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The Hidden Mystery Behind Xilinx Extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards

The Xilinx boards are a magnificent piece of hardware from Xilinx designed for the latest FPGA technology. They are a multipurpose board that meets the ever-changing needs of FPGA users. It comprises two different models, the extended Spartan 3A and extended Spartan 3AN.

The electronics industry is moving fast towards the chip-to-chip connection using FPGA technology. The Xilinx boards provide access to both the onboard and expansion ports for easy integration with other chips. The boards have a serial flash memory for the nonvolatile storage of data. Additionally, it also has a flash memory operating in SPI mode that is accessible from the onboard USB port. The boards support the standard and extended Xilinx configuration programs and data files for different FPGA chips.

The boards support a wide range of FPGA architectures. For instance, 20,000 physical logic cells (10Mbit) – 4k x 16 general-purpose logic (gpl) cells – 10k x 32 gpl cells (2x16k bit).

Extended Spartan 3A

The Xilinx boards are perfect for the lowest power, maximum performance FPGA. They provide a fast and flexible interface for all types of applications. The Spartan 3A is ideal for designing custom FPGA chips in small and medium-sized. We can configure them either standard or extended during the hardware setup. As a result, most people use it in instrumentation and control applications. For instance, digital oscilloscopes, multifunction I/O test equipment, or high-performance computing platforms.

The Spartan 3A is for users who want the simplest and most cost-effective FPGA from Xilinx. It has 12 digital input/output pins. The Spartan 3A is ideal for programming the FPGA chips in an embedded design.

The Spartan 3A has two onboard antennas that we can use in wireless communication systems like Bluetooth, ZigBee, and Wi-Fi (802.11).

Extended Spartan 3AN

The Xilinx boards extend the capabilities of the Spartan 3A to include one more memory configuration. An extended memory configuration.

The extended memory comprises four zones with configured-on-board flash, SPI, and Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) memories. The Spartan 3A’s onboard flash memory has a capacity of 4k x 16 bits with a fast cycle time of 2ns. So, the SPI flash has a capacity of 32k x 16 bits with a fast cycle time of 2ns. The onboard flash is essential in storing configuration data for standard memory configurations. The onboard flash is also accessible from the host computer USB port for programming purposes.

The extended memory is also accessible from the host computer USB port for programming purposes. The SPI flash is essential in storing configuration data for the extended memory configurations. We also use the SPI flash as nonvolatile storage and can reprogram it using Xilinx’s software for configuration and data updates. The SPI integrated into the Spartan 3A can communicate with off-chip memory or other devices over various applications. For instance, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and mobile devices, phone handsets, etc.

History of the Xilinx Extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards

xilinx-spartan-6-fpga-tutorial
xilinx-spartan-6-fpga-tutorial

The Xilinx is an American-based multinational company that is one of the largest suppliers of FPGA and software for technology globally, with more than $1billion. It has been in operation for over 40 years, and its market capitalization exceeds $9 billion.

Ross Freeman founded the company in October 1983, along with Bernard Vonderschmitt, formed Xilinx Inc. The corporation’s headquarters are in San Jose, California. The company was formerly known as MOS Technology Inc. up until their name changed to Xilinx in 1998. The Xilinx boards are available at a nominal cost from several distributors, including Digi-Key.

It is almost certain that the boards are available to the public domain through resellers. Still, there are no technical specifications or files found anywhere on the Internet for these devices. People widely use boards in many industries. For example, aerospace and defense, automotive and transportation, energy, and natural resources. The company is constantly competing with Altera Corporation in the FPGA industry.

We can use the Xilinx boards to program an FPGA chip in a variety of configurations. The boards provide the easy programming of the FPGAs via a USB cable. Additionally, the board has serial flash memory for the nonvolatile storage of data. Top users of these boards include RayMing PCB and Assembly.

Features

Xilinx FPGA boards are available in a wide range of configurations. The latest addition to the Xilinx family is the Spartan-6, which offers 12 digital input/output pins. As a result, the board has two onboard antennas that we can use for wireless communication applications like Bluetooth, ZigBee, or Wi-Fi (802.11). Common features include:

On-Board Flash Memory:

The onboard flash memory helps in storing the configuration settings for the FPGA board. This storage function helps set up the FPGA board at different locations. It helps maintain the continuity of much data when plugging another unit into a system. The Spartan-3A’s onboard flash memory has a capacity of 4k x 16 bits with a fast cycle time of 2ns. The SPI flash has a capacity of 32k x 16 bits with a fast cycle time of 2ns.

On-Board Antennas:

We can use the two onboard antennas with the FPGA boards for wireless communication applications like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or ZigBee.

Xilinx is one of the major players in the FPGA industry. It makes it possible to have all their products available at a nominal cost from numerous distributors, including Digi-Key.

Clock Sources:

The Spartan-3AN board has a clock source that we can use with the FPGA for synchronizing with another hardware or software program. The FPGA has a clock input and output, which is very important in the operation of many applications. The Spartan-3AN board has a Real-Time Clock (RTC) to help maintain the system’s time and date. This helps in synchronizing the FPGA with another hardware or software program.

Programmable Logic:

FULL PCB MANUFACTURING Quote

The programmable logic blocks can install complex functions using the hardware description language. The programmable array logic and the programmable logic devices perform complex logical operations. These two types of circuits are also known as field-programmable gate arrays. They help customize the circuit function.

Character LCD Screen:

The LCD screen is a very useful tool for a technician to use. We can use it to verify the programmed design and provide a visual representation of the FPGA data. The LCD screen has a specific band that we can be program using the software. The user can display various configuration settings, clock values, fault values, and other information.

Network Interface:

The Spartan-3AN board has an onboard network interface to help connect with other network devices such as personal computers or servers. We can connect the board to a network using a 10/100 Mbit Ethernet LAN interface, commonly used for networking.

USB Interface:

The Xilinx board has an onboard USB interface that makes it easy to connect with other peripheral devices using USB cables. We can use these cables for synchronizing data between two devices. This feature is convenient for transferring data between the flash memory and the computer’s hard drive or vice versa.

Power Source:

The Spartan-3AN board uses a 7 V to 16 V power supply system. It makes it adhere to all electronic test equipment (ETE) and can power up/down and loading/unloading memories.

VGA Display Port:

The Xilinx board has a VGA display port connected to the host computer using the video adapter. The video port is an interface that connects to the VGA display. It does it through technical standards for digital data transfer, such as DVI, HDMI, DVI-D, and others.

Dual UART:

The Xilinx board also has a dual UART with two channels, which can communicate with the host computer using serial port communication. The UART is an interface that we can use for asynchronous data transfer from one device to another. For instance, from the computer to the Xilinx board or vice versa.

Xilinx Extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards design

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA boards design makes it easy to create a custom design. The user can use the embedded Logic Analyzer, and the onboard debug probe to find out why their design is not working as desired.

The Xilinx FPGA board comes with a Spartan-3AN FPGA, which one can reprogram using a computer and Vivado Design Suite software. The user needs to use the programming software to connect with the Spartan-3AN board through a USB cable.

The Spartan-3AN FPGA has more than 1,000 digital and analog inputs and outputs. There is also a VGA display port and an onboard network interface, connecting with other servers or personal computers. We can use the onboard flash memory of the Xilinx board for storing data of more than 1MB. The Spartan-3AN board also has a PAL and a PLD to implement complex functions in the digital world.

Benefits

Xilinx-Spartan-7-FPGA

Some of the advantages of using the Xilinx Extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards include:

1. Performance

The Xilinx Extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGAs provide high performance, which we can enhance using a clock source. The FPGA has a clock input and output, which is very important in the operation of many applications. These boards have a fast cycle time of 2ns. Compared with the Spartan-3A, this board has eight digital inputs/outputs and six programmable logic blocks. The user can implement complex functionality using hardware description languages (HDL).

2. Customizable designs

We can customize the Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA boards using the hardware description language to fit the user’s design criteria. The user can create complex designs using this board, which we can then implement into their system. All the standard elements present in a Spartan-3A/AN FPGA are also present in this board. These include flip-flops, D-type latches, and a DSP48E1 processor. The flip-flops can create stable circuits, while we use the D-type latches to store multiple data bits. The user can also create more complex designs with the help of loopback paths, which are present in these boards.

3. Cheap

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards are very cost-effective. It makes them easy to obtain and implement in commercial applications. The user can get several boards cut for a fraction of their cost without compromising on the performance. The extended Spartan-3A/AN boards are also reprogrammable, making it possible to use the same boards multiple times.

4. Support for older Spartan FPGAs

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards support an older Spartan family of FPGAs as well. This makes them cost-effective for users who may not wish to change their boards manually, even if their FPGAs require upgrades. The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA boards can upgrade older Spartan FPGAs and make them compatible with newer features.

5. Expanding the functionality of the board

We can expand the Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards with more digital inputs and outputs. It expands the functionality of the current board. One makes this possible using IC sockets on these boards. The user can create an entire system of their own with the help of these boards.

6. Multiple options for programming

We can program the extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA boards using several preferred options: USB, Ethernet, and clock lines. The onboard flash memory makes it possible to store data that we can retrieve at any time using any of these options. This offers the user great flexibility when deploying their designs into real systems.

7. Availability of FPGA design software

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA boards come with several pieces of software that we can use for programming the user’s designs. These include Xilinx ISE, the industry standard for HDL programmers, and development systems for different programming languages such as VHDL and Verilog.

8. Low power consumption

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards provide low power consumption compared to the usual FPGAs. We can attribute the low power consumption of these boards to their architecture. It does not perform as many operations as other boards. This makes them ideal for places where there is a problem with excess heat and noise, such as factories and data center environments.

9. Education

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards are excellent for educational institutions. Especially for students learning about FPGAs. We can use these boards to create exciting designs that the user may deploy in the future. The user can also learn more about HDLs. It will increase their knowledge of hardware-oriented programming languages.

Limitation of Xilinx Extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards have several limitations as well:

1. Compliant with ISO 26262

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards only comply with the ISO 26262 specification. This means that we cannot use them in disaster and industrial systems. The user will also need to ensure that they mount the board safely, verified beforehand before deployment.

2. Low-quality I/O pads

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards use low-quality pad patterns. It is incompatible with specific operating environments. The pads can short circuit, which can cause severe damage to the board and the system.

3. High power consumption

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards have a high-power consumption of 300 mW. It makes them unsuitable for use in areas with strict environmental conditions. The high-power consumption can cause the board to overheat, which is a risk in industrial areas.

4. Low quality Printed Circuit Board (PCB)

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards have a low-quality PCB. It can cause problems with the board’s stability and reliability. The user should not use these boards for critical applications in applications that require high reliability and stability. This is especially true when we use it in industrial environments where there are strict environmental conditions.

5. USB output power

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards have a limited amount of power on the USB port, which can cause problems with the user’s application. The user should use a separate research power supply for their designs, as drawing enough current from USB ports may not be possible.

6. Cannot reprogram

You cannot reprogram the Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards with specific programming languages. It limits users’ ability to modify their designs. The user should look for a board that supports whichever programming language they prefer.

7. Incompatible with LVDS

The extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA boards are incompatible with LVDS. It makes them challenging to use in some industrial applications. The user should look for boards that support LVDS to avoid such problems.

8. Low throughput

The extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA boards have low throughput. It makes them less suitable for industrial applications. The user should look for boards that support higher Throughputs. It ensures compatibility with the application’s hardware interfaces.

9. Low efficiency

The extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA boards are inefficient compared to other FPGAs. It is an issue for industrial applications where power is expensive. The user should look for boards that run on a lower power supply to avoid spending excess money on power at the end of their designs.

10. Incompatible with other FPGAs

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards are not compatible with other FPGAs from Xilinx. It is an issue when the user needs to use different types of boards for their designs.

Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards applications

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xilinx-spartan-7-fpga

We use FPGA boards in various systems. Some of the applications include

1. Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs)

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA boards can design Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) for digital systems. These boards can develop PCBs for consumer products, such as memory cards, cell phones, and video game consoles. The boards are also suitable for use in military applications since they are compliant with several safety certifications. They are also ideal for use in industrial environments, especially in systems that require low noise and high reliability.

2. Smart grid

We can use the extended Spartan-3A FPGA boards to develop smart grids for managing energy consumption. These boards are ideal for use in these systems because they have a high speed of processing data. It allows them to collect real-time information on the consumption and distribution of energy. This makes them more efficient than traditional systems. It cannot process this information simultaneously due to limited computing power.

3. Security

We can use the extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA boards to design security systems. Additionally, we can use these boards for energy management, smart cards, and biometrics applications. The user can use this board to create encryption algorithms resistant to attacks. It establishes secure systems that prevent unauthorized access. This makes them ideal for military, intelligence agencies, and government networks. It requires high security in its operations.

4. Industrial Control System (ICS)

The extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA boards can manage industrial and process control systems. We can use these boards to manage and control internal processes, such as material transport and storage. This makes them ideal for use in the food and beverage, medicine, and oil industries. It requires secure and reliable processes to ensure optimum production output.

5. Wireless networks

We can use the Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA boards to create wireless networks. Additionally, we can use these boards to develop mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers. The user can use this board to create 802.11 wireless networking systems. It is ideal for use in areas requiring high-speed data transmissions, such as vehicle dashboards and Wi-Fi access points.

6. Automotive

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA boards can create automotive systems. We can use these boards to design infotainment units for vehicle dashboards and systems that control the vehicle’s fuel supply and airbags. The user can also use this board to create a diagnostic tool to read a car’s ECU data. It helps prevent breakdowns and other problems that arise during a car’s operation.

7. Real-time systems

The extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA boards can create real-time systems. We can use these boards to develop embedded processors. For example, smart digital watches and calculators, and guided-missile tracking devices, and other applications that require real-time processing.

Tools and software packages written specifically to use with these boards:

1. Nios II

We can program the Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards using Nios II, a soft processor for embedded systems. We can use Nios II to develop compact and reliable motor control systems and power distribution units with high system integration.

2. LabVIEW

LabVIEW is a graphical programming language developed by National Instruments Corporation. This software allows the user to create programs that control various hardware devices. It includes signal processing devices and robotics controllers. The user can use LabVIEW to create systems for controlling processes in industries such as oil and gas and systems for testing engines and other components.

3. MATLAB

MATLAB is a high-level programming language developed by MathWorks. This software allows the user to develop control, simulation, and data analysis programs that are easy to modify. Moreover, we can use MATLAB for various purposes, including creating control room displays, real-time processing systems for wireless networks, and automation of production processes in industries such as oil refining.

4. AVR Studio/GCC

We can program the extended Spartan-3A FPGA Boards using AVR Studio, which Atmel Corporation developed specifically to program embedded devices. Since this is an open-source compiler, the user can use the tool for compiling C programs for different programming types of components and systems running on different operating systems. So, the user can use this tool to create low-power microcontrollers for motor control systems and PWM generators for wireless technology.

5. MCS Software

We can program the Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards using MCS Software. Xilinx developed it in collaboration with Mentor Graphics Corporation. This software allows the user to develop software for creating processors that run on specific hardware devices. The user can use this software to create low-power controller systems embedded in water meters, turnstiles, and high-performance microcontrollers that run high-end robotics systems.

Xilinx Extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards

Common specifications include:

  • Made In Japan
  • Non-use of 6 Restricted substances of RoHS directive
  • Tested all I/O
  • Credit-Card-Size 3.386″x 2.126″ (86 x 54 mm)
  • High-quality six layers PCB. (Immersion gold)
  • 3.3 V single power supply operation with onboard 1.2 V regulators
  • JTAG buffer for stable download or debug
  • JTAG port (7 pin socket)
  • Power-on reset IC
  • FRAM 256 kbit (32 k x 8) (Ramtron FM18L08-70-SG)
  • Two Status LEDs (Power, Done)
  • One User LEDs
  • 50 MHz Oscillator or External (50 ppm) (You can have a pad for an optional oscillator situated on side of the solder.)
  • One Push-Button User Switch
  • 100 I/O PAD 100 mil (2.54 mm) grid
  • Configuration Device (ST SPI-ROM M25P16-VMF)

[XCM-014] Xilinx Spartan-3A FTG256 FPGA board

· XC3S1400A: 8 DCMs, 32 Multipliers, 576 K Total Block RAM Bits, 100 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 161 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 176 K Maximum Distributed RAM Bits, 25,344 Logic Cells, and 1400 K System Gates

· XC3S700A: 8 DCMs, 20 Multipliers, 360 K Total Block RAM Bits, 100 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 161 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 92 K Maximum Distributed RAM Bits, 13,248 Logic Cells, and 700 K System Gates

· XC3S400A: 4 DCMs, 20 Multipliers, 360 K Total Block RAM Bits, 100 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 195 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 56 K Maximum Distributed RAM Bits, 8,064 Logic Cells, and 400 K System Gates

[XCM-304] Xilinx Spartan-3A VQG100 FPGA board

· XC3S200A: 4 DCMs, 16 Multipliers, 288 K Total Block RAM Bits, 48 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 68 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 28 K Maximum Distributed RAM Bits, 4,032 Logic Cells, and 200 K System Gates

Conclusion

The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards provide the user with a power-efficient and cost-effective option for implementing their designs in real systems. These boards are straightforward to use, making them ideal for learners and professionals alike. The user can deploy their designs once and then implement them several times using the same boards using different programming languages. The Xilinx extended Spartan-3A/AN FPGA Boards also provide low power consumption due to their architecture.