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  1. #1
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    Want to Build a Low-Cost FPGA Development Kit for Academic Purposes

    Iīve read a closed topic called Want to make a FPGA board. It was an interesting discussion.

    I am also interested to develop a low-cost FPGA development board but some of its features are distinct from the one purposed on the closed topic.

    Why I am interested to build a low-cost development kit if it is easy to by several kits under US$ 75? Importation taxes. The final price is inacceptable for some students.

    Canīt my institution buy a set of development kits for the students? Yes, but we are facing hard time in terms of the government finnancial support. Probably such times will last more a few years. As a solution, we are requesting for the students to buy their own development kits. For ARM-microcontrollers it is very easy to find, but for local, stable, several-bug-free, development kits FPGAs, I didnīt find any one.

    There are three target audiences.
    The first one is for digital electronics first contact students (combinational, sequential & FSM). Push-buttons, leds, sliding-switches, and four seven-segment displays are enough for the practices, IMHO. Obviously for this case and the following ones, an usb-jtag interface is needed to download the bitstream.
    The second one is for intermediate students (ULA & memory-based, discrete CPU based-systems). A bank-memory is also needed to implement these basic systems. I am alson thinking about a LCD, but I will try to avoid it to mantain a low-cost goal.
    And the third one is for (what I call) advanced students: FPGA-based acceleration reconfigurable systems. Such systems are composed of: usb interface for data exchange; soft processor (Nios, MicroBlaze, etc) to process the send/reception of data; and a reconfigurable VHDL-based reconfigurable data specific to accelerate some application; and the already mentioned.

    We already have a BGA welding machine at our institution.

    Considering my goal, I kindly request some comments about you, guys. Advices, references, links, tools, etc.

    Regards

    •   Alt13th September 2017, 21:22

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  2. #2
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    Re: Want to Build a Low-Cost FPGA Development Kit for Academic Purposes

    Where on this planet are you?
    Depending upon country/location, there could be export restriction on some chip hardware, so it wouldn't make sense to recommend some newer parts that are not shippable to your location.

    You have a BGA "welder" - I am assuming this is thermal reflow oven, or hot air/UV rework station? Would you have the ability to assemble all the other tiny SMT parts and through-hole parts in your university lab, or do you have a local contract electronics manufacturer who can do it? Some of these parts are not good to be learning basic BGA soldering on unless you have money to spend on "goof ups". This is another area where having expert assembly shops or purchasing prebuilt assemblies can save alot of time, money, and frustration (why is this not working at 50 MHz? I *thought* I had all decoupling caps soldered on, but...).

    Some manufacturers used to provide educational discounts (big discounts, too) on demonstration boards and the software. I think that some still do this. Have you prior experiences with any particular vendor (Altera, Xilinx, others?) that you already know some of the tools/IDE and how to use?



    •   Alt13th September 2017, 22:07

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  3. #3
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    Re: Want to Build a Low-Cost FPGA Development Kit for Academic Purposes

    Not sure what are PCB fabrication prices in your country but it will be quite difficult to beat price of sets like Terasic DE0-nano which is about Ģ67 (with SDRAM, ADC, 3-axis accelerometer and built-in programmer).



    •   Alt14th September 2017, 09:19

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  4. #4
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    Re: Want to Build a Low-Cost FPGA Development Kit for Academic Purposes

    Thank you guys for your feedback, but I am also interested to hold the current know-how in this area.

    So, even if the final cost of an academic board become higher than another external one, such work would be useful for my group. I will describe one issue about burocracy that I will have to deal: it is very easy to build components, contract some external services (e.g., SMD welding), etc, but it is very dificult to buy a product, regardless the prices involved. Sad but true. And writing this comment I will expect that we can finish this question regarding why I am interested in develop my board.

    So, if you or other people are interested in proceed in this direction - how to build a development kit - your contributions will be very useful.

    Regards

    - - - Updated - - -

    correction: "... it is very easy to to build components..." to "... it is very easy to buy components..."



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