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Topic: Alan - An Arduino compatible microcontroller and Xilinx FPGA (Read 5702 times) previous topic - next topic


Hi everyone,

I wanted to take the opportunity to let you all know about a new project we have just launched on Kickstarter that allows you to develop project for a Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA and configure them through the Arduino IDE.

The idea for Alan originally arose while looking for a suitable Xilinx FPGA development board for a project I am working on. While the Xilinx development IDE is available for free the challenge comes when you want to program a device as programmers can range in cost from a few tens to hundreds of dollars.

Having consulted on FPGA designs for a number of years I am very familiar with configuring them from a microprocessor so I begin to think about could this be done easily and cheaply? My first thought was to use an Arduino compatible board as I had built a number of project with both the Arduino Uno and the Leonardo and I am a great fan of Arduino and simplicity of their IDE.

The challenge was how to open a bit file and transfer it from the PC to an Arduino compatible microcontroller using the serial interface in as simple a manner as possible? While opening the Arduino IDE one afternoon I noticed the reference to Processing in the splash screen and my problem was solved.

We now use the Processing environment, which is very similar to the Arduino IDE, to create the interface to an Arduino compatible microcontroller and FPGA all with free software.

It became obvious to me that the Processing IDE would also allow me to create some really interesting projects that could integrate an PC with the Arduino compatible microcontroller and the FPGA so Alan was suddenly looking like a really nice project.

As there didn't appear to be anything like Alan on the market I thought that this blend of well-established elements (Processing, Arduino and Webpack FPGA tools) might be something that other people would be interested in - hence the Kickstarter Project.

If your interested then please take a look at our project on Kickstarter and we would certain appreciate your comments and feedback. (search for "Alan - an Arduino compatible mircoprocessor and Xilinx FPGA")

I was also very impressed with the process that Kickstarter followed to ensure that the project was legitimate and to ensure as much as possible that they protect the sponsors from bogus offering. Having been thorough this with them I am now much more willing to make a pledge to some of these projects myself - it has been a great experience.


Can you post the link?

maybe tell also about what one could do with the FPGA what a normal UNO/MEGA/GUE cannot do.
Rob Tillaart

Nederlandse sectie - http://arduino.cc/forum/index.php/board,77.0.html -
(Please do not PM for private consultancy)


Rob Gray aka the GRAYnomad www.robgray.com



Sorry for the delay in getting back to you but I've not been able to login to the forum for a couple of days. The link is...


The additional benefits that an FPGA bring over a standard Arduino based microcontroller is the ability to run multiple activities in parallel, unlike a microcontroller that runs through a programme in a sequential manner. This means that you can have the FPGA doing lots of thing under the guidance of the microcontroller or independently.

This might be best explained by an example. One of the projects that I am working on is a DMX512 lighting desk. This allows the control of studio lighting through a serial interface and there can be up to 512 different addresses on a single lighting 'universe'. Lights now have multiple registers within them so you can quickly fill a single universe of 512 addresses and therefore need extra serial links. Rather than having a single microcontroller running the serial interfaces the FPGA hold multiple instances of the DMX serial interfaces and the microcontroller now manages the supervision of these controlling changes from the PC and the data is transferred from the FPGA to each universe through parallel serial interfaces.

This is just a simple example of how an FPGA can be used to extend the IO, Alan has 100 digital IO, and increase the functionality that can be achieved through the Arduino IDE. I have been contacted through the Kickstarter project by a range of people with ideas and questions that have suggested project I would never have thought of - the FPGA builds on the fantastic Arduino base and allow you to do more.




Mar 09, 2014, 11:43 am Last Edit: Mar 09, 2014, 11:55 am by pito Reason: 1
Nice project! I did an awareness pitch on arduino + cheap Xilinx CPLD  in past here, with not much response, however. Hopefully you will get much more backers and sponsors.. :)

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