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Taking Established Systems to the Extreme

Another trend in the market is for established Small Form Factor (SFF) systems in commercial applications expanding into rugged environments. This opens up products such as Software Defined Radios (SDR) that are used in passive RADAR, Wi-Fi/cellular, massive MIMO testbed, and SIG-INT applications to go into new markets and deployments. This includes Mil/Aero applications, outdoor use, and mobile-vertical mounted designs. One such example is the National Instruments X310 USPR™ SDR that has dual RF wideband daughtercard slots covering DC - 6 GHz with up to 160 MHz of baseband bandwidth, multiple high-speed interface options (PCIe, Dual 1/10 GigE), and a large user-programmable Kintex-7 FPGA. By employing a ruggedized conduction-cooled approach, this successful commercial product could meet many more application requirements.

Figure 5 shows an example of the compact SDR in a rugged, conduction-cooled, IP67 package. Working with the engineers of the original product, thermal simulation could be performed to find the optimal cooling approach. A key factor is milling out the heatsinks to properly fit the FGPA and hotter items inside the system. Perhaps the trickiest part of these designs is handling the I/O so that they can meet IP67 sealing for weatherproof needs. The sealed connectors take more space than the commercial I/O connectors. Therefore, care needs to be taken for proper placement and routing of these interconnects. Sometimes decisions need to be made with the customer regarding which features are most critical to meet certain size/space requirements. The designs can be made with enhanced features such as provisions for panel or pole mounting.

Figure 5. Small form factor and specialty devices like this Software Defined Radio can be ruggedized for weatherproof and MIL-spec requirements.

Design for Rugged Early in the Process

It is advisable to plan ahead for rugged designs and ideally to plan the commercial and rugged versions together. When they are designed after-the-fact, at times sacrifices need to be made and product cohesion is more difficult to maintain. Planned ahead, the rugged designs can leverage multiple uses of key components of the embedded chassis platform. Although preplanning is ideal, it is not a requirement. By working with the chassis manufacturer that is skilled in both commercial and rugged designs, you can ensure the systems can be well-suited to both types of applications.

This article was written by Justin Moll, Vice President of US Market Development, Pixus Technologies (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada). For more information, visit here .