Caped Beagle Is FPGA Superhero

We miss the days when everything had daughterboards. Now, Arduinos have shields and Raspberry Pis have hats. The BeagleBone has capes. Whatever. However, regardless of the name, the open source BeagleWire cape/shield/hat/daughterboard connects to a BeagleBone and provides a Lattice iCE40HX FPGA, some support hardware, and common I/O connectors like Pmod and Grove. You can see a video about the board below.

In addition to the FPGA, the board contains a EEPROM, RAM, flash memory, an oscillator, and a few buttons, switches and LEDs. The buttons even feature hardware debouncing. The parts list and design files are all available and — depending on a successful crowdfunding campaign — you might be able to buy one for $75 in the future.

The board is configured to communicate over the 100 MHz 16-bit GPMC port. Linux software and example drivers are available so it should be fairly simple to get the FPGA and CPU talking to each other for your own purposes.

If you decide to build your own, there’s a one-click button that will populate a DigiKey cart for you with most of the components. Although the DigiKey site complained about an error, it did seem to order 24 of the 26 components and the total came to just over $50. Of course, you’d still need to source the missing parts and the board.

We’ve talked about the Lattice iCE FPGAs quite a bit in the past. Not only do you have our tutorial videos, but there are plenty of others, too.

Thanks for [Drew Fustini] for pointing this out to us.

14 thoughts on “Caped Beagle Is FPGA Superhero

    1. I don’t want to admit how long it took me to figure out that the Arduino world wasn’t just weirdly concerned with EMI shielding for some reason. I could never figure out why everybody wants their own silly-ass name for a daughterboard.

  1. Far too expensive. It’s only a 4K LE FPGA with 70Kbits of BRAM and 32MB of SDRAM. You need to add a Beaglebone to make it useful, for which combination they want $160. For $130 Terasic will sell you a DE10-Nano board, which has twin ARM CPUs connected on chip to a 110K LE FPGA, around 5600Kbits of BRAM, 1GB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with the CPUs and more IOs than you can shake a stick at.
    FPGA only boards with more capabilities can be picked up on eBay for $30-40.

      1. Depends on your definition of fast. MAX10 and Artix 7 FPGAs have 1Msample/sec 12 bit ADCs built in. You can get external fast ADC/DAC boards that can manage 32Msamples/sec for about $20.

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