Posts Categorized: Quartz

NEW: Quartz CPU Module based on Freescale Vybrid

We are very pleased to announce Quartz, our newest module based on the Freescale Vybrid processor.

Quartz is all about getting products to market fast – minimizing engineering risk and cost along the way.

This 2-minute video will give you all the highlights of the module and development kit.  The web site has more details including technical manuals.


We are finishing up the development kit and Linux software support and will have kits available late November.

You can register your interest in Quartz and reserve a development kit here.

Quartz Development Kits Shipping Now!

WP_20140210_09_12_24_ProAs you can see from the picture, we have Quartz Development Kits in stock!

Quartz is based on the Freescale Vybrid chip which is a dual-core ARM Cortex-A5 + M4 part.  Here is our quick intro video which shows the key features of the kit.


The kits are running a Timesys Linux build. Check out their development centre page for information on the tools that are available FREE to support Quartz software development.

Other Operating System ports are in the works including Windows Embedded Compact 2013 and FreeBSD.

The kit is designed around the connector version of the Quartz module. This is small (45mm x 35mm x 7mm) , but we have an even smaller surface-mount LGA version (38mm x 38mm x 3mm) for applications where vibration or space is an issue. You can still start your prototyping and evaluation with the development kit and move to the LGA when developing your product.

The Quartz Development Kit cost is $399 without LCD and $499 with a 7″ LCD. It can be ordered direct from us here.

Choosing a SOM – Why Standards don’t work for ARM modules

When choosing a System on Module (SoM) for a new project, you quickly find that there are some which follow a standard, and others which don’t. On the standards side, you may have heard of Q7 or SMARC. Proprietary modules use SO-DIMM connectors, board-to-board connectors or modules like our Topaz and Quartz products have no connector at all and solder directly to a board.

This post explores some of the reasons why we at Device Solutions have gone the proprietary non-standard path, and why we think standards don’t work for ARM and don’t deliver on the benefits you expect from a standard.

Why choose a standard?

For processor modules, having a second or third supply option sounds attractive. Obsolescence is a big problem and using a standard module to avoid this sounds like a compelling reason to go down that road. In fact it does work very well – for x86 based modules. However x86 chips are very well defined compared to the huge variation in features found on ARM based parts.

Why standards don’t work for ARM

ARM devices are used for a huge variety of applications, with an equally diverse set of requirements. If you have ever taken a close look at a Freescale i.MX part, you will see a lot of different functions and no single application makes use of them all.

This creates some big problems when trying to map an ARM chip to a standard interface. The challenges are:

  • Wide range of features, and not enough pins to expose them all.
  • Multiplexed features – which feature do you pick for a particular pin?
  • Functions change between chip generations and there may be no slot on the standard interface for a new feature. A good example of this is display interfaces – these have evolved from parallel TFT and chips have this interfaces along with LVDS, VGA or HDMI and now MIPI.

Designing with a standard ARM module

All this is not to say that ARM modules based on a standard don’t work at all. They do, but they might not do everything you expect (or need) them to do.

The first thing to check is, can you access all the features on the chip that you need? Make sure anything you think you might need is available. It is painful to get half-way through a design only to find you can’t get at a vital signal!

Using a standard module for second source reasons

This is where things get tricky and your design effort may effectively double. Because of all the reasons above, you can’t rely on two different standard ARM modules to give you exactly the same signals on the interface. It is important to identify what module you are going to use as a second source at the design stage. Every signal will need to be analysed and your base-board may need to have different build options for each module to get it working. Often this proves to be impossible because some vendors don’t share module schematics.

An alternative to second sourcing

Often the reason for having a second source is continuity of supply. Rather than invest in extra engineering (which is expensive and time consuming enough!), we suggest you ask the module vendor if they have an escrow service for their design files. This way should there be a problem for whatever reason, you will still have access to the module.


If you have made it this far, you will see that there are some issues with the current ARM based modules that follow a standard. Our advice is to choose a module that is the best fit for your design, and to solve second sourcing issues by other means.

There are a lot more details we haven’t gone into around this issue. Contact us if you would like to know more.

FreeBSD now supported on Quartz


FreeBSD is usually associated with x86 and servers, however it is also used in embedded ARM devices. Support for the Quartz SOM based on the Freescale Vybrid part is now included in the FreeBSD source and drivers for all the key modules are included.

This page has all the details including the supported features, where to get the source and how to build and download it to a Quartz board.

Product Longevity

Finding replacement components for a design that is in production is no fun, and having to re-design a product because of an obsolete component can be expensive and damaging for a business.

Here are 2 ways Device Solutions modules help minimise this problem:

1. Freescale Longevity Programme
All our products are based on Freescale processors that are part of their longevity program. This guarantees availability of the key component of our modules for at least 10 or 15 years from first production. For our current products, this means availability until:

  • 2023 for Quartz (Vybrid – 10 year program)
  • 2026 for Opal (i.MX53 – 15 year program)
  • 2024 for Topaz (i.MX25 – 15 year program)

2. We take care of component issues on the module
Using a module isolates you from the most common components that go end-of-life in a design.

Memory is one of the worst offenders when it comes to revisions and changes. It is also a difficult one when it comes to supply issues, but we won’t cover that here.

Whenever there is a change, we will notify existing customers and give them an option to qualify the updated module before we ship the new version. If software changes are required, these are taken care of by the operating system.

5 reasons to use a surface-mount System on Module (SOM)

System on module solutions are a great way to reduce the development time, cost and risk when creating a new embedded device. They are small circuit boards with the common components used in design – processor, memory, power supply and possibly a few other bits and pieces.

SOMs are available in all shapes and sizes. There are SOMs based on standards and others with proprietary connection methods. The main reason for this variety is that the embedded market that uses SOMs is incredibly diverse and each SOM fits a particular need in the market.

This post looks at surface-mount SOMs. They are ideal for applications that have demanding size, cost or environmental constraints.

Surface-mount SOMs have components on one side of a small PCB, and pads on the other side. You can think of it like a big BGA. When it comes to manufacture, you paste the footprint of the SOM along with the rest of your board, place the module along with the other components and reflow.

 LGA-Top-Medium LGA-Bottom-Medium

The image above is of Quartz, our latest surface-mount Vybrid-based SOM. This is 38mm x 38mm and is the smallest package of any Vybrid module on the market.

Here are 5 good reasons to consider a surface-mount SOM for your next design:

1. Lower system cost
A surface-mount module means no connector cost on the module and your board. This is one (or more) less components to source and add to your BOM cost. The module cost is also generally lower as it does not have connectors.

2. Robust Connection
For certainty in a demanding application, nothing beats soldering down a module.

3. Size
A surface-mount module is the least height option of any module. It adds 1mm compared with the alternative of soldering the components directly to your board. The module size is also usually very compact.

4. Faster manufacturing
Our surface-mount modules are supplied in trays – just like BGA components. A SMT machine can pick and place the module, saving labour when compared with a connector based module.

5. Easy Transition to a Design License
If your product volumes increase, we have options to license the design. Using a surface-mount module means the transition has no effect on the placement of components on your board. The components that were on the module end up 1mm lower and directly on your board. There are a number of factors to consider when making this decision which we won’t cover here. Please talk to us if you want to know more about this option.

If you think this is a good option for your new project, please drop us a line. We would love to talk to you about it.

Getting Started with Linux Development on the Quartz Vybrid-based SOM

imageTimesys is our development partner for Linux on Quartz, our latest SOM based on the Freescale Vybrid processor. They have been working with Freescale since the start of the Vybrid project so we think they qualify as experts on all things Vybrid.

The main tool set provided with Quartz is the LinuxLink PRO edition suite. This is usually US$5,000, but is free for Quartz development. LinuxLink PRO is a suite of tools for both platform and application development.

The best place to get started is the Quartz Development Center page on the Timesys site. This has links to download code and tools along with demos, documentation and getting started videos.