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Semi-Custom Board Solutions

  • Reduce risk and project cost
  • Accelerate time to market
  • Improve business efficiency through outsourcing of electronics design
  • Optimize cost and features to meet program requirements
  • Increase ruggedness and extend product lifecycle through selective component replacement and design changes

A semi-custom board can be an excellent choice for a project where you want to add custom I/O circuitry to your system but don't want the expense or risk of developing a full-custom single-board computer. Semi-custom boards are typically appropriate when the following conditions occur:

  • Space limitations in the system enclosure make it difficult to use a standard SBC with a separate custom I/O board.
  • Time to market is key.
  • Development budget doesn't allow, or overall program size doesn't justify, a full custom product development program.
  • Customer seeks to outsource the electronics development to an industry expert.
  • There is a strong desire to minimize design risk and get it right the first time.

A semi-custom board starts with an existing standard product and replaces the unneeded portion of the circuitry with customer-specific circuitry. Many of Diamond's SBCs are "2-in-1", meaning they integrate an I/O subsystem onto the SBC to achieve 2 boards in the space of 1. If the customer's I/O circuit can fit in the space of the I/O subsystem, that portion of the board can be redesigned using the customer circuit, leaving the rest of the SBC intact. This vastly reduces the design effort as well as risk of the project and results in a quick and reliable custom solution. Here are two examples of our semi-custom solution program.



SBC for Building Automation

A manufacturer of intelligent building systems needed a solution to allow the daisy-chaining of computers in the ceilings of office buildings to create a network of computers providing control of lighting and HVAC in each zone. Computation requirements were modest, calling for the use of a low-performance processor that could run Linux. Diamond's Helios SBC was the starting point for a custom board. The Vortex86DX (486 equivalent) CPU with on-board RAM provided the basic SBC function. The integrated data acquisition circuit on Helios was replaced with a simple 2-port Ethernet switch, enabling the processor to pass messages up and down the network. Thus a daisy-chain Ethernet wiring system could be used to connect all the computers together, vastly simplifying wiring and reducing installation time.


Original Helios SBC


Custom Helios SBC with integrated Ethernet switch



SBC for Medical Instrument

A manufacturer of medical equipment was designing a new instrument to perform a procedure (similar to an ultrasound machine). Portability concerns called for the reduction of the size of the computer system controlling the instrument. Again computation requirements were modest, enabling the use of our Helios board. Diamond was able to integrate the customer's custom I/O circuit onto the Helios in place of the data acquisition circuit.
As this project was medical and required FDA approval, strict revision and BOM control were required. Diamond's change management system was able to support revision control of the custom board, so that ECOs applied to the standard product did not affect the custom version. A few years after product introduction, our component lifecycle management system enabled us to alert the customer to the pending EOL of the RAM chip on the board, so they could secure a lifetime supply of parts to maintain the product in its original configuration, without requiring changes and the associated recertification.


Original Helios SBC


Custom Helios SBC with integrated audio circuit



Products Usable for Semi-Custom Boards

Helios - this low-cost, low-power, compact PC/104 board is based on a 486-class processor and is perfect for applications requiring modest compute power and seeking to run Linux. Approximately 1/3 of the circuit board area is occupied by our data acquisition circuit and can be repurposed for customer-specific circuitry. The PC/104 bus connector provides easy low-cost expansion for other off-the-shelf I/O boards if necessary.

Helios

Saturn - this low-cost, low-power, compact PC/104 board is based on a 486-class processor and is perfect for applications requiring modest compute power and seeking to run Linux. Approximately 1/3 of the circuit board area is occupied by our data acquisition circuit and can be repurposed for customer-specific circuitry. The PC/104 bus connector provides easy low-cost expansion for other off-the-shelf I/O boards if necessary.

Saturn



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