I figured I would introduce the hardware interfaces using a simple board tour of Amino Beta before diving into the specific concepts of the hardware modularity.
Starting in the centre we have a Xmos XS1-L1 64LQFP which is nerve centre of the board. Other components on the board include oscilator, voltage and reset management along with flash memory storage for operating the board and its modules. The power regulation (south west quadrant) is switch mode based, providing 3.3V and 1V delivering about 6.5 Watts powering itself and its peripherals and modules, this choice also saves design complexity and cost for add-ons.
In order to program and debug this board (essential at this stage!) we have the Xmos SYS connector at the top left facing north. This will enable the use of Xmos’s Xtag/Xtag2 USB debugging tools to be attached to the running board. At the top right facing north we have a 6 pin right angled header for communications extensions which is capable of operating in conjunction with the Xmos Sys connector. To the east we have a channel extender (right angled box header) facing east which can be used to optionally interconnect boards if required. The 10 pin female header (north west quadrant) is to enable experimentation with on-board features prior to finalisation.
The most interesting connectors are the remaining female headers providing the standard modular slots which I will focus on next, these are highlighted better in the illustration below as A,B and C.
These standard interface slots formed around female 0.1″ headers, allow fixed dimension plug-in boards to be connected at right angle to the Amino Beta board. One can visualise the main Amino board as a back plane to these plugin “Blades”. This concept of Blades is different from the motherboard, daughter-board or shield like concepts and is more akin to something like rack mounted boards with a back-plane. This design is key to Amino Beta’s architecture and the main interfacing concept moving forward. It enables multiple boards to be plugged into Amino providing much greater modularity. Blades come in 3 main types 4bit, 8bit and cooperative. A full slot like B and C can accommodate all types of Blade but the smaller A slot can only furnish a 4bit Blade. Although Amino Beta provides only 3 slots for blades, there is no real limit to the number of blades that could be accommodated for more sophisticated designs later on. However There are some design rules and specifications about what a slot must provide in order to accommodate a given type of blade. Below illustrates an empty blade to give you an idea of layout.
The male right angled 0.1″ headers on the west of the blade slot into the Amino Beta board female headers. An example connector (dual row right angled 0.1″) to the east of the blade would represent the blade’s input or output to the real world and or other systems, right angled connectors can be used in many different forms limited only by width and height in order to be fair to one’s blade neighbour. In this way all Input and outputs to the Amino system are exposed on the same dimension parallel to the Amino Beta board (back plane) this is also forms part of the standardisation and modularisation of the Amino concept. In the next post I will go into more detail about blades usage and specifications.