Think about Tomorrow – Today


The COM Express Type 7 standard defined by the PICMG is perfect to develop converged infrastructure solutions for sustainable closed-loop manufacturing.

Closed-loop manufacturing is one of the essential goals of Industry 4.0 applications. It needs a closed production, measurement, and control process across all machines and systems throughout the entire factory. To implement such a process, industrial companies must significantly upgrade their electronic infrastructure and shift a good portion of intelligence to the edge of their operational networks; i.e., towards their increasingly networked machines and systems. By making development sectors part of this process, it is possible to integrate the production process and machine development into such closed-loop processes. This is indispensable for both the factory operator as well as the machine and system manufacturer, as it enables the Continual Improvement Processes (CIP) required.  CIP is necessary since few products installed in a factory today will be utilized and remain unmodified throughout the entire depreciation period. COM Express Computer-on-Modules help customers make their infrastructure at the manufacturing edge scalable and therefore (hyper) converged. In effect, this means that the infrastructure is based on a software-centric architecture using Commercial-Off-The-Shelf hardware (COTS). COTS hardware reduces costs and makes hardware-based solutions freely scalable in line with demand.

Industrial machines and systems connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) are expected to deliver greater productivity and efficiency than ever before through closed-loop manufacturing – including seamlessly integrated engineering. To meet these expectations, sensor data from these machines and systems must be acquired rapidly, analyzed, and converted from a closed-loop process into useful information for insightful decision making. Ultimately, such fine tuning throughout the production process – sometimes driven by artificial intelligence – ensures that the machines and systems work at an optimum level. The only way to achieve this type of real-time analytics is by moving networked compute intelligence to the edge of the Industrial IoT.


Fig 1: Closed-loop manufacturing connects information from all parts of the manufacturing and supply chain with the aim of producing better products more efficiently. (Image: congatec)


However, datacenter class processing and networking performance across the entire factory offers more than rapid analysis of closed-loop manufacturing processes in real time: When networked compute resources reside closer to the sensor nodes, the costs of transmitting data between central servers and the industrial field can also fall. Such a newly added fog layer can filter out data that is inconsequential for higher level aggregates at the edge. At the same time, this process helps companies minimize the risk of attacks on valuable and business-critical assets by reducing the amount of sensitive data that needs to be transmitted over external networks.

Fig 2: Moving computing power closer to the edge doesn’t just ensure high-precision analytics but also lowers transmission costs and reduces attack vectors for valuable data. (Image: congatec)


Closed-loop manufacturing is also based on the notion that operational data from any part of an organization or supply chain can be leveraged to inform other business units, increase their efficiency, and better prepare them to handle changes during the product lifecycle. At its highest level, closed-loop manufacturing not only incorporates the manufacturing aspects relating to a single factory and its interdependencies, but also incorporates knowledge from research and development, product development, sales, marketing, and service departments. This knowledge can be used, for example, to improve next-generation offerings, cut costs, shorten time-to-market, or improve the overall efficiency of the company and its supply chains. Figure 3 shows key stakeholders and processes involved in such software and system development and illustrates how agile development methods can accelerate the launch of new IoT products and features. Such frameworks, however, depend on the ability of all development hubs to communicate seamlessly with each other and extract data from all systems involved.


Fig 3: Converged infrastructure solutions such as COM Express Type 7 Server-on-Modules provide multiple development and production teams with open access to development data for more iterative and agile development. (Image: congatec)

Like the IoT, a closed-loop manufacturing topology is based on a vertical north-south communications architecture because some operational data also needs to be integrated into Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and other enterprise applications. And just like the IoT, closed-loop manufacturing is much more effective for development and production teams when supported by distributed intelligence close to the network edge. And this is exactly where converged infrastructure platforms come into play.

Moving compute intelligence to the industrial edge requires solutions that can connect an extremely heterogeneous field while also providing the potential to develop (hyper) converged infrastructure solutions, so that they can be implemented utilizing standard modules and scaled according to requirements – even across the most diverse performance classes, generations, and manufacturing boundaries. Server-on-Modules based on the new PICMG COM Express Type 7 standard offer the required enterprise network and security features while at the same time meeting the operational requirements of machines and systems with respect to determinism, costs, resistance to temperature, and scalability. Once such converged infrastructure platforms are installed, they form the basis for the new technology paradigm of closed-loop manufacturing that will change not only automation, but the entire manufacturing industry.

COM Express Type 7 Computer-on-Modules provide up to four 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) interfaces and up to 32 PCI Express (PCIe) lanes for use in micro servers and other applications that require high-bandwidth communications. The specification also incorporates a range of additional I/Os, such as 2x SATA, 8x GPIO (shared with SDIO), 2 serial interfaces (shared with CAN), an LPC bus (shared with eSPI), as well as SPI and I²C buses.

The conga-B7AC and conga-B7XD are COM Express Type 7 modules designed in the Basic (95 mm x 125 mm) form factor (Fig. 4). The conga-B7AC is based on Intel Atom® C3000 series systems on chip (SoCs) with up to 16 cores, while the conga-B7XD offers scalable performance ranging from quad-core Intel® Pentium® D to 16-core Intel® Xeon® D-1500 processors. Through the integrated Intel® processors, these modules offer server-grade features such as Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT-x), which in turn ensures that they fulfill the vision of open communications and closed-loop manufacturing. Intel® VT-x is a critical feature for infrastructure solutions because it allows multiple workloads to be consolidated on the individual cores of a multi-core edge processing platform. This is particularly important in the case of closed-loop manufacturing, as it allows deterministic functions to be isolated from enterprise workloads connected from the north. It is even possible to run dedicated operating systems (OS), for instance, a real-time OS for the machine, and Linux or Windows for the enterprise software.


Fig 4: The conga-B7AC (top) and the conga-B7XD (bottom) are COM Express Type 7 Server-on-Modules designed in the Basic form factor that feature Intel® Atom®, Intel® Pentium® D, or Intel® Xeon processors for converged infrastructure applications. (Image: congatec)

Other highlights of the COM Express Type 7 Server-on-Modules with integrated Intel® processor technology are Intel® Trusted Execution Technology (Intel® TXT) and Intel® Software Guard Extensions (Intel® SGX). They help ensure that critical software applications are isolated from other executables on the Intel® Atom C3000 and Intel® Xeon D 1500-based systems.

Equally as important, both modules are also available in extended temperature variants ranging from -40°C to +85°C and come in a wide choice of sizes. As a result, the Server-on-Modules can be deployed in harsh manufacturing environments to connect the embedded systems of devices, machines, systems and edge servers directly with core enterprise networks.

All these features combined do enable fast, iterative manufacturing processes where development teams can quickly access key manufacturing information to increase development efficiency, speed up time-to-market, and improve product quality (Fig. 5A and 5B). In this context, quality service provider IQS, for instance, reports that the use of closed-loop design practices during development reduced processing times of Engineering Change Notices (ECNs) from 15 to 3 days, while the accuracy of ECN documentation and implementation increased from 78 percent to 97 percent. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Companies of all sizes and types are now implementing IoT strategies to monitor and constantly improve the devices used in the field. Converged infrastructure solutions such as the conga-B7AC and conga-B7XD COM Express Type 7 Server-on-Modules make this possible by providing the compute intelligence and network performance required to support a variety of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) functions as micro server and gateway building blocks that are scalable on demand and available as COTS platforms, thereby fully meeting the advantages of a converged infrastructure on the hardware side. They are deployed alongside a carrier board that has been designed to specific application requirements. This also secures a long-term Return On Investment (ROI), as with increasing power requirements the modules can simply be swapped whenever newer, more powerful COM Express Type 7 solutions become available. The existing system design requires no modifications.

This is a significant advantage for industrial companies trying to balance the challenges of obsolescence with the desire to capitalize on new opportunities. For example, the latest generation of scalable Intel® Xeon® processors supports the Intel® AVX 512 instruction set (Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions 512) and integrates two Fused Multiply-Add (FMA) units. They provide the floating-point performance required for complex neural networks and machine learning algorithms. Such technologies can increase the efficiency of closed-loop manufacturing even further in the future, and the COM Express architecture provides the roadmap to achieve this level of automation.

To learn more about how converged IoT infrastructure solutions based on COM Express can improve your company’s efficiency, visit


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About congatec
congatec is a leading supplier of industrial computer modules using the standard form factors COM Express, Qseven and SMARC as well as single board computers and customizing services. congatec’s products can be used in a variety of industries and applications, such as industrial automation, medical, entertainment, transportation, telecommunication, test & measurement and point-of-sale. Core knowledge and technical know-how includes unique extended BIOS features as well as comprehensive driver and board support packages. Following the design-in phase, customers are given support via extensive product lifecycle management. The company’s products are manufactured by specialist service providers in accordance with modern quality standards. Headquartered in Deggendorf, Germany, congatec currently has entities in USA, Taiwan, China, Japan and Australia as well as United Kingdom, France, and the Czech Republic. More information is available on our website at or via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


Intel and Intel Atom, Pentium, and Xeon are registered trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.


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