Saturday, August 15, 2009

FPGAs are taking over!

From the moment I knew and learned about FPGAs (Xilinx) I looked forward to use them to replace large logic circuits. This way the system would be not only scallable and the logic programmable but costs should be reduced too.
Unfortunately, most of the times the FPGA alternative was much more expensive than the equivalent logic circuit implemented with separate logic ICs.
Finally the day came and I got the chance to build a board with an ARM7 core + Spartan3A FPGA. Total price was reduced and the system became fully programmable. The ARM7 chip (LPC23xx) configures the FPGA on startup which happens to be really fast (52kib for XC3S50A). The microcontroller and FPGA are connected through a parallel bus with many control lines.
The XC3S50A is optimal in the sense that it only requires 3.3V and 1.2V supplies so it can be directly connected to the microcontroller pins.

Here there are some pictures: