Michael Dunn @ edn.com writes:
Whether engineer, hobbyist, or maker, we’ve happily watched as chipmakers and third parties alike have come to their senses in recent years and cooked up a smorgasbord (smorgasboard?) of low-cost microcontroller devboards – in some cases, very low cost, like TI’s $4.30 MSP430 board. More recently, we’ve seen ARM Cortex kits for $10-$50, the flowering of the whole Arduino ecosystem, and of course, the Raspberry Pi, starting at $25. It’s microcontroller heaven.
Those of us wanting a cheap “in” to the FPGA world have been less lucky. But the times, they are a changin’. Many FPGA devkits, from both chipmakers and third parties, have broken – or downright shattered – the $100 barrier, opening the door to low-cost FPGA prototyping, education, hobby projects, and so on.
Follow me as I explore this brave new world of affordable FPGA learning and design. I’ve acquired a representative selection of bargain-priced boards, and will be reviewing each, not just on paper, but by actually creating projects with it.
FPGA boards under $100: Introduction - [Link]
Hydra-X is a development platform which is feature-rich, scalable, and easy to use.
The Hydra-X is based on the Power Application Controller (PAC)™ family of ICs. Hydra-X gives you the ability to execute your own code on a 32-bit ARM Cortex core, paralleled with analog resources such as multi-mode power manager (for AC-DC, DC-DC power management), configurable Analog Front-End (AFE), data converters (1 MHz 10-bit ADC, 2 precision DACs), 52 V, 72 V, 600 V gate drivers, and open drain drivers, to name a few.
With up to 14 PWM timing functions, you will find it hard to run out of timing resources. Fully configurable into PWM, input capture or output compare, these timers are expanded by a dead time generator block; extremely useful when driving external FETs in a half H-Bridge configuration and a dead time needs to be imposed in order to protect the design from shoot-through.
Hydra-X10 and Hydra-X20 by Active-Semi Inc. - [Link]
A quick look-see at a handful of PIC development boards I have collected over the years and what I like about them. IMHO the big winner is the TAUTIC 18F26K22 board. This video is not meant to be a technical review.
A review of a handful of PIC developmnt boards - [Link]
It consists of a power supply, the basic components for running the microcontroller (i.e. crystal, reset pin, …) and ICSP connector for In-Circuit programming. All pins are available on a header strip, so it is ideal for rapid prototyping.
PIC16F/18F Experiment Board - [Link]
Andrew Rossignol has written an article detailing his YALEDD – 16×16 LED display project:
The class was instructed to choose a simple circuit such as an LED flasher or a simple sequential state machine composed of discrete logic, capture the schematic, layout the PCB and have it made by the end of the term. I decided that it would be boring to design a simple state machine. I also thought it might be pretty cool to have an electronic gizmo of my own design to show off on my desk at work.
YALEDD! 16×16 LED display - [Link]
This mini breakout board is designed to simplify prototyping and experimentation work with the popular 18-pin PIC16F series microcontrollers. It is small in size (1.95″ X 0.75″) and is breadboard friendly. It supports PIC16F84A, PIC16F628A, PIC16F88, PIC16F648A, PIC16F1827, PIC16F1847, and other 18-pin microcontrollers in the same series.
Mini breakout board for 18-pin PIC16F series microcontrollers - [Link]
10 Tiny Development Boards That Are Up to the Task @ EE Times.
Not so long ago, the typical development board was big, bulky, and often handmade. Recently a flood of Lilliputian-size development boards has been released — one for just about any need.We’ve assembled a collection of 10 boards so small you might lose them in the cushions of your couch.
10 Tiny Development Boards That Are Up to the Task - [Link]
Sol-X developed the GDB to be the best open source prototyping platform on the market and we intend it to replace the Arduino Uno® as the preferred high-level prototyping environment. It is up to 40x faster, 70% smaller, has integrated high power drivers (capable of handling 100x the current), with more flexible Input / Output configurations, and yet is still much easier to program via 12 Blocks™. Our quick release breakout board (called Ejection Seat™) allows for easy prototyping, yet keeps the GDB form factor small and robust enough to use in space companies’ product releases.
The GDB has been designed to be the first space tolerant open hardware electronic prototyping board, enabling any type of person or company to create space qualified hardware. But while the GDB can help create outer space products, it is not just for space. It’s a powerful and versatile programming board that engineers, artists, designers, and students can use in any project they can imagine. This includes prototypes and first release products involving pressure, light, and Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) sensors, high current motors, servos, LED lighting, and many other human/computer interfaces.
Gravity Development Board:An open source,faster,better prototyping standard - [Link]
CoAction Hero: a powerful proto-board with a 120Mhz processor, 1MB filesystem, and built-in OS for tinkerers and engineers alike.
CoAction Hero is an ARM Cortex-M3 microcontroller board with a built-in operating system (CoActionOS) delivering unprecedented power and ease-of-use to your embedded projects. The embedded operating system includes many of the features you find on the Raspberry Pi (filesystem, multi-process/multi-thread) but with the ease-of-use associated with the Arduino platform. CoActionOS is available free-of-charge under a permissive open source license (Apache 2.0) that encourages both commercial and personal use.
CoAction Hero: 32-bit Open-Source ARM Cortex-M3 Board - [Link]
If you are tired of connecting the same I/O devices every time you prototype a new project then this board could save you a lot of time. All the necessary pins of the devices on the board are accessible through headers that allows easy connection of the board to a breadboard circuit or other development boards (Arduino, etc) using jumper wires.
I/O Experimenter Board (PCB version) - [Link]