PC/104 architecture: module, company, and marketplace compatibility
The physical benefits of the PC/104 architecture are promoted often. If you are a frequent PC/104 and Small Form Factors reader, then you know these benefits well: rugged stackable bus connectors, a small footprint with corner mounting holes, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) availability, and interoperability. Many of the PC/104 products on the market are also targeted for high-vibration and extended-temperature environments.
The interoperable benefits of PC/104 can be viewed through a few different lenses. Through any one of them, this much is clear: Compatibility is inherent to PC/104. Compatibility happens at the board level, at the company level, and on the industry level as well.
With PC/104, no one manufacturer has to be “all things to all customers”; this stance is evident by the variety of business models in the PC/104 Consortium membership. Some members have a broad cross-section of products ranging from single board computers, to power supplies, to a variety of add-in cards. Other member companies focus on advancing and exploiting specific technologies and interfaces such as video, CAN bus, serial adapters, or DSP. Many Consortium members also produce enclosures and system-level products based on their PC/104 technology. The point is, there is a fantastic PC/104 ecosystem that works together. Outside system integrators and end users have many choices when they are building their systems. On the design and manufacturing end of things, this encourages innovation and healthy competition to produce the best products on the market.
Deployed systems implementing PC/104 can include products from more than one manufacturer, as the carefully constructed PC/104 standards ensure that the boards will work together. PC/104 manufacturers who provide system-level designs work with other PC/104 manufacturers when specific application needs cannot be met in-house. In addition, technical support staff from the PC/104 member companies tend to become familiar with various products from other vendors and how to make everything work seamlessly. Result: In the world of PC/104, cross-vendor compatibility is embraced, improved upon, and leveraged.
PC/104 is designed into a huge variety of systems and payloads worldwide, from deep sea to space and everywhere in between. Unmanned applications, surveillance, security, transportation, medical, gaming, scientific research – all of these areas (not to mention many more) are leveraging PC/104. Designers might configure a standalone stack of PC/104 modules or a system-level solution with an enclosure and I/O connectors.
It’s a bit less obvious when designers use PC/104 in innovative or atypical ways, but it happens all the time. Visit any number of vertical industry tradeshows and look for PC/104. When exhibitors are generous enough to open hatches, show cross-sections, or share system-level details, PC/104 can often be found as part of a control unit, as a data-collection node, or as an element in a robust communication network. PC/104 finds itself on custom baseboards, paired with COM modules, augmented by PCIe mini cards, and even used as a kind of macrocomponent on larger form factors.
A solution for you
The PC/104 Consortium members offer hundreds of products, tools, and services. Whether you like to build your own systems from scratch, need a robust platform for your proprietary software, or looking for a full-on turnkey solution, think of the PC/104 Consortium’s membership as your preferred partners. The PC/104 marketplace is vast, and it’s waiting for you.
Quick note to PC/104 Consortium members: Our Technical Committee is working within itself – and soliciting support from major industry players – to establish a library of reference designs for use by our members. We are excited about the project and will keep you posted on the progress.
For more information visit the PC/104 Consortium website at www.pc104.org.