Can VME vendors build a better shoebox?

It’s irrefutable that Motorola – ostensibly the inventor of VME – and backplane/chassis expert Hybricon know how to build boards and boxes used by the military. So it is entirely noteworthy that for the past six months, the companies have been trotting around a Rugged MicroTCA chassis that’s designed to cocoon AdvancedMCs used for “military edge applications.”

It’s irrefutable that Motorola – ostensibly the inventor of VME – and backplane/chassis expert Hybricon know how to build boards and boxes used by the military. So it is entirely noteworthy that for the past six months, the companies have been trotting around a Rugged MicroTCA chassis that’s designed to cocoon AdvancedMCs used for “military edge applications.” Since an AMC is a tad longer than a PMC, sticking a bunch of them in a rugged enclosure qualifies for our definition of a “shoebox.” Previously, the military relied on shoeboxes stuffed with proprietary boards, PC/104 boards, or 3U CompactPCI cards. The significance of this proof-of-concept chassis is that, in principle at least, the dozens of AMC cards designed to be interoperable under PICMG standards can now be cheaply used in rugged defense systems.

Specs on the proof-of-concept are sketchy, but we wholeheartedly endorse the concept and have awarded it an Editor’s Choice mention. Here’s what we can piece together for now: air-cooled AMCs can be installed as-is, while a conduction-cooled MicroTCA chassis would require some mechanical appendages (for example, wedgelocks) affixed to unmodified AMC PWBs. Ruggedization levels are administered by PICMG’s Rugged MicroTCA subcommittee and follow ANSI/VITA-47 levels (the irony!). The air-cooled proof-of-concept holds five AMC cards, blows over 32 cfm of air per slot, has room for various MIL-SPEC style PSUs, and uses 38999-style front panel connectors mated to existing AMC front-panel connections. The chassis can be cocooned for enhanced shock and vibration, and both companies are working on a conduction-cooled frame + AMC + cold plate-to-air chassis for the ultimate in ruggedization. More info and drawings can be found at here.

See also:

Hybricon

Motorola Embedded Communications Computing (now “Emerson”)