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FPGA-based prototyping boards to fit all your design needs

Posted: 12 May 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Synopsys  processor  FPGA  Xilinx  ASIC 


They say in space no one can hear you scream, and if you are developing a FPGA for a space application, using this development board will stop you from screaming.

Microsemi's RTG4 board features the Radiation Tolerant Pro ASIC 4 FPGA, which was developed for demanding space applications, and comes with a very capable logic fabric, SERDES interfaces and specialised SpaceWire clock recovery circuits.

The board itself features all of the necessary interfaces to enable hardware in the loop testing such as PCIe, GigaBit Ethernet interfaces and of course FMC interfaces allowing you to connect to representative circuits of your final hardware design.

Applications for this board include developing satellite communication processors, mass memory controllers and payload controllers.

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Figure 8: (Source:

Parallella board

The Parallella board is a very interesting board that combines a Xilinx Zynq FPGA along with the Epiphany 16 core coprocessor. This combo makes the credit-card sized board capable of high performance while being power efficient. The Epiphany coprocessor is connected to the Zynq, which acts as the master, where applications are concerned. There is also the FPGA logic side of the Zynq that can be programmed to make the performance even better.

This board also has a number of IO available on the bottom making it able to be mounted as a system on module such as the MicroZed as well as coming with the usual Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI output interfaces.

Coupled with the SDSoC tool from Xilinx, which allows you to partition easily between hardware and software, the Parallella board can prove very capable.

Typical applications include control, instrumentation and SDR.

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Figure 9: (Source:

Arria SoC

One of the latest SoC development kits from Altera, the Arria SoC device combines dual-core ARM A9 processors with flexible FPGA programmable logic.

The Arria SoC development board comes packed with IO Standards from FMC (which is a welcome change from the previous HSMC connectors) to Gigabit Ethernet, plus DDR, SD card slot and QSPI to get your designs up and running.

This device is very similar to the Xilinx Zynq and has many of the same applications such as embedded vision, industrial control, security, SDR and defence applications.

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Figure 10: (Source:

High, mid, or low

I have briefly introduced a number of different FPGA development boards from a range of vendors, which hopefully provides some understanding of the available boards and the devices. Of course, the range of FPGA development boards is wide and choice increases daily.

What is important is understanding your project requirements for your application do you really need a high-end development board or will something mid-range do.

Depending upon the number of units you are intending to produce, many of these development boards could form the core of your implementation. After all, as engineers we should be focusing upon where we can best add value to the design process.

- Adam Taylor

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