developers, such that the optimum of interfaces can be used directly on the module. This way, the embedded modules can be excellently used as a platform concept across all departments and companies can therefore use already-acquired know-how. In many projects, this not only saves valuable time, but also reduce costs during the course of development.

Furthermore, pin-compatible and software-compatible process options can be used on each of both ARM modules. In addition to the number of cores, these are also differentiated by the expansion of interface availability.

All externally usable signals of the CPUs are available via industry-compatible connectors with a grid of 0.8 mm, which have already proven themselves at TQ for more than 15 years.  On 200/240 pins, the user can also utilize up to two CAN interfaces, in addition to 2x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x PCIe, USB-Host / USB-OTG controllers and up to 8 UARTs. Additional functions may be connected via SDIO, SPI, I2C and I2S.

On the embedded modules, a main memory is planned with up to 2GByte DDR3L (TQMa7x), 512MB (TQMa6ULx), 256 MByte Quad SPI NOR Flash and up to 32 MB eMMC Flash for program and data. In addition to this, a EEPROM and a battery-buffered real-time clock will be realized from the mainboard.

With the starter kits, the user can access numerous qualified switching examples. With each starter kit, all of the signal pins that are not used directly on the board are fully available for evaluation on pin headers.

A Linux BSP has been developed for module-specific and mainboard-specific interfaces. The adaptation of other operating systems, such as QNX, VxWorks, WIN EC2013, is also planned.

With these designs, TQ is supplementing its product range with a new CPU architecture based on ARM Cortex-A7. All customers and potential customers of TQ will also be supported with the designs for these products with the usual reliability.