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Case Study

FPGA Design and EMC Compliance Support

Services Used

What They Said

What our Client Says

“Great team, incredibly savvy professionals. Working on a complex project with Ignys for a couple of years and the experience has been fantastic. Nico is a star, great professional to work with. Understands the project’s ins and outs in detail, and vested in its success.”

Modernising Legacy Hardware for Computing Enthusiasts

This project takes old gaming technology into a new age for computer enthusiasts. Originally a Kickstarter project, this customer’s venture required EMC compliance support and a redesign before we could begin developing new electronic prototypes. Successful prototyping supports scaling up to the critical volume manufacturing stage.

We were approached for our FPGA and PCB design knowledge. The project involved multiple people from both Ignys and the client’s team, working collaboratively to bring this brilliant legacy computing project to life.

What They Needed

Brief

The client initially approached Ignys for a design review and a redesign of the board, in addition to FPGA design consulting, testing and compliance. The project itself was in a good place, with exciting sales potential, but they needed extra assistance with EMC testing approval. The customer also wanted to optimise electronic engineering factors prior to the release of the product.

The high density design required good design practices to ensure reliable manufacture, and tight tolerances had to be respected. During the process we also helped with strategies for component shortages.

Modernising Legacy Hardware for Computing Enthusiasts

The Project Approach

We took on a full board redesign using best practices to maximise the project’s potential for success. Following a thorough PCB design review, we identified areas for improvement which would help with their long-term sales potential. In relation to this feedback the client requested extra consultancy work, which increased the scope of the project significantly.

Nonetheless, the project used a highly collaborative approach, using the best knowledge and talent from both teams, with several key stakeholders sharing great ideas for additional features on the upcoming product. This contributed to a fantastic final result at the prototyping stage.

Each feature required new design work and testing which we took on as their trusted electronics design partner. Our original quote for the project even accounted for future features, which meant the customer didn’t need to worry about financing additional design work at a later stage of the process. There were vastly more pins used in the new design than the original to allow the design to expand and accommodate the new features.

 

Electronics prototyping and FPGA Design

We moved onto the electronic prototyping phase and the client’s team were delighted with the B models, which performed well. The Ignys engineers on the project made the client aware of the serious component shortages which are still impacting the electronics industry. We were able to help them design for availability to avoid future setbacks, working directly with their internal FPGA engineer to create an alternative solution, which used both the client’s and the Ignys team’s knowledge of global supply chain partnerships.

The FPGA design implementation led to new challenges, including the considerable memory needed to store the configuration. A RAM chip-swap significantly improved the layout and the EMC performance of the product. However, whilst the project passed its commercial EMC targets there was still a challenge with residential EMC. The Ignys team tackled the extra noise radiating from the daughter board through stringent investigation, allowing the project to move forward.

FPGAs by nature are complicated components with 1000s of pages of documentation. With this type of project, extra familiarity and a deeper understanding of the topic is required. We analysed all the relevant data sheets to ensure the correct power supply voltages were used, and in some cases, to modify these accordingly.  The new FPGA had dedicated boot up pins which we used to reduce risk and issues from dual role pins during start up. Our team also added additional supply for one of the voltage rails, adapted for analogue to digital converters and focused on minimising high frequency current noise.

Results

The client is in a very good place with an exceptional product that is rapidly moving onto the next scale-up stage of the process.

We were able to navigate the chip shortage problem and through close collaboration with their engineering team, we found a suitable replacement which was, conveniently, a newer version, allowing for more functionality.

We considered their large internal team who all wanted to add their valuable input and suggest new features. We accounted for this in our quoting, and the collaboration that followed has worked extremely well.

Our FPGA knowledge was boosted further by this project, putting us in a great position to help more customers with their projects.

Dr Nicholas Shattock from Ignys says “I love the energy and reasons behind this project. It will bring such joy to a wide audience of computer enthusiasts who miss the old technology. And this new solution adds functionality whilst keeping the heart and spirit of the original.”

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