In this meeting, held on 21 March 2019 at BCS London, we heard from two speakers on the state of open source FPGA technology.
Once upon a time we could only use proprietary tools and development boards supplied by FPGA vendors, This all changed in 2016 with the advent of the IceStorm opensource toolchain combined with open Hardware like the myStorm board. With the 2nd generation of tools and hardware sophisticated FPGA features are opening exciting avenues for ‘Opensource all the way down’, we hope to provide an update and crystal ball on where some of this could be leading to.
Tools: past to present
David Shah looks at where we have come from with the IceStorm toochain, and looks at how this has devloped recently and expanded Ice40 Lattice support to include new lower power, lower cost, reduced pincount FPGAs to inlcude their Ultra & Ultra Plus range.
Hardware: past to present
Alan Wood talks about the journey through the early history of OpenSource FPGA open hardware from IcoBoard through myStorm too recent UltraPlus offerings recently made available.
Tools: present to future
Icestorm was aimed at a narrow family of Ice40 FPGAS, the new Symbiflow family of tools expands the opensource tooling exponetially. David Shah takes a look at NextPNR which lies at the heart of the toolset and deals with specific FPGA family functionality, in particular he concentrates on the Lattice ECP5 family support he has developed with Project Trellis as part of NextPNR and the recent 1.0 version supporting this new family and high end FPGA features.
Hardware: present to future
What comes next for opensource FPGA hardware, after the success of tinyFPGA and myStorm we are begining to see ECP5 opensource hardware emerging first with Radiona’s ULX3S and being followed up by offerings from both tinyFPGA and myStorm dev board stables, with new hardware comes new features building on NextPNRs tooling like DSP, SerDES IO Gearing and DDR memory etc, Alanplots the course for these new powerfull opesource development boards…
Time permitting we can show some of what’s possible with the new tools in a brave new ‘Opensource all the way down’ world.
David Shah, @fpga_dave, is a engineer at Symbiotic EDA and a Electronic and Information Engineering student at Imperial College London. He entered the world of open source FPGAs by extending Project Icestorm, the iCE40 bitstream documentation project, to include the newer iCE40 UltraPlus FPGAs. As well developing Project Trellis, he has been involved in the development of a new open source FPGA place-and-route tool, nextpnr.
Alan Wood, @folknology, has been working with parallel distributed programming for several decades. His recent work includes smart grids, 3D printers, robotics, automation, biotec diagnostics and designing FPGA devboards. His current research is focused on machine learning for embedded automation using FPGAs. He is a long term advocate of open source communities, a moderator (aka Folknology) for xCORE, the co-founder of myStorm open hardware FPGA community, as well as a co-founder of Surrey and Hampshire Makerspace.