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FPGA-programmable instrumentation device runs Linux

Nov 6, 2013 — by Eric Brown 1,686 views

Innovative Integration announced a turnkey instrumentation computer for signal processing and data acquisition. The Mini-K7 combines a Linux-ready COM Express Type 6 computer-on-module based on an AMD G-Series processor, a user-programmable Xilinx Kintex-7 FPGA, a Spartan 6 FPGA, and dual VITA 57 FMC expansion slots for the addition of application-specific I/O.

The Mini-K7 is designed for embedded instrumentation, distributed data acquisition, mobile instrumentation, and remote, autonomous I/O, says FPGA (field programmable gate array) specialist Innovative Integration. Markets for the device are said to include manufacturing, medical, military, telecom, and test and measurement.

Mini-K7 programmable instrumentation computer
(click image to enlarge)


The Mini-K7 is built around the Xilinx Kintex-7, one of the higher-end members of Xilinx’s FPGA family. The Mini-K7 is available with three different flavors of the Kintex-7, starting with the K160T, offering the equivalent of 47 million gates, the K325T with 24M, and the high-end K410T with 55M. In addition, the Mini-K7 supplies a lower-end Spartan-6 FPGA, but this is used primarily as an intermediary module for bidirectional communications.


A COM Express Type 6 computer-on-module (COM) offers Linux access to the Mini-K7’s Xilinx FPGAs. The Mini-K7 incorporates Adlink’s 95 x 95mm Express-GFC COM, which supports a variety of AMD G-Series APUs. (Unlike the new AMD G-Series SoC, the G-Series APU integrates Radeon graphics, but requires a separate I/O controller chip.) The Mini-K7 offers a choice of the G-Series G-T56N model, featuring a dual-core processor clocked at 1.65GHz with 18W TDP, as well as the 1GHz, dual-core G-T40N (9W) and the 615MHz, single-core G-T16R (4.5W).

The Adlink COM Express module (pictured on the right; click to enlarge) supports up to 8GB of DDR3 RAM and is equipped with a PCI Express bus that links it to the Mini-K7’s FMC (FPGA Mezzanine Card) site. The VITA 57.1 compliant FMC site provides dual slots for a variety of 75 x 75mm PCI Express mezzanine cards from Innovative Integration and third parties.

The FMC modules appear to the G-Series based computer like any other PCIe add-in card, and install just as easily, says the company. The PCIe bus is said to support data transfer rates from CPU memory of up to 3.2GB/s when connected with Innovative’s own cards (shown below), which are designed to exploit the performance of the Kintex-7.

Innovative Integration’s FMC modules
(click image to enlarge)


All the Innovative FMC modules support simultaneous sampling, triggering, controls, and private inter-module communications. Simultaneous sampling is said to be enabled via system triggers and matched reference clocks from the baseboard.

The FMC modules are interconnected via the Spartan 6, which enables bidirectional communication for real-time applications. The Kintex-7 subsystem has a 10GbE port, which offers a direct XAUI 3.125Gbps interface to the Spartan-6, while a separate gigabit Ethernet port services the COM Express module.

Mini-K7 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)


The FMC site is designed to receive dual triggers from the Spartan 6 as well as dual clock inputs via its mezzanine connector. Innovative’s FMC modules use these triggers to support simultaneous sampling and other trigger scenarios enabled by the Kintex-7.

Mini-K7 internal baseboard, top and bottom
(click image to enlarge)


Customers can also purchase optional stackable signal conditioning trays that connect directly to the FMC site. These provide housings for RF receivers and down-converters, filters, GPS, amps, attenuators, touchscreens, and more.

Mini-K7 stacked with an RF receiver unit
(click image to enlarge)


The computer boots from a SATA solid state drive sitting in one of the system’s two 2.5-inch SSD bays. The device can be operated via Ethernet as a remote computer, or it can act as a standalone “headless” embedded instrument.

Aside from the 10GbE port and some DIO devoted to the FPGA, all the other external ports are directly connected with the COM Express module. The Mini-K7 provides two USB 2.0 client ports, two USB 3.0 host ports, and a CAN bus. There’s also a DisplayPort and onboard LVDS, with optional touchscreen support. The convectively cooled system supports a temperature range as wide as -20 to 60°C, and offers vibration and shock resistance, says Innovative.

The Kintex 7 logic is loaded from an on-card ROM that is field reprogrammable via a Xilinx USB JTAG cable. Xilinx ISE development tools are said to be available from Xilinx. The Mini-K7 supports Linux, Windows, and VxWorks, and ships with device drivers, peripheral configuration and control, and utilities, says the company.

Specifications listed for the Mini-K7 include:

  • COM Express Type 6 module:
    • Processor — AMD G-Series APUs, choice of:
      • GT56N (1.65GHz dual-core, 18W TDP)
      • G-T40N (1GHz, dual-core, 9W)
      • G-T16R (615MHz, single-core, 4.5W)
    • Memory — up to 8GB single-channel, non-ECC 1066/1333MHz DDR3 via 2x SODIMMs
    • BIOS — AMI APTIO UEFI in 16 Mbit SPI flash
  • FPGA subsystem:
    • Xilinx Kintex-7 with -1 and -2 speed grades, choice of:
      • K160T — 47.5M gates (equivalent), 202K /25K flip-flops, 600 DSP elements
      • K325T — 24M gates, 407K /50K flip-flops, 840 DSP elements
      • K410T — 55M gates, 508K /63K flip-flops, 1,540 DSP elements
    • 2GHz DDR3 SDRAM via 16x 128MB modules
    • 8x GTX ports (4x FMC or 10GbE, 4x 6Gbps to FMC)
    • Xilinx Spartan-6 module for FMC interconnect
  • FMC site:
    • 2x VITA 57 FMC compatible slots
    • 4x or 8x high-speed Tx/Rx pair lanes @ 6.5Gbps (4x lanes shared with 10GbE)
    • 80x signal pairs
    • LA, HA I/O support — LVCMOS25, LVDS25, LVDCI2, SSTL25, HSTL25
  • Storage — 2x 2.5-inch SSD bays; SDHC boot drive, removable
  • Networking — 10GbE port with XAUI 3.125Gbps interface to FPGA, 1Gbps transfer rate, SFP+ port for fiber optics; gigabit Ethernet port (controlled by COM) with IEEE 1588 timing
  • Other I/O:
    • 2x USB 3.0 or 2.0 host
    • 2x USB 2.0 client
    • USB-based HD audio
    • 4x eSATA (6Gbps)
    • DisplayPort
    • LVDS interface with optional I2C/USB touch controller, up to 1280 x 768
    • CAN (AX/RX)
    • UART (for optional GPS)
    • 32x DIO (for Kintex-7) in 16x pairs
  • Sample clocks and triggering:
    • Clock sources (SMA)
    • Trigger sources (LVDS/SATA outputs)
    • Timing sync
    • GPS (optional, supports Symmetricom GPS-500)
    • IEEE 1588 PTP (optional)
  • Other features — Watchdog; temp. monitor; optional stackable signal conditioning trays
  • Power:
    • 8-26V range, AC or DC; 9-18V DC-only operation
    • 9W @ 18W baseline consumption (with 200MHz Kintex-7 K160T, no 10GbE) plus G-Series TDP (4.5, 9, or 18W)
    • Deep sleep mode
    • FMC power controls
  • Ruggedization:
    • Operating temperature — -20 to 60°C (may require convective air flow or cold plate)
    • Vibration — 5g
    • Shock — 30g, 11mS
  • Dimensions — 250 x 175 x 100mm (10 x 7.0 x 4.0 inches)
  • Operating system options: Linux; Windows; VxWorks

No pricing or availability information was provided for the Mini-K7. Further details may be found on Innovative Integration’s Mini-K7 product page.

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