In November 2013, Microchip Technology Inc., a leading provider of microcontroller, mixed-signal, analog and Flash-IP solutions, acquired EqcoLogic (http://www.microchip.com/pagehandler/en-us/press-release/microchip-acquires-eqcologic.html), an innovator in equalizer and coaxial transceiver products and technologies. EqcoLogic was a privately held, fabless semiconductor company based in Brussels, Belgium.
EqcoLogic was one of the founding members of the CoaXPress Consortium that developed the technology and supported the standardization through the Japanese Industrial Imaging Association (JIIA).
Since the acquisition, the CoaXPress product sales have grown 200 to 300% each year.
I spoke with Zeph Freeman, the Global Marketing Manager of Microchip Technology about the growth in CoaXPress and plans for the future.
Q. What were some of the initial hurdles with the adoption of CoaXPress?
When the CoaXPress chip was provided by EqcoLogic many potential customers were concerned about a single supplier and the fact that the supplier was a small start-up. A lot of the conversations were about adequate financial infrastructure and assurances that there would still be a business and products available in the future rather than discussions about how good the product performed.
Except for those customers who were already pushing the limits of existing technology, many of the responses were that they would wait and see how the different emerging interface standards developed.
With the acquisition by Microchip Technology and their investments for continued development of the standard, the apprehensions about long-term stability were eliminated increasing the rate of adoption significantly.
Q. What applications have been the biggest adopters of CoaXPress?
Many of the early adopters were manufactures of semiconductor inspection and metrology equipment who needed the highest resolution and high speeds. There have also been many customers in manufacturing floor inspections such as with food, glass, or automotive parts production. These applications appreciate the long cable length with the processing system at a distance from the camera, but also the very fast frame rates enabled by CoaXPress. The inspection systems are often the limiting factor of the output of a factory, and not the conveyor belt. With a faster camera and processing, the conveyor belts can be sped up to avoid larger investments in infrastructure. Output over 4 times greater than what was possible using Camera Link systems has been shared from some manufacturers.
Other applications that benefit from the long, flexible cables have been intelligent traffic systems, security, postal sorting, among others.
Q. What are the advantages of CoaXPress over other interface standards?
CoaXPress is the only interface that offers video, camera control and power over a long, flexible cable. All other interfaces have a trade-off.
Through the CoaXPress consortium and JIIA, the standard has been developed in a controlled way to ensure all of the necessary cables, connectors, frame grabbers, cameras, etc. are readily available without too many options to complicate interfacing. The focus has been to utilize input from as much of the market while also managing timelines and risks.
Q. What are some future plans with CoaXPress?
There is continued, planned growth to support faster speeds (soon going to 12.5 Gbps). There is also a well-defined roadmap for more improvements and reduced costs. There have been efforts to increase the numbers of FPGA manufacturers
Right now the most success has been with the 6.25 Gbps (CXP-6) version for those applications needing the fastest speed. The 3.125 Gbps (CXP-3) version includes all of the features but can be the right speed for many applications at a lower cost. We are aggressively promoting the use of the CXP-3 solution for mid-range market space. This will open up even more applications and systems as well as the options for even higher speeds.
Thank you to Zeph Freeman for sharing your experiences on the progress of CoaXPress. We welcome the insights of other industry professionals on any imaging topics. Please contact me (email@example.com) if you would like to share your thoughts.