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Carrier adds Arduino and MCU hooks to Zynq ARM/FPGA COM

Jul 29, 2015 — by Eric Brown 1,841 views

Avnet released a carrier board for its Linux-driven, FPGA-enabled MicroZed COMs featuring an Arduino shield interface and hooks to an optional MCU board.

The MicroZed Carrier Card Kit for Arduino extends Avnet’s SBC-like MicroZed computer-on-module with Arduino and MCU expansion. The $89 kit is designed for Internet of Things applications such as industrial control, remote sensing, and embedded vision.

MicroZed Carrier Card Kit for Arduino with (left) and without the MicroZed COM
(click images to enlarge)

The Arduino kit appears to support any of Avnet’s 4.0 x 2.25-inch MicroZed COMs, which are also available with other carrier board options (see farther below). All the MicroZeds run Linux on a Xilinx Zynq system-on-chip featuring dual Cortex-A9 cores and a tightly linked FPGA subsystem. The modules ship with 1GB of RAM, a gigabit Ethernet port, a micro-USB 2.0 host/OTG port, and a USB 2.0-interfaced UART. On the bottom of the board there’s a microSD slot and pair of 100-pin micro-headers delivering 115 user I/O signals.

MicroZed Arduino kit fully loaded with a Kinetis FRDM-KL46Z MCU card (left), a MicroZed module (center left), an Arduino shield (center right), and other I/O wing connectors (right)
(click image to enlarge)

The MicroZed Carrier Card Kit for Arduino provides an Arduino Uno R3 compatible shield interface, as well as a subset of Arduino-compatible connectors for interfacing the MicroZed to a low-power MCU evaluation board. Avnet provides an optional Freescale Kinetis FRDM-KL46Z board based on a Cortex-M0+ microcontroller unit.

MicroZed Arduino kit detail view with MicroZed
(click image to enlarge)

An MCU card like the FRDM-KL46Z can be used to control MicroZed’s power rails, enabling reduced power consumption by offloading routine tasks to the MCU. For example, the MCU can offload low power sensor hub functionality, power management, and scheduling tasks.

MicroZed Arduino kit example configuration
(click image to enlarge)

Dual 2×6 peripheral module connectors expand the MicroZed’s FPGA-connected, PS-based SDIO/SPI and PL-based I/O functions, respectively. Another 2×6 bank links to the LP MCU connector and supports I2C and UART interfaces. A micro-USB port is provided for power.

MicroZed Arduino kit block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the MicroZed Carrier Card Kit for Arduino include:

  • Main Interfaces:
    • Micro-header connectors for stacked interface to MicroZed
    • Full Arduino-compatible shield site connected to Zynq PL I/O
    • Partial Arduino interface to optional low power MCU subsystem
    • 2×6 peripheral interface to Zynq PS (SDIO/SPI)
    • 2×6 peripheral interface to Zynq PL (UART/I2C)
    • 2×6 peripheral interface to LP MCU (UART/I2C)
  • MCU Subsystem:
    • MCU on/off power control of all voltage rails on MicroZed
    • MCU offloading of subset of tasks from MicroZed’s Zynq
    • Low-power sensor-hub functionality, autonomous from Zynq
  • Options:
    • Wide range of third-party Arduino shields
    • Freescale FRDM-KL46Z or alternative MCU boards
    • Freescale FRDM-FXS-MULTI stacked onto FRDM-KL46Z
    • Other shields that can stack onto MCU board (with pinout limitations)

Like the MicroZed, the new Arduino kit is available with full schematics, BOM, layouts, mechanicals, and hardware user guides. Linux downloads are available as an alternative to the preloaded Linux firmware, and there’s community support at


MicroZed background

Avnet announced its first MicroZed module in Aug. 2013 featuring a Xilinx Zynq-7010 SoC. Later that year, it released a MicroZed 7020 model with a Zynq-7020, which adds a more powerful FPGA and faster 866MHz Cortex-A9 cores.

MicroZed 7020

In April 2014, Avnet launched some specialty MicroZeds. These include an industrial (-40 to 85°C) version, a Cost-Optimized (CO) version for standalone use that can self-power its expansion connectors, as well as an SBC version said to be well suited for small form-factor devices. The SBC model can stack a daughter card via a top-mounted connector instead of requiring a carrier board.

The Arduino kit is Avnet’s fourth carrier board option for the MicroZed. Here are the other three:

  • MicroZed I/O Carrier Card — This flagship carrier is equipped with dual 100-pin micro-headers that co nnect over 80 of the PL interfaces to 12 Digilent Pmod compatible interfaces. Other I/O connects to push button switches, DIP switches, LEDs, EEPROM, Xilinx XADC, and a clock oscillator. Power rails provide 5V to the MicroZed, user selectable bank voltages for the PL I/O, and the necessary voltages for the XADC.
  • MicroZed Breakout Carrier Card — This simpler breadboard-like carrier connects its dual 100-pin connectors to push the PL I/O to two simple 0.1-inch connector footprints and a bread-boarding area. Power rails provide 5V to the MicroZed, as well as a user selectable bank voltage for the PL I/O and breakout connectors.
  • MicroZed FMC Carrier Card — The FMC carrier links 75 of the MicroZed’s PL signals to a low-pin-count Vita 57 FPGA Mezzanine Connector (FMC) interface. Other signals connect to various FMC Carrier Card features, including push button switches, LEDs, EEPROMs, and five Digilent Pmod interfaces.

MicroZed I/O Carrier Card

In September of last year, Avnet also launched a PicoZed module, which offers the guts of the MicroZed in a more truly COM-like form-factor. The PicoZed lacks any of the MicroZed’s real-world I/O ports, and is available with its own carrier card.

“Avnet’s MicroZed Carrier Card for Arduino provides our growing base of MicroZed users with a highly versatile prototyping platform,” stated Peter Fenn, global technical marketing manager, microcontrollers and wireless connectivity, Avnet Electronics Marketing. “Through the combination of MicroZed, an MCU subsystem, an Arduino shield and several expansion interfaces, designers will be able to quickly develop their applications from a catalog of off-the-shelf hardware modules, example software code and proven reference designs.”

Further information

The MicroZed Carrier Card Kit for Arduino is available for $89, plus $199 for the MicroZed module and $20 for the optional Kinetis KL46 MCU card. More information may be found at the MicroZed Carrier Card Kit for Arduino product page.

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