Pentek Quartz board taps Xilinx RFSoC FPGA

Pentek Quartz board taps Xilinx RFSoC FPGA to enhance resource integration, connectivity for radar, EW, DRFM

May 21, 2018

By Courtney E. Howard 
Chief Editor, Intelligent Aerospace

UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J. Pentek Inc. in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, is introducing the first product in its Quartz Architecture family: the Model 5950 eight-channel A/D and D/A converter, 3U OpenVPX board based on the Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ radio-frequency system on chip (RFSoC) field-programmable gate array (FPGA). The low-latency benefits of the Quartz architecture support digital RF memory (DRFM) and radar applications that were previously not possible with earlier generation products, officials say.

“The Zynq Ultrascale+ RFSoC FPGA from Xilinx is a very high-density solution providing built in A/Ds, D/As, and ARM processing power plus additional DSP slices within the FPGA to build custom IP. Compared to discrete component solutions, the RFSoC FPGA is 50 percent lower in cost and draws 40 percent less power,” says David Gamba, Xilinx senior director for the aerospace and defense market.

“Xilinx has released an exciting new chip, with FPGA resources and some high-performance A/D and D/A converters on the same chip with ARM processors,” affirms Rodger H. Hosking, vice president and co-founder of Pentek. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., has invested heavily in Xilinx to help promote the development of this chip, he adds.

“So many military applications require wideband converters and low latency,” Hosking continues. “Electronic warfare (EW) and missile control systems, for example, require a short reaction time between the intercepted signal and the response to counter that signal.

“The RFSoC is for applications that require high-bandwidth analog signals going in and out as a transceiver. It can digitize and generate multigigahertz bandwidth – eight channels of RF input/output,” Hosking explains. “It also provides a revolutionary way to achieve a 5G infrastructure, incorporating signals processing apps that used to be done at the bottom of a tower; it brings processing near the antenna to avoid signal degradation and interference.” That has been the goal for a long time, he says, getting closer to the antenna.

 “We are pleased that Pentek has developed board-level solutions that allow customers to take full advantage of the RFSoC technology,” Gamba says. “Their high-speed system connectivity, additional factory-installed IP for radar and communications, along with their unique QuartzXM eXpress Module design, all squarely target mil-aero market needs.”

The Pentek Quartz architecture embodies a streamlined approach to FPGA boards, simplifying the design to reduce power and cost, while still providing some of the highest performance FPGA resources available, according to company officials. Designed to work with Pentek’s Navigator Design Suite tools, the combination of Quartz and Navigator offers users an efficient path to developing and deploying FPGA software and IP for data and signal processing.

“The Quartz architecture takes our board designs to a new level,” says Bob Sgandurra, director of product management at Pentek. “The architecture is based on our RFSoC QuartzXM eXpress Module containing the RFSoC FPGA and all needed support circuitry. By addressing some of the most demanding circuit and PCB design challenges in the module, Pentek, as well as our customers, can leverage the design and use the module on a carrier in a standard form factor like 3U VPX as well as custom carriers to match specific application requirements. Customers can develop their system software and IP on the 3U VPX product in the lab and then deploy the QuartzXM eXpress Module wherever it is needed.”

The Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ RFSoC processor integrates eight RF-class A/D and D/A converters into the Zynq FPGA fabric and quad ARM Cortex-A53 and dual ARM Cortex-R5 processors, creating a multichannel data conversion and processing solution on a single chip.

Complementing the RFSoC’s on-chip resources, the Quartz board architecture adds:

  • Up to 18 GB of DDR4 SDRAM
  • Sophisticated clocking for single-board and multi-board synchronization
  • High-signal integrity connectors for RF inputs and outputs
  • x8 PCIe Gen 3 link
  • An 8-lane, 28 Gb/sec (Gbps) optical interface supporting a built-in dual 100 GigE interface or customer installed protocols
  • 12 LVDS general-purpose I/O pairs for specialized interfaces
  • QuartzXM eXpress module design for flexible development and deployment
  • Factory-installed application IP

The Model 5950 is pre-loaded with a suite of Pentek IP modules to provide data capture and processing solutions for many common applications. Modules include: DMA engines, DDR4 memory controller, test signal and metadata generators, data packing, and flow control.

The Model 5950 can be used out-of-the-box with the built-in functions requiring no FPGA development. The board comes pre-installed with IP for DFRM, triggered waveform and radar chirp generator, triggered radar range gate engine, wideband real-time transient capture, flexible multimode data acquisition, and extended decimation.

The front end accepts analog IF or RF inputs on eight front-panel MMCX connectors with transformer-coupling to eight 4 GSPS 12-bit A/D converters delivering either real or complex DDC samples. With additional IP-based decimation filters, the overall DDC decimation is programmable from 2 to 128. The eight D/A converters accept baseband real or complex data streams from the FPGA’s programmable logic. Each 6.4 GSPS 14-bit D/A includes a digital upconverter with independent tuning and interpolations of 1x, 2x, 4x and 8x. Each D/A output is transformer-coupled to a front-panel MMCX connector.

The Model 5950 supports the VITA-66.4 standard providing eight 28 Gb/sec duplex optical lanes to the backplane. With two built-in 100 GigE UDP interfaces or a user-installed serial protocol, the VITA-66.4 interface enables gigabit communications independent of the PCIe interface.

Pentek’s Navigator Design Suite includes: Navigator FDK (FPGA Design Kit) for custom IP and Navigator BSP (Board Support Package) for creating host software applications.

The Navigator FDK includes the board’s entire FPGA design as a block diagram that can be edited in Xilinx’s Vivado tool suite, all source code and complete documentation is included. Developers can integrate their IP along with the factory-installed functions or use the Navigator kit to replace the IP with their own. The Navigator FDK Library is AXI-4 compliant, providing a well-defined interface for developing custom IP or integrating IP from other sources.

The Navigator BSP supports Xilinx’s PetaLinux on the ARM processors. Users work efficiently using high-level API functions or gain full access to the underlying libraries including source code.

The 3U VPX SPARK development systems are ready for immediate operation with software and hardware installed. In many applications, the SPARK development system can become the final deployed application platform.

Designed for air-cooled, conduction-cooled and rugged operating environments, the Model 5950 board starts at $28,495 USD. Options for optical interface, GPS support, and memory are available. Deliveries begin in 4Q 2018. The Navigator BSP is $2,500 USD and the Navigator FDK is $3,500 USD and includes free lifetime support.

Pentek, an ISO 9001:2015 certified company, designs and manufactures commercial and rugged DSP boards and real-time system recorders for commercial, government, and military systems including radar, communications, SIGINT, defense, medical, and industrial control applications. Pentek offers powerful VPX, FMC, FMC+, AMC, XMC, cPCI, and PCIe board solutions featuring high-performance Xilinx FPGAs. Pentek equips all boards and recorder products with high-performance I/O including gigabit serial interfaces, powerful software development tools and offers strong DSP software support.