What is the Adapt Modular Prototyping System (AMPS) ?

AMPS comprises a selection of Adapt microcontroller modules, backplanes, prototyping cards, and application cards, all utilizing a standard 50-pin connector footprint.  The first members were Adapt11 and Adapt11C24DX, utilizing the Motorola 68HC11 8-bit microcontrollers popular in the 1980s and ‘90s.  Adapt12 modules were introduced with the advent of 68HC12 MCUs.  Later, the current Adapt9S12 form-factor was implemented, utilizing the latest S12 16-bit microcontrollers from Freescale.  Other microcontrollers will join the AMPS system from time to time.

What makes AMPS unique?

Standardized form-factors, interchangeable microcontroller modules, a wide assortment of application modules, and a variety of standard connector styles enable modules to be arranged in many different topologies, and combined for virtually any purpose:  demo, evaluation, trainer, proof-of-concept prototype, application development, and even end product deployment.  AMPS is being used daily all over the world in colleges and universities for training, research projects, and student design projects.  In numerous commercial enterprises, it is the preferred choice for training, prototyping, product development, automated test equipment implementation and frequently incorporated right into the end product.

In places like Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Whirlpool, NASA, and the University of Texas at Austin, AMPS has been out there for more than ten years, enabling creativity and innovation in the embedded systems community.  Some real applications that use AMPS modules include:  a portable industrial X-ray machine, a veterinary diagnostic imager, an automotive powertrain test & development system, various amateur and industrial robots, a deep-ocean remote data logger, a solar-powered vehicle, an airport radiation detector, and vehicle firmware validation on factory production lines.

How do I start using AMPS?

1) Choose a microcontroller module:

Most are interchangeable, so you may be able to change your mind later, if necessary.  All are currently implemented with Freescale/NXP S12 and S12X 16-bit microcontrollers, and their names start with Adapt9S.  Modules incorporating other microcontrollers are under development.

2) Define your purpose:

Do you need a low-cost demo configuration just to explore working with the microcontroller?  Consider adding a demo card and/or a solderless experimentor (breadboard) card.  The demo card provides LEDs, switches, sensors, LCD connector, logic MOSFETs, and more, so that you can quickly implement some real code and see the results on the bench.

Are you planning to do training in an academic or corporate environment?  Will it be a hands-on learning tool that students will take home and use throughout the course? 
Or will it be permanently installed in a lab as a workstation?  Off-the-shelf or customized solutions are available, to ensure that you have exactly what you need to suit your teaching approach.  A full-fledged trainer/evaluation board, called EVALH1, is a popular choice.  It provides a broad range of hardware features, including LCD, keypad, DIP switch, bargraph LEDs, XBee wireless radio, dual H-bridge motor driver, analog sensors, and much more.  The scalability of AMPS makes it budget-friendly and flexible.

Are you preparing a proof-of-concept prototype to show a customer or to submit with a patent application?  Choose the topology that best fits the application, and combine off-the-shelf cards with hand-built prototyping cards or custom PCBs.  Hardware design templates are available to get you started designing your own custom board, if needed.  Common topologies for AMPS are :  planar, stack, backplane, and tower.

Is it more cost-effective for you to include one or modules in the design of your end product than design and manufacture your own from scratch?  Including a module in your Bill of Materials is especially attractive when you don't wish to get involved with board-level design, debugging, and manufacturing, or you don't wish to implement component-level diagnosis and repair in-house.  Volume discounts are available starting with as little as five units.

3) Select a topology:

Whether it be a flat co-planar arrangement, where all boards are easily accessible and viewable from the top, a compact stack, a backplane, or a tower configuration comprising two backplanes, connector options and accessories are available to implement them. 
All Adapt9S12 microcontroller modules have a primary 50-pin connector footprint (referred to as H1) and a secondary 50-pin connector footprint (called H2).  Most application cards are designed to work with H1, and sometimes two or more cards can be plugged into H1 (via a backplane, for example).  The power and ground pin locatioms are different on H2 from where they are on H1, so it is important not to plug application cards into H2 unless they were specifically designed for H2.  Typically, these will be memory expansion or memory-mappped interface cards, because H2 is where address and data lines typically appear when the MCU is operated in any of the supported expanded modes.
To get a better idea of the connector footprint concept, visit the Google Sketchup renderings of the boards and their possible connector options here, and click on any of the drawings for more detailed views:
Note that, while the drawings show the same connector type on both edges, the connectors can actually be mixed styles on any board.  Note also that some connector styles may incur a cost premium when ordered.  The extra cost, if any, will be displayed in the drop-down connector option selector on the module's web page.
"Low-profile" is another option offered on some MCU cards at Checkout.  This option means that right-angle connectors are used for the power and communication connectors so that an application board can be plugged directly on top without mechanical interference.

4) Use off-the-shelf or custom application cards to suit your needs

Many application cards are already available, such as motor drivers, LCD interface, servo/sensor interface, etc.  A library including the Adapt9S template is available for use with CADsoft’s popular Eagle design program.  Visit our Support Library to download it and start designing your own custom application card.  If designing it yourself is not feasible, contact us for options.  We may be able to put you in touch with a qualified designer to assist you.