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Discover a new way to build robots with this highly configurable tracked robot kit built around the Xilinx Spartan 6 FPGA. Read more

Chandler, AZ Robots
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Discover a new way to build robots with this highly configurable tracked robot kit built around the Xilinx Spartan 6 FPGA.

Chandler, AZ Robots
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About this project

Presented by... SL Interphase- Electronics Design Services 


Have you ever wanted to learn more about FPGAs?  Looking for an easy platform to learn FPGA programming?  Logitraxx is an FPGA development platform at its core, only with some cool on-board sensors and a motor driver so that your logic creation can drive around.  We'll help you get started with some step-by-step tutorials and provide source code for sensor and robot builds.  Completely open source, schematics, bill-of-materials, even the gerbers.  I'll even provide a basic schematics class on how to read the schematic and explain how things work.

Fun Programmable Gate Array, ok maybe that first word is really "Field", but you get the idea.  The Logitraxx is the most fun you can have with an FPGA anywhere.  Learn FPGA based motor-algorithms and hardware based autonomous decision logic. Logitraxx is also an ideal platform for mobile sensor-fusion projects.  See the specs further down. 

In the front are the FPGA controlled LEDs and IR sensor/emitters.
In the front are the FPGA controlled LEDs and IR sensor/emitters.
Logitraxx employs high efficiency switching regulators from Linear Technology. Operating up to 96% efficiency in key areas of the design, they extend battery life far beyond low cost linear regulators
Logitraxx employs high efficiency switching regulators from Linear Technology. Operating up to 96% efficiency in key areas of the design, they extend battery life far beyond low cost linear regulators

 Logitraxx Specs:

  • Spartan 6 LX9 FPGA
  • 8MB (64Mb) SDRAM onboard connected to FPGA 
  • 8MB (64Mb) Flash onboard connected to FPGA
  • 4MB PROM for FPGA configuration storage
  • 40 GPIO (with access to 2.5v, 3.3v, 5v, and VCHARG power input)
  • 3 axis accelerometer with i2C interface connected to FPGA
  • 18 User definable LEDs, including right angle LEDs for headlights/taillights
  • 2 IR Sensor/Detectors in the front connected to FPGA
  • Lithium battery charges from USB (can also charge from VCHARG)
  • FTDI USB to Serial connected to FPGA (can be rerouted to GPIO)
  • USB to JTAG for configuring PROM/FPGA
  • 20Mhz oscillator connected to FPGA
  • 32.768kHz oscillator connected to FPGA (Save gates by dividing down this clock for slow functions like blinking LEDs)
  • Push Button (Momentary) works great as a "reset" or "start" feature.
Standard Kit shown above unless noted different in Rewards. USB cable color may vary. Comes with Tamiya Kit #70108 and Tamiya twin motor kit #70097. Assembly required. Your unit will look somewhat different as the memory components are changing
Standard Kit shown above unless noted different in Rewards. USB cable color may vary. Comes with Tamiya Kit #70108 and Tamiya twin motor kit #70097. Assembly required. Your unit will look somewhat different as the memory components are changing

 InventorSpot      RoboticsTrends     Bot Bench     SimpleBotics    Sleibso's Blog

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The video above is the Snow Cat in action with its decision logic displayed in a graphical manner.  The Snow Cat does not have a CPU and isn't running any software, yet processing sensor data and making decisions with its FPGA brain.  The Snow Cat's LX9 FPGA is running multiple simultaneous processes.  The FPGA utilization at this point is just 7%.  We are just barely scratching the surface here.

3D Printed SnowCat Cab comes assembled and ready to use (Indoor use only).
3D Printed SnowCat Cab comes assembled and ready to use (Indoor use only).

 If you would like to build your own Logitraxx Snowcat.   You can find the STL files on Thingiverse and print out your own body here -> snowcatthingiverse.

Below is a Youtube video of an RC mod to the Snowcat.  It switches in and out of autonomous mode to RC mode by remote control.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYuB_UQ4jIY

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Above is the Logitank running some basic obstacle avoidance with on-board IR sensors.  Just like the Snowcat, the Logitank relies on the FPGA for its drive algorithm and turret control and does not run any software.  

3D printed Logitank comes with servo and tank top fully assembled and ready to use
3D printed Logitank comes with servo and tank top fully assembled and ready to use

You can build your own Logitank with the Logitraxx chassis by downloading the Tank body STL files and  printing them yourself here -> tankthingiverse

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are semiconductor devices that are based around a matrix of configurable logic blocks (CLBs) connected via programmable interconnects. FPGAs can be reprogrammed to desired application or functionality requirements after manufacturing. You can reprogram the Xilinx Spartan 6 as often as you like, constantly redesigning its functionality and capability.

Though not part of the kit, this picture shows a Parallax GPS Receiver mated to GPIO using a rough hand made shield. The red LED is solid "on" indicating position lock. Logitraxx knows where it is on planet Earth.
Though not part of the kit, this picture shows a Parallax GPS Receiver mated to GPIO using a rough hand made shield. The red LED is solid "on" indicating position lock. Logitraxx knows where it is on planet Earth.
An FPGA + 3D Printer = Lots of Fun. The Logitank with sonic sensor is shown above. Below is a diagram of the state-machine (FSM) decision logic that operates in its FPGA brain. You do not need any software for a system to be "smart".
An FPGA + 3D Printer = Lots of Fun. The Logitank with sonic sensor is shown above. Below is a diagram of the state-machine (FSM) decision logic that operates in its FPGA brain. You do not need any software for a system to be "smart".

 Watch the Sonic Tank in action on Youtube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnlI4pMppEk

Can I drive the Logitraxx features and I/O from Arduino?

Yes, you can.  You can access any I/O and control system on-board with your Arduino or any other microcontroller based system for that matter.  Or you can off-load some duties to hardware (FPGA) while keeping other control functions in the hands of your Arduino.  Use the FPGA to accelerate features in hardware that the Arduino may struggle with, similar to the way a modern PC relies on its external graphics card to handle hardware acceleration of 3D graphics.  Allow the two to work together while you learn more about FPGAs.  We'll have plenty of sample code for you to look at.

 
So why use an FPGA vs a traditional Micro?
's video poster
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See the "Tech Talk" video above for a more detailed explanation of the differences between FPGAs and CPUs and why an FPGA can get things done faster and more efficiently. Using the FPGA as the brain has a clear advantage over software based autonomous robots. 

Are there advantages to using an FPGA?

Yes plenty, an FPGA based system can be very small and low power and yet have extreme amounts of computational horsepower. FPGAs can execute computational tasks in just 1 or 2 watt solutions that would require a traditional CPU/Software based system consuming hundreds of watts of power to duplicate.  Since there is no software to crash, an FPGA based robot is extremely reliable executing its programmed tasks without stopping for months, even years (with the appropriate power source) and never needs a reboot. Being field re-programmable makes them perfect for hardware design changes at the circuit board level without having to redesign the circuit board itself. This gives an FPGA very distinct design function upgrade possibilities while remaining in-the-field and without ever lifting the hood.

A little more background on FPGAs

If you've ever worked in a company that engineers its own embedded or industrial products, you may be familiar with a world of components virtually unknown to the maker/hobbyist world.  Many hobbyists are programmers with a good working knowledge of C and those systems often require operating systems, drivers, and application layers, all of which saddle an already overwhelmed micro to duties that have little to do with their project, but are needed as the foundation layer prior to making their gadget to perform even the simplest task.

But that wasn't always so.  Before the days of the microprocessor, many electronic gadgets relied on straight forward logic components to process data and control the I/O.  As the microprocessor became more mainstream, more and more logic was pulled into software and controlled by the CPU.  Today, to perform something as simple as an “AND” operation between two input signls can sometimes require tens of thousands of lines of OS/Application layer to be installed first!

The world of logic driven devices hasn't gone away though.  They've been busy in the realm of programmable logic devices like PLDs and FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Array).  Quietly evolving in the background operating in electronic devices rarely seen by the average consumer all while the modern day CPU/Software structure reigned in the consumer electronics market.  And so today's FPGA is incredibly sophisticated with internal reconfigurable RAM blocks and DSP slices that you can assemble like silicon legos into some very powerful hardware.

A properly configured FPGA can accelerate sensor and decision processes hundreds of times faster than most traditional CPUs. The difference is in the inherent design of the CPU.  Its designed to perform tasks "sequentially", one-at-a-time whereas the FPGA can be configured to perform many tasks at once.  

FPGAs also work great has companion silicon to CPU based systems helping to off load redundant functions where they can be performed more efficiently.  This is the configuration most often implemented.

No need for external JTAG programmers with Logitraxx, its built on-board
No need for external JTAG programmers with Logitraxx, its built on-board
Logitrax equipped with Parallax Sonic Sensor for distance measurement and IR sensors for avoidance.  Notice the IR Emitters underneath.
Logitrax equipped with Parallax Sonic Sensor for distance measurement and IR sensors for avoidance. Notice the IR Emitters underneath.
's video poster
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  • Board Rev => July - Aug  
  • Small Qty Board Assembly/Test => Aug - Sept  
  • Integrate/Test VHDL on rev 2 design "sample build" => Aug - Sept 
  • Main production build assembly/test = Oct - Nov 
  • Final Shipments = December 

Note on Shipping:

I will ship this product international for a $25.00 fee, however I will not ship to any country who is currently on the US embargo ban list, nor will I ship to any country currently engaged in a civil war.

This is an open source design under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike 4.0 International License. Schematic and board drawing information will be provided at product release.

A tracked robot is a great way to learn how to program with an FPGA.  The Tamiya Vehicle Chassis Kit makes a great starting platform since it is not complex electrically, but includes the basic mechanicals to build out your robot. It has the motor and gearbox, but there is not much definition beyond a battery and switch. Our mock-up was literally drawing out where components could be placed on the wood chassis that comes in the kit. 

Stage 1: Grease Board Block Diagram

The grease board, the place where ideas begin in the tech world. This block diagram is a bit dated now, however you  can see that the heart of Logitraxx is a Xilinx Spartan 6 FPGA
The grease board, the place where ideas begin in the tech world. This block diagram is a bit dated now, however you can see that the heart of Logitraxx is a Xilinx Spartan 6 FPGA

 Stage 2: Component Placement Planning

Wooden chassis with circuitry drawn on top
Wooden chassis with circuitry drawn on top

 Stage 3: Design Phase, Final Dimension Check

Logitraxx beginning to take shape, now using a pre-cut PCB with outline.
Logitraxx beginning to take shape, now using a pre-cut PCB with outline.

 Stage 4: Prototype PCB Fab and Component Assembly

The design as it is today during final assembly. The board has one more cleanup rev to go before production
The design as it is today during final assembly. The board has one more cleanup rev to go before production

Risks and challenges

I design electronic products for a living. I have PCB suppliers and a board assembly house lined up for production. There is one design rev yet to go on the board so that is why the ship date is pushed out until December. Baring any disasters that could disrupt supply lines, I plan on shipping your Logitraxx in time for Christmas.

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    Because you love FPGAs and want to see more FPGA based projects. Thank you! We will include your name as a backer in a BACKER.TXT file that will be part of the data file download.

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    One blank Logitraxx PWB. This is the bare board without any components. Not cost effective to assemble one this way unless you are connected with a component supplier. Schematics, board drawing, tutorial video, and source firmware will be available for download at ship date.

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    Ships anywhere in the world
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    Standard Kit. Pledge early and get Logitraxx kit at a reduced price. One complete kit ready for assembly. Comes with Logitrax pretested board assembly with battery installed. The box will also include two USB cables and the Tamiya chassis, 70097 gearbox and wheels that also will need assembly. Schematics, board drawing, tutorial video, and source firmware will be available for download at ship date.

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    Ships anywhere in the world
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    Standard Kit. Missed the first round? Pledge here for another early bird price. One complete kit ready for assembly. Comes with Logitrax pretested board assembly with battery installed. The box will include two USB cables and the Tamiya chassis, 70097 gearbox and wheels that also will need assembly. Schematics, board drawing, tutorial video, and source firmware will be available for download at ship date.

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    Ships anywhere in the world
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    Barebones Kit. Already have a Tamiya Vehicle Chassis kit and gearbox? This pledge does not include the Tamiya components which you may already have or purchase separately from a different source. Comes only with Logitrax pretested board assembly with battery installed. You provide your own USB mini and USB micro cables. Schematics, board drawing, tutorial video, and source firmware will be available for download at ship date. NOTE: Will require some soldering (just the motor wires).

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    Standard Kit. One complete kit ready for assembly. Comes with Logitrax pretested board assembly with battery installed. The box will include two USB cables and the Tamiya chassis, 70097 gearbox and wheels that also will need assembly. Schematics, board drawing, tutorial video, and source firmware will be available for download at ship date.

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    Standard Kit [Fully Assembled]. Don't want to assemble it yourself? One complete kit fully assembled and ready to go. Comes with Logitrax pretested board assembly with battery installed. The box will include two USB cables and the Tamiya chassis, 70097 gearbox and wheels that also will need assembly. Schematics, board drawing, tutorial video, and source firmware will be available for download at ship date.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
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    Logitank Kit. One complete Kit fully assembled Logitraxx Tank, ready to use with 3D printed Tank top and turret. The tank will use the 70097 Tamiya gearbox and will come with a servo installed to operate the turret. The FPGA on your unit will arrive preloaded with our best sample autonomous drive firmware available at the time of release. The box will also have the two USB cables. We've done all the screwdriver work for you. Schematics, board drawing, tutorial video, and source firmware will be available for download at ship date.

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    Snow Cat Kit. One complete Kit fully assembled as a Snow Cat Explorer, ready to use with 3D printed body and top. The Snowcat will use the 70097 Tamiya gearbox and will come with a servo installed to operate a second Parrallax sonic sensor. The Snowcat comes equipped with two sonic sensors and automatic headlights. The FPGA on your unit will arrive preloaded with our best sample autonomous drive firmware available at the time of release. The box will also have the two USB cables. We've done all the screwdriver work for you. Schematics, board drawing, tutorial video, and source firmware will be available for download at ship date.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
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    Special Kickstarter Sponsor. If you find this project interesting and would like to have your name or logo printed on all production Kickstarter Logitrax boards, then perhaps this pledge is for you. Pledge as an individual or for your company. The print will be in white. Also by choosing this pledge, you will help fund more ambitious sensor technology development such as visual recognition and GPS guidance. We'll also send you an assembled and tested Logitrax, USB cables, and USB drive preloaded with Schematics, board drawing, tutorial video, and source firmware.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world

Funding period

- (40 days)