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ALTIUM has released LiveDesign Evaluation Kits that include a versatile, low-cost evaluation board with the choice of either an Altera Cyclone or Xilinx Spartan-3 FPGA device.

The kits allow engineers and designers to evaluate Altium's DXP 2004 product range and fully experience the benefits of LiveDesign, a 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. It uses them as a reconfigurable implementation platform for digital circuitry during system development. This enables a live and interactive development and testing of electronics systems inside a programmable hardware design space.

In conventional electronics system design flows hardware must be frozen early so that prototypes can be manufactured to provide a platform for software development and testing. LiveDesign provides an iterative design-implementation-debug process that allows 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 using FPGA-based virtual instruments.

The LiveDesign Evaluation Kits combine a software evaluation license 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 over 10 reference designs featuring the range of included processor cores that show how to get a simple processor-based design running on the board.

If customers wish to purchase any of Altium's LiveDesign-enabled design systems after using the evaluation kit, they have the option to purchase Altium's NanoBoard. This is a LiveDesign development board that provides an expanded range of peripherals from those found on the evaluation board. It houses the target FPGA device on swappable daughter boards to enable easy retargeting of the design to a 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. Multiple NanoBoards can be chained together to support the development of systems with multiple FPGA devices.

The development board supplied with the LiveDesign evaluation kits can be specified with either an Altera Cyclone or Xilinx Spartan-3 FPGA. It has a range of onboard peripherals and connectors.

The LiveDesign evaluation board comes with either the EP1C12F324C8 or XC3S400-4FG456C onboard FPGA Device. It comes with dual 256Kx16 BIT, FPGA-configurable, high-speed, static RAM, Delta Sigma stereo DAC with user-adjustable corner frequency and dual miniature speakers with volume control. It also has an audio line out and 2.5mm headphone jacks with volume control, a six-digit, seven-segment LED display and a fixed 50mHz clock. It has an RS232 serial port, a VGA port, a PS2 Mini DIN mouse port, a PS2 mini-DIN PC keyboard port, an eight-way DIP switch, an LED array, eight LEDs, dual 20-pin I/O expansion headers with power supply selection links and a user-defined test/reset button

The evaluation board connects to the user's PC via the parallel port. Pin configuration on the parallel port conforms to the relevant FPGA vendor's standards for the target FPGA. 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.

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