From MCU or DSP to FPGA for Power Electronics: Part 2 Evaluation Boards and Hardware Issues

Migration from MCU or DSP to FPGA for Power Electronics

Following on from the first part of this post on migration from  MCU or DSP to FPGA for Power Electronics, the question was asked:

“…What suggestions do you have to start this migration, both in terms of a cheap evaluation board…”

This is a good question.  One of the first things you will need in starting an FPGA design is an evaluation board.  There are a large range of FPGA boards out there so here are a few suggestions:


Digilent Arty

Arty Board from Digilent


The Arty board, designed by Digilent and Avnet, is now one of the best and cheapest boards out there for starting out in FPGA designs.  For only $99US you get a moderately sized Xilinx Artix FPGA with a large range of peripherals.  It can be used for straight logic, or with a soft core Microblaze to act as a cheap SoC platform.  For more information on using the Arty, I would recommend Adam Taylor’s blog series here.  The Artix FPGA range is well suited to providing a more powerful system at a similar cost to some DSPs.


Zynq SoC Board on

Zed Board for Zynq


The Zedboard is almost the flagship evaluation board for the Zynq SoC.  Again from Digilent and Avnet, the Zedboard, with its powerful SoC and huge range of peripherals, has spawned a large community around it.  This evaluation board, although a bit more expensive than the Arty can pretty much do anything you need it to do.


Zed Board

Zed Baord


Although not necessarily a full board by itself, the Microzed is a Single Board Module (SBM) from Avnet.  With suitable base boards the Microzed becomes a powerful tool to use for development.  In some applications you can even use the Microzed in the final design.   Adam Taylor’s 100+ long blog post, the Microzed Chronicles, will allow you to get up to speed in no time with your new board.


One possible hurdle to using modern FPGAs is that they are all now in BGA packages.  Nigh on impossible to solder by hand and some lower end prototyping houses may not be able to handle them.  How do you get your design prototyped then?   The best option is to go for a SBM like the Microzed above or even one from Enclustra.   This changes the prototyping challenge from an impossible BGA to a much easier connector.  We at ELMG have used the Enclustra ones in the SODIMM form factor and the connectors are hand-solderable for rapid prototyping.

Contact Us

Feel free to contact Hamish to discuss your FPGA dreams and possible migration paths.