MicroTCA is an open standard on which smaller products with a better scalability than those developed on the AdvancedTCA standard are based. Applications developed for either standard are largely compatible, but MicroTCA stands out with its flexibility and its capacity to adjust to changing demand.

MicroTCA offers a platform architecture that allows advanced mezzanine card (AMC) modules to be inserted into an AMC carrier board that provides the resources (communication means and power) for each AMC board. The modules that provide these resources, namely power modules and MicroTCA Carrier Hubs (MCH), are also connected to the AMC carrier.

By using a MicroTCA carrier in conjunction with different combinations of AMC and FMC boards, it’s possible to create systems for many fields of applications, such as:

  • telecommunications
  • medical
  • digital imaging
  • wireless
  • defense

A wide variety of AMC boards exist, and by combining a number of these AMC boards, you can create a system for just about any application. By using AMC boards that are able to carry FMCs in a MicroTCA chassis, you can implement systems with different inputs and outputs suited to your purposes.

Parts of a MicroTCA MIMO Radar System

The photo below shows a MicroTCA MIMO radar system, with labels indicating the different modules composing it.

MicroTCA MIMO radar system

The components of this system from left to right are as follows:

  • Two power modules are used to provide power to the AMC boards of the MicroTCA chassis. Each slot can consume up to 40 W of power.
  • A CPU board takes the role of a PCIe root-complex to perform the enumeration of all the devices present on the PCIe bus. One or more applications control the other AMC boards present in the system through the PCIe bus. The control data can be destined to either the hardware or the software running on these AMC boards (see our previous blog post for more details on the role of the CPU). The CPU also retrieves the data received by the input channels and stores it on a SATA hard drive.
  • An AMC SATA hard drive (labeled HDD in the diagram) stores the data received from the input devices of the system. This data can later be retrieved for processing and analysis. For more information about the data recording solutions Nutaq provides, see our related blog post.
  • An AMC board (labeled Beam Forming in the diagram) with a processing unit (an FPGA, for example) processes the beam-forming data that is transmitted by the output devices of the system. This data is sent to the output devices through the backplane using PCIe.
  • FMC boards with ADCs are attached to AMC boards to serve as inputs (labeled 64 Input Channels in the diagram) for the RADAR system. The data they receive is sent to the CPU through PCIe for storage on a hard drive. This section can easily be scaled up or down by adding or removing AMC or FMC sub-systems.
  • Two MCHs provide the platform management features for the MicroTCA carrier to support AMCs. They handle the management of the different protocols available in the MicroTCA standard such as PCIe, gigabit Ethernet, and SATA.
  • FMC boards with DACs are attached to AMC boards to serve as outputs (labeled 64 output channels) for the radar system. They output the data they receive from the AMC board that performs the beam-forming processing. This section can easily be scaled up or down by adding or removing AMC or FMC sub-systems.

Conclusion

MicroTCA systems are easily scalable by adding or removing AMCs. You could develop a MIMO RADAR algorithm using a single AMC and then easily scale it up to use more inputs and outputs by adding more AMC modules to your chassis. By using different combinations of AMC and FMC cards, MicroTCA systems can support a very large number of different applications.