What Is a Single Board Computer?

September 01, 2014 | BY: Aaron Frank , Gregory Sikkens, Mike Slonosky

The single board computer (SBC) serves as the foundation of a multitude of electronic devices used by consumers and in many occupations and industries. SBCs are at work in our smartphones and tablets, control and robotic systems in manufacturing plants, automatic teller machines, medical devices and in embedded defense and aerospace systems – including those designed, manufactured and supported by Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions.

An SBC is a complete functional computer, compactly built on a single printed circuit board. SBCs are powered by a single or multiple microprocessor and equipped with memory, I/O, clock, Ethernet and other features as needed.

Typically low-power computing solutions, SBCs offer a compact, low-profile architecture that can be contained in a small chassis and rack-mounted. Generally, all they lack is a power source.

Single board computers are designed to operate out of the box. They offer developers a platform for building quick-to-market solutions for a limitless range of applications and require only application-specific I/O.

In synch with advancing computer technology, SBCs have increased their capabilities in performance and functional density many times over since their early days in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Today, most single board computers mate via pins with a backplane, a printed circuit board that forms a computer bus to interconnect all connectors of the SBC in an embedded system, or via a host. Backplanes offer the advantage of extended system life as they do not bend and wear, like wiring, when components are removed and added.

SBCs also offer the capability of directly plugging into a mezzanine card, or daughterboard, for expanded functionality, depending on a program’s requirements. Rugged SBCs made by Curtiss-Wright stand out in the defense and aerospace marketplaces, as they feature backwards pin-compatibility. This feature facilitates system upgrades from legacy products, supporting the long life cycle of military programs.

SBCs can be designed and manufactured for a wide array of high performance defense and aerospace applications, such as digital signal processing, air data computing, mission computers, radar, video and ammunition handling. These SBCs support a variety of processor families such as Freescale, ARM and Intel in a range of VME and OpenVPX/VPX form factors, including small form factor solutions for space- and weight-constrained applications.

Author’s Biography

Aaron Frank

Senior Product Manager, Intel SBC & Graphics

Aaron Frank joined Curtiss-Wright in January 2010. As the Senior Product Manager for Single Board Computer and Graphics product lines, he is responsible for a wide range of COTS products utilizing processing and video graphics/GPU technologies in many industry standard module formats (VME, VPX, etc). His focus includes product development and marketing strategies, technology roadmaps, and serving as a subject matter expert within the sales team. Previous to this role, Aaron held the product Manager role for Networking products. Aaron has a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Waterloo.

Author’s Biography

Gregory Sikkens

Senior Product Manager, Graphics, Safety Certifiable & ARM Single Board Computers

During his 28 years at Curtiss-Wright, Gregory's current role as Senior Product Manager includes the product lines of: Graphics, ARM Single Board Computers and Safety Certifiable COTS boards. Previously, Gregory also held roles as product development manager, software team lead, and test/ILS engineering. Gregory has a Microcomputer Engineering Technologist degree from St. Lawrence College.

Author’s Biography

Mike Slonosky

Senior Product Manager, Power Architecture and Arm SBCs

Michael Slonosky is the Product Manager for Power Architecture Single Board Computers in the C4 Solutions group at Curtiss-Wright. He has been with Curtiss-Wright for 13 years after spending over 20 years in the telecom industry. Mike is a graduate of the University of Manitoba with a Masters of Science in Electrical Engineering.

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