Title
Field Programmable Gate Array for stone processing
FPGA technology to squeeze a five-boards system into one single board
Technologies used

FPGA

Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    333 Industrial Process control Equipment
Abstract
CELVER Elettronica S.r.l. is a small Italian company of 5 people (all involved in electronics), founded in 1986. It is located in Carrara, Tuscany, where it designs and produces electronic systems for industrial automation in the sector of tools and machinery, and particularly for the automation of machines used to cut and work stone and granite materials.
CELVER specialisation in this particular sector is undoubtedly related to its geographical location in an area that is leader in the world for working stone and granite materials and for designing and building machines dedicated to these processes. CELVER markets its products to all the major manufacturers of this kind of machinery. CELVER has always been particularly attentive to product innovation and it was one of the first companies introducing, at a reasonably low price, the microprocessor technology on the control electronics for stone and granite cutting machinery. For many years CELVER's product named CTG (Control for granite gang-saw) was a benchmark for competitors using commercial electronics, which could not compete in terms of performance and economy, especially with regards to the man-machine interface.
The evolution of the electronics market progressively reduced CELVER's competitive advantage and the Company has been forced to revise its main product to face the strong competition on product performance and price.
The old CTG product was based on microprocessor architecture with 5 PCB, discrete THT (Through Hole Technology) components with limited memory and limited I/O expansion capability and only one HW controlled fast counter. The decision to improve the existing product by integrating into one single dedicated control board the functionality carried out by the five THT boards was thanks to the performance offered by the FPGA technology. The technological upgrade of the Company's product will result in:
restoring their advantage over competitors in terms of cost/performance ratio;
reaching new market segments, where the knowledge of the process and the availability of an economic HW will permit to overcome the entry barriers. For instance, the increase in performance achieved together with a reduction in costs will give the opportunity to address the market segment of diamond tipped disk stone cutting and stone polishing machines, which were not accessible before due to the poor performance of the previous product. The low cost allows also the application of the new system in other industrial sectors outside the marble and stone processing markets, such as those for wood and ceramic processing.
The new GASTONE single board control has additional digital and analogue I/Os, larger memory and up to five HW controlled fast counters and makes widespread use of surface mounting components.
The project was started in January 1998, taking 6 months for its development. In June 1998 a tested GASTONE prototype was available. The new product is available on the market from January 1999 while the old product is expected to end production at the end of the same year.
The effective investment required to design, build, and test the prototype has been of 40,75 KEURO. The ROI is calculated in a 225% over 4 years and a payback period of 35 months is foreseen.
The Application Experiment performed by CELVER not only provided it with a new and competitive product, but also forced the company to learn a new design approach and the use of VHDL language, the importance of simulation, advance specification and documentation and planned testing. All this was a great cultural step forward for CELVER's designers and is moving the Company toward formalised Quality Standard. CELVER is now applying the FPGA technology gained thanks to this Application Experiment to other on-going developments like those for a strain-gauge active interface and for a slab scanner.
The results of this project could be of interest for SMEs that develop control systems for cutting machinery or for other big sized machinery as for concrete manufacturers, mining industry, etc., and wherever customer's specific problems are solved with home-made solutions based on redundant and too expensive off-the-shelf components.
Company
CELVER Elettronica S.r.l.
Carrara, 3 Via Aronte
Italy

Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

FPGA technology provided CELVER Elettronica S.r.l. 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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