FPGA - one of the building blocks in the IEDs hardware

The protection and control industry is continuously trying to improve the multifunctional IEDs by reducing their operating time and at the same time allowing their upgrade when necessary in a less intrusive way. FPGAs are becoming one of the building blocks in the hardware of the IEDs due to some of the benefits they offer. They were invented in 1985 by Ross Freeman, the cofounder of Xilinx.

They are found in the hardware of devices used in many industries because they combine the best parts of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and processor-based systems. FPGAs provide hardware-timed speed and reliability, but they do not require high volumes to justify the large upfront expense of custom ASIC design.

FPGAs are not something new.These programmable semiconductor devices are based around a matrix of Configurable Logic Blocks (CLBs) connected through programmable interconnects. As opposed to Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), where the device is custom built for the particular design, FPGAs can be programmed to the desired application or functionality requirements.

Although One-Time Programmable (OTP) FPGAs are available, the dominant type are SRAM-based which can be reprogrammed as the design evolves.

FPGAs allow designers to change their designs very late in the design cycle– even after the end product has been manufactured and deployed in the field. In addition, Xilinx FPGAs allow for field upgrades to be completed remotely, eliminating the costs associated with re-designing or manually updating electronic systems.

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