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WRD ProductMaker Platform, General Description 

Doug Johnson WRD 7/31/02

Designed from the outset to:

                    Facilitate the design of custom controls.
                    Provide a low cost BOM.
                    Deliver a powerful and widely familiar microprocessor.
                    Keep complexity low.

Implemented as a reusable, easily modifiable platform designed to simplify common control tasks, such as: user interface/menus; machine I/O; A/D and D/A; motion control; temperature control; instrumentation.

High level software "macros" allow automated configuration of the entire system leaving only the application specific software to be written in Z180 assembly (Z80 superset) or in ANSII C using third party C compilers, or some other HLL (future). The included Task Scheduler multitasks the automatically configured firmware as well as the users compiled (or assembled) firmware. Interrupt Service Routines (ISRs) are also simplified with provided entry and exit code, and with real-time debug features to view ISR execution. The automatically configured firmware forms a functioning control with peripheral drivers, tasks, and ISRs. Even with no additional programming beyond the automatic configuration step (answering true/false questions and running a batch file), the system will run, and the control can be exercised.

The reusable hardware exists on three PC boards: Mother board; CPU board; and Baby board. The CPU board and Mother board form a functioning platform upon which actual functioning control systems can be built. A baby board can be plugged into the CPU board, which provides additional system capability for expensive add-on options, such as servo control. Power is supplied with a 9v wall transformer. Occasionally there is a requirement for a custom "application" board that accepts the platform boards, and contains power supply, power driver, or signal conditioning circuits which are very often application specific.

The complete system (hardware and software) is designed to be powerful, simple, inexpensive, and easily managed by a single engineer. The processor family used is Zilogs Z180, a well known 8/16-bit microprocessor. This family of microprocessors is widely supported, provides the designer accessibility to Z80 legacy code, and is available in a variety of: types; packages; and performances. All components used in the system are commercially available off the shelf.

The custom products that result from WRDs ProductMaker development service, sell to OEMs for typically between $250 to $650, include all electronics required by the application, and are delivered pre-programmed and fully functional. Development time can be as low as 2 weeks for simple control, simple operator interface applications.

The ProductMaker platform is currently in the process of being expanded and packaged, with the intent of commercialization, making it available to developers, system integrators, and possibly OEMs, as a development kit.

The intended purpose of the kit is to:

1.      Automate the architectural design (hardware and software) of the intended control, making it possible to completely ignore the complexity of the architecture.

2.      Provide out-of-the-box hardware upon which the resulting architecture will execute, and which directly facilitates pre-production runs, or at least directly provides product proof-of-concept and prototyping capability.

3.      Provide pre-done high level control function capability that has easy hooks for the high level languages used for the "custom" part of the application.

4.      Provide 60% to 80% of the entire project pre-done, allowing shorter development times, and better focus on the application, versus focus on architectural detail.

5.      Provide all the above with "industrial control" reliability and capability.