BRIC PXI Matrix Module "A" versions

    The 40-560 series BRIC Matrix modules have been available since 2003 and feature an expanding range of large matrix solutions. 

    In September 2009, Pickering Interfaces announced the availability of "A" versions of many of these modules. This article explains the principle differences between the two versions and the factors effecting your product choice.

    The Original 40-560, 40-561, 40-562 BRIC Modules

    BRIC modules use a backplane (motherboard) that plugs into the PXI backplane at the rear and carries a set of forward facing connectors that accept daughter cards loaded with relays. The relays are organized as a matrix and the backplane provides connectivity between the daughter cards. The backplane provides the PCI interface, but no switching functions. The PCI interface is provided by a PLX chip set.

    The BRIC modules are available using solid state switches, reed relays or EMR's, providing an extensive range of large matrices with different ratings and density.

    The 40-560, 40-561, 40-562 BRIC "A" versions

    The new versions of the BRIC modules use a modified backplane but have the same daughter cards. The backplane changes include two important changes:

    1. The PCI interface has been changed to an FPGA based design. This reduces the amount of time that a controller spends loading data to the BRIC and speeds up the operating time. For many applications this is of no great consequence, but for some applications involving RTOS the reduced time required to load data to the BRIC can free the controller to support other activities in the system.
    2. The Built-in Relay Self-Test (BIRST) facility has been added to the backplane, providing the user with a simple way of performing a self test on the entire BRIC assembly. This can aid the finding of faulty relays both by their logical location (crosspoint location) and where they are physically in the assembly. User can quickly get BRIC modules that have been damaged by accidental operation or UUT faults running again by replacing the faulty relays identified and then re-running the BIRST test. The BIRST system is entirely self contained, no external DMM is required.

    There is no difference in software between the older versions of the BRIC and the A versions, the two versions for the same configurations respond to to same driver calls.

    BRIC Choice

    Users are free to choose either type of BRIC. The older BRIC range continues to be available to support legacy applications and will be priced exactly the same as the newer BRIC's. The new range of BRIC's will offer the added benefit of improved operating speed and the BIRST test facility. 

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