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New tools streamline power system design around FPGAs

Power system designs catering to FPGAs are getting some attention. Flex Power Modules, a business line of Flex, is joining hands with Xilinx to help design engineers simulate their power systems with accurate and reliable data for specific Xilinx FPGAs. That, in turn, will reduce time to market and the potential of user error.

While the flexibility of FPGAs encourages design reiteration and optimization throughout the design cycle, every design decision can significantly affect the power supply requirements. Especially when designers have to estimate multiple power rails serving an FPGA. According to Flex Power Modules CTO Mikael Appelberg, power-stage design analysis is one of the key issues that can slow down working with FPGAs. Another critical issue is inaccurate load simulations.

In the hookup, what Flex has done is allow the Xilinx Power Estimator (XPE) software tool to be imported directly into Flex Power Designer (FPD), which automatically detects potential issues like transient power requirements and suggests appropriate filter components. That allows engineers to carry out full simulation and optimization of the system-level power solution. Moreover, the toolset integration provides seamless sequencing capabilities across the multitude of voltage rails.

Figure 1 The latest release—version 4.2—supports Xilinx Virtex and Kintex Ultrascale and UltraScale+ FPGAs. Source: Flex Power Modules

Take the case of Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ RFSoC power architecture, which requires more than 30 voltage rails. The voltage rails in the programmable logic domain are used for RFSoC, while the voltage rails in the processing domain are used for the built-in Arm Cortex core. And there are variations in the number and power requirements of each rail depending on the system and application requirements.

That’s why FPGA power designs require all rails to be properly synchronized and monitored for potential power faults. Here, sequencers facilitate this functionality needed in power management systems. Features like sequencers, power management supervisors and voltage trackers speed the development of power supplies for applications built around the FPGAs.

AnDAPT, another company providing power solutions for designs built around FPGAs, has recently launched a power management IC (PMIC) solution for the Xilinx ZU+ RFSoC and Zynq-7000 FPGA use cases (Figure 2). WebAmp R.D. provides PMIC solutions based on Xilinx FPGA family device part numbers and use cases; engineers can use it on an as-is basis, or they can modify rail sequencing, revise output voltages, alter maximum current per rail, or disable unused rails if desired.

Figure 2 The power management tool covers the entire Xilinx Zynq family of devices. Source: AnDAPT

As FPGAs charter into non-traditional territories such as industrial, Internet of Things (IoT), medical and networking, power supply engineers are starting to face more challenges. A new breed of power system solutions will be crucial in simplifying the designs built around FPGAs.

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