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Introducing the Lattice Automate Solution Stack

Introducing the Lattice Automate Solution Stack
Posted 05/11/2021 by Mark Hoopes

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The global industrial automation market is predicted to be $326 billion by 2027 [1]. A large proportion of this automation involves robots -- fixed, mobile, autonomous, and collaborative, a.k.a. cobots (i.e., robots intended for direct human-robot interaction within a shared space or where humans and robots are in close proximity). The global robotics market is predicted to experience a 13.5% CAGR from 2020 to 2027 [2]. In order to address this automation market, the newly introduced Lattice Automate™  solution stack includes everything embedded systems designers require for accelerating the development of industrial automation applications.

Actually, it’s worth noting that the Lattice Automate solution stack is not limited only to traditional factory scenarios, but is also applicable to a wide range of deployment environments and tasks, including warehouse automation and smart building monitoring, management, and control.

Some of the requirements for emerging and next-generation automation systems include precision motor control, predictive maintenance, real-time embedded networking, functional safety, and cyber-resiliency. Furthermore, all of these functions need to be achieved with low-power, low-latency, high-reliability, interface flexibility, and deterministic performance and response. In order to address these requirements, the Lattice Automate solution stack includes hardware platforms, IP cores, software and tools, and reference designs and demos, along with access to custom design services.

The Lattice Automate Solution Stack
The Lattice Automate Solution Stack

Lattice Nexus™ FPGAs provide up to 75% lower power and up to 90% smaller form factors in comparison to similar competitive offerings. They also offer instant-on performance, the fastest MIPI D-PHY (2.5 Gbps) available, and up to 100X lower software error rate (SER) for high reliability and availability. With their massively parallel processing capability, FPGAs like the Lattice Certus™-NX family provide ideal platforms for automation applications such as precision motor control, predictive maintenance, real-time networking, and functional safety. Meanwhile, Lattice MachXO3D™ FPGAs are ideal for implementing cyber-resilient solutions in the form of a hardware Root-of-Trust (HRoT).

There are countless electric motors deployed in industrial settings. Appropriate control systems can dramatically increase the efficiency and operational lifespan of these motors, but such control requires high-speed and high-resolution sampling of the motor’s voltage and current waveforms. FPGAs are ideal for this task as they provider higher performance than microcontrollers while consuming a fraction of the power. Their higher performance also enables FPGAs to handle at least two times the number of motors per device. The Lattice Automate solution stack includes a multi-axis motor control reference design.

When it comes to maintaining things like motors, traditional strategies were reactive or pre-emptive. Reactive maintenance basically involves allowing the machine to run until it fails, at which time a crew is dispatched to diagnose and fix the problem. By comparison, preemptive maintenance essentially involves fixing machines before they break, which is laudable but also time-consuming and expensive. By comparison, predictive maintenance involves using AI and ML to monitor a machine’s operation looking for unwanted trends or anomalies and providing the maintenance team with a “heads up” before the machine stops working. One interesting point is that predictive maintenance can be based on monitoring the motor’s voltage and current values without the need for any additional sensors (thermal, vibration, audio, etc.). The Lattice Automate solution stack includes a predictive maintenance reference design.

As defined by NIST SP 800 193, platform firmware resiliency (PFR) involves protection, detection, and recovery. MachXO3D FPGAs fully address cyber-resiliency and PFR requirements by acting as the system’s HRoT. Upon system power-up, the MachXO3D can first check itself to make sure only authenticated firmware is running on it, after which it can check and verify the firmware associated with all of the other devices in the system. Once the system is up and running, the MachXO3D will continue to maintain cyber-resiliency by protecting, detecting, and recovering itself from malicious attacks. Furthermore, the massively parallel processing capability of its programmable fabric gives the MachXO3D the ability to monitor multiple communications busses and to protect, detect, and recover multiple other platform firmware elements at the same time. In addition to a real-time networking reference design, which is based on the EtherConnect IP core, the Lattice Automate solution stack also includes a hardware security reference design.

In addition to supporting the easy-to-use Lattice Radiant® and Lattice Diamond® design tools, the Lattice Automate solution stack also supports the use of RISC-V soft core CPUs by means of the Lattice Propel™ design environment. This state-of-the-art graphical user interface (GUI)-based design tool lets users employ a drag-and-drop methodology to capture and configure a RISC-V processor-based design in minutes. The latest version of the Propel design tool supports the new industrial-specific Lattice IP cores (EtherConnect, CNN Processing Unit, and a PDM Data Collector) included in the Automate stack.

In conclusion, the Lattice Automate solution stack includes everything embedded systems designers require for accelerating industrial automation applications. This solution stack -- which includes modular hardware platforms, an IP library, easy-to-use design software, reference designs and demos, and is supported by custom design services -- supports common use cases including motor control, embedded real-time networking, and predictive maintenance, while also facilitating the creation of cyber-resilient automation solutions.