ML Riechers Systems Engineering

[Photo of the Front Side of our rse-2c micro-controller card]

Taking the Time to do the Firmware Right.

  • MLRSE Announces EtherPod adaptor now in alpha: Ethernet capability for Registration, Press Control, People Counter retrofit, and general purpose stand-alone use.

    Date Released: Monday, 5 January, 2009

    M L Riechers Systems Engineering today announced that its long in the making Ethernet adaptor board, dubbed "EtherPod," is in alpha. General Public Pricing and availability have yet to be established, but should be less than $85.00 each in quantity.

    This board retro-fits computers, computer products and controllers with Local Area Network (Ethernet) connectivity, and, if desired, Internet connectivity (private or public). The software in the on-board micro-processor can be fine-tuned to conform exactly to the behavior that the electronics to be adapted to expects.

    The board has the usual 10-BASE-T and 100-BASE-T with Full and Half duplex capabilities, all auto-sensed from the LAN at boot time &mdash so the user need not worry about setup. LED winky lights on the RJ-45 connector and the board itself give a good visual indication of whether or not the LAN link is working properly or not.

    A Freescale MC9S12NE64 processor is used for the Ethernet controller on the board. It is redily re-programmable,

    The board is roughly 1-1/4 inch wide by 2-1/8 inch long, with a standard RJ-45 Ethernet connector on one end, projecting out somewhat less than 1/4 inch. At the other end are two connectors which service the RS-485 Industrial Interface, a 3.3V TTL level Serial Interface, a SPI interface, an I2C interface, and a Background Debug Mode (BDM) connector, which facilitates easy reprogramming of the board.

    The board will fit into (rather small) standard, off-the-shelf boxes for stand-alone use.

    The board is available in alpha now. Interested parties should contact Michael L. Riechers for capabilities, and to state requirements. Contact information appears below.

    History and Description

    Commencing in mid 2007, MLRSE designed the Etherpod board. The design objectives were: 1) and paramont, to interface easily with the rse-2d controller board: an RS-485 interface was absolutely required; 2) to survive in the industrial physical environment; 3) to accept a wide range of power voltage (12-40 volts), while not wasting much; 4) to not be physically any larger than it absolutely had to be; 5) to employ as many winky lights as possible to indicate the board's correct functioning; and 6) to drop into the then People Counter, to give it LAN/Internet capability.

    These objectives were met by 1) choosing a monolithic RJ-45/transformer isolation interface, 2) selecting the MC9S12NE64 Ethernet Ready micro-processor, 3) selecting a 3.3 Volt capable RS-485 interface chip, 4) selecting and designing in a modern, efficient, high-speed _switching_ regulator, and 5) putting it all on a 4-layer circuit board to control noise and electro-magnetic interference.

    It turned out rather well. This is the only board MLRSE's ever designed that, after building and testing the resulting product, no one wanted to modify at all.

    To avoid all licensing issues, MLRSE programmed this product with all new programming. It now has the capability to pass interrogation/response (query/response) from the LAN (in Internet Protocol) to the interfaced controller.

    This is exactly what MLRSE wanted to do to connect rse-2d Registration Controllers to the Host Computer by Ethernet. It's also what needs to happen to retro-fit our later model People Counters to the LAN.

    Picking up the Product

    Michael L. Riechers, owner and president of MLRSE, commented, "Designing and making the EtherPod has been a real blast. We should have had this product to market a year ago. Unfortunately, often unimportant but pressing matters got in our way. It's time to put this product up, or shut up."

    Asked what justifies yet another Ethernet adaptor entry into the market, particularly at what seems to be somewhat higher pricing, Riechers responded:

    "I'd say two things: One, our adaptor uses a switching regulator, and is not particularly bothered by standard industrial control voltages. You can even power it from an unregulated wall-wart. In contrast, some of our competition requires you to supply regulated 5 volts; others use a linear regulator, which is an enormous power waste at a supply of 8 volts or greater. Much higher than that, you might produce enough heat to roast an egg. Heat is the mortal enemy of electronics."

    "Two, we have a variety of ways to interface to your device, the primary of which is the RS-485 standard. We don't currently do RS-232, but, if you've got to have that in our product, there are usually ways to use RS-485 to fool the other device, and communicate anyway. Anyway, the RS-485 standard has found wide acceptance in the industrial environment, because it works a whole lot better."

    "Now when we embed the Etherpod into a People Counter, we don't use the the RS-485. We bypass it altogether, for which the EtherPod was provisioned to do. This saves the expense of having to put the RS-485 chip on the EtherPod, and makes a more direct connection between the EtherPod and the People Counter micro-processor."

    "Speaking of direct connect, I can't wait until we or a customer have a need and opportunity to use the SPI or I2C interface. Hooking one of those up, and programming it ought to be a real trip."

    "Yes, we do like to price higher than the other guy. But we feel that we have real, added value in our product. And besides, when you start to add in those special power supplies that some of our competition requires, maybe our prices don't look so high?"

    Asked if MLRSE would be willing to do customer product and program improvements on a contract basis, Riechers responded: "Oh, sure. That's what we're here for. Or the customer can do it, if he's got the resources. We're not averse to customers chopping on our stuff."

    "We design 'em, we build them, we program them to the customers' spec, and we get them out the door, shipped to wherever the customer wants them delivered."

    M L Riechers Systems Engineering has served the Embedded Computer Market since 1987, providing custom software and hardware for Industrial Control.

    Contact Information

    Please send inquiries about MLRSE to
    M. L. Riechers Systems Engineering     Voice:  +1-513-844-2220
    530 Main Street                        Fax:    +1-513-844-2279
    Hamilton, Ohio 45013-3222, USA         mlr(at)rse(dot)com

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