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4Gbps FireWire and its impact on industrial apps

Posted: 13 Feb 2012     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:FireWire  S3200  S1600 

S1600 FireWire is in full production, all required tools are available including protocol analysers, computer node supporting OHCI with a PCIe x4 add-in card, tested cables, connectors, evaluation boards and IP. Performance improvements, however, need not end at 4Gbps. As long as FPGA technology allows higher performance, FireWire can scale to higher throughputs as we will soon see.

The first application to exploit this performance is industrial vision. S3200 FireWire supports the high throughput and robustness required for next generation industrial vision systems, precision robotics, industrial control, studio, and military applications. Implementing S1600 and S3200 FireWire and an FPGA, allows broad flexibility for widely ranging applications and innovations, including a roadmap to even higher performance.

The pull from industrial vision came from several markets making three general demands; higher resolution, faster, and more flexible.

More detailed inspection for industrial assembly and inspection lines, for example, is driving the demand for higher resolution imaging. High-resolution cameras and associated imaging algorithms are increasing reliability, throughput, consistency and cost of product quality assurance. The security industry also is demanding higher resolution systems to allow for reading of vehicle licence plates from an individual vehicle of interest and facial recognition of an individual in a crowded scene. Higher resolution also aids security systems since it allows greater digital zooming of a captured image, which can be done much faster and more quietly than mechanically zooming an optical lens or mechanically panning and tilting a security camera.�The higher the pixel count, the further an image can be digitally zoomed with acceptable resolution.

The next demand, faster, is for higher resolution and frame rates, i.e. faster assembly lines, faster inspections, faster robotics. With computing speed increasing every few months, the computing power is becoming less and less of a bottleneck in the throughput of vision systems. Even if the computer is not fast enough today, it will be faster in the future, therefore the transport providing the image from the camera to the computer must scale to support the needs of tomorrow.

Higher resolution images place high demands on industrial control systems throughput. One approach to lessen the throughput is to compress the high-resolution images before transport and then decompress before processing at the computer, thus saving bandwidth on the transport. This approach introduces compression hardware in the camera and decompression hardware and/or software in the computing system, i.e. more cost and more SW to setup and control. Most importantly for feedback control systems compression and decompression introduce additional latency into the control loop. Many control systems cannot tolerate much latency and for these systems uncompressed images with their enormous bandwidth needs are required. The Industrial Imaging Digital Camera (IIDC) specification ("IIDC 1394-based Digital Camera Specification") from the 1394 Trade Association supports uncompressed industrial video cameras. Both the 1394 Trade Association document "BT.601 Transport Over IEEE-1394" and the International Electrotechnical Commission standard number 61883 (IEC 61883) support compressed and uncompressed video transport over FireWire. Both cameras used in the S1600 FireWire demo are based on the IIDC specification.

The third demand is greater configuration flexibility to make it easier to adapt to meet conditions of a particular industrial automation cell. For example, after installation, it is found that an additional camera is needed, or an entire second automation cell is needed for the next step in the process. Integrators want the flexibility to add additional machines as required without making additional long cable runs. IEEE 1394 inherently has the ability to daisy-chain cables, so with the addition of more bandwidth, control for an additional machine can be added just by daisy-chaining a FireWire cable from the previous FireWire cell.

The quadrupling of bandwidth from S800 to S3200 will enable numerous new FireWire-based applications to flourish.

Taking advantage of FPGAs
S1600 and S3200 FireWire implementations are Beta only, they only support IEEE-1394-2008 Beta (1394b) physical connections. Electing to not support bilingual (1394a and 1394b) physical connections was done for several reasons: Most implementations requiring these high data rates won't fully operate at lower speeds (S100 to S400), simplified digital logic increased reliability and eliminated analogue circuitry not supported by most Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) technologies.

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