Kits show off live approach to electronics design

An Altium product story
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Edited by the Electronicstalk editorial team Oct 11, 2004

New LiveDesign evaluation kits include a versatile, low-cost evaluation board with the choice of either an Altera Cyclone or Xilinx Spartan-3 FPGA device.

New LiveDesign evaluation kits include a versatile, low-cost evaluation board with the choice of either an Altera Cyclone or Xilinx Spartan-3 FPGA device.

These affordable evaluation kits enable engineers and designers to evaluate Altium's latest DXP 2004 product range and fully experience the benefits of LiveDesign, a unique new digital systems design methodology, in its Nexar and Protel design systems.

LiveDesign takes advantage of the availability of low-cost, high-capacity, high-performance FPGAs, and uses them as a reconfigurable implementation platform for digital circuitry during system development; effectively using them as a nano-level breadboard.

This enables a "live" and interactive development and testing of electronics systems inside a programmable hardware design space.

In conventional electronics system design flows, where hardware must be frozen early so that prototypes can be manufactured to provide a platform for software development and testing.

LiveDesign, on the other hand, provides an iterative "design-implementation-debug" process that facilitates interactive hardware/software codesign and uses an FPGA as the development and implementation platform.

The reprogrammability of the development platform removes the need for system-level simulation and minimises multiple prototype spins.

During development the circuit can be probed, analysed and debugged interactively using FPGA-based virtual instruments.

LiveDesign allows developers to work at a level of abstraction and interactivity not previously possible, and Altium believes that it will have a profound impact on the way future products are designed.

"Because LiveDesign is a new approach to electronics engineering that we believe is important to the future of electronics design, we want to make it as easy as possible for engineers and designers to see for themselves how time-efficient it is to develop and verify complex embedded system-on-FPGA applications in an interactive and real-time design environment", said Nick Martin, founder and Joint CEO, Altium.

The LiveDesign evaluation kits combine a software evaluation licence of Altium's Unified Nexar-Protel 2004 system, which includes a complete range of PCB and FPGA hardware design tools, integrated software development tools, ready-to-use FPGA-based components and processor cores and virtual instrumentation, with a versatile, low-cost, FPGA-based LiveDesign evaluation development board plus cabling and accessories.

The kits also come with an extensive range of tutorial and support documentation to ensure an easy and productive evaluation of Altium's design software and to allow users to experience the benefits of the LiveDesign process.

There are more than 10 reference designs featuring the range of included processor cores that show how to get a simple processor-based design running on the board.

When customers are ready to purchase any of Altium's LiveDesign-enabled design systems after using the evaluation kit, they have the option to purchase Altium's NanoBoard - a fully-featured, LiveDesign development board that provides an expanded range of peripherals from those found on the evaluation board, and houses the target FPGA device on swappable daughterboards to enable easy retargeting of the design to a wide range of supported devices from multiple FPGA vendors.

The NanoBoard also provides the ability to connect into the system FPGA-based user boards or final production board, allowing the LiveDesign process to be extended to the target PCB.

Also, multiple NanoBoards can be chained together to support the development of systems with multiple FPGA devices.

"The availability and affordability of these evaluation kits makes it easy for all engineers to discover the benefits of LiveDesign and gain a sense of the power that the full Unified Nexar-Protel system can bring to their designs", said Martin.

The development board supplied with the LiveDesign evaluation kits can be specified with either a high-capacity Altera Cyclone or Xilinx Spartan-3 FPGA, and features a wide range of on-board peripherals and connectors to provide a versatile development platform.

The evaluation board connects to the user's PC via the parallel port to interact "live" with the software.

Pin configuration on the parallel port conforms to the relevant FPGA vendor's standards for the target FPGA.

This means that after the software evaluation period has expired, the evaluation board can be used directly with the FPGA vendor tools as a standard development board, independent of the Altium design software.

Altium's LiveDesign evaluation kits are priced at Eur 99 and include the Unified Nexar-Protel 2004 software evaluation licence and a LiveDesign evaluation board with the choice of either the Altera Cyclone EP1C12F324C8 or Xilinx Spartan-3 XC3S400-4FG456C FPGA device.

Altium's Unified Nexar-Protel 2004 software is priced at Eur 9995 and the NanoBoard is priced at Eur 995.

The standard NanoBoard package includes two daughterboards: the Xilinx Spartan-IIE daughterboard and the Altera Cyclone daughterboard.

Additional daughterboards such as the Altera Stratix daughterboard and the Xilinx Virtex-II daughterboard are available for purchase at Eur 495 each.

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