FPGA Prototyping

22/02/2021, hardwarebee

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What is FPGA Prototyping?


FPGA prototyping is also known as ASIC based prototyping or System-on-Chip prototyping. It is the process of prototyping SoC and ASIC designs on FPGA chips before the final implementation (e.g. tapeout). This practice is becoming more and more common as it helps verify the hardware design early in the process, making the process more error-free and cost effective.


Why is FPGA Prototyping Important?


Why exactly is FPGA prototyping gradually becoming a standard practice? Conventionally, designers would utilize software simulations in order to test out their hardware design and verify how correct it is. Unfortunately, these simulations can only go so far as to provide accurate results. More often than not, software based simulations end up consuming more time than what can be afforded by the designer and also get caught up in modeling limitations, especially in regards to accuracy.


In addition to that, software simulation cannot always simulate and an entire system/product. For example, if the chip is connected to external elements such as wireless interface or other real time blocks such as video input, external devices such as CPUs. A real hardware that helps evaluate an ASIC in its own environment is very often a more reliable way to proof the design is bug free.


That is where FPGA prototyping comes in. The FPGA replica will, in most cases, be as accurate a representation of a given design as you can obtain. Having access to a physical prototype that is an accurate implementation of the theoretical design opens up the world of testing, allowing designers to properly and thoroughly evaluate their ideas before they are executed on more permanent or commercial iterations. Therefore, FPGA based prototypes can be confidently used to perform field tests, hardware validation, as well as software development and validation.


Undergoing this process before the final fabrication ensures a reduced time to market and also helps cut down on design costs and debugging hassles. This makes FPGA prototyping a very attractive option for companies and designers who are currently dealing with time sensitive projects or operate in very demanding markets.



Reduced Costs and Risks


One of the major benefits of using FPGAs for prototyping purposes is that the process ends up being extremely cost effective and affordable option which enables designers to make multiple models to work with. Because of the low production and manufacturing costs, FPGAs prototyping van help designers test their design before going to tapeout, which is a high cost step in the ASIC manufacturing process.


FPGA prototype boards come in various shares and forms and available in the market by many suppliers.


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