Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

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Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby matseng » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:42 am

While waiting for the Kickstarter Bora CPLD trainer to materialize in my mailbox I've started to think a bit about the next stage - having a bit more powerful and feature-rich FPGA trainer board similar to the Bora - maybe without the breadboard. It eats up a lot of expensive pcb area (unless you can mount it hovering a few mm above the board so smd parts can fit under it )

One of the larger and currently popular fpga's that still can be hand soldered seems to be the Spartan-6 LX9 in a TQPF144. In singles it only costs about $17 and seems to have plenty bang for the buck.

bora-cpld-trainer.jpg
The Bora CPLD trainer





There are already nice development boards out there.

For instance the Atlys™ Spartan-6 FPGA Development Board http://www.digilentinc.com/Products/Det ... Prod=ATLYS with plenty of peripherals and i/o connectors for Ethernet, HDMI and whatnot, but at $349 it's a bit on the pricey size.
ATLYS-obl-ColorBG-600.jpg


Or the much cheaper Avnet Spartan-6 LX9 MicroBoard http://www.em.avnet.com/en-us/design/dr ... Board.aspx - cheap at only $89 but isn't a good trainer board since it lacks user interfaces and most peripherals - except for Ethernet and RAM.
Avnet Spartan-6 LX9 MicroBoard.jpg
AVNET LX9 Microboard


And then of course the Papilio Pro http://papilio.cc/index.php?n=Papilio.PapilioPro that will be sold by Seeedstudio for $89, but no user interface and virtually anything else except RAM.
PapilioPro.jpg
Papilio Pro
Last edited by matseng on Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby matseng » Thu Dec 13, 2012 2:53 am

So.......

It seems like it isn't totally unreasonable to make decent sized (100x160 mm?) FPGA trainer board with a bunch of buttons/switches/leds and some displays for user interaction and also have some other nice to have i/o like a VGA port, 10/100 Eth, and a USB connector already on the board for the FPGA. Add some other standard stuff like some i2c peripherals as eeprom, temp sensor and whatnot to the board and it might be a nice and capable little FPGA trainer.

All of this with a BOM cost hopefully not more than $50-60-70 or so.

Is there anyone else than myself that would be interested in...

A) Plan & Develop a board like this?
B) Purchase a kit and use a board like this?
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Re: Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby ian » Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:53 am

There's a spartan 6 TQFP 144 basic design in our SVN somewhere I think, feel free to build on that. If you can't find it I'll dig it out.
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Re: Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby tayken » Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:16 am

Here you go: http://code.google.com/p/dangerous-prot ... d%2FXilinx

I have a project in mind, but it is more like a parallel processing board so probably it won't have any buttons or LEDs other than for signalling and configuring.
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Re: Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby bearmos » Thu Dec 13, 2012 11:51 am

matseng, i like the idea and it seems like the platform and feature-set should be useful (bora with more feature-ful interfaces and an FPGA vs CPLD), especially coming in between 50-100 USD.

That being said, I don't (currently) use FPGA's and I personally tend to shy away from boards like these and do things the hard way (unless I'm evaluating a chip for work type stuff, in which case cost usually doesn't matter too much - as long as it's under a few hundred USD). I think I'm in an extremely small minority here though.

I think you'll certainly find some takers if you follow this through - the bora platform is really promising because of the support that's being promised with it (akin to Arduino's plethora of ready-made libs/shields). Unfortunately, this level of supporting code/docs is also what takes up the most amount of time.
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Re: Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby riktw » Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:32 pm

Ebay them, I got this:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Cyclone-NIOS-II ... 3a7c56be49
It has a Altera cyclone II FPGA (avaiable in solderable packages) and contains a USBblaster to program them.

Features are fun, SDRAM, SRAM, Flash, 16*2 LCD, PS2, VGA, IR for remote, SD card, some 7 segments, LED's and buttons.
They got quite some VHDL and Verilog examples on the CD and schematics and stuff too.
Some with chinese comment but hey ;)
Also included are some examples for the softcore CPU NIOS from Altera.

Kinda hard to beat for 80 dollars :)
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Re: Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby andersm » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:41 pm

I like how in some of the pictures the manufacturer's name on the silkscreen is Baixun, and Digiasic (a play on Terasic?) on the rest.
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Re: Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby alanh » Sun Dec 16, 2012 8:20 am

Lattice XP2 Brevia is under $50
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Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby Lgbeno » Wed Dec 19, 2012 4:51 pm

Personally, I'm a big fan of the Terasic DE0 Nano board. It has a pretty large FPGA, a ram, adc and some sensors, LEDs, buttons. It also has the built in byte blaster and all of the power supplies. That would really let you focus on the other value add like more switches and interfaces which could be implemented with a daughter card on the multiple pin headers.
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Re: Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby Thorontir » Thu Dec 20, 2012 5:55 am

bearmos wrote:I think you'll certainly find some takers if you follow this through - the bora platform is really promising because of the support that's being promised with it (akin to Arduino's plethora of ready-made libs/shields). Unfortunately, this level of supporting code/docs is also what takes up the most amount of time.


I think that is the key. I've never used CPLD's or FPGA's (In fact, almost always use 8bit microcontrollers, and few times PIC32), but thought about buying a Bora board because of the info promised (So you have not only the hard but the "lessons" needed to start using these).

If the FPGA board had that kind of added value, I will be in for sure.
Greetings from Spain!
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Re: Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby neslekkim » Tue Jan 01, 2013 10:27 am

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Re: Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby BrianGriffin » Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:14 pm

I would love to see an FPGA and a microcontroller board together, like a PIC32 or an Atmel SAM ones. :)
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Re: Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby ian » Mon Jan 14, 2013 3:51 am

Doesn't Leaf Labs have a ARM + FPGA board that should be out now?
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Re: Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby neslekkim » Mon Jan 14, 2013 3:56 am

Very little information about it, Oak: http://leaflabs.com/devices/#Oak
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Re: Idea for FPGA trainer "deluxe"

Postby robots » Mon Jan 14, 2013 4:18 am

There is some chineese fpga development kit available on ebay:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/261135683246

Comes in different sizes and shapes.
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