We can help with your requirements from system architecture analysis
and design to module level designs.
If you are unsure of what your requirements are, we can help
create a specification for a design, or even decide if using an
FPGA/CPLD is the most appropriate solution to your problem.
Our FPGA design background was originally within
the Telecomms industry designing for Sonet/SDH, ATM and Ethernet projects.
These designs tended to use the latest leading edge low volume high cost
system on a chip type devices. We have also completed many smaller designs
with higher volume lower cost devices where the FPGA cost is a significant
factor in product price. The limitation of the resources in these smaller devices
must be borne in mind more when approaching these designs.
Most of our experience is with Altera
and Xilinx devices and tool sets, with Modelsim for design test
and verification and Synopsys' Design Compiler, Synplicity's Simplify
and Mentor Graphics' Leonardo for design synthesis.
We have completed designs for Altera's CycloneIII, CycloneII, Cyclone, 20K,
Acex, 10K series FPGAs and MAXII, Max7000 series CPLDs; Xilinx
VirtexII, VirtexE, SpartanII and SpartanII-E series FPGAs. We have also designed for Atmel CLDS
and are currently translating a customer design to an Actel device for higher
IP security for volume off shore manufacturing.
We have our own tools which allow
designs to be targeted at Altera or Xilinx (and now Actel) FPGAs and so can accept
outsourced work (our preferred operating mode) or we can provide
an engineer to work at a client's site within the UK.
We have experience of implementing Xilinx's Picoblaze
'soft CPU' (see the downloads page for details) and can deliver SOPC designs based around
Altera's NIOSII CPU core. See the SOPC page for more details.
The life cycle of a project will depend somewhat on the scale of development. For a small project
when a specification has been agreed (this might only be a couple of pages) we would aim to complete
our development and deliver the completed package in one drop, with several days support
for integration/testing if needed.
On the large projects we would expect to spend some time up front working
with client's engineers to ensure we agree on specifications and deliverables. We would
then start our development, continuing close communication with the client and
delivering interim design deliveries/progress reports as required. We can be available
for integration/testing support for these interim deliveries. At the end of our
development phase we will be available for a longer period of support to allow
full product testing.
As discussed above, we will work to agree a design description document
before the FPGA/Hardware design aspects of a project are started. This will specify
detailed requirements for a design, what will be tested and to
what level (are fully automated self checking test benches needed
etc?), target device, clock speeds, interim deliveries etc. If a client is unsure about
what is required we will work with them to help derive this specification.
We have fast Internet access with VPN (virtual private network)
capabilities so communication can be fast and efficient. We will
make every effort to have a series of face to face meetings to
discuss requirements at this stage. Having a fully detailed design
specification with a check list of verification points is the
ideal, but if the project is small this specification can be much
Having witnessed several successful
outsourcing projects while working on-site with major clients
we are convinced that a significant contributing factor to the success
was the amount of effort that was spent on design specification
at the start of the project.
This is an interesting article
about writing a spec before starting a design. It's written from a software engineering perspective but is very relevent to
We can tailor our coding style
to follow any style guide a customer specifies. It is generally
recognized that maintaining a consistent coding style across a
development team makes maintenance, debug and re-use easier. By
following a customers style guide integration, maintenance and
reuse of our designs is simplified.
In order to speed up the system
level verification of designs we have a skeleton transaction based
testbench prepared. This can be quickly modified to allow fast
and adaptable, text file configured tests to be performed on a
target design. Alternately we can design our testbenches around a
customers defined testbench structure.
or Scripting?/Directory Structure etc.
If we are developing a module which
is to be integrated in a larger project we can deliver the design
built with a set of scripts which meet a client's template. Alternately
we can provide an archived project directory so the client can
re-build the design using the different tool GUIs. We can also
deliver the design to match whatever directory structure is required.
Deliverables and milestones should
be agreed as part of the requirement specifiation. These may include
early versions of a design to allow a client to start integration/testing
with their target system. These may also include an agreed period
of integration/debug and test support at the client's site. We
will be as flexible as possible to meet customers requirements.
Control and Archiving
Version control and archiving of
designs under development is essential to ensure that time is
not wasted if a development machine crashes or similar disasters
occur. We use a simple version control tool QVCS from http://www.qumasoft.com
to track development versions and regularly archive designs off
One of our
most important goals is to keep our customers happy. Satisfied customers leading to repeat work is our
ultimate goal. With this in mind we will not accept a project unless we are confident
we have the resource to complete it on time and within budget.