Fibics Incorporated provides analysis solutions to semiconductor and materials science / metallurgy clients, specializing in focused ion beam (FIB), secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

The Challenge

Fibics has been in business for 12 years developing a variety of instruments, including complex ion beam-based instruments. A critical component of their instruments is the “nuts & bolts” of FPGA, including robust memory and lots of I/O coupled with a means to get data to-and-from the PC.

Unable to find a reliable third-party solution for this essential module, Fibics built their own solution for high-speed digital I/O to a PC. However, building this component in-house was taking essential engineering time away from developing Fibics’ core products.

Fibics conducted an exhaustive search and discovered a number of third-party boards that do FPGA PCI and PCI Express, even USB that has data-to-analog and analog-to-data switches, but all the solutions they reviewed were expensive and slow.

The Solution

Fibics discovered Opal Kelly. Opal Kelly provides a robust range of off-the-shelf compact and powerful high performance FPGA USB 2.0 modules with integrated memory and I/O and a software interface API. Expertly-designed, Opal Kelly modules are fully-featured with FPGA, USB, Memory, I/O and software. They provide a tremendous value for a modest price and are available for on-line purchase.

Opal Kelly’s powerful modules come with software APIs that made it easy to incorporate into Fibics’ designs. Fibics started using the Opal Kelly XEM3001 — Xilinx Spartan-3 FPGA with USB 2.0, ideally suited for system prototype. They soon moved to XEM3010-1500P, a module based on a 1,500,000-gate Xilinx Spartan-3 FPGA.

Opal Kelly’s most popular module, the XEM3010 is used by hundreds of engineers, utilizing the high transfer rate of USB 2.0 for configuration downloads and speedy FPGA communication and data transfer plus integrated SDRAM, power supplies, and platform Flash. The FrontPanel software interface is an easy-to-use, robust software API for communication, configuration and interfacing to the PC.

The Results

“Opal Kelly has eliminated the time, expense, and headache of in-house design and development of the FPGA, memory and communication with the computer at Fibics,” said Phaneuf.

“We use Opal Kelly modules as the heart of our product designs. Opal Kelly saves us months of design time, and allows us to focus on our core value add — building the hardware that is dedicated to our customers’ products.”

“Opal Kelly is field tested and proven product. Not only does it save the time and energy of designing in house, but can we can rely on its stability and reliability.”

“Opal Kelly product support is excellent. With the help got from the Opal Kelly support team and the examples on the website, we have been able to build a very high-end system for our customers.”

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