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Low-cost, $69.97 Arduino-compatible Spartan-6 FPGA board adds Programmable Logic to popular embedded platform

Xilinx Employee
Xilinx Employee
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Hackaday Spartan-6 LX9 Arduino Shield.jpg

 

 

The $69.97 Hackaday Arduino-compatible Spartan-6 FPGA Shield adds “FPGA awesome-ness” to the popular, open-source Arduino embedded platform. The board incorporates a Xilinx Spartan-6 LX9 FPGA in an Arduino Shield form factor. Both the Arduino and the FPGA benefit from this combination. The Arduino can program the SPI Flash configuration memory on the FPGA board and the Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA adds fire-breathing hardware performance to the 8-bit AVR microcontroller on the Arduino board. You can also program the Shield using the on-board JTAG programming pins and you can use the low-cost board without an Arduino if you like.

 

Here’s a quote from the Hackaday page on this Arduino Shield:

 

“Bringing it back around, that’s what this FPGA shield is all about. If you just want to dabble, connect it to your Arduino and use that to program the SPI flash that loads the FPGA. But as you get hooked on FPGA programming -- and you will -- you’re going to want more. At that point it’ll be easy to justify the subsequent purchase of a proper JTAG programmer.

 

As for the chip in question, a Spartan-6 is the real deal. This is what you want to start off with because there’s a lot of room for your own growth. Matt did an excellent job of designing the power rails so that you can hang ever more complex hardware off of the pins (exceeding the current draw limits that come with sourcing from an Arduino’s USB rail).

 

I’m sure you either came in here knowing about FPGA or hit the Googles to figure it out. But hacking on FPGA is good brain work for those who have only tried out embedded thus far. Coding for hardware is pretty easy to get into -- there’s a ton of examples out there already. But it will challenge you to think way more efficiently. Instead of closely controlling a single thread (plus interrupts) you will now purposefully start multiple threads, then simply manage the proper ordering of what comes out the other side to achieve your goals.”

 

Here’s a very professional, 4-minute video about the board with some fascinating perspectives on the design decisions made to create the board by its designer, Matt Berggren:

 

 

 

Check out the Shield board here. More information about the project here.

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