Xilinx has announced plans to add to their Targeted Design Platform for industrial applications by extending their offering from the low cost 45nm Spartan-6 FPGAs, to the new 28nm Artix-7 and Zynq-7000 Extensible Processing Platform (EPP). Yvonne Lin, Industrial Marketing Manager at Xilinx, says that the company participates in the industrial market in both the imaging and automation segments, where the company’s FPGAs are used for motor control and industrial networking. In industrial networking applications, she says that real-time Ethernet protocols are replacing legacy serial interface buses such as RS-485. For industrial motor control, Xilinx customers are implementing complex Field Oriented Algorithms (FOC) or vector control, in order to meet demands for energy efficiency, says Lin.
Advanced FOCs are used to control Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motors (PMSM), to provide more precise control over torque and other motor behaviors which require a faster loop response time. Xilinx is seeing a trend to reduce communications overhead between master controllers and the slave motor drives, by pushing computation into the end unit – an application where they are targeting the Zynq-7000 with its integrated dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processors. Customers can also make use of an embedded MicroBlaze processor in the Spartan-6 series to handle networking tasks, with parallel algorithm execution in the FPGA fabric, to improve speed over software solutions that couple an FPGA with a separate Microcontroller (MCU). Xilinx series 7 FPGAs, such as Artix-7, also provide an integrated dual-channel 12b/1MSPS ADC block which designers can use to digitize current from sensors in the motor control loop.
To aid customers in implementing FOC algorithms into their FPGAs, Xilinx has built a library of fifteen standalone Intellectual Property (IP) blocks and an associated set of reference designs which they have validated in the Spartan-6. The reference design kits and IP are available from Xilinx’s partner, QDESYS. Xilinx has also partnered with distributor AVNET on a Motor Control Kit. The kit, which is planned for availability in Q1 of 2012, will contain a Spartan-6 baseboard along with a motor control FPGA Mezzanine Card (FMC) daughter card, two motors - a stepper, and a brushless DC (BLDC), and a 12V power supply.
By replacing serial links with Ethernet networking in factory environments, companies can benefit from cheaper cabling costs, increased bandwidth and greater distance of communications. However, the typical Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) used elsewhere for Ethernet communications must be replaced with a protocol that is more reliable and real time. There are many competing protocols to select from, so the flexibility of FPGAs makes them well suited for this market, says Lin. Xilinx is working to port the embedded Configurable Operating System (eCOS) to MicroBlaze, so that Xilinx customers can use FPGAs to migrate from legacy buses to Ethernet protocols that may require unique media access controllers.
Avnet and Xilinx are offering reference designs for some of the most common protocols through the Avnet Design Resource Center. The Spartan-6 Industrial Ethernet kit, which is available now from Avnet, contains a Spartan-6 baseboard, with a daughter card that provides dual-port 10/100 Ethernet, dual Controller Area Network (CAN) physical interfaces (PHY), and support for RS-232 and RS-485 serial interfaces.
With the Zynq-7000, Xilinx foresees the opportunity to offer a complete high-end motion control platform which will provide customers with the option to employ a C-language programming environment. Lin says that some customers are planning to take advantage of the dual cores by dedicating one core for the Real Time Operating System (RTOS) and networking protocol stack, and utilize the second core for handling safety and reliability tasks.