ModBlox7 Industrial Box PC Standard: Overview & How to Get Involved
ModBlox7 is a planned open, modular hardware standard for building scalable industrial box PCs.
The first-ever industrial box PC standard, the goal of ModBlox7 is to reduce cost and accelerate time to market for transportation, automation, aerospace and defense, and other heavy industry organizations looking to extend compute intelligence into harsh, demanding environments. It will provide a processor-agnostic, COTS-centric architecture for building industrial box PCs while remaining extensible and modifiable to meet the needs of various industry use cases.
Currently, the draft ModBlox7 specification outlines three block types – a CPU Unit, a Power Supply Unit, and I/O Unit. Each block will have a fixed height, width, and depth, leaving space for requisite PCBs, connectors, and a conduction cooling element between two side walls and a front plate. These blocks can be daisy chained in normal or redundant configurations over standard internal PCI Express (Gen 2-4 currently supported) or USB interfaces to create industrial box PCs consisting of up to 12 blocks.
The open specification will contain the following requirements or specified functions:
- Cost-efficient design with minimum mechanical effort. No additional backplane or heat sink will be required. Coplanar board-to-board connectors couple each unit to its neighbor and route defined I/O interfaces (PCIe and USB) to the next board.
- Modular, functionally encapsulated plug-in units in multiples of 7HP width pitch. Units form functional assemblies such as power supply, CPU, switch and I/O. Units can be multiples of 7HP, e.g., implement more interfaces or functionality in a single building block assembly.
- This results in a wide range of device combinations in a modular design in increments of 7HP (21HP, 28HP, 42HP to 84HP), making it cost-efficient even in small quantities.
- Each modular computing unit can host a stack of 1, 2, or 3 PCBs – depending on the complexity. Separation is typically made according to the front I/O and the power and communication requirements between the host unit and its expansion units.
- Flexible mounting with minimal accessory components for wall, din-rail, and 19″ subrack installations.
According to Markets and Markets, the global industrial PC market size is estimated to reach USD 6.1 billion by 2026 from USD 4.6 billion in 2021, growing at a CAGR of 5.8%. The market growth is fueled by increasing demand for industrial IoT, a steady shift towards digitalized manufacturing from traditional manufacturing, growing awareness for resource optimization in manufacturing industries, and stringent regulatory compliances.
The goal is to have the specification ratified by the end of 2022. The team has elected Bernd Kleeberg of EKF Elektronik as chairman of the committee. Manfred Schmitz of Ci4Rail is the technical editor, and Johann Klamer of ELTEC Elektronik acts as secretary.
The front plate interfaces are at present undefined, leaving room for manufacturers to modify the connectivity a block supports per the needs of a given market or application. Likewise, the rest of the exterior mechanical housing will remain loosely defined.
The ModBlox7 industrial box PC specification projects support multiple mounting options, including on walls, DIN rails, and in 19² racks.
The draft specification is currently scheduled for ratification in Q1 2023.
For more information or to get involved, contact PICMG or the Chair of the ModBlox7 subcommittee:
Bernd Kleeberg, ModBlox7 Chairperson | [email protected]
Jess Isquith, PICMG President | [email protected]
Below, you can also find a list of companies and organizations currently contributing to the ModBlox specification.
- EKF Elektronik GmbH
- Elma Electronic
- ELTEC Elektronik AG
- Embeck Co., Ltd.
- ept GmbH
- HEITEC AG
- Hirose Electric Co., Ltd.
- PHOENIX CONTACT
- Sealevel Systems, Inc.
- TEWS TECHNOLOGIES GmbH