Amino Beta Introduction and Tour

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.

Amino Beta PCB

Amino Beta Layout


Above shows the Amino Beta PCB layout and board views which will help in this whistle stop tour.

Components

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.

Connectors

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.

Amino Beta Slots

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.

Amino Blade 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.

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4 thoughts on “Amino Beta Introduction and Tour

  1. Hi,

    I must confess I do not really understand the connector descriptions completely.
    OK A,B,C as Vertical slots for blades is quite understandable. A seems to be missing 6 connectors – a pitty but OK.
    The XMOS Sys connector on the left puzzles me a bit. Is the port extender meant to be another board? Is it using the XLink interface or am I getting any concept wrong?
    Wouldn’t it be great to have connector to both sides so thta you can simply chain the amino boards for more ports and CPU power?

  2. HI Marcus

    I am trying to get the documentation up ASAP check here :
    https://github.com/folknology/Amino
    Not much at the moment But I will be editing and adding to this over the next few days and weeks.

    In this case A is a 4bit slot whilst B and C are full 8bit slots.
    In terms of actually digital I/O a 4bit slots has 4 single bi-directional bits plus a 4bit nibble port (either 4 bits in or 4bits out at a time). For the eight bit slot an additional nibble (4bits) is added enabling two nibble ports or a larger byte (8bit port) in addition to the 4 single ports. This way you get maximum flexibility. In addition to these pins all ports have a serial config interface (SPI based) and a Clock which can also be used to make synchronous serial,nibble or byte transfer interfaces. In addition the ports can be configured to other common async and sync arrangements. This is in addition to their basic use as GPIO. Even though Amino Beta has 2.5 slots we have plans for boards with more slots.

    Expanding the number of slots by daisy chaining boards is also possible although for reasons of simplicity Amino Beta has not been optimised for this function. This is dues to the choice of Core the L1-64 whose only link channels are multiplexed with existing ports which we have tried to maximise for slot and blade usage. Please remember that Amino Beta has been designed primarily to finalise the Amino interface specification and operation in order that we can all build boards and blades with whatever function we would like to see.

    As for the SYS connector we have purposefully not connected the link as it could interfere with the blade operation during testing and debugging. but both link channels are available via separate connectors.

    I should also explain another feature offered which is that blades can also house other cores and use the links in the full (8bit) slots allowing extensions via blades and or inter blade LVDS. In fact the slot can be spilt to provide IO on the lower 4bit and Link on the upper. This allows for otehr combinations of operation.

    The power supplied on board is enough to drive up to 5 cores and about 5 watts I/O.

    Hope this helps a little, I will try to get more out to help explain things.

    regards
    Al

  3. Thanks,

    yes that explains a lot.
    And I can fully understand that you don’t want to sacrifice the Amino Beta with featurism.
    Please keep the chainability of some Amino Boards (e.g. with different chips) in mind. It is a big differtiator to other platforms that adding CPU power or more output ports is a very simple feature of the platform, without needing any additional knowledge. That would be really unique!

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