MEN Micro: New graphics modules offer embedded flexibility, FPGA compatibility

Embedded system designers are always on the lookout for graphics controllers that provide flexibility to configure application-specific functions in field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).


embedded control

MEN Micro’s P18 and P 518 graphics controllers operate over a wide industrial temperature range of–40 to 85 °C (-40 to 185 °F).

Embedded system designers are always on the lookout for graphics controllers that provide flexibility to configure application-specific functions in field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). Two new choices from MEN Micro Inc. are P18 (PC•MIP) and P518 (PMC) mezzanine cards—for systems based on either Intel or IBM PowerPC architectures. P18 and P 518 can be applied with VMEbus, CompactPCI, and PXI architectures, or in stand-alone compute platforms.

Offering the same graphics functionality in an onboard Altera Cyclone FPGA, the P18 (PC•MIP) and P518 (PMC) modules provide 16 MB frame buffer connected to the FPGA using a 16- or 32-bit data bus (at 133-MHz). These modules include a graphics controller preloaded into the FPGA, analog and DVI digital video outputs, and a low-voltage differential signaling (LVDS) interface for thin-film transistor (TFT) displays. A 48-MHz oscillator supplies the graphics clock. Each module consumes less than 1 W of power.

Onboard FPGAs act as 32-bit PCI targets for either 33- or 66-MHz PCI buses. Typical application-specific functions that embedded designers can integrate into the FPGA using P18 and P518 controllers include video compression, 2-D/3-D graphics algorithms, rendering, and pattern recognition. Non-graphics functionality, such as digital I/O interfaces also can be loaded into the FPGA, says the company.

While graphics controller chips have useful lives measured in a few years, their intellectual property (IP) cores can be supported significantly longer. “Deploying graphics functionality in an FPGA ensures long-term availability frequently required in industrial embedded applications,” says MEN Micro Inc. president, Ernest Godsey, P.E.

P18 (PC•MIP) and P518 (PMC) controllers are sold in the U.S. through a manufacturer’s representative network. Pricing starts at $747 for either module.

—Frank J. Bartos, executive editor, Control Engineering,

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