Functions and examples of system level modules
Sep 07.2022

The modular system (SOM) provides a unique approach to product development and often fully customized electronic devices that are often included in complex equipment. SOM enables system designers to implement fully customized electronic components, including customized interfaces and dimensions, without the need to design from scratch. Customers can purchase off the shelf SOMs and combine them with custom substrates that are easy to develop.

SoM is usually built on the top of PCB, which can be packaged in a metal housing (according to EMC standards), or exposed and displayed all components. In addition, the SoM always has a way to connect to the external circuit board in the form of pins, edge connectors, or solders.

Functions of system level modules

SoM is not as common as SoC, but as semiconductors approach their physical limits, their role will become increasingly important. SoC is a chip that integrates multiple system components into a single device. However, the SoC still requires external circuitry to enable the device to operate, which may include memory, I/O controllers, and various other support components.

Therefore, using SoC in design will make the design process complex and tedious. Designers need to fully understand how to use SoC correctly, including the function of each pin, the thermal characteristics of SoC, and the pad design. However, SoM creates a module to handle these complexities to produce devices that designers can basically put into circuits.

Like Arduino, SoM pins can be directly connected to any hardware that designers want to use. However, if Arduino is a prototype platform, SoM can be used for the final product with high reliability.

Another major advantage of using SoM is interchangeability. Assuming that the manufacturer of the SoM maintains the overall dimensions of the module, technical improvements can be incorporated into new SoMs, which can easily be interchanged with old units. Therefore, expensive and complex systems can be upgraded without completely changing the underlying hardware.

Module System Example

If we define SoM as a device that allows multiple system functions to be used in the final product and combined into a single PCB, the answer is that system level modules are very common in the industry.

One of the electronic areas where SoM is heavily used is radio communications, especially in the 2.4 GHz band. ESP32-WROOM-32 is an example of SoM, which integrates the microcontroller, TCP/IP stack, radio circuit, radio antenna and memory into a PCB with a metal housing. Although some versions of the module are connected to a board with pins for prototyping, you can purchase the module itself and solder it directly to the PCB in the final product to use it as a Wi Fi adapter or as a separate controller.

The SOM approach has many advantages over starting from scratch. These include cost savings, risk reduction, multiple CPU options, reduced customer design requirements, small footprint, and significant time savings because software developers can use off the shelf hardware with the same processing core as the finished product. If you need any solutions, please contact GRAPHAIN for cooperation.