ALTIUM Limited has announced support for a range of discrete 32-bit ARM-based processors in Altium Designer 6.0, the latest version of its unified electronic product development system.
Altium Designer integrates board- and FPGA-level system development, embedded software development and PCB layout, editing and manufacture within a single, unified application.
The program makes it fast and easy for engineers to develop and debug FPGA-based systems using soft processor cores implemented inside a programmable device using an interactive design methodology called LiveDesign.
Now, with the recent release of Altium Designer 6.0, LiveDesign is extended to the development of systems that use a discrete processor, such as the ARM720T-based Sharp BlueStreak LH79520, connected to an FPGA. This speeds the development of ARM processor systems by allowing engineers to use the programmable resources of an FPGA to extend processor functionality and easily implement system components and logic.
Altium Designer 6.0 includes a full software tool chain for ARM-based processors that supports the ARM7, ARM9, ARM9E and ARM10E processor cores.
The software development tools are based on Altium’s advanced Viper compiler technology, which is used across all processors supported by the Altium Designer system. This provides full C-code compatibility between processors and produces fast, highly optimised object code.
Initial benchmarking indicates that the Viper-based ARM compiler, included as a standard with Altium Designer 6.0, provides performance comparable with leading standalone professional compiler solutions. This gives Altium Designer customers the highest quality ARM code generation capabilities as part of their unified development environment.
At the hardware level, Altium Designer 6.0 includes a special FPGA-based ‘wrapper’ core that allows designers to easily target Sharp’s BlueStreak LH79520 ARM720T-based processor.
The wrapper provides hardware-level design compatibility with Altium Designer’s native cross-device 32-bit soft processor – the TSK3000 and allows designers to easily switch between the TSK3000 and a discrete LH79520 processor with only minimal modification to the hardware design. It allows engineers using the BlueStreak to take advantage of Altium Designer’s range of included FPGA-based peripherals by providing a Wishbone OpenBus connection with the processor and facilitates full source-level code debugging.
The wrapper core also allows the use of Altium Designer’s FPGA-based virtual instruments for interactive hardware debugging - LiveDesign. Similar wrapper cores are included to support the hard PowerPC available with Xilinx Virtex-2 Pro FPGAs, the Xilinx MicroBlaze soft processor, and discrete PowerPC processors.
The LH79520 is the first in a number of ARM-based and other additional processor wrappers that will be introduced into Altium Designer to support the easy targeting of a wide range of third-party processors.