Field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are the defining element of today's high density digital circuits. Presco has been using the Xilinx Logic Cell Arrays since their inception in the mid-1980s, becoming one of the earliest factory supported FPGA design centers in the nation.
Field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are the defining element of today's high density digital circuits. Presco has been using the Xilinx Logic Cell Arrays since their inception in the mid-1980s, becoming one of the earliest factory supported FPGA design centers in the nation. Since that time, FPGA cost per gate has approximated the Moore's Law curve for computers and memories, yielding a 2:1 improvement in cost every two years. Corresponding improvements in density and speed have propelled FPGAs to the forefront of modern design practice, featuring sub-nanosecond gate delays and multi-million gate capacities.
Not Just A Box of Gates
Many of today's circuit designs feature only two substantial component types: memory chips and FPGAs. Consider the features of a Xilinx Virtex chip, the XC2V1000-FG256:
This is a one million gate device in a 17 mm square package. Compared to yesterday's PALs and medium scale logic, the XC2V1000 amounts to a 5000 chip circuit housed in 0.5 square inches of board space. The image just below is a floor plan for a much smaller XCV100 device which has been configured for a video processing algorithm. At only one tenth the size of the XC2V1000, it's still a great deal of circuitry.
The Virtex2 FPGAs support multiple input/output standards including high speed interfaces such as LVDS and differential PECL that can operate at speeds of up to 840 MHz. A flexible digital clock manager (DCM) provides on-board PLLs that lock internal and external clocks to within 150 psec, an essential feature for high speed operation. The DCM can multiply, divide, or phase shift its clocks while maintaining lock to the external time base. Furthermore, these clocks can operate in spread spectrum mode to reduce radiated emissions for FCC compliance. Another interesting resource at the pins of the Virtex2 is a built-in adjustable termination resistor that eliminates the need for most signal termination networks. This removes hundreds of components from the PC card, along with their potential problems of placement, soldering, and reliability.
A Turbocharger for FPGA Development
The image below is from an FPGA die editor, showing the details inside one of the logic blocks. In the earliest days of FPGA technology, entire designs were accomplished directly in the editor, but this quickly became impractical as die size increased. Later designs were implemented using schematics or other picture-based tools.
Today, Presco's FPGA development methodology is based on a hardware descriptor language (VHDL or Verilog) using the latest third party software to insure good die utilization and excellent simulation support. We have an impressive store of intellectual property that can be used to shorten your design cycle, such as an innovative FIFO design that is far superior to others in the industry. Another important aspect is test bench generation. For large FPGAs test benches can consume as much time as the chip design itself, and this often becomes the limiting factor in completing a design. Our proprietary Compiled VHDL Test Bench capability produces a 10X improvement in test bench development time.
Presco, Inc., 8 Lunar Drive, Woodbridge, CT 06525. Tel: 203-397-8722; Fax: 203-389-1129.