Quartus II Software Arria 10 Edition v14.0

Altera Corp. has released Quartus II software Arria 10 edition v14.0, which is an advanced 20-nm FPGA and SoC design environment. Quartus II software delivers fast compile times and enables high performance for 20-nm FPGA and SoC designs. You can further accelerate Arria 10 FPGA and SoC design cycles by using the range of 20-nm-optimized IP cores included in the latest software release.

Altera’s 20-nm design tools feature advanced algorithms. The Quartus II software Arria 10 edition v14.0 provides on average notably fast compile times. This productivity advantage enables you to shorten design iterations and rapidly close timing on 20-nm design.

Included in the latest software release is a full complement of 20-nm-optimized IP cores to enable faster design cycles. The IP portfolio includes standard protocol and memory interfaces, DSP and SoC IP cores. Altera also optimized its popular IP cores for Arria 10 FPGAs and SoCs, which include 100G Ethernet, 300G Interlaken, Interlaken Look-Aside, and PCI Express Gen3 IP. When implemented in Altera’s Arria 10 FPGAs and SoCs, these IP cores deliver the high performance.

The Quartus II software Arria 10 edition v14.0 is available now for download. The software is available as a subscription edition and includes a free 30-day trial. The annual software subscription is $2,995 for a node-locked PC license. Engineering samples of Arria 10 FPGAs are shipping today.

Source: Altera Corp.

Use Watchdog Timers (EE Tip #143)

Watchdog timers are essential to many complete electronic system designs.  As Bob Japenga explains, following a few guidelines will help make your designs more effective.

No longer used in just the realm of fault-tolerant systems, independent watchdog timers are put on systems because we know something can go wrong and prevent it from being fully functional. Sometimes the dogs reset the processor and sometimes they just safe the device and notify a user. However they work, they are an essential part of any system design. Here are the main guidelines we use:

  • Make it independent of the processor. The last thing you want is for the processor to lock up and the watchdog to lock up too.
  • Do not tickle the watchdog during an interrupt. (The interrupt can keep going while a critical thread is locked up.)
  • Do not tickle the watchdog until you are sure that all of your threads are running and stable.
  • Provide a way for your debugger to have break points without tripping the watchdog.
  • If the watchdog can be disabled, provide a mechanism for this to be detected.

I provide many more guidelines for watchdog design in a white paper that’s posted on our website.—Bob Japenga, CC25, 2013

Workspace for Precision Design

Brad Boegler is a do-it-yourselfer’s DIYer. His West Bloomfield, MI-based workspace is something to admire. It features a sturdy 8’ × 5’ workbench, a well-built machining bench, and dozens of handy tools that enable him to work on projects ranging from constructing a temperature-monitoring network to milling custom heatsinks. Simply put, it’s an appealing space for any innovator interested in DIY electronics and machining projects.

Photo 1: One of Boegler’s Altera CPLD breakout boards is on the bench. He said he was “experimenting with some video generators in VHDL” when he took this picture. (Source: B. Boegler)

As I reviewed Boegler’s space, the same word kept popping into my mind: precision. Why? Let’s see.

Building a bench (or benches) for a workspace like Boegler’s takes a lot of precision measuring, cutting, fitting, and constructing. Check out the workbench in Photo 1. That’s no “Ikea hack.” The 8’ × 5’ bench fits a dual monitor setup, plenty of test/measurement equipment, a solder station, and more.

Boegler—who works as Linux sysadmin—described some of the equipment on this bench via email:

The left side of the bench is mostly RF equipment: there are two HP RF frequency generators, a VNA, and spectrum analyzer. The analog scope is a Tek 2246 and is one of my favorite scopes. Next to that is an HP 16500B logic analysis system and then a HP 54112D digital scope … The bench was custom made. I was not able to find any benches to my liking so I ended up building my own. It is 8′ wide by 5′ deep and constructed out of mostly 4×4s. It weighs a ton, but it has to be sturdy as a lot of this equipment is very heavy. I like very deep benches as I can push the equipment back far enough on it and still provide enough working space.

And don’t forget the power!

Those are various adjustable voltage current limiting power supplies, when working on projects needing various voltages you can never have too many supplies.

I’m sure everyone agrees that access to power supplies is key.

Photo 2: Boegler’s workspace for machining (Source: B. Boegler)

On a separate bench (Photo 2) are Boegler’s milling machine and drill press, which are two tools intended for precision designing and machining. Boegler wrote:

The drill press is used almost daily, one of the best tools ever. I use the milling machine for custom shielded aluminum cases for RF boards, making special sized heatsinks, and it comes in handy for any special brackets I can make to hold boards or components.

I’m sure you’d agree that machining board cases and heatsinks requires a bit of exactitude.

Much like the bench in Photo 1, building the actual machine bench required precise measurements and cuts. Just look at its clean edges and sturdy frame. And don’t you like the shelf underneath? It’s a simple yet effective place for stowing frequently used tools.

On the topic of storage, check out Boegler’s wheeled shelf system. I like it and will consider something similar for my garage. (We all take wheels for granted until we’re in a pinch and need to move a heavy object. For instance, try moving a wheel-less six-shelf system full of parts in order to track down a screw that fell on the floor. Actually, don’t try that. It’s an accident waiting to happen.)

A wheeled shelf system for microcontrollers, op-amps, and parts of all sorts (Source: B. Boegler)

Lastly, check out the neatly labeled parts boxes. I see labels such as “Microcontrollers/DSP,” “Op-Amps,” “Serial Cables,” and more. Nice!

Share your space! Circuit Cellar is interested in finding as many workspaces as possible and sharing them with the world. Click here to submit photos and information about your workspace. Write “workspace” in the subject line of the email, and include info such as where you’re located (city, country), the projects you build in your space, your tech interests, your occupation, and more. If you have an interesting space, we might feature it on CircuitCellar.com!

Electronica Munich 2014: Can You “Make” It?

EL-Munich-2014Visiting Elektor International Media’s booth at the Electronica 2014 in Munich (November 11–14,2014) will have its perks. Attendees can stop at the space to relax, recharge their electronics, have coffee, and chat with like-minded electrical engineers and electronics “makers.” The Elektor.Labs team and Circuit Cellar staffers will also be there.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to get some work done. EIM’s booth (#380) will feature the following: desk space for engineering, test and measurement equipment, a 3-D printer, free Wi-Fi, and more.

Download Elektor’s Electronica 2014 info sheet to learn more about what the EIM team has in store for the conference.

Learn more about Electronica Munich: www.electronica.de



Cabinet-Based DIY Electronics Workspace

Micrcontrollers and electrical engineering probably don’t come to mind when you flip through an IKEA product catalog. But when you think about it, IKEA has plenty of easy-to-assemble tables, cabinets, and storage containers that could be handy for outfitting a electronics workspace or “circuit cellar.”

(Source: Patrik Thalin)

(Source: Patrik Thalin)

Sweden-based Patrik Thalin built a workspace within an IKEA Husar cabinet. The setup is compact, orderly, and well-planned. He noted:

It has a pull-out keyboard shelf that I use it as an extension of the workspace when the doors are open. My inspiration came from a friend that had built his lab in a two door closet. The main idea is to have a workspace that can be closed when not used and to be able to resume my work later. I have used this lab for nearly ten years and I am still happy with it!

In the upper part of the cabinet I keep commonly used tools and instruments. On the top shelf are two PSUs, a signal generator, assortment boxes with components, the SMD component kit and shelf trays with cables and small tools. On the lower shelves are things like multimeter, callipers and a power drill. At the bottom is the work space with a soldering station. On the left wall are screwdrivers,wrenches and pliers. To the left are cables hanging on hooks.The thing hanging under the shelf is an old radio scanner. You can also see a small vise hanging on the front of the workspace.

The lower part of the cabinet is for additional storage, he noted.

(Source: Patrik Thalin)

(Source: Patrik Thalin)

The information and images were submitted by Patrik Thalin. For more information about his space and work, visit his blog.

100-V Forward Voltage Controller

Linear Technology recently announced the LT8310, which is a resonant-reset forward converter controller that drives an external low side N-channel MOSFET from an internally regulated 10-V supply. The LT8310 features duty mode control to generate a stable, regulated, isolated output using a single power transformer. With the addition of output voltage feedback, via optocoupler (isolated) or directly wired (nonisolated), current mode regulation is activated, improving output accuracy and load response. A choice of transformer turns ratio makes high step-down or step-up ratios possible without operating at duty cycle extremes.

Source: Linear Technology

Source: Linear Technology

The switching frequency is programmable from 100 kHz to 500 kHz to optimize efficiency, performance or external component size. A synchronous output is available for controlling secondary side synchronous rectification to improve efficiency. User programmable protection features include monitors on input voltage (UVLO and OVLO) and switch current (overcurrent limit). A soft-start feature helps prevent transformer flux saturation.

The LT8310 main features include:

  • Input voltage range: 6 V to 100 V
  • Duty mode control regulates an isolated output without an opto
  • High efficiency synchronous control
  • Short-circuit (Hiccup mode) overcurrent protection
  • Programmable OVLO and UVLO with hysteresis
  • Programmable frequency (100 kHz to 500 kHz)
  • Synchronizable to an external clock
  • Positive or negative polarity output voltage feedback with a single FBX pin
  • Programmable soft-start
  • Shutdown current < 1 μA

The LT8310 is available in an FE20 TSSOP with high voltage pin spacing

Source: Elektor

DE0-Nano Cyclone FPGA Development Board

With a DE0-Nano Cyclone FPGA Development Board, you can create your own sophisticated hardware using programmable logic. The development board includes an Altera Cyclone IV and additional components to connect and test hardware designs. It comes a pre-wired Cyclone IV FPGA for programming and connection to internal or external devices and circuit.

Source: Parallax

Source: Parallax

With the board, you can create sophisticated logic hardware fairly quickly using a hardware description language. Possible applications include dedicated digital logic processors, robotics, and DIY autonomous systems.

Source: Parallax

DIY Arduino-Based ECG System

Cornell University students Sean Hubber and Crystal Lu built an Arduino-based electrocardiography (ECG) system that enables them to view a heart’s waveform on a mini TV. The basic idea is straightforward: an Arduino Due converts a heartbeat waveform to an NTSC signal.

Here you can see the system in action. The top line (green) has a 1-s time base. The bottom line (yellow) has a 5-s time base. (Source: Hubber & Lu)

Here you can see the system in action. The top line (green) has a 1-s time base. The bottom line (yellow) has a 5-s
time base. (Source: Hubber & Lu)

In their article, “Hands-On Electrocardiography,” Hubber and Lu write:

We used the Arduino Due to convert the heartbeat waveform to an NTSC signal that could be used by a mini-TV. The Arduino Due continuously sampled the input provided by the voltage limiter at 240 sps. Similar to MATLAB, the vectorized signal was shifted left to make room at the end for the most recent sample. This provided a continuous real-time display of the incoming signal. Each frame outputted to the mini-TV contains two waveforms. One has a 1-s screen width and the other has a 5-s screen width. This enables the user to see a standard version (5 s) and a more zoomed in version (1 s). Each frame also contains an integer representing the program’s elapsed time. This code was produced by Cornell University professor Bruce Land.

As you can see in the nearby block diagram, Hubber and Lu’s ECG system comprises a circuit, an Arduino board, a TV display, MATLAB programming language, and a voltage limiter.

The system's block diagram (Circuit Cellar 289, 2014)

The system’s block diagram (Circuit Cellar 289, 2014)

The system’s main circuit is “separated into several stages to ensure that retrieving the signal would be user-safe and that sufficient amplification could be made to produce a readable ECG signal,” Hubber and Lu noted.

The first stage is the conditioning stage, which ensures user safety through DC isolation by initially connecting the dry electrode signals directly to capacitors and resistors. The capacitors help with DC isolation and provide a DC offset correction while the resistors limit the current passing through. This input-conditioning stage is followed by amplification and filtering that yields an output with a high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). After the circuit block, the signal is used by MATLAB and voltage limiter blocks. Directly after DC isolation, the signal is sent into a Texas Instruments INA116 differential amplifier and, with a 1-kΩ RG value, an initial gain of 51 is obtained. The INA116 has a low bias current, which permits the high-impedance signal source. The differential amplifier also utilizes a feedback loop, which prevents it from saturating.

Following the differentiation stage, the signal is passed through multiple filters and receives additional amplification. The first is a low-pass filter with an approximately 16-Hz cutoff frequency. This filter is primarily used to eliminate 60-Hz noise. The second filter is a high-pass filter with an approximately 0.5-Hz cutoff frequency. This filter is mostly used to eliminate DC offset. The total amplification at this stage is 10. Since the noise was significantly reduced and the SNR was large, this amplification produced a very strong and clear signal. With these stages done, the signal was then strong enough to be digitally analyzed. The signal could then travel to both the MATLAB and voltage limiter blocks.

Hubber and Lu’s article was published in Circuit Cellar 289, 2014. Get it now!

User-Extensible FDA for Real-Time Oscilloscopes

Keysight Technologies recently announced the availability of a frequency domain analysis (FDA) option, a user-extensible spectrum frequency domain analysis application solution for real-time oscilloscopes.

Source: Keysight Technologies

Source: Keysight Technologies

The FDA option extends the capabilities of Keysight Infiniium and InfiniiVision Series oscilloscopes by enabling you to acquire live signals from the oscilloscope and visualize them in the frequency domain, as well as make key frequency domain measurements.

Option N8832A-001 includes the application, the application source code for user extensibility, and MATLAB software. These tools enable you to extend an application’s capabilities to meet their current and future testing needs.

With the FDA application, you can address a variety of FDA challenges such as:

  • Power spectral density (PSD) and spectrogram visualization
  • Frequency domain measurements in an application including relevant peaks in the PSD and measurements such as occupied bandwidth, SNR, total harmonic distortion (THD ), spurious free dynamic range (SFDR), and frequency error
  • Oscilloscope configuration through the application to allow for repeatable instrument configuration and measurements; optionally includes additional SCPI commands for more advanced instrument setup
  • Insertion of additional custom signal processing commands prior to frequency domain visualization, as needed, for more advanced analysis insight
  • Live or post-acquisition analysis of time-domain data in MATLAB software

Source: Keysight Technologies

Got Problematic Little Bits? (EE Tip #142)

While testing a project, something strange happened (see the nearby image). The terminal showed nonsense, but the logic analyzer properly displayed “Elektor” in ASCII. The latter also indicated that the UART was operating at 4800 baud instead of the 19200 baud that I had programmed (at least that’s what I thought), a difference with a factor of four. The change I had made in my code was a fourfold increase in the clock speed of the dsPIC. The conclusion I had to arrive at is that the clock speed was not being changed. But why not?

Source: Raymond Vermeulen (Elektor, October 2011)

Source: Raymond Vermeulen (Elektor, October 2011)

The inspiration came, and where else, in the shower. In a hobby project, I had used an ATmega32u4 with a bootloader whose only limitation was being unable to program the fuse bits. “That’s not going to be…” I was thinking. But yes, the bootloader I used in my dsPIC cannot program the configuration bits either. Experienced programmers would have realized that long ago, but we all have our off-days. (The solution is to use a “real” programmer, such as the ICD3).—By Raymond Vermeulen (Elektor Labs, Elektor, October 2011)


Synchronized RF Transceiver Rapid Prototyping Kit for SDR

Analog Devices recently announced a software-defined radio (SDR) rapid prototyping kit with dual 2 x 2 AD9361 RF transceivers to simplify and rapidly prototype 4 × 4 MIMO wireless transceiver applications on the Xilinx Zynq-7000 all-programmable SoC development platforms. The AD-FMCOMMS5-EBZ rapid prototyping kit provides a hardware/software ecosystem solution addressing the challenges of SDR transceiver synchronization experienced by RF and analog designers when implementing systems using MIMO architectures. A webinar is available on how to synchronize multiple RF transceivers in high-channel density applications.

Source: Analog Devices

Source: Analog Devices

The AD-FMCOMMS5-EBZ rapid prototyping kit includes the following:

  • An FPGA mezzanine card (FMC) featuring two of Analog AD9361 2 x 2 RF transceivers and support circuitry
  • Reference designs
  • Design and simulation tools for MathWorks
  • HDL (hardware description language) code
  • Device drivers for Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoCs
  • Online support at ADI’s EngineerZone for rapid prototyping to reduce development time and risk.

The AD-FMCOMMS5-EBZ rapid prototyping kit is the fifth SDR rapid prototyping kit ADI has introduced in the last year to help customers address the global SDR market. SDR MIMO applications range from defense electronics and RF instrumentation to communications infrastructure and include active antennas, transmit beamforming, receive angle of arrival systems, and open-source SDR development projects.

The AD9361 operates over a frequency range of 70 MHz to 6 GHz. It is a complete radio design that combines multiple functions, including an RF front end, mixed-signal baseband section, frequency synthesizers, two analog-to-digital converters and two direct conversion receivers in a single chip. The AD9361 supports channel bandwidth from less than 200 kHz to 56 MHz, and is highly programmable, offering the widest dynamic range available in the market today with state-of-the-art noise figure and linearity.

Source: Analog Devices


Propeller Multicore MCU Released as Open-Source Design

Parallax released its source code design files for the Propeller 1 (P8X32A) multicore microcontroller at the DEFCON 22 Conference in Las Vegas, where the chip was also featured on the conference’s electronic badge. Parallax managers said they anticipate the release will inspire developers. Hobbyists, engineers, and students can now view and modify the Propeller Verilog design files by loading them into low-cost field programmable gate array (FPGA) development boards. The design was released under the GNU General Public License v3.0.

Source: Parallax

Source: Parallax

With the chip’s source code now available, any developer can discover what they need to know about the design. The open release provides a way for developers who have requested more pins, memory, or other architectural improvements to make their own version to run on an FPGA. Universities who have requested access to the design files for their engineering programs will now have them.

The Propeller multicore microcontroller is used in developing technologies where multiple sensors, user interface systems, and output devices such as motors must be managed simultaneously. Some primary applications for Parallax’s chip include flight controllers in UAVs, 3-D printing, solar monitoring systems, environmental data collection, theatrical lighting and sound control, and medical devices.

For more information on Parallax’s open source release of the Propeller P8X32A, visit www.parallax.com.


High-Voltage LDO Regulator

To add to its growing family of voltage regulator solutions, Linear Technology recently announced the LT3061, a high-voltage, low-noise, low-dropout voltage linear regulator with active output discharge. The device can deliver up to 100 mA of continuous output current with a 250-mV dropout voltage at full load. The LT3061 features an NMOS pull-down that discharges the output when SHDN or IN is driven low. This rapid output discharge is useful for applications requiring power conditioning on both start-up and shutdown (e.g., high-end imaging sensors).

Source: Linear Technology

Source: Linear Technology

A single external capacitor provides programmable low noise reference performance and output soft-start functionality. The LT3061 has a quiescent current of 45 μA and provides fast transient response with a minimum 3.3-μF output capacitor. In shutdown, the quiescent current is less than 3 μA and the reference soft-start capacitor is reset.

Its main features include:

  • Wide 1.6 V to 45 V input voltage range.
  • Adjustable output voltages from 0.6 V to 19 V.
  • Ultralow noise operation of 30 µVRMS across a 10 Hz to 100 kHz bandwidth.
  • Low quiescent current of 45 µA (operating) and < 2 µA (in shutdown).

The LT3061 is available as an adjustable device with an output voltage range from the 600-mV reference up to 19 V. The chip is supplied in a thermally enhanced eight-lead 2 mm × 3 mm DFN and MSOP outline. For more information visit www.linear.com




System Engineer’s Space for Designing & Testing

Many complicated motion control and power electronics systems comprise thousands of parts and dozens of embedded systems. Thus, it makes sense that a systems engineer like New Jersey-based John Roselle would have more than one workspace for simultaneously planning, designing, and testing multiple systems.

(Source: John Roselle)

John Roselle’s space for designing circuits and electronic systems (Source: John Roselle)

Roselle recently submitted images of his space and provided some interesting feedback when we asked him about it.

My main work space for testing and debugging of circuits consists of nothing more than a kitchen table with two shelves attached to the wall.  Shown in the picture (see above) a 265-V digital motor drive for a fin control system for an under water application.  In a second room I have a computer design center.

I design and test mostly motor drives for motion control products for various applications, such as underwater vehicles, missile hatch door motor drives, and test equipment for testing the products I design.

Computer design center (Source: John Roselle)

A second room serves as “computer design center” (Source: John Roselle)

John’s third workspace is used mainly for testing and assembling. At times there might be two or three different projects going on at once, he added.

(Source: John Roselle)

The third space is used to test and assemble systems (Source: John Roselle)

Do you want to share images of your workspace, hackspace, or “circuit cellar”? Send us your images and info about your space.

How to Protect Electronic Systems

Engineers must protect their electronic systems. Thus, we frequently get requests for tips, tricks, and insight on the topic. For instance, a UK-based community member recently requested some insight into electronics protection and bullet proofing. We provided him with the content below. And now we want to pass it on to you as well.

Robert Lacoste shows the 3-D printer (a) he used to build an acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) shield (b).

Robert Lacoste shows the 3-D printer (a) he used to build an acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) shield (b).