Committee to develop new modular box PC open specification

22-02-2022 | PICMG | New Technologies

PICMG has announced a technical subcommittee formed to develop a new PICMG form factor specification named ModBlox7. This specification will transform the multi-billion-dollar Box PC industry by presenting an open standard to a proprietary market. Box PCs are highly integrated computing solutions, but the lack of interoperability limits the capability of end-users to achieve genuinely cost-effective and sustainable solutions.

The ModBlox7 specification will describe a compact and modular Box PC that is flexibly configurable and may be wall-mounted, snapped onto a DIN rail, or integrated into a 19" subrack. The height and depth are fixed; the width is variable in multiples of 7HP. The maximum length is 84HP. The designs will be highly robust, support passive conductive cooling, and be employed for demanding applications including railway, avionics, mobile machines and autonomous mobility, and machinery in discrete manufacturing and controls in critical process industry infrastructures. The result of the committee's work will be a basic specification defining the housing mechanics, the modular functional units, and the electrical interconnection of the units. The standard will ensure interoperability of units for manufacturers and interoperability for users of the Box PC while incorporating the advantages of modular systems and highly integrated cost-sensitive Box PC solutions. 

The open specification will comprise the following requirements or specified functions:

Cost-efficient design with minimum mechanical effort. No extra backplane or heat sink will be needed. Coplanar board-to-board connectors couple every unit to its neighbour and route defined I/O interfaces (PCIe and USB) to the next board. 

Modular, functionally encapsulated plug-in units in multiples of 7HP width pitch. Units form functional assemblies such as CPU, power supply, switch and I/O. Units can be multiples of 7HP, e.g., implement more interfaces or functionality in a single building block assembly.

This results in a broad range of device combinations in a modular design in increments of 7HP (21HP, 28HP, 42HP to 84HP), making it cost-efficient even in small quantities.

Each modular computing unit can host a stack of one, two, or three PCBs – depending on the complexity. Separation is generally made according to the front I/O and the power and communication needs between the host unit and its expansion units.

Flexible mounting with minimal accessory components for wall, din-rail, and 19" subrack installations.

"For industrial end-users, the advantages of a Box PC open standard lie in the cost-effective design of the dedicated systems and the flexible interchangeability of components to tailor the platform for dedicated tasks. Manufacturers also benefit, as the interoperability between the units strengthens their core competence, and they do not have to develop each unit and its embedded components such as cables and mechanics themselves. For VARs and system integrators, the new ecosystem will provide faster configuration options with components from multiple vendors," states Mathias Beer, chief product officer at Ci4Rail.

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