At Cosylab, we specialise in integrating MicroTCA systems, such as high-speed data acquisition devices for our customers.
We have simplified this process of combining MicroTCA with high-speed data acquisition by developing a generic control system stack. The latter allows us to support many MicroTCA hardware board types with minimal firmware and software modifications.
Our firmware supports generic data acquisition up to 32-bit sample width and also generic data generation. We implemented the firmware modules to support MRF timing modules and allow the board to act as an MRF timing receiver. On the software side, we leveraged the control software stack in Nominal Device Support (NDS), which means that we offer support for EPICS and TANGO control systems out of the box.
A data acquisition design, independent from specific frameworks
Cosylab has worked on multiple high-performance data acquisition (DAQ) solutions throughout the years. Some DAQ solutions, such as beam current monitors, beam profile monitors and LLRF, had overlapping core functionality. Because of this, we became intrigued whether we could develop a generic control system stack that would cover this fundamental and super-imposed functionality.
The main objective was to design a system that would improve code reusability and reduce time to support new hardware without sacrificing the ability to extend functionality for custom use-cases. Additionally, the requirement was to cover as many control system frameworks as possible and make the system agnostic to specific frameworks. One of the desired outcomes was to reduce the expertise needed to support existing and custom use cases and create a central, standardised, and mature codebase from which all engineers could learn.
A Hardware design based on MicroTCA
Looking at the generic form factors currently available on the market that support data acquisition use cases, especially for high-end applications, we can safely say that MicroTCA has the most vendors supporting it. It is also growing in popularity on the user side. It is used at various labs worldwide for the already mentioned use cases (BCMs, BPMs, LLRF), and engineers commonly select it as the go-to platform for DAQ applications.
The reasoning for selecting MicroTCA are high performance, customizability options through rear transition module expansions, and advanced features, such as IPMI support and others. By working with multiple MicroTCA vendors — for example, Cosylab and Teledyne co-developing data acquisition drivers for ITER — we have gained a lot of experience and insight into the platform.
When selecting a hardware platform for our own product, a Dose delivery system used in medical particle accelerators for cancer treatment, the decision to go towards MicroTCA was straightforward.