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A new TinyFPGA series to fill out the tiny line-up

A project log for TinyFPGA E-Series

Tiny board with a BIG FPGA. SD card, 64mbit DDR RAM, ECP5 FPGA, 64mbit flash, and micro USB. Do more with up to 45k LUTs.

Luke ValentyLuke Valenty 11/18/2017 at 20:500 Comments

When I started working on TinyFPGA I was making a simple FPGA board for myself.  That simple board became the #TinyFPGA A-Series.  I chose the MachXO2 for the first board because it was a very simple to use FPGA and it had a very easy to assemble QFN32 package.  It was something I could reliably assemble and reflow myself in my home lab.  I ended up getting it manufactured anyways.  But that package made it cheap and easy for the first prototypes.

After developing the A-series, I had a desire for more.  A larger FPGA and more features built-in.  I also had more confidence with one project under my belt.  The #TinyFPGA B-Series was a much more complicated board to develop.  It uses an FPGA with a 0.4mm pitch BGA package with 81 balls.  I was able to make it work very reliably with a common PCB manufacturing process so my prototypes were cheap and functional.  I also was able to deliver a lot more features in a tiny package.

All of the TinyFPGA boards are selling well enough to give me confidence and now I need to refresh my stock.  So I have been ordering new boards and have learned quite a bit from my original manufacturing runs.

I still want to be able to deliver more options for these tiny FPGA boards.  I think I found a way.  The Lattice ECP5 FPGAs have relatively low power consumption with prices way lower than comparable alternatives.  That's good to know, but the best part is the package size.  They have a package option that is just 10 x 10 mm and is available across the entire range of ECP5 FPGAs.  This means I can develop one board and support multiple FPGA sizes.

With the ECP5 FPGA and the TinyFPGA E-Series, I think I am pushing the limit of what will work in this form factor with today's technology.  The package size, number of balls on the package, power delivery requirements, and PCB manufacturing technology are all being pushed to the limit at this price point and form-factor.

Not only will these new TinyFPGA boards feature FPGAs rivaling the size of any hobbyist FPGA board, they will also include 64mbit DDR memory, 64mbit SPI flash,  high-efficiency switching voltage regulators, and a micro-sd card slot in addition to all of the features on the B-series boards.

It has been quite a challenge designing this board and there are more challenges to come.  The next step in bringing these to market will be getting the prototype boards back and running them through their paces.  If you want to use big FPGAs in a tiny form-factor without breaking the bank, follow this project.  I'll be posting updates as boards come back and development progress is made.

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