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Issue 1, 2013

Special Announcement
Synopsys’ ARC EM Starter Kit Accelerates Embedded Software Development

Synopsys’ new starter kit speeds time to market for design teams working with the DesignWare® ARC™ EM processor family. Mike Thompson, senior manager, ARC Processor Marketing at Synopsys, explains how this easy-to-use kit enables engineers to start writing their critical code, then debug and analyze it earlier in the design cycle.

Engineering teams are under increasing pressure to get their products to market faster, and for many projects, developing software is now the critical path. While generic software development boards are widely available, they can take considerable time to set up, which consumes valuable engineering resources and eats into the project schedule.

The Synopsys ARC EM Starter Kit, shown in Figure 1, is complete and ready-to-use out of the box, so design teams can focus on their application rather than wasting time debugging their development boards. The kit includes pre-installed FPGA images for the DesignWare ARC EM4 and ARC EM6 processors, which enables the design team to start developing software without the need to license a model for the processor. The ARC EM Starter Kit is inexpensive, easy to use and what engineers are looking for to get their designs started earlier in the development process.

Figure 1: ARC EM Starter Kit hardware platform

The ARC EM Starter Kit consists of a base board that incorporates an FPGA daughter board hosting a Xilinx Spartan®-6 LX45 FPGA module (a functional block diagram of the board is shown in Figure 2). The board also includes a 4-channel 12-bit A/D converter, on-board 125 MHz clock generation, 128 MB of DDR3 memory, and 16 MB of on-board flash memory, which supports the storage of application software and the bit files for the ARC EM processor images. The design team can select between different processor configurations using the on-board DIP switches. An SD card slot on the board offers additional application software and data storage.

The baseboard includes:
  • Five push buttons
  • Four DIP switches
  • Nine user LEDs
  • Six 12-pin connectors for hardware extensions (Digilent Pmod™ compatible)
  • One SD-card slot
  • USB interface
  • 20-pin JTAG connector

Figure 2: ARC EM Starter Kit functional blocks

ARC EM Processor Family
The ARC EM family of embedded processor cores is based on the next-generation ARCv2 Instruction Set Architecture (ISA). The ARCv2 architecture is a highly optimized ISA that includes a scalable pipeline, enabling the development of advanced RISC microprocessor cores with the optimum balance of performance, power consumption, and size for embedded applications.

The ARC EM4 processor is ideal for embedded and deeply-embedded applications, including smart sensors and actuators, memory cards, SSD controllers, 8- and 16-bit microcontroller replacement, and battery-operated products. The ARC EM6 processor is optimized for use in embedded and deeply embedded applications that require cache memory and are power- and cost-sensitive, such as memory cards, SSD controllers, power management, portable media players, and other mobile devices.

Easy to Expand
Design teams can easily customize the development board by adding I/O interfaces and other circuitry using the Pmod I/O peripheral modules, which are available at low cost from Digilent, Inc. Pmods include sensors, I/O, data acquisition and conversion, wired and wireless connectivity, external memory, and many other interfaces. Use of the peripheral modules enables design teams to add circuitry and build subsystems around the EM processors and develop software for a broad range of applications.

Comprehensive Development Support
The board contains a USB-to-JTAG converter for easy debugging and a serial debug console is also provided. Industry-standard debug probes with 20-pin JTAG connectors are supported. Additionally, 4-wire JTAG probes can be connected to the JTAG connector using adapters. Software development support is available through the widely used GNU Compiler Collection (GCC), which is free to download.

The starter kit incorporates a board support package, which includes peripheral drivers, reference designs and other software as well as an AC power adapter, cables, and documentation to assist in the learning process and accelerate the development of custom applications.

The Synopsys DesignWare ARC EM Starter Kit is available to help SoC design teams evaluate the potential of the ARC EM family for their applications and help them get their designs to market faster by enabling early software development. This low-cost kit will be available from Synopsys in April 2013.

More Information

About the Author
Mike Thompson is Sr. Manager of Product Marketing for ARC Processors at Synopsys, and is responsible for microprocessor cores, the ARC development tools, and subsystem solutions. Mike has more than 30 years of experience in both the design and support of microprocessors, microcontrollers, IP cores, and the development of embedded applications and tools. Previously, he has worked at Virage Logic, Actel, MIPS, ZiLOG, Philips/Signetics, and AMD. He has a BSEE from Northern Illinois University and an MBA from Santa Clara University.

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