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FPGA cuts embedded computing cost

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:FPGA module? PCI? DSP?

Acromag Inc. has launched new PMC-SLX reconfigurable FPGA modules that feature Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA. The products aim to help embedded system developers who are pressed against time and cost. According to the company, the FPGA modules can save a lot of money but still deliver quality computing for algorithm acceleration and custom logic processing performance.

The Spartan-6 FPGAs have integrated logic, DSP and memory resources that leverage Virtex-6 FPGA platform's architecture and system-level blocks for quicker and smoother system development, the company noted. Acromag adds a high-throughput PCI-X interface, large memory banks and easy access to field I/O signals to deliver a ready-to-use FPGA computing module for advanced signal processing. Typical uses include hardware simulation, in-circuit diagnostics, communications, signal intelligence and image processing. The base price is $2895 with extra memory and extended temperature options available.

"The Spartan-6 FPGA is designed for cost-sensitive applications, but with abundant logic resources and high-speed DSP, it is more than capable for many mil-aero and industrial control functions," said Rowland Demko, Acromag's national sales manager. To optimize system performance and enable cross-platform compatibility, Spartan-6 FPGAs use an efficient dual-register 6-input LUT logic structure, built-in system-level blocks and DSP slices derived from the high-end Virtex-6 architecture. As part of Xilinx's targeted design platform, designers can leverage common design methodologies, development tools, and run-time platforms for greater cost savings and faster time-to-market. Likewise, Acromag's PMC-SLX support software is very similar to their other FPGA design kits to save time, the company added.

FPGA modules

The PMC-SLX reconfigurable FPGA modules feature Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA.

Field I/O interfaces to the FPGA via the rear J4/P4 connector and/or with optional front mezzanine I/O extension modules. Acromag's plug-in AXM mezzanine cards provide additional I/O processing capabilities while 64 I/O or 32 LVDS lines are accessible through the rear connector. Some of the AXM mezzanine I/O cards are available to provide front-end 14bit 105MHz A/D conversions or an interface for CMOS digital I/O, RS-485 differential signals or extra LVDS I/O lines.

All models use the logic-optimized SLX150 version of the Spartan-6 FPGA that provides 147,433 logic cells and 180 DSP slices. Dual-ported SRAM (256k or 1M x 64bit) facilitates high-speed DMA transfers to the bus or CPU. This memory provides direct links from the PCI bus and to the FPGA. A 16MB flash memory enables on-board storage and loading of the FPGA code. The 100MHz 64bit PCI-X interface ensures fast data throughput. PMC-SLX modules can be used in conduction-cooled systems and offer an optional upgrade to extended temperature range parts suitable for -40C to 85C.

Acromag's Engineering Design Kit provides utilities to help users develop custom programs, load VHDL into the FPGA, and establish DMA transfers between the FPGA and the CPU. The kit includes a compiled FPGA file and example VHDL code provided as selectable blocks with examples for the local bus interface, read/writes and change-of-state interrupts to the PCI bus. A JTAG interface allows users to perform on-board VHDL simulation. Further analysis is supported with a ChipScope Pro interface.

For easy integration of the boards with embedded Windows applications, Acromag developed a DLL driver software package for compatibility with Microsoft Visual C++ and Visual Basic. Sample files with 'C' source demonstration programs provide easy-to-use tools to test operation of the module, stated Acromag.

For real time and open source applications, Acromag offers C libraries for VxWorks, Linux and other OS. The libraries provide generic routines (source code included) to handle reads, writes, interrupts and other functions. Demonstration programs enable the developer to try the I/O modules before attaching the routines to the application program. This diagnostic tool can save hours of troubleshooting and debugging, claimed the company. The Linux example programs are available free.





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