MercuryCode Reference Platform from EBV Elektronik Features the Altera Cyclone® III FPGA Family
Poing, Munich -- EBV Elektronik, an Avnet (NYSE:AVT) company, now presents its fifth reference design with the introduction of MercuryCode. The product combines a special board designed for industrial applications with a large number of useful software functions in one bundle. This platform is powered by the Cyclone III FPGA family using the Nios® II soft microprocessor from Altera.
“With its interfaces from Ethernet to CAN, from USB to the touch-screen TFT and from RS-485 to 24V I/Os, the new reference design from EBV Elektronik known as MercuryCode is perfectly equipped,” explains Rudy Van Parijs, vice president, Technical Development from EBV Elektronik. “Thanks to the many design partners who support this board, rapid creation of the user system in an industrial environment is practically pre-programmed.”
“Nowadays, developers often face the problem that a central component, such as a microprocessor or microcontroller, is discontinued shortly after completion of their design,” reports Van Parijs. “Because long-term availability is required in industrial electronics, this presents companies with a real problem. FPGAs from Altera typically remain available for a period of ten years or more. This means that EBV Elektronik has already solved this basic industrial requirement. This is also true of the Nios II microprocessor, since it is implemented as a soft-core in the FPGA.”
All elements that require special drivers (Ethernet, CAN, special UARTs) have been implemented in the Cyclone III FPGA. As a result, the functions are available in the form of VHDL code and therefore cannot be discontinued. Even if production of the FPGA is discontinued when these ten years are up, the VHDL code can be easily migrated into the next generation so that only the hardware has to be redesigned, while the software, which is particularly difficult to develop, can continue being used 1:1.
“Because they enable fast time-to-market and low-cost solutions, Altera’s Cyclone III FPGAs and Nios II embedded processor are being integrated into a growing array of industrial designs,” explains Michael Samuelian, director of Altera’s industrial business unit. “EBV’s MercuryCode reference platform highlights how programmable logic provides a flexible environment to develop industrial systems with options for various industrial Ethernet standards and interfaces, whether MMI or HMI.”
MercuryCode: Graphics, IP security and peripherals in abundance
MercuryCode allows graphic-capable TFT panels to be activated directly by LVDS signals from the FPGA with an XGA resolution (1024 x 768). “We are fully familiar with the price pressure that our industrial customers face,” declares Van Parijs. “For this reason, we deliberately designed the board in such a way that only 256 different colours can be displayed.”
However, the developers are free to select these colours as they please from the colour range of 218 colours. This means that company logos, etc., can be displayed brilliantly and true to life, while the interface with the graphic memory only has to be 16-bits wide. Instead of making the board video-capable, it was more important to integrate a touch-screen controller onto the board.
To permit efficient implementation of this interactive human-machine interface, EBV Elektronik provides direct support as well as a suitable development kit with a touch-sensitive TFT screen and an appropriate inverter as well as a graphic library from Segger. This enables the developers to create a graphic model from which they select the elements that they require via a touch-screen. In this regard, EBV Elektronik makes a considerable time-to-market contribution and, because so much development work went into this board, users can save themselves valuable months of development time. At the same time, the development risk falls significantly because developers can see at a very early stage that their hardware is working properly.
Support and Raffle
The MercuryCode reference design costs €579; an expanded version including a USB-Blaster™ and a Nios II licence costs €725. Interested developers can win a board and receive more information from www.ebv.com/mercurycode.
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