Posts Tagged ‘microsemi’

$34 SmartFusion2 Maker Board Arm Cortex-M3 + FPGA Board Supports ESP32 & ESP8266 Modules

January 11th, 2018 11 comments

Xilinx Zynq SoCs are probably the most well-known FPGAs with ARM cores, as their Cortex A9/A53 cores can run Linux, but they are not the only ones. Microsemi launched SmartFusion2 SoC comprised of FPGA fabric and an Arm Cortex-M3 core in 2013, as well as a $300 development kit.

The company has now partnered with Digikey to launch SmartFusion2 Maker Board, a low-cost evaluation platform for the SoC that comes with Gigabit Ethernet, a USB port, a connector for ESP8266 module, PCB footprint for ESP32 module, among other features like a light sensor, LEDs, and buttons.

SmartFusion2 maker board (M2S010-MKR-KIT) main features & specifications:

  • SoC  – Microsemi SmartFusion2 M2S010 SoC with:
    • Arm Cortex-M3 @ 166 MHz, 6oKB+80KB eSRAM, 256KB eNVM
    • FPGA with 12,084 logic element, 400 Kbits RAM
  • Storage – 16 Mbit SPI Flash
  • Connectivity
  • USB (for programming/debugging) – USB integrated FlashPro5 programming hardware; USB port for UART communications
  • Sensor – Ambient light sensor
  • Misc – 8x user LEDs, 3x buttons including two user pushbuttons, 50 MHz clock source
  • Power Supply – 5V via mini USB port; LX7167A PMIC
  • Dimensions – N/A

The SmartFusion2 maker board can be used with Microsemi’s Libero SoC v11.8 or greater with a (Free) Silver license to program the FPGA fabric, and SoftConsole Eclipse based IDE to code the Arm Cortex M3 core in C/C++. You’ll find documentation on eewiki’s getting started guide.

Click to Enlarge

The board – also known as M2S010-MKR-KIT – can be purchased for $33.75 through Digikey with close to 2,000 unit in stock at the time of writing. There may also be further information on the product page on Microsemi website.

Microsemi VSC7513 and VSC7514 MIPS SoCs for Ethernet Switches Get Initial Mainline Linux Support

December 15th, 2017 No comments

Microsemi VSC7514 is a 10-port Gigabit Ethernet (GbE)/SMB switch supporting a combination of 1G and 2.5G Ethernet ports, and VSC7513 comes with basically the same features except it’s limited 8 ports. Both SoCs include a MIPS processor with DDR3 memory interface, and support industrial and enterprise Ethernet switching features such as VLAN and QoS processing.

Microsemi VSC751x Ocelot family was unveiled in June 2016, but I only heard about them today, as Free Electrons recently added initial support for VSC7513 & VSC7514 chip into mainline Linux with the patch series available here.

Block Diagram for VSC7514

Microsemi VSC7514 specifications & features:

  • CPU / Memory Interface – Integrated 500 MHz MIPS 24KEc CPU with MMU and DDR3/DDR3L SDRAM  controller
  • Ethernet Connectivity – 4x dual media copper ports, 2x 1G SGMII ports, and 2x 1G/2.5G SGMII ports
  • Host CPU Interfaces – PCIe 1.x and NPI CPU interface
  • Internal shared memory buffer (8 queues per port)
  • Jumbo frame support
  • Strict priority and DWRR scheduler/shaper
  • Layer 2 Switching – 802.1Q VLAN switch with 4K MACs and 4K VLANs, RSTP and MSTP support, Hardware-based and software-based learning, etc…
  • Multicast – Layer 2, IGMP and MLD Snooping
  • Industrial Ethernet – Integrated timing: VeriTimeTM (1588v2) and SyncE support, Ethernet ring protection switching (ERPS)
  • Package – 17 mm × 17 mm CABGA package
  • Temperature Range – –40 °C to 125 °C

The processor can optionally be connected to a host CPU via PCIe or NPI interface, but the MIPS processor may be sufficiency for most applications.

Typical VSC7514 Gigabit Ethernet Switch Design

Free Electrons explains the patch series adds support to boot the platform up to a shell, with interrupts, pin-muxing, GPIOs and UARTs, but additional features will such as support for the switch fabric will be implemented later (switchdev driver).

More details about the processor can be found on Microsemi VSC7513 and VSC7514 product pages, with the product brief being available publicly, but datasheets, reference designs, models, and reports requiring registration with a valid company email address. I could not find a product based on BSC7514, except for VSC7514EV board platform based on “VSC7514 device, together with NX7102 and NX7124A DC-DC controllers, and MSMCJ12A and MSMCJ12CA transient voltage suppressor”.

Future Electronics FTM Board Club actually appears to offers a free samples of the evaluation kit to qualified applicants, but the rules are not clear, except they obviously expect some return on investment since they ask about the projected production volume & date.

SiFive Introduces Freedom U500 and E500 Open Source RISC-V SoCs

July 12th, 2016 5 comments

Open source used to be a software thing, with the hardware design being kept secret for fear of being copied, but companies such as Texas Instruments realized that from a silicon vendor perspective it would make perfect sense to release open source hardware designs with full schematics, Gerber files and SoM, to allow smaller companies and hobbyists, as well as the education market, normally not having the options to go through standard sales channels and the FAE (Field Application Engineer) support, to experiment with the platform and potentially come up with commercial products. That’s exactly what they did with the Beagleboard community, but there’s still an element that’s closed source, albeit documented: the processor itself.

Freedom U500 Block Diagram

Freedom U500 Block Diagram

But this could change soon, as SiFive, a startup founded by the creators of the free and open RISC-V architecture, has announced two open source SoCs with Freedom U500 processor and Freedom E300 micro-controller.

Freedom U500 (Unleashed family) platform key specifications:

  • U5 Coreplex with 1 to 8 U54 cores @ 1.6GHz+
  • RV64GC Architecture (64- bit RISC-V)
  • Multicore, Cache Coherency Support
  • High Speed Peripherals: PCIe 3.0, USB3.0, GbE, DDR3/4
  • TSMC 28nm

The SoC supports Linux, and targets applications such as machine learning, storage, and networking.

Freedom E300 Block Diagram

Freedom E300 Block Diagram

Freedom E300 (Everywhere family) platform key specifications:

  • E3 Coreplex
  • RV32IMC/RV32EMC Architecture
  • On chip Flash, OTP, SRAM
  • TSMC 180nm

Three real-time operating systems, including FreeRTOS, have already been ported to Freedom E300 for embedded micro-controllers, IoT, and wearable markets.

Open source SoCs are made to be customizable to match your applications exact needs, instead of picking on existing SoC matching your requirements but with some uneeded features. SiFive also explains that “storage customers talks about custom instructions for bit manipulation so they can use one not 10 instructions for 10x speed up”. But before you get to Silicon, you’d normally ruin and customize the core on FPGA boards and three boards are currently available for development and evaluation:

  • Freedom U500:
  • Freedom E300 – Digilent Arty FPGA development kit powered by Xilinx XC7A35T-L1CSG324I FPGA, with 256 MB RAM, 16 MB flash, and vairous expension ports. Price: $99
Click to Enlarge

Xilinx Virtex-7 FPGA VC707 devkit – Click to Enlarge

You also have detailed documentation about the SoCs, U5 nd U3 coreplex, the development kits, software and tools, as well as developer forums, on SiFive developers website. You can also directly checkout the code and SDK on github.

RISC-V instructions set is royalty-free, so compared to the entry level $40,000 ARM license for startups using Cortex M0 MCU, it should provide some savings. It does not help with manufacturing costs which should remain the same. but SiFive expects that open source SoC could be manufactured through a “moderate” crowdfunding campaign.  I have not been able to figure out SiFive business model yet, unless they plan on selling their own chips too, and/or provide customization services to customers.

Lots more information can be found on Sifive website.

Via EETimes

$299 Microsemi SmartFusion2 Starter Kit (Cortex M3 + FPGA)

February 9th, 2013 2 comments

Microsemi SmartFusion2 SoC family combines an ARM Cortex-M3 Core @ 166 Mhz and FPGA Fabric with up to 12M Gates, and comes with up to 512 KB eNVM and 64 KB eSRAM, 1 CAN A & B interface, 1 GbE port, 1 USB 2.0 OTG, and diverse serial interface. Last year I received Emcraft SmartFusion Starter Kit using the first generation of the starter kit, and Microsemi (previously known as Actel) and Emcraft Systems have recently announced the second generation with the SmartFusion2 Starter Kit.

SmartFusion2 Starter Kit

SmartFusion2 Starter Kit

The main hardware features include:

  • SmartFusion2 SoC FPGA in FG896 package (M2S050T-FG896ES) with 256KB eNVM, 64KB SRAM,  and 48,672 logic modules.
  • JTAG interface for programming of the SmartFusion2 device
  • 10/100 Ethernet interface and RJ-45 connector
  • USB OTG interface and mini-USB connector
  • USB based Wi-Fi Module
  • 64MB LPDDR, 16MB SPI flash
  • User push-button connected to GPIO on the SOM
  • Two user-controlled LEDs connected to GPIO on the SOM
  • Breadboard area available for GPIO or FPGA I/O connection
  • Power good LED indicating presence of the +3.3 V SOM power
  • Reset push button, Reset-out LED
  • On-module clocks
  • Watchdog Timer (WDT)
  • Serial console interface at UART CMOS levels
  • Low power mode with fast wake-up times
  • Depending on the design, can provide necessary power supply voltages (+5 V, +3.3 V, +1.5 V for power-optimized SOM operation) from external sources through dedicated pads on the breadboard.

The company can provide Emcraft uClinux BSP to run Linux on the device, or Libero SoC software toolset for those who want/need to run RTOS (FreeRTOS, SAFERTOS and Micrium uc/OS-III), or bare metal applications on the kit. Emcraft has just released a demo for those who want to try out the later. Microsemi also provides getting started guides, hardware manuals, hardware design files (schematics and BoM) for the baseboard, and application notes on SmartFusion2 Starter Kit page.

This development kit (SF2-STARTER-KIT-ES) includes M2S-SOM SmartFusion2 system-on-module, SOM-BSB-EXT SmartFusion2 baseboard, a FlashPro4 JTAG programmer, a USB 2.0 A male to mini-B Y-cable for UART/power interface (up to 1A) to PC, a USB 2.0 A male to mini-B cable for connection of SmartFusion2 to PC in USB device (“gadget”) mode, a Mini-B to USB 2.0 A female cable for connection of USB devices to SmartFusion2, an Ethernet cable, a USB WiFi module, and a leather case. It can be bought for $299 online via Avnet Memec and Digi-Key, or via Microsemi’s local distributors.

Microsemi and Emcraft recently organized a “SmartFusion2 Starter Kit” webinar where they gave an overview of SmartFusion2 SoC and the starter kit, and demoed USB Wi-Fi, USB OTG, uClinux development and 0.5 second boot to uClinux prompt. If you are interested, you can now watch the webinar recording (The webcast does not work in Linux, only Windows).

$66.75 Beaglebone and Other Development Boards Xmas Deals

December 19th, 2012 2 comments

I’ve come across Xmas deals for uCLinux, Linux and Android development boards & kits by Texas instruments and Emcraft Systems.

TI offers 25% discount off five Sitara Linux/Android development kits purchased via Ti e-Store:

Texas Instruments AM335x Starter Kit

  • AM3359 Industrial Development Kit – A full-featured application development platform for evaluating the capabilities and features of Sitara AM335x ARM Cortex-A8 Processors for industrial applications. AM335x processors integrate industrial communication standards that work on Ethernet, CAN, and RS-485 physical layers. Regular price: $895
  • AM335x Starter Kit – Low-cost development platform based on AM335x ARM Cortex-A8 processor with multiple communication options such as Dual Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a 4.3″ LCD Touchcreen (resistive). Regular price: $199
  • AM3359 Industrial Communications Engine (ICE) – Low cost development platform targeted for systems that specifically focus on the industrial communications capabilities of the Sitara AM335x ARM Cortex-A8 Processors. Regular price: $99
  • Beaglebone – Low-cost, community-supported development board driven by TI’s Sitara AM335x ARM Cortex-A8 processor. Regular price: $89.
  • AM335x Evaluation Module–  Development board based on AM3358 ARM microprocessor with 512MB DDR2, a 7” touch screen LCD and Wireless (WiFi/BT) connectivity. Regular price: $995

That means the Beaglebone is available for $66.75, and all orders on TI e-Store appear to include free international shipping. All you need to do is apply “121212STO” promotional code before your pay. The offer is valid until the 31st of December 2012.

Linux Cortex M3 Development Kit

Smartfusion Evaluation Kit A2F-LNX-EVB (Click to Enlarge)

Emcraft Systems is discounting 2 uCLinux Cortex-M3 development boards for Xmas:

  • Linux SmartFusion Evaluation Kit (A2F-LNX-EVB) – Platform for evaluation and development of Linux on the  Microsemi SmartFusion Cortex-M3 cSOC comprised of Emcraft Systems’ A2F-LNX-EVB board and corresponding Linux Board Support Package (BSP). Regular price: $149
  • Linux LPC1788 Evaluation Kit (LPC-LNX-EVB) – Hardware platform and Linux software development environment for the NXP LPC17XX microcontroller comprised ofLPC-LNX-EVB board, and corresponding Linux Board Support Package (BSP). Regular price: $99

Both boards are sold for $79, and the offer last until existing quantities run out. If you’re not familiar with Emcraft Systems BSP, you can read my Emcrasft Systems K70 and Smartfusion SoM Getting Started Guide. The hardware is different, but the BSP should be very similar.

Getting Started with Emcraft Systems Cortex M3/M4 Starter Kits Running uCLinux

June 18th, 2012 No comments

A few months ago, I wrote a post about running uCLinux on Cortex M3/M4. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to play a with Cortex M3  & M4 boards capable of running Linux, as last week, I received Emcraft Systems Freescale K70 Starter Kit together with their MicroSemi (previously known as Actel) Smartfusion SoM.

Today, I’ll show some pictures of the baseboard and modules I received in the kit, and some details about the documentation and how to get started with the modules.

Unboxing Pictures

Here’s the baseboard with Ethernet, USB interface using USB-UART bridge connected to the UART0, JTAG connectors (P3 and P5), two push-buttons and a breadboard for easy access to unused signals (ADC, I2C, SPI, UART and GPIOs). P4 and P6 are the sockets to plug in the SoM.

Emcraft Systems Baseboard (Click to Enlarge)

There is a lithium-ion battery (CR2016) at the back of the board for the RTC clock.

Back of Emcraft Systems Baseboard (Click to Enlarge)

As previously mentioned, I’ve received 2 SoMs, but I’ve just taken pictures of Freescale K70 system on module, as both are similar. The tiny module comes with Freescale K70 Cortex M4 MCU (PK70FN1M0VMJ12), 64 MB LPDRAM and 128 MB NAND Flash.

Freescale K70 System on Module

Emcraft Systems Freescale K70 SoM (Click to Enlarge)

There are no active components on the back of the module, just capacitors, resistors, a crystal oscillator and P1/P2 connectors to interface with the baseboard.

Back of Freescake K70 System on Module

MicroSemi Smartfusion SoM comes with with MicroSemi Cortex M3 MCU (A2F500M3G), 16 MB PSRAM and 8 MBytes NOR Flash.

The starter kit also ships with a mini USB to USB serial cable that is used to power the board and debug via the serial interface. There is no documentation provided with the package, because once you buy a starter kit, you’ll be able to download the BSP and documentation on Emcraft website.


Emcraft Systems provides lots of good documentation. However, the first time, it’s a little confusing because you don’t really know where to start. A README file or Quick Start Guide to explain what each file is for, and possibly a picture with the description of he baseboard would have be useful.

For Freescale K70 SoM, you can download one file ( that contains the following:

  • k70-som-bsb-ha.pdf – Kinetis K70 System-On-Module (SOM) Baseboard Hardware Architecture
  • k70-som-ha.pdf – Kinetis K70 System-On-Modules (SOM) Hardware Architecture
  • linux-cortexm-um-1.6.0.pdf – Linux Cortex-M User’s Manual
  • linux-K70-1.6.0.tar.bz2 – The actual Freescale K70 Linux BSP
  • linux-K70-SOM-bspg-1.6.0.pdf – BSP (Board Support Package) Guide for Emcraft Systems K70 SOM Board
  • linux-TWR-K70F120M-bspg-1.6.0.pdf – BSP (Board Support Package) Guide for Freescale TWR-K70F120M Board
  • networking.uImage – Kernel image for network boot
  • SOM-BSB-1A-bom.xls / SOM-BSB-1A-schem.pdf – Schematics and BoM for the baseboard
  • u-boot-k70-som.bin – U-Boot image for K70 SoM
  • u-boot-twr-k70.srec –  U-Boot image for Freescale K70 tower module

For MicroSemi Smartfusion SoM, there is also one file to download ( which contains the following:

  • – Libero project for the Actel’s SmartFusion Development Board
  • – Libero project for the Hoermann IMG’s SmartFusion Embedded Evaluation Board
  • – Libero project for the A2F-LNX-EVB-2A board
  • – Libero project for the A2F-SOM-FG484 (That’s the one we need)
  • a2f-som-ha.pdf – SmartFusion SOM (System-On-Module) Hardware Architecture
  • linux-A2F-1.6.0.tar.bz2 – The Actel Smartfusion Linux BSP
  • linux-A2F-HOERMANN-BRD-bspg-1.6.0.pdf – BSP (Board Support Package) Guide for Hoermann-IMG SmartFusion Embedded Board
  • linux-A2F-LNX-EVB-bspg-1.6.0.pdf – BSP (Board Support Package) Guide for Emcraft Systems A2F-LNX-EVB Board
  • linux-A2F-SOM-bspg-1.6.0.pdf – BSP (Board Support Package) Guide for Emcraft Systems SmartFusion SOM Board
  • linux-Actel-DEV-BRD-bspg-1.6.0.pdf – BSP (Board Support Package) Guide for Microsemi A2F500-DEV-BRD Board
  • linux-cortexm-um-1.6.0.pdf – Linux Cortex-M User’s Manual
  • networking.uImage – Kernel image for network boot
  • SOM-BSB-1A-bom.xls / SOM-BSB-1A-schem.pdf – Schematics and BoM for the baseboard
  • som-bsb-ha.pdf – SmartFusion SOM (System-On-Module) Baseboard Hardware Architecture

The files contain documentation and software for several hardware platforms, as Emcraft does not only support their own modules, but also other boards such as Freescale TWR-K70F120M board and Hoermann-IMG SmartFusion embedded board.

Accessing the command line

A demo is preloaded on the starter kit, and accessing the command line is straightforward:

  1. Connect the mini USB to USB cable to the target board and your computer.
  2. Wait until the driver installation to complete for the first time. A new COM port should show up. (In my case COM9 in Windows XP).
  3. Start a 115,200 bps serial connection with putty / hyperterminal in Windows or minicom / screen in Linux
  4. That’s all

The boot is very fast and you can have access to the command line in less than 2 seconds.

Here are the MCU details.

  • For Freescale K70 SoM:

  • For MicroSemi SmartFusion SoM

Busybox has been cut to the bare minimum in the demo image:

But this is not a problem since you can also build your own with extra commands if needed.

Only about 4 MB of system memory is used in the Kinetis SoM:

That leaves plenty of memory for running the application.

Power Consumption

One of the main advantage of those boards is their low power consumption, so I measured the intensity for both modules (via JP1 jumper), right after the boards are booted and run busybox:

  • Freescale K70 SoM: 115 mA  or  about 380 mW (115 mA * 3.3 V)
  • MicroSemi SmartFusion SoM: 101 mA or about 330 mW

I suppose power consumption can be reduced by different methods such as adjusting the clock speed, but I haven’t studied this into details. It should be expect that the MicroSemi SoM consumes less than Freescale K70, as the latter runs at 120 MHz vs 100 MHz for the former.

Setting up the development environment,  building and running Linux and busybox

I’ve setup my Linux machine for development by following chapter 4 “Linux Cortex-M Software Development Environment” in linux-cortexm-um-1.6.0.pdf which is publicly available for download:

That’s all you need to configure your build machine.

You can then select one of the existing project and build the kernel and busybox. I

Setup a tftp server. Here’s the command I used in Ubuntu 12.04:

Copy the image to the default tftp server directory:

sudo cp networking.uImage /srv/tftp

Back to the board serial console, reboot the board and press a key to enter U-boot and configure it to start your newly built image:

This will download your newly built image via TFTP and start it.

If you are interested in these development boards, you can buy them on Emcraft Systems online store. Kinetis K70 System-On-Module Starter Kit is available for 99 USD and SmartFusion System-On-Module Starter Kit for 126 USD. Regular prices are respectively 159 and 176 USD, but the kits are discounted until the end of June. You need to ask for a discount coupon to a2f-linux-support at It’s also possible to buy the modules separately without the baseboard.

The modules are available in quantities (500 units) for 69 USD (Microsemi SmartFusion SoM) and 49 USD (Freescale Kinetis K70 SoM) per piece.