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Service delivers customized Atom E6xx products within weeks

Mar 31, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

Emerson Network Power announced a service via which customers can create their own customized motherboard or COM (computer on module), then receive initial samples in just a few weeks. Initially focusing on devices with Intel's Atom E6xx processor, “RapiDex” offers “competitive” pricing, orders of as few as 1,000 units, and full product warranties, claims Emerson.

Unveiled at the Embedded World show in Germany earlier this month, Emerson's RapiDex service is unusual in both the low volume commitment customers need to make, and the speed with which it's claimed custom boards can be delivered. The minimum order required is just 100 units, prices are "competitive with … equivalent standard motherboards," and the final products carry standard product warranties, according to the company.

As Emerson notes, traditional customization engagements involve open-ended engineering fees and significant volume commitments. But, the company adds, "Innovations in board design technology and manufacturing processes have enabled Emerson Network Power to drastically reduce the front-end costs for custom boards."

According to the company, customers need only supply the specification of the product they want, after which they'll receive a quote within two business days. Once a "small" manufacturing setup fee is paid, sample boards will be received in four to eight weeks. (Emerson's press release said four, but the RapiDex data sheet claims eight.)

"Users of the RapiDex service specify the processor, memory, I/O and connectors, and boards are built to the exact dimensions desired for ease of mounting in custom enclosures," Emerson says. As the graphic below shows, there's a focus on the microATX, Mini-ITX, COM Express Basic, and COM Express compact form factors.

Emerson Network Power's graphic illustrating RapiDex options
(Click to enlarge)

Board space permitting, customers can select from among PCI Express x1, PCI Express Mini, COM Express Type 2, and COM Express Type 6 expansion slots, according to the company. Meanwhile, a wide range of "real world" I/O connectors and internal headers is possible, as further illustrated above.

RapiDex customers will be able to select from among a variety of embedded Intel processors later this year, according to Emerson. The initial choice is limited to the Atom E6xx processors announced last September, along with Intel's own EG20T platform controller hub. (An advantage of the E6xx is said to be its compatibility with third party I/O hubs, but as far as we're aware, none of these is yet shipping.)

Emerson was one of the first companies to announce an E6xx-based product in the form of a 4.7 x 4.7-inch Nano-ITX motherboard, the NITX-300. Subsequently adopted by Avnet as part of its Nano-ITX/Spartan-6 FPGA Development Kit, this board (below) provides a preview of Emerson's work with the E6xx for prospective RapiDex customers.

Emerson's NITX-300
(Click to enlarge)

According to Emerson, the NITX-300 has 512MB or 1GB of soldered-on DDR2 memory, plus external connectors that include a 12VDC input (permitting the device to be run either via batteries or an AC adapter), two USB 2.0 ports, a gigabit Ethernet port, audio I/O, and a VGA output. Two 3.5mm jacks are provided, one said to be capable of handling either mic- or line-level inputs, and the other offering either line or headphone output.

Internally, there's an LVDS connector that's said to provide resolutions of up to 1280 x 768 pixels (the VGA output supports 1280 x 1024), plus headers for four serial ports, four additional USB 2.0 host ports, and one USB client.

The NITX-300 further includes:

  • headers for GPIO, LOC, CAN, and audio
  • a microSD slot, an SATA connector, and a "slim-lite" SSD connector
  • a PCI Express Mini Card slot (primarily intended for adding Wi-Fi or WiMAX, the company says)
  • a PCI Express x1 expansion slot

Operating system support for Emerson's NITX-3000 is said to encompass Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows Embedded Standard, and the MeeGo version of Linux. We'd expect all the same to be true for any custom E6xx products ordered via the RapiDex program.

Richard Dean, director of VDC Research's Embedded Hardware & Systems Practice, was quoted as saying, "Services offered to customers by embedded suppliers and other independent third parties that are capable of streamlining both the design and production process are increasingly becoming competitive differentiators. Emerson Network Power … is introducing the RapiDex service at a point in time when worldwide customer demand for such services is also increasing."

St. Louis-based Emerson produces a wide variety of embedded computing solutions in addition to its power supplies, cooling systems, racks, storage, and other products. Sales in the 2010 fiscal year were $21 billion, the company says.

Further information

More information about the RapiDex service may be found on Emerson Network Power's RapiDex product page.

Jonathan Angel can be followed at He thanks's Rick Lehrbaum for the tip that led to this story.

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