An Open Toolchain For Sipeed Tang Nano FPGAs

A Sipeed Tang Nano 9k board on a Thinkpad keyboard, with an LCD panel attached to it

[Sevan Janiyan] shares their research on putting an open FPGA toolchain together. Specifically, this is an open toolchain for the Sipeed Nano Tang FPGAs, which are relatively cheap offerings by Sipeed from China. The official toolchain is proprietary and requires you to apply for a license that’s to be renewed every year. There’s a limited educational version you can use more freely, but of course, that’s not necessarily sufficient for comfortable work.

This toolchain relies on the apicula project, an effort to reverse-engineer, reimplement and document the Gowin FPGA bitstream format, as well as the gowin integration for nextpnr (an open tool for FPGA place-and-route). With a combination of yosys, apicula, nextpnr and openFPGAloader, [Sevan] put together a set of commands you can use to build gateware for your Nano Tang FPGAs – without any proprietary limitations blocking your way. They show a basic blinkie demo, and also a demo that successfully operates a parallel LCD connected to the board.

The availability of open toolchains for FPGAs has always been somewhat of a sore point. Wondering about open FPGA toolchains? This Supercon 2019 talk by Tim [Mithro] Ansell will get you up to speed!

We thank [feinfinger (sneezing)] for sharing this with us!

9 thoughts on “An Open Toolchain For Sipeed Tang Nano FPGAs

  1. nothing works, most of Gowin’s IDEs don’t work and it’s very difficult to install them. Linux versions are broken or always need workarounds, they work on few versions of Linux and not for ARM.
    Furthermore, the account access to their site sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.
    To complete, there are too many boards with the same name which are confusing, and each one has different manufacturers and they implement their own MCUs and each time you have to read their documentation which is constantly changing.
    It’s getting CRAZY to program them without SERIOUS STABLE DOCUMENTATION.

    1. Necro post, but 100%. only I think you are exaggerating when you say “most”, most all links don’t work. All the tools crash left right and centre on modern Linuxes. I think the issue is you are meant to be running windowsXP or Ubuntu 10.
      The whole world of FPGA toolchains is like train crash, all vendors, top to bottom.

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