FPGAs Just Got Easier

Eclypse Z7 with Zmods

Digilent is introducing an important new product, the Eclypse Z7, featuring a new high-speed I/O expansion scheme compatible with the new SYZYGY standard. The Eclypse Z7 represents just the beginning of a new family of products that will all feature three elements, each key to the Eclypse platform:  

  • a small-form factor host board featuring a Xilinx FPGA or System-on-Chip (SoC) 
  • modular and high-speed expansion using Digilent’s new SYZYGY-compatible Zmod ADC or Zmod DAC 
  • a software framework and development environment that retains the flexibility and performance of the underlying technology yet extends it to a much larger audience of scientists and engineers through high-level API’s and resources to easily get started 

FPGA-based embedded systems are extremely flexible and powerful, but the development process typically requires specialized knowledge and skills in a proprietary development environment. This limits the number of developers capable (and/or willing) to consider these devices in favor of more conventional microprocessor-based systems even though an FPGA might offer a much better solution. One of our aims with the new Eclypse platform is to empower a much wider range of engineers and scientists with the advantages of an FPGA-based embedded system – specifically for systems that employ high-speed analog inputs and/or outputs where real-time signal processing is critical. These requirements are often found in high-growth applications in edge-computing, medical, instrumentation, and communications applications where researchers and engineers are pushing the envelope in speed, resolution, compute power, and portability. Solving these competing requirements is a challenge well suited to the unique capabilities of FPGA-based embedded systems. 

The two major issues that the Eclypse platform overcomes are 1) giving users the ability to match the best I/O for their application in a simple and cost-effective way, and 2) abstracting the complexity of interfacing this specialized I/O to the FPGA and processor resources needed to put that I/O to work. Digilent’s new Zmods (the Zmod DAC and Zmod ADC) make it easy to add the right I/O subsystem in the form of plug-n-play modules, rather than relying on our best guess at a user’s end application. The modules conform to Opal Kelly’s open SYZYGY standard, making it possible for multiple vendors, including silicon suppliers, to put their devices on this form-factor – something we are actively encouraging. Digilent plans to offer many new Zmods in the coming months and years, but we hope to see others join as well. 

Plugging a Zmod or two into a base board is easy and takes only seconds but getting this type of module up and running could take weeks of low-level coding with traditional hardware design workflows. Solving this problem is the job of Digilent’s Eclypse software framework, which provides the FPGA IP and a common hardware abstraction layer – think how a software driver for a printer might work – that exposes a straightforward API to the user. All Digilent supplied Zmods will ship with the required IP to plug into this framework, enabling users to easily swap out modules (perhaps with different ADC speeds/resolutions) while minimizing code updates, dramatically reducing the time to evaluate silicon or develop a prototype.  

Creating high-quality development boards that feature Xilinx FPGAs and SoCs has always been part of our core business. Merging Digilent’s FPGA design experience with our expertise in instrumentation is a new direction and should be exciting news for engineers. The Eclypse platform promises to match the power of the latest FPGA and SoC devices with the latest converter technology, enabling and accelerating many new and exciting applications to solve the world’s greatest engineering challenges.  

4 Comments on “FPGAs Just Got Easier”

  1. The Eclypse Z7 SoC development board looks like a good addition to Digilent’s ZYNQ-based product lineup. I just hope that a PYNQ boot image will be available sooner than later for the board, either developed by Digilent or a PYNQ fan. I’ve been considering making the leap from FPGA designs to SoC for some time, and am appreciating how important it will be to use PYNQ to enable multiple software designs to be developed on the fly with IP in the FPGA fabric to support the numeric algorithms I tend to focus on, or Pmod (and mow Zmod) peripherals.

    So please PYNQ the board when you can! — A fan.

    1. Thanks, Bert! We’ll definitely take your request into consideration 🙂 What do you like most about using PYNQ?

  2. How fast is “high speed” analog signals. Can this board process LIDAR returns every 100 nanoseconds?

    1. It’s definitely possible to get that much data into the chip, it’s a question of whether that’s enough data for your application, and about how much processing you would need to do on the samples. The speed of the current Zmods is 100 MS/s (with even higher speeds likely coming out this year).

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