Title
Interface Device For PLC Signal Modules.
Gate-Array-ASIC achieves a cost saving up to 30%.
Technologies used

 Digital ASIC

Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    31 Electric equipment
Abstract
VIPA offers a wide range of supplementary components for several automation systems like the SIMATIC“ S5 and S7 series as well as its own modular PLC system. The supplementary products are hardware-components like memory modules, I/O modules, communication processors, central processing and interface units as well as software-tools for programming, parameterizing and controlling these hardware components. The company was founded in 1985 and has about 60 employees. VIPA’s headquarter is located in Erlangen (Germany) and the company is represented in over 25 countries worldwide.
The objective of the Application Experiment was to replace several FPGAs used as interface devices on the intelligent I/O modules of VIPA’s PLC system by a common Gate-Array-ASIC.
The master module of the PLC system and its slave peripheral modules are connected by a back plane bus system. The communication between the modules is based on a synchronous, serial protocol handled by hardware interface devices. The requirements for a general purpose device which could be used on all intelligent I/O modules were specified and implemented as a Gate-Array. In addition to the pure Gate-Array design flow a rapid prototyping was done with a FPGA prototyping board. The FPGA prototype offered the ability to perform an in-system verification of the entire design as well as a hardware/software co-design before the Gate-Array prototypes were available. VIPA did all the steps of the Gate-Array development, except the layout of the device, by itself. The entire design process was based on VHDL.
The integration of several functions on a common Gate-Array helped to improve the system performance, increase the flexibility of the entire product and reduce the costs of the modules significantly. The maximum permissible date transfer rate on the back plane could be raised by 33% while the costs of the modules could be cut up to 30%. In addition the open concept of the design offers high flexibility and makes it possible to use the Gate-Array not only on the already existing modules but also on future modules with new or advanced features.
The acquisition of technical know-how from the AE permitted VIPA to improve its technical knowledge and this is a crucial factor in maintaining competitiveness in the world market. Project management experience in the field of microelectronic development was another important achievement of the AE. The project which was structured on a detailed work plan, a business plan, on technical tasks and a clear assignment of responsibility as well as interfacing with an unfamiliar technology has been good on-the-job training for the engineers and managers involved in the AE. Furthermore VIPA will permit full control of industrialisation phases subsequent to development activities. Therefore the AE achievements represent a step forward in the growth of the company and towards more competitiveness of its products.
The AE started in August 1997 and ended in July 1998. The overall costs of the AE were 90K ¤. As there were significant improvements and savings upon the former implementation of the modules the payback-period should be less than two years and the estimated return-on-investment is about 500%. The lifetime of the product will be approximately five to seven years.
During the AE, VIPA as the First User gained a lot of knowledge in how to handle an entire ASIC-project from the specification to the test phase. Especially the experience in VHDL-coding, ASIC- and FPGA-synthesis and FPGA-prototyping could be considerably improved.
Company
VIPA GmbH
Wetterkreuz 27
D-91058 Erlangen

Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

Digital ASIC technology provided VIPA GmbH with the means of improving its products and enhancing its market position. You can also achieve significant benefits by acquiring the right microelectronics technology and utilising it in your product or manufacturing process. You can get help from FUSE to realise this.

FUSE is a technology transfer programme, funded by the European Commission to stimulate the wider use of microelectronics technologies by European enterprises to increase their competitiveness and enhance their economic growth. The demonstrator described here is one of many examples in the public FUSE portfolio covering the whole spectrum of microelectronics technologies and spanning a wide range of applications and industry sectors.

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