The miniSpartan3 is our new, low cost, tiny, FPGA kit. It starts at just $25, and there is a more powerful FPGA chip available for $35.
- The Spartan 3A XC3A50 FPGA ($25), or the Spartan 3A XC3A200 FPGA ($35) from Xilinx.
- An on-board USB JTAG Programmer to power and program your FPGA.
- An on board USB to Serial Interface.
- One HDMI port.
- 41 digital I/O pins.
- A 4-channel analog to digital converter running at 200 KSPS with 8 bit resolution.
- 4 Mbit SPI Flash.
- 32Mhz oscillator.
- 3 LEDs for debugging.
- 2 DIP switches.
miniSpartan3 - [Link]
by Ashish Kumar and Pushek Madaan @ edn.com:
In our modern era, digital logic has become the core of all the electronics circuits either in the form of an FPGA, microcontroller, microprocessor, or discreet logic. Digital systems use many components that must be interconnected to perform the required functions. The vital element for proper operation of such a digital system is a CLOCK signal that enables all these digital components to communicate and establish synchronization between them. Hence, we always need a source to generate this clock signal.
This source comes in the form of an oscillator. Although most of today’s microcontrollers have an integrated RC oscillator, the clock generated by such an internal RC oscillator is typically not good enough to support the precision required for communication with other modules in the system. Thus, an external oscillator is required that can provide a clock signal to the complete system and yet meet all the requirements for precision, signal integrity and stability.
Oscillators: How to generate a precise clock source - [Link]
A few years ago I built a red-only 32 pixels high, 96 pixels wide LED Matrix, and due to all the positive responses I sought out to do it again the year after with a bigger better matrix. I did some research into affordable solutions, and as usual ended up with Chinese vendors. I got my hands on about 10 32×16 RGB LED panels with a 1cm pixel pitch, and a HUB75 connection, quite similar to the ADAFruit 32×16 matrix. ADAFruit had a bunch of information on them, and there are several other places where they’re being used, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I even bought a Digilent Basys 2 FPGA development board, as these boards are apparently best driven by an FPGA, and I was willing to pick that up.
96×48 full-color LED Matrix - [Link]
Lattice Semiconductor has developed two power-saving IP cores intended for use in smartphones and mobile devices. Known as ‘Voice Solution’ the two IPs are: Voice Command supporting hands-free and always-on applications, and Voice Recognition which improves the user experience by enhancing security and reducing false trigger inputs. They essentially act as a processing front-end, allowing the main processor to remain in low power dormant mode until voice commands have been processed and recognized by the Lattice Voice Processor.
Lattice FPGA Voice Processors - [Link]
Trandi blogged about his RC servo and stepper motor project. He writes:
For those interested in reproducing this example:
The board is called “EP2C5 Mini Board” and has a EP2C5T144C8 Cyclone II FPGA on it
I used a standard, 9grams micro RC Servo
I used a 28BYJ-48 stepper motor and it’s driver (you can purchase these as a bundle for very cheap on dealextreme or banggood)
I used the free edition of Quartus II from Altera, version 13.0 SP 1 (be careful, later versions do not support Cyclone II FPGAs anymore)
I created a simple project, pasted all this code as a single module (it would of course be cleaner to separate the RC Servo and stepper control code into independent modules)
made the “Top level entity” in the General configuration page equal to “counter” (the name of my module)
used the Pin Planner to assign the inputs/outputs as follows:
FPGA : RC Servo and Stepper motor control in Verilog - [Link]
by Joel Williams @ joelw.id.au:
I bought Avnet’s $49 Spartan 3A development board but it was discontinued not long afterward – right about the time when I decided I needed a few dozen more. I’ve since done some extensive research (thanks, Google!) to find a comparable thrifty thrill.
When choosing a development board, consider what you get with it and what you want to use it for. FPGAs are ideal for use with high speed peripherals, and in general it is much easier to buy a board that contains the part you want, rather than trying to add one on later (and inevitably giving up and upgrading to a more capable board).
Cheap FPGA Development Boards – What to look for - [Link]
PyroElectro.com proudly presents their new contest:
View the Pyro Propeller Clock POV Project to learn more about the concept Persistence of Vision (POV) – a phenomenon where an afterimage persists for roughly one twenty-fifth of a second on the retina after the stimulus that produced it is removed.
Build an original electronic device demonstrating POV and photograph in action in a darkened environment. You may use any electronic parts desired as long as the POV signals are driven by either an FPGA or CPLD.
Submit your entry to email@example.com with the subject line “PyroElectro POV Contest.” Your entry must contain two photos of the device – one of its components in a well-lit environment and one of it in action in a darkened environment – as well as a circuit diagram and the VHDL code to run the device.
Who Can Build The Best P-O-V Contest - [Link]
National Instruments has introduced an embedded System-on-module (SOM) development board with integrated Linux-based real-time operating system (RTOS).
Processing power in the 2” x 3” SOM comes from a Xilinx Zync-7020 all programmable SOC running a dual core ARM Cortex-A9 at 667 MHz. A built-in low power Artix-7 FPGA offers 160 single-ended I/Os and Its dedicated processor I/O include Gigabit Ethernet USB 2.0 host, USB 2.0 host/device, SDHC, RS232 and Tx/Rx. Power requirements of the SOM are typically 3 to 5 W.
Linux embedded SOM from NI - [Link]
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]
pyroelectro.com just started an online course, An Introduction To FPGA And CPLD, through uReddit.com.
This course is meant to create a pathway into learning about FPGA and CPLD electronics, for people who are scared of the code, tools and general trickery that usually comes with it. A hands-on approach is taken in this course through a combination of lecture and experimentation to teach you about the different features of both the development tools and languages used in the world of FPGA. Additionally, visuals are used throughout lectures like step-by-step schematic building and line-by-line code explanations so that everything gets explained.
An Introduction To FPGA And CPLD - [Link]