Published November 18, 2008
Volume 16, Number 11

CPU Tech Offers New Real-Time Simulation Tool for Accelerated Vehicle Design       

CPU Tech founder and chairman Ed King with several of the
company’s products. (Photo courtesy CPU Tech.)

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

A close look at the business of Hacienda tenant CPU Technology Inc. offers a refreshing view of American ingenuity. For the past 19 years, the privately held company has been a pioneer in sophisticated SoC (system-on-chip) technology, which allows engineers to pack most, if not all, the functions of a circuit board onto a single silicon chip.

“We have been developing compatible and configurable SoC devices for many years,” observes Robert Beanland, the company’s vice president of marketing. Because it reduces the number of system components, the SoC approach has several advantages over traditional microprocessor-based systems, improving security and lowering failure rates while producing savings in weight, heat, and power. Until recently, the devices had been used primarily in specialized applications for customers in the areas of avionics, industrial controls, medical electronics, and weapons control systems. 

Over the past year, CPU Tech has been rolling out its new SystemLab PS (platform simulator) product line, one version of which promises to make a major contribution in a different industry: vehicle manufacturing. SystemLab PS is an advanced new simulation tool that provides real-time visibility into complex electronics systems, “every circuit, signal, memory, register, and processor, even down to every line of code,” Beanland explains. Almost like an x-ray, this inside view permits engineers to make a virtual check of the interoperability of all the electronics systems that go into a vehicle—well before they are actually produced and assembled.

“SystemLab PS’s very high-fidelity models run the actual software you see in the vehicle, with a mock-up of the radio, DVD player, GPS panel, and all the other information screens,” Beanland relates. “Engineers can push the virtual buttons and switches and shift at actual vehicle speed, to make sure the software ‘behaves right’ with the electronics. When a problem arises, they can quickly look inside the systems to see where it originates and how to fix it.”

Simulation has been used in other aspects of vehicle design—suspension and appearance, for example—for quite a while, but CPU Tech’s new product line represents the first comprehensive electronics virtualization.  “This is the missing link in the design flow to reduce time and validate electrical systems. It integrates various components produced by different suppliers, so they can all work together before they actually build anything,” Beanland notes. The collaboration not only dramatically condenses the vehicle’s design cycle, but it can also take place without suppliers having to divulge proprietary information, always a significant concern.

CPU Tech has also recently introduced innovations in a second new product line. The Acalis family of Field Programmable MultiCores is a new generation of programmable semiconductor devices that incorporate the density, speed, and low power of the SoC, while protecting the chip and its design from reverse engineering.

A fab-less semiconductor house, CPU Tech addresses other security issues in its manufacturing agreement with IBM’s Trusted Foundry, which ensures onshore production as well as long-term device supply.

For more information about the technology, view the company overview video on its web site, www.cputech.com. The video is also available on YouTube—just enter “CPU Technology” in the search box.


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