The main objective of the project is to introduce FPGA technology in the existing open source EEZ DIB concept for modular T&M (Test & Measurement) solutions, and EEZ BB3, its first practical implementation whose master (control) module uses a 32-bit general purpose microcontroller (MCU).
FPGA technology should advance two aspects that the MCU cannot adequately respond to: realtime processing of large amounts of data, which often implies both parallelism in work and socalled software definition of hardware that allows modification of existing functionality or obtaining completely new functionality at the hardware level.
Instead of complementing the existing MCU with FPGA, we will try to remove MCU completely and synthesize MCU functionality on FPGA silicon using the f32c and FPGArduino open source projects. This will also allow flexibility in the choice of MCU architecture (MIPS or RISC-V).
The project also includes an innovative concept of sharing video content that can come from two sources: the f32c module, which will be in charge of the HMI (i.e. user interface); and the displayed real-time data measurements will come from an open source ScopeIO module that has the functionality of an oscilloscope and logic analyzer. Split displaying will also be attempted between two screens: the TFT touchscreen display which is an integral part of the EEZ BB3 chassis but also an external screen with HDMI input (for better visibility, for presentation purposes, etc.).
Using FPGAs from the Lattice ECP5 series with its attractive price, capabilities and the existence of an open source “toolchain” will further increase the attractiveness and competitiveness of the EEZ BB3 offering. Together with positive outcome of this project, it will simplify the further development of more sophisticated EEZ DIB T&M modules.