New SoM Combination Design Based on Processor and FPGA: FPGA and Processor


Many embedded designs use single board computer based on micro-processor and micro-controller(SBC) and modular system (SoM). However, people with more embedded applications can't bear the delay caused by the response time associated with software. Only the custom hardware can achieve the higher performance that these applications required, and the quickest way to develop custom hardware is to use FPGA. This article will introduce the advantages of using SoM to develop embedded systems that require higher processing power from FPGA, and will also cover the various FPGA SoM, and also discuss how they work when embedded in design and development.

What is an FPGA? Intro for Beginners


CatalogsFPGA: The Role of Modular SystemNew SoM based on SoC with processor and FPGAFunctions of SoM and SBCConclusion

FPGA: The Role of Modular System

The modular system (SoM) can help designers to develop special shape size embedded systems with custom interfaces without having to develop kernel processing systems from scratch. Designers can insert SoM which has pre-designed and tested into pre-designed or customized cards to create embedded designs with the same functions as fully customized designs, but take much less time to develop hardware.

Using SoM has several advantages over developing hardware from scratch as follows:

1) Saving cost( in the process of developing and debugging the circuit board based on SoC, the non-recurrent engineering cost will be very high.)

2) Multiple choices(benefiting the insertion ability of SoM)

3) Developing hardware and software at the same time

4) Reducing design risks

5) Small packages

The market, once dominated by microprocessors and micro-controllers, is now replaced by SoM, with through holes and socket components losing their leading role. Pin compatibility allows designers to select from a range of compatible processors that have the correct clock speed and appropriate on-chip memory capacity. However, with the increase of the number of pins and the adoption of surface mount packaging technology, this design method has become obsolete. And SoM has emerged as the times require, its shape size and substrate surface have the same function as the previous series of pin compatible micro-controllers.

If SoM is used as the computing platform of the project, the design engineer can concentrate his energy and resources to develop the final application without being lost in the details of designing computing platform. For example, at the clock speed of hundreds of megahertz (MHz), the layout of the SDRAM circuit board connected to the application processor becomes increasingly difficult due to differential wire delay, noise, crosstalk and many other challenges. However, SoM vendors have done a lot of design work before the start of the project, which can solve these problems and cut the time of product launch.

To select the appropriate SoM series for embedded development projects, we must carefully analyze various factors, including the expected requirements of embedded resources, as well as the design extendibility, future adaptability and ease of use. This helps to select the appropriate shape and substrate size of SoM, providing alternative options to meet known challenges and unexpected future challenges. If the selected SoM family includes multiple product members and has compatible appearance dimensions and connector base surfaces, the selection of the designers can be expanded to make the product better able to withstand the test of the future.

New SoM based on SoC with processor and FPGA

SoM usually uses SoC which includes multiple application processors, but a new embedded processor, SoC, integrating FPGA, applies to the SoM design either, like the Zynq®-7000 SoC, Xilinx’s fully programmable processor. Xilinx Zynq-7000 SoC integrates the software programmability of Arm Cortex-A9 application processors with the hardware programmability of FPGA. Arm microprocessor, built in Zynq SoC,  combines enhanced peripherals with SDRAM memory controllers (called Zynq SoC's "processing systems" or "PS"), and performs all the software-based tasks typically handled by embedded microprocessors or microcontrollers, while integrated FPGA (known as Zynq SoC's PL: Programmable Logic) provides hardware I / O response time and hardware acceleration for embedded tasks that require faster execution speed.

Xilinx Zynq SoC offers a variety of processor configurations and speeds, with even more options for FPGA structures on a chip. Choosing the SoM family based on hybrid processor FPGA SoC can expand the selection range and improve the future adaptability of the product, like Xilinx Zynq-7000 series. One example of such a SoM series is the use of the TE0782 family from Trenz Electronic (Fig.1) and the SoM supporting test panel TEBT0782-01 which adopts the Xilinx Zynq-7000. 

Three Members of the SoC Family

TE0782-02-035-2I based on Xilinx Zynq Z-7035 SoC

TE0782-02-045-2I based on Xilinx Zynq Z-7045 SoC

TE0782-02-100-2I based on Xilinx Zynq Z-7100 SoC

All three SoMs have the same connector substrate, including three Samtec LSHM nonpolar connectors and hundreds of I / O pins, in addition, there are power and grounding pins between the SoM and the board.

Trenz Electronic TE0782 SoM

Fig.1 Trenz Electronic TE0782 SoM

Fig.1: TE0782 SoM from Trenz Electronic uses one of three Xilinx Zynq Z-7000 SoC models, as well as providing 1GB SDRAM and other non-volatile memory.

The best way to see the flexibility of SoM design is to look at the TE0703 carrier board of the TE0782 SoM family, and then go back to SoM through the I / O pins to see SoM's resources.

Many of the important I / O functions separated from the SoM board

Fig.2: Trenz TE0703 Board Divides Many I / O Pins from the Relevant 4 x 5 cm SoM Boards to the Rest of the Embedded System.

Many of the important I / O functions separated from the SoM board are shown in the block diagram of TE0703 as follows:

1 Gbit/s Ethernet

USB and Micro-USB

Hundreds of I/O pins(it can be configured as a singular I / O pin, or as a low-voltage differential signal pair.)

Physical Map of Trenz TE0703-05( Trenz TE0703 family)

Fig.3 Physical Map of Trenz TE0703-05( Trenz TE0703 family)

Functions of SoM and SBC

Processing speed, response time and I / O capability are significant characteristics of SoM. However, embedded systems often integrate SBC, such as Arduino Uno and Raspberry Pi, because these products also have wide-ranging technique support. So Trenz Electronic also offers related versions of Arduino and Raspberry Pi: TE0723-03M ArduZynq and TE0726-03M ZynqBerry based on Xilinx Zynq-7000 SoC. These SBC bridges many existing plug-in cards, such as the expansion boards of  Arduino and various Raspberry.

The FPGA capacity of Zynq Z-7010 SoC integrated into TE0723-03M ArduZynq and TE0726-03M ZynqBerry SBC is significantly different from that of FPGA integrated into three Trenz Electronic SoMs (using Zynq Z-7035 Zynq Z-7045 and Zynq Z-7100 SoC ). Although all Zynq-7000 SoC apply dual-core Arm Cortex-A9 processor, their FPGA on components are different.

Volume of the Xilinx Zynq SoC Programmable Logic Unit Block RAM (MB) DSP slices is Z-701028K2.180Z-7035275K17.6900Z-7045350K19.2900Z-7100444K26.52020, Xilinx Zynq-7000 SoC (Z-7035, Z-7045 and Z-7100) used in Trenz Electronics SoM provides more FPGA resources than that of Zynq Z-7010 used in Trenz Electronic ArduZynq and ZynqBerry SBC.

Xilinx Zynq-7000 SoC (Z-7035, Z-7045 and Z-7100) used in Trenz Electronics SoM provides more FPGA resources than that of Zynq Z-7010 used in Trenz Electronic ArduZynq and ZynqBerry SBC. In addition, TE0723-03M ArduZynq and TE0726-03M ZynqBerry SBC provide only 512-MB on-board SDRAM, while TE0782 SoM provides 1GB.

Trenz Electronic provides various boards for its SoM, including TE0703-05, TE0706-02, TE0701-06, and TEB0745-02, which provide a lot of standardized I / O functionality. A certain card may be suitable for a particular embedded application, but the embedded system design can also be split into a customized design board that can accept SoM series products to meet different processing requirements. This flexibility highlights the advantages of using the SoM family as the basis for embedded design. And consistent standardized connector substrate allows SoM to be easily interchangeable to accommodate changes in system specifications.


SoM can significantly cut the time requirement of prototype embedded systems and reduce project risk. As long as the SoM profile and connector substrate are supported,  more FPGA resources of SoM can be inserted to meet the growing demand. In addition, a variety of compatible SoM based on Xilinx Zynq-7000 SoC combine the processing power of dual-core Arm Cortex-A9 processor with FPGA resources, which is helpful to accelerate the development of embedded design. The embedded design method based on SoM can not only shorten the time required to develop the hardware part, but also allow the software development to start earlier in the project, thus reducing the design cost.

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