Red Pitaya Will Be a Boon for Budding Engineers

Almost every engineer wants to have their own laboratory. In fact, most people have dedicated places for their projects, engineer or not. Whatever the case may be, that place needs to be equipped to handle some serious work. For the engineers out there, this can mean housing some expensive equipment.

I would love to have a function generator or oscilloscope to help me with projects. However, the price of these devices is not very friendly for budding engineers. This is about to change with the help of an open-source device funded through Kickstarter.

Unlike many open-source boards we see on Kickstarter and the Internet, the
Red Pitaya is not just meant to be programmed. It is meant to function as an all-purpose electrical test and measurement device. That means an included oscilloscope, waveform generator, spectrum analyzer, and PID controller. The best part is not a single line of code needs to be written out of the box for it to function.

For a quick overview of the board, users will find two analog inputs and two analog outputs. This is where all the generation and measurements will be taking place. The analog input/outputs are going to run at 125 megasamples per second with a 14-bit resolution. In addition, the board is coming equipped with a dual core ARM Cortex processor plus a Xilinx Zynq FPGA. As a result, 16 GPIO pins can be used with the FPGA and four pairs of differential pins for serial data transfer and synchronization.

Other connectivity options include 100 Mb Ethernet (which should be getting upgraded to 1Gb due to amount of funding), a USB port, JTAG connections, and the common communication protocols (SPI, I2C, and UART).

Like many development boards, the system image will be saved onto an SD card, which will also hold the FPGA image. Power will be delivered through a micro USB port and an additional micro USB port will support a console connection. Two SATA connections are also available, one of which can be used for a daisy chain.

Now that we are familiar with the hardware, there is also software needed before users can begin generating and measuring signals. The software is going to be available through a marketplace on the Internet referred to as the "Bazaar." This is where one will go to find the applications to make this board function. They are free of charge and are capable of being accessed through any Internet connection on a computer or tablet.

Next, there is the "Backyard." This is going to be an open-source repository where code and tools can easily be accessed for further development or use. Programmers can develop code in HDL, C/C++, scripting languages such as Perl or Python, MATLAB, or HTML Web applications.

The Kickstarter campaign has been successfully funded. Their goal was enormously surpassed, reaching $240,722 of the $50,000 goal. The four engineers that have created this idea are Ales Bardorfer, Rok Ursic, Borut Baricevic, and Crt Valentincic, all with lots of very creditable experience in engineering design. Furthermore, if anyone has any doubts about their product's performance, their partner, Instrumentation Technologies, is a world leader in designing measurement equipment for particle accelerators.

For a price of only $359, this is going to be an instrument that will sooner or later find its way onto many engineers' workbenches.

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