Altium’s FPGA developer’s kit shrinks time to market

Sydney, Australia-based Altium Ltd. announced Nexar, a hardware design and software development product integrated into one environment for system-level design capabilities for FPGA (field-programmable gate array) platforms.


Integral to Nexar is a reconfigurable FPGA-based development board—NanoBoard—that can interact with processor cores and instruments as well as help debug the design. Multiple NanoBoards can be chained together to facilitate design of complex multi-FPGA systems.

Sydney, Australia-based Altium Ltd . announced Nexar, a hardware design and software development product integrated into one environment for system-level design capabilities for FPGA (field-programmable gate array) platforms. Nexar permits engineers without experience in hardware description language (HDL) to design and implement a complete embedded system inside an FPGA. For hardware independence, a Xilinx Spartan II and an Altera Cyclone chip are included in the developer's kit.

Among Nexar’s user benefits are parallel design of hardware and software—for shorter embedded systems development cycles—more flexible hardware/software design partitioning, and an interactive environment called LiveDesign that eases system-on-FPGA development and debug. The schematic-based design method streamlines connectivity of functional blocks at the system level, compared to HDLs. However, users comfortable with creating their own logic blocks can still use an HDL for custom design. LiveDesign minimizes reliance on time-consuming system-level simulation required by other design flows. There is little time or cost penalty for engineers to try different design solutions.

Extensive libraries of royalty-free, pre-synthesized IP components make schematic design more efficient. Nexar also includes a library of IP-based virtual instruments (logic analyzers, frequency counters/generators, and I/O monitors) that help to debug the system. These instruments have on-screen front panels analogous to their physical counterparts to let users "see" inside the FPGA during the design process.

Nexar reportedly simplifies system software development by providing complete development tools for all supplied processor cores. Software development is enabled directly on the target hardware early in the design. Designers can develop their program code directly on real hardware.

Target markets for Nexar include automotive, industrial control, and other applications with relatively high product value, but where market size doesn’t allow standard ASIC development, says Altium. Nexar is slated to ship during first-quarter 2004 at an anticipated list price of US $7,995, including service upgrades and technical support.

—Frank J. Bartos, executive editor,

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