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Versatile FPGA/processor development board

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ALTIUM Limited has launched its next-generation NanoBoard-NB2 – a unique FPGA-based development board targeting unified processor/FPGA system design.

Altium’s NanoBoard-NB2 (NB2) provides developers with a highly configurable and extendable hardware platform on which to implement and interactively debug designs targeted to a wide range of processor and FPGA architectures.

The NanoBoard architecture allows engineers to fully exploit the hardware/software co-design capabilities of Altium Designer, a unified electronic product development system that brings together board-level design, FPGA design and embedded software development.

The Altium Designer system allows engineers to take a new approach to system design, seamlessly combining software, processors and FPGA hardware and the embedding of ‘intelligence’ into their applications.

Altium Designer allows developers to easily change processors, retarget designs to different FPGAs and move functionality between software and hardware.

The NB2 features a unique 'plug-in' architecture that supports the swapping of target devices and peripheral sets and has been specifically developed to maximise the benefits of the design freedom allowed by Altium Designer.

It enables engineers to interactively debug both hardware and software and quickly modify the development environment to support the implementation path being explored – a way of development Altium calls LiveDesign.

While Altium Designer supports LiveDesign on all JTAG-enabled development boards, the NB2 makes the process easy because all implementation paths can be examined with a single development platform, significantly speeding development time.

Like its predecessor, Altium’s NanoBoard-NB1 (NB1), the NB2 is FPGA vendor-independent and supports a wide range of swappable target FPGAs on plug-in daughter boards.

The NB2 extends this concept by supporting a range of plug-in peripheral boards to support the widest possible range of system devices, making the NB2 the most configurable development board available for system design.

The NB2 is fully backwards compatible with NB1 daughter boards. The NB2’s new daughter boards will feature a range of discrete processors coupled with FPGA devices to allow embedded software developers to make full use of Altium Designer’s new unified hardware/software C compiler technology with both hard and soft processors.

This new compiler technology allows developers to simultaneously generate both highly-optimised executable code and concurrent hardware for implementation in FPGAs from standard C code.

The technology is used within Altium Designer 6.0 to enable software developers to select functions within their C code for direct and transparent implementation as hardware in an FPGA.

NB2’s support for plug-in daughter boards and peripheral boards provides engineers with a future proofed development system.

As new processors, FPGAs and peripheral devices become available, engineers will not have to switch to a new development system in order to experiment with them, as is the case with fixed, single target development boards.

For complex designs, a sophisticated on-board controller supports the chaining of multiple NanoBoards, allowing the implementation of systems containing multiple programmable devices as well as direct comparison of a design implemented on different target devices.

When a design is downloaded to the NanoBoard, the controller also manages communication between the Altium Designer software and active design elements, such as processors and FPGA-based virtual instruments.

This facilitates unified debug of both software and hardware and allows engineers to take an interactive LiveDesign approach to application development.

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