Robotics and industrial automation are revolutionizing the manufacturing business by developing smarter and more productive machines. Manufacturers all around the world are deploying smart factories or Industry 4.0 systems in order to increase output and save expenses.
As the demand for smart machines grew, so did the desire for embedded systems with better computational power and plug-and-play capabilities, resulting in a demand for small and powerful COMs. In addition, COM enables modern technologies like AI and ML to boost efficiency. According to Astute Analytica, the global computer-on-module market will grow at a CAGR of 5.7% during the forecast period from 2022 to 2030.
Let's take a closer look at computer-on-modules and how to select the best computer-on-module.
What exactly is Computer-on-Module?
A computer-on-module is a complete embedded computer designed on a single circuit board. In addition, built on a microprocessor and equipped with RAM, ethernet, input or output (I/O) controllers, flash memory, and other components required for a fully functioning computer. COM offers a consistent and cost-effective embedded platform for computing solutions. Additionally, it reduces the time required for manufacturing various products.
Aspects to think for Selecting the right Computer-on-Module
Based on the Target Use
It's crucial to figure out which applications will make use of a COM. Customers often have a variety of applications and want the Computer on Module to function with all of them. It is understandable that they would want to concentrate time on the target applications rather than developing experience with the various COMs. Consider the applications most likely to deploy in the next several years and determine if the COM will fit in. After that, make a shortlist of companies that offer these COMs and fulfill the needs.
Customers must have a lifetime of at least ten years in some applications, such as defense. After seven years of production, the buyer may order a few thousand items. It is perhaps one of the most difficult situations a module manufacturer encounters, as they must rely on the processor manufacturer for the rest of their lives. To stay in production, the processor requires massive amounts of data. Older CPUs that use outdated manufacturing methods are difficult to manufacture or are expensive in the long term.
Some applications, such as medical, require no changes to the COM's process or components made for at least five years. With memory and processing technologies progressing at a breakneck pace, providing such a guarantee becomes a major task for the COM partner. As a result, it's critical that customers find a COM partner who can keep the customer up to date on the latest COM and BSP developments. Customers must double-check the COM's production process certification. It must be ISO9001 certified, and it must be ISO13485 certified if used in the medical field.
Check for Support
The most crucial thing to look for is detailed documentation on the COM Company's website to support their module. Customers interested in building a bespoke baseboard with a COM would benefit from receiving a set of application notes on COM usage from the COM vendor. In addition, it would directly place them in the next orbit of the production design. It's possible that the documentation is outdated and needs to be updated. However, if customers have any questions, see if the company offers ticketing help. It is another functionality required and comes into play when creating custom carrier boards.
Check with the COM maker to see if the design materials for the reference designs employing the COM are available. It will be useful in custom design. The availability of design resources such as schematics and PCB layout files of the daughterboard from the COM vendor would be advantageous, especially while creating a daughterboard utilizing their COM. In addition, every manufacturer supplies a reference design for any chips they create. Some COM vendors make community boards available for download. The BSP for the boards frequently changes, and their support for customers at a later period would be impossible. In addition, the BSP may not be production-ready, and getting the BSP to be production-ready and qualified requires a significant amount of effort. As a result, it may become necessary for customers to select a BSP supported by Independent Software Vendors, which incurs a significant development expense.
Pricing is one of the most important considerations when selecting a module. However, seek something other than the module's pricing in various volume categories.
How much does it cost to put my target image into the COM throughout the production process? The customer often overlooks this, and it is preferable to discuss it with the COM Company upfront. Customer intended applications would also be loaded by a customer so that they may be shipped directly from the factory. It may help reduce the cost of application loading. So, during production, discuss with the company about loading the Kernel, file system, and application binaries as modules. There are hidden costs, and the module's price should adjust accordingly.
Does the COM Company offer runtime license loading for the module? It saves time and, as a result, money.
Review of schematics: How much does it cost to have a carrier board schematic reviewed? Some COM firms offer it for free. As a result, if the COM Company charges for it, it must be factored into the module's pricing.
Support Hours Cost: How much do support hours cost? It is a cost that cannot be overlooked and must factor in.