GAFFA is an internally produced architectural framework which was developed during the design of GBE’s Starman product The aim was to design a general framework with a sufficient degree of flexibility which meant that, with minor modifications, it could be rapidly re-used and adopted in a number of ways to accelerate the development of new electronics products. The core electronic and firmware design is based around Atmel 8 bit ICs, but it can be extended to more powerful processors, as required.

The framework has been developed to enable the rapid development of proof-of-concept prototypes, rather than starting the design from scratch. The basis of this derives from the GAFFA architecture: each channel has a predefined interface, so that each link, port or internal application can be coded and dropped in to a new design as required, before being addressed remotely. The switching module continuously loops all of the channels passing messages between the channels.

The above diagram shows the USB device bridging unit used in the assembly tool. The USB host unit does not include the serial link, the channel is simply not included in the channel configuration. Also note that device management functions are presented as a channel even though they do not drive any electronics. By sending messages to the management channel, other devices can obtain the unit identity, operating state and even query the channel configuration for the unit itself.

The modularity of the channels makes development simpler and faster with the switching ability providing interesting opportunities for proof of concept work. Daisy-chaining Starman together means that they can be clustered in to one bigger virtual unit, with more and multiple interfaces of whatever type required. Although this interim cluster is not likely to be representative of how the target electronics would eventually look in the end product, most of the firmware development for the proof of concept will be appropriate for the eventual target build.

As GBE’s GAFFA framework is versatile and flexible it can be optimised to meet a myriad of electronic design permutations. Utilising in-house reference hardware designs and driver sets improves time to market and reduces overall development costs, meaning quicker more profitable sales.

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