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Top Applications of FPGAs

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FPGAs are the technology of choice for many high-speed processes such as video processing and cryptography. They do in hardware what a microprocessor does in software, making them hundreds or thousands of times faster. FPGAs are easily programmable according to needs, making them very flexible for use in many different applications.

Let’s quickly discuss what an FPGA is and its top applications.

 

What is an FPGA

What is an FPGA - Voler Systems

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FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) consist of blocks of logic circuits such as logic gates, flip-flops, and memory. The blocks can be interconnected to form almost any kind of circuit. The interconnection is done with code rather than being hardwired.

This gives FPGAs incredible flexibility while being very fast. They can do parallel operations, such as processing a line of video in one clock or just a few clock cycles, where most microprocessors would process each pixel one at a time, requiring several clock cycles for each pixel.

Because they are programmable, the function of the FPGA can be changed in a few seconds. Instead of modifying a printed circuit board, which takes days or weeks, the code can be changed to fix a problem or add a feature. The new code can be loaded onto the FPGA in a few seconds.

FPGAs have revolutionized digital circuit design and embedded systems circuit design with programmable architecture and high density, although they are considerably more expensive than microprocessors. What used to take an entire circuit board can be put on a single chip, even in low volume production.

IP (Intellectual Property) is available for various functions that can be put on the FPGAs, including microprocessors, filters, phase-locked loops, and hundreds of other functions. So you don’t have to create everything with new code. When you have a microprocessor inside an FPGA surrounded by logic elements operating at high speed, you can have the best of both worlds. The microprocessor is very flexible when running code. It can direct the operation of the high-speed logic around it. All of this can be inside one chip, reducing size and increasing speed while being very flexible.

FPGAs require advanced skills and experience to develop them. Voler Systems utilizes diverse FPGA programming tools, including Quartus, ISE, ModelSim, VHDL, and Verilog, to create quality products on time and within budget. Whether you are using an Intel (Altera) Xilinx or other FPGA, Voler Systems can develop the board and the code to make it work effectively.

 

Common Applications of FPGAs

Owing to their capability to work in a parallel fashion, FPGAs offer much higher speeds and can solve complex computation problems, combined with re-programmability. The powerful flexibility of FPGAs is used in the following:

  • Medical equipment. FPGAs are being used in video processing, including the very specialized field of Optical Coherence Tomography, where they build an image from an optical sensor inside a blood vessel. FPGAs are used in x-ray, ultrasound, and other imaging machines to enhance the images they acquire.
  • Automotive. FPGAs in vehicles are used in LiDAR to build images from the laser beam, which provides one pixel at a time. The images are processed in real-time to form video. They are used in autonomous driving to quickly analyze video to detect obstacles or the edge of the road. They are used to improve efficiency and energy consumption, to process high-speed communications within the vehicle, and in security systems where they can encrypt or decrypt messages very quickly.
  • Business and industry. FPGA chips are paving the way for automation and secure technology, helping business owners and factories combat security risks and threats while enabling the growth of workplace automation. They are also used to analyze stock transactions in milliseconds for automated trading in securities.
  • Communication systems. FPGAs are extensively used in communication systems to enhance network capacity, coverage, and overall quality of service while reducing delays and latency, especially with data manipulation. Companies use FPGA extensively in server or cloud applications. FPGAs are also used in Software Defined Radios. The RF waveform is generated directly in the FPGA instead of using a modulator.
  • Defense Department. FPGAs are also utilized in the defense department for boosted security, cyber or otherwise, and amplified automation in vehicles and weapons.

TYPES OF FPGAs

 

Low-End FPGAs

Designed for low power consumption, low logic density, low complexity per chip, and low cost. Examples include:

  • Spartan family from Xilinx
  • Cyclone family from Intel
  • Mach XO/ICE40 from Lattice Semiconductor
  • Fusion Family from Microsemi.

Mid-Range FPGAs

Designed for an optimum solution between the low-end and high-end FPGAs, balancing performance and cost. Examples include:

  • Arria from Intel
  • Artix-7/Kintex-7 series from Xilinx
  • IGL002 from Microsemi
  • ECP3 and ECP5 series from Lattice semiconductor

High-End FPGAs

Designed for logic density and high performance. Examples include:

  • Stratix family from Intel
  • Virtex family from Xilinx
  • Speedster 22i family from Achronix
  • ProASIC3 family from Microsemi

 

Previous FPGA Voler projects

 

Custom PCI Card

Custom PCI Card - Voler Systems

A company that makes equipment for the television broadcast industry needed to meet RoHS requirements for lead and other toxic materials on their existing circuit. At the same time, they wanted to take advantage of new technology to add more capability. Voler was selected to develop a card that provides 16 serial ports and plugs into the PCI bus of a PC. The FPGA provided the complete bus interface and avoided the need to modify any software in the system. Read more.

 

Board with FPGA

Board with FPGA - Voler Systems

This FPGA crams a very large amount of circuitry into a single chip, keeping this dense board small. Voler designed this board as part of a night vision camera. The FPGA combines infrared and visible images, overlaying them to provide a better image in a wearable device for soldiers.

EndNote

FPGAs offer a wide variety of uses. They can become any digital circuit, so long as there are enough logic blocks in a unit to implement that circuit. FPGAs can provide powerful and flexible computing solutions at a relatively lower cost and in a very small space.

Highly Successful Engineering Design Projects

About Voler

Located in Silicon Valley and with more than 40 years of electronic design experience, Voler Systems continues to be a leading custom product design consulting company providing highly experienced electrical engineers and firmware developers. Voler Systems ensures delivery of quality products, on time, on budget, and with low risk. All projects are undertaken with good specifications, the right people, quality design, constant communication, and a smooth transfer to manufacturing.

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