Rapid-X – An FPGA Development Toolset Using a Custom Simulink Library for MTCA.4 Modules

The recent introduction of advanced hardware architectures such as the Micro Telecommunications Computing Architecture (MTCA) caused a change in the approach to implementation of control schemes in many fields. The development has been moving away from traditional programming languages ( C/C++), to hardware description languages (VHDL, Verilog), which are used in FPGA development. With MATLAB/Simulink it is possible to describe complex systems with block diagrams and simulate their behavior. Those diagrams are then used by the HDL experts to implement exactly the required functionality in hardware. Both the porting of existing applications and adaptation of new ones require a lot of development time from them. To solve this, Xilinx System Generator, a toolbox forMATLAB/Simulink, allows rapid prototyping of those block diagrams using hardware modelling. It is still up to the firmware developer to merge this structure with the hardware-dependent HDL project.

This prevents the application engineer from quickly verifying the proposed schemes in real hardware. The framework described in this article overcomes these challenges, offering a hardware-independent library of components that can be used in Simulink/System Generator models. The components are subsequently translated into VHDL entities and integrated with a pre-prepared VHDL project template. Furthermore, the entire implementation process is run in the background, giving the user an almost one-click path from control scheme modelling and simulation to bit-file generation. This approach allows the application engineers to quickly develop new schemes and test them in real hardware environment. The applications may range from simple data logging or signal generation ones to very advanced controllers. Taking advantage of the Simulink simulation capabilities and user-friendly hardware implementation routines, the framework significantly decreases the development time of FPGA-based applications.

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