Marine Technologies, LLC

I/O CardBridge Mate Interface Unit

The input/output (I/O) card is a general purpose hardware unit that is used for different purposes within the DP system. It is based on Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) technology, which makes it possible for the I/O card to have different functions based on its configuration. The configuration is determined by the IP address switch sitting on the motherboard where the I/O card is mounted.

When configured as a thruster's I/O card or power I/O card, the card can be used to interface numerous analog and digital signals and can read feedback signals, as well as outputting command signals from the DP system to external units. Typically, the I/O card will be used to interface thrusters, switchboards, etc. One I/O card can be dedicated for one specific thruster (for redundant systems), or interface multiple or even all thrusters on a vessel.

When configured as a panel I/O unit, the I/O card can read serial data from sensors. Up to eight serial lines can be used for each I/O card. For a higher class system where more sensors are typically interfaced, there will always be two or more panel I/O cards. Thus, the number of available serial lines should always be sufficient.

When used as a panel I/O card, it is also used to interface the I2C circuits that control panel lights and register button activity on the operator panels. The analog signals from the three-axis joystick are also read by the same I/O card.

The I/O card has additional built-in features that enhance its use in the DP system. These include:

  • Built-in broken loop detection for all analog current loop input and output signals. This will ensure that wire problems will be detected by the DP system and appropriate action is taken.
  • Communication over dual isolated Ethernet for redundancy.
  • Onboard LCD allows for quick troubleshooting locally, including monitoring and operation of all I/O in a stand-alone configuration. This is a valuable service for field service personnel and allows for extensive troubleshooting without the need for hook-up with other equipment. This is important for both service and commissioning of the vessel.
  • Eight optically isolated serial inputs provide interfacing to RS-232 and RS-422 signals for NMEA devices.
  • Power supply to the I/O card is electrically isolated from onboard electronics, thus enhancing robustness of the I/O card and reducing interference issues.
  • Due to FPGA technology, any redefinitions or improvements of functionality may be made with SW update directly from a computer connected to the I/O card.
  • The I/O amount versus board footprint ratio is very high. In its current configuration, the IOB handles more than 120 I/O, and the IOB footprint is only 5.9″ x 7.2″. The compact size of the I/O unit makes mounting easy and flexible.
  • The same physical board may be used in a wide variety of applications.
  • Some of the analog outputs are independently isolated, thus interface to electrically difficult devices may be performed without the need for external isolation to ensure signal integrity.

The I/O card will be mounted on a motherboard that will be chosen depending on the application of the I/O card. The motherboard contains the physical connection points where the actual signal wires are terminated. An I/O card mounted on a thruster's interface card is depicted above.

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WorkBoat Show … November 29 - December 1, 2017 … New Orleans, LA … Booth 2527