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November 2007 | Volume 10/ Number 11

Elma’s Portable MicroTCA Chassis Slims Down

The unassuming, sunny Silicon Valley town of Fremont, California is home to the headquarters (or branch offices) of a number of “bus, board & packaging” companies Yours Truly has dealt with over the years, such as Advansor (now defunct), Arista Corp. (, Dawn VME Products (, Elma Bustronic / Elma Electronic (, Kontron America (, Siliconrax-Sliger ( and Themis Computer ( . . 19-inch rackmount computers and palm tree-lined boulevards - an interesting combination.

Elma Electronic Inc. is one of the larger denizens of Fremont. They’re a major manufacturer and supplier of enclosures, backplanes, cabinets, cases, and “ready-to-run” packaging for CompactPCI, Rugged COTS, VME/64x, VXI, PC and custom bus structures. Elma operates three facilities in the continental U.S. plus locations in Switzerland, Germany, France, the U.K. and Israel.

The latest news out of Fremont is that Elma has announced a new 4U (7-inch) wide MicroTCA Portable Tower. This is a slimmer and more compact version than the 6U (10.5-inch) wide unit announced earlier in 2007.

The 4U Type 32M MicroTCA Portable Tower features a star topology backplane that can hold up to six AdvancedTCA Mezzanine Cards (AMCs). The unit also features one MicroTCA Carrier Hub (MCH) slot and a Power Module slot. The backplane has a JSM (J-Tag Switch Module) slot, used for diagnostics. Said to be ideal as a development chassis, the unit can accommodate either single or double width format modules in the same backplane.

The Type 32M features advanced EMC shielding, scratch-resistant vinyl clad aluminum covers, and power components. Cooling is done by two 90 CFM fans. The chassis has five temperature sensors spaced throughout the unit. Elma has performed thermal simulations to ensure optimal performance.

The wider 6U version Type 32M has a Dual Star topology with two MCH and two Power Modules. Elma also offers Subrack MicroTCA enclosures in 4U-8U heights and a 1U Pico-style MicroBox.

Lead-time for Elma’s Type 32M MicroTCA Tower price is 6-8 weeks.

Another Elma division, Elma Bustronic, also recently released a “cube” style MicroTCA backplane. The backplane can hold six AMCs, a MicroTCA carrier hub, and a power-module slot. The backplane connects the cards using a star topology, and it all fits neatly into a 4U-wide, cube-style MicroTCA portable enclosure. Additional features include a JSM (J-Tag-switch-module) slot and connections at the bottom for a cooling unit and connections at the top for temperature sensors. The unit’s 12-layer routing includes 12 ports with fat-pipe lanes and allocations for PCI Express traffic. For you developers and or tekkies out there, the pinout of Connector 2 of the MCH is the first alternative pinout defined in the MicroTCA Spec. This pinout contains half a Fabric (Fabric B) and three clock networks. The Fabric on this connector is not used; instead, the according Ports 2 and 3 of the AMCs are connected directly between the cards.

The Cube MicroTCA backplane costs $1000.

For the record, Elma Bustronic also offers MicroTCA backplanes in both star and dual Star topologies and in Pico and Subrack formats. IT

Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC’s IP Communications Group.

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