Zynq SoMs Decrease Customer Development Times and Costs

Xilinx’s Zynq®-7000 All Programmable (AP) System-on-Chip (SoC) provides a new paradigm for embedded system design, blurring the line between traditional processors and FPGAs. These devices combine the software programmability of a processor with the hardware programmability of an FPGA. The Zynq AP SoC provides unrivaled levels of system performance, flexibility and scalability while providing system benefits in terms of power reduction, lower cost with fast time to market.

Customers agree that Zynq SoCs can potentially revolutionize embedded system design. Alan Boate, CEO of Canada-based Ajile Light Industries, says he “sees the future of embedded design based on the combination of Zynq PS (Processing System) and PL (Programmable Logic).” John Battles, founder of New Mexico-based Mountain Storm Instruments, LLC, chose Zynq SoCs for their high-speed performance and open source software community that “leverages existing development tools, libraries, programming languages, and applications.”

While the Zynq AP SoC simplifies embedded system design at the architecture level, developing a Zynq-based chip-down solution poses many design challenges. All Zynq-based designs require enabling circuitry to function properly. This usually includes DDR3 SDRAM, Ethernet, USB, UARTs and power regulation. Each enabling circuitry requires nuances to make Zynq work properly.

 

“Avnet’s customers have found unique homes for SoMs in cable set-top boxes, various avionics applications, and medical devices.”

 

As an example, designing the high-speed DDR3 interface for Zynq requires a deep understanding of transmission line theory. The PCB layout calls for matching trace lengths, controlling impedances and using proper termination. If designed improperly, several PCB spins and months of development times can be wasted.

Similarly, the power regulation requirements of Zynq can be tricky for designers. All Zynq AP SoCs have multiple voltage rails that require multiple voltage levels. Voltage levels must fall within tight tolerances for optimal performance. Power supplies must start-up and sequence appropriately while accommodating varying current loads and transients.

Electrical design engineers continuously meet technical challenges ensuring working circuitry. However, designing and debugging Zynq-enabling circuitry takes both time and money. Jeremy Gribben, CTO at Ajile Light Industries, relates that Ajile consumed three costly months developing and testing the interface between Zynq and LVDS-enabled CMOS imagers and displays.

Sensing the need to lessen the technical challenges of designing Zynq-based systems while shortening customer design cycles, Avnet has developed a series of Zynq-based system-on-modules (SoMs). All Avnet SoMs provide core Zynq functionality including memory, configuration, Ethernet, USB, and power. Additionally, Avnet’s SoMs provide customers a migration path, from evaluation and development to production, using the same hardware solution.

One of the first Zynq-based SoMs that Avnet produced was MicroZed™. Its unique design allows it to be used as both a stand-alone evaluation board or combined with a carrier card as an embeddable SoM. MicroZed contains two I/O headers that provide connection to two I/O banks on the programmable logic (PL) side of the Zynq-7000 AP SoC device. In stand-alone mode, these 100 PL I/Os are inactive. When plugged into a carrier card, the I/Os are accessible in a manner defined by the carrier card design.

For more information on MicroZed, please visit microzed.org/product/microzed.

 

In response to customer feedback for smaller, ruggedized and cost-effective SoMs, Avnet recently released PicoZed™. This device offers designers the flexibility to migrate between the 7010, 7015, 7020, and 7030 Zynq-7000 AP SoC devices in a pin-compatible footprint. PicoZed contains the common functions required to support the core of most SoC designs and provides easy access to over 100 user I/O pins through three MicroHeaders on the backside of the module. The MicroHeaders also support access to dedicated interfaces for Ethernet, USB, JTAG, power and other control signals, as well as the GTP/GTX transceivers on the 7015/7030 models. The transceiver based 7015 and 7030 versions of PicoZed are a superset of the 7010/7020 version, adding four high-speed serial transceiver ports to the I/O connectors. Designers can simply design their own carrier card, plug-in PicoZed, and start their application development with a proven Zynq-7000 AP SoC sub-system.

For more information on PicoZed, please visit microzed.org/product/picozed.

 

Avnet’s first Zynq SoM to market, the Xilinx Zynq®-7000 AP SoC Mini-Module Plus (MMP), supports the 7045 and 7100 Zynq AP SoCs. The Zynq MMP SoM, when combined with a MMP Baseboard II and a MMP Power Supply, provides an out-of-box development system ready for prototyping. The Zynq MMP boasts various I/O options including 132 user I/O pins, 8 GTX transceivers, USB 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, PCI Express, and DisplayPort. Additionally, the Zynq MMP SoM can be placed on a user created carrier card for customized applications targeted for production.

For more information on Zynq MMP, please visit microzed.org/product/zynq‑mmp.

 

In addition to simplifying hardware design, Avnet jumpstarts Zynq-based software, firmware and HDL development by providing the necessary tools to get started. MicroZed, PicoZed and Avnet’s entire portfolio of Zynq-based SoM have board support packages (BSPs) available. Industry-leading operating systems have been ported to these SoMs. Reference designs and tutorials familiarize engineers to Xilinx’s development tools.

 

“Customers agree that Zynq SoCs can potentially revolutionize embedded system design.”

 

Avnet’s MicroZed and PicoZed are targeted at many applications including test and measurement, motor control, and software-defined radio (SDR). Avnet’s customers have found unique homes for SoMs in cable set-top boxes, various avionics applications, and medical devices. MicroZed, in particular, has been adopted by many customers to quicken time to market and save resources.

Mountain Storm Instruments, LLC (MSI) designs and manufactures Flexible Sensor Platforms (FSP) and Intelligent Sensor Platform (ISP) targeted at remote wireless sensing. While previous versions of its solutions were based on16-bit and 32-bit MCUs, the company chose Zynq for its next generation designs due to the peripherals, integration, high-speed performance and open source ecosystem.

Instead of designing a chip-down solution, MSI chose Avnet’s MicroZed SoM. John Battles says, “Avnet has built a flexible Zynq platform that eases the Zynq design process. It hits the sweetspot in the market and provides a unique solution.” He continues, “The microzed.org community site helps lower the support burden. MicroZed has been designed for OEM use in real products. For small start-ups, order size flexibility is essential when the market demand is unknown.”

MSI’s SmartDAQ 1000 ISP uses Avnet’s MicroZed for its Zynq Sub-system. For more information, please visit mtnstormdaq.com.

After investigating chip-down Zynq solutions, Ajile Light Industries was looking for a simpler way to utilize Zynq across its high-speed, high-definition image sensor and DMD display designs for applications in industrial inspection, 3D metrology and medical devices. Jeremy Gribben recounts that MicroZed was adopted because it “improves the development time of a company our size.” He continues, “The training, tutorials and reference designs provided by Avnet were helpful to get us up and running. The support documentation is at a higher level than other similar solutions.”

Xilinx’s Zynq-7000 AP SoC solutions are quickly changing the industry in embedded system design. Avnet continues to drive market adoption of this differentiated technology by providing a growing family of Zynq-based SoMs that minimize design effort, reduces time to market and developments costs, and allows customer to focus on their core competency. For more information on all of Avnet’s Zynq SoM solutions, please visit www.microzed.org.

Written By Matt Burns

Global IP&E Technical Marketing Specialist, an Avnet Business Unit.

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