Altium Takes Electronics Design Live with LiveDesign Evaluation Kits

10/8/2004 - Altium Limited (ASX: ALU), a leading developer of Windows-based electronics design software, announced the release of new LiveDesign evaluation kits that include a versatile, low-cost evaluation board with the choice of either an Altera Cyclone or Xilinx Spartan-3 FPGA device. These affordable evaluation kits enable engineers and designers to evaluate Altium’s latest DXP 2004 product range and fully experience the benefits of LiveDesign, a unique new digital systems design methodology, in its Nexar and Protel design systems.

LiveDesign takes advantage of the availability of low-cost, high-capacity, high-performance FPGAs, and uses them as a reconfigurable implementation platform for digital circuitry during system development; effectively using them as a nano-level breadboard. This enables a ‘live’ and interactive development and testing of electronics systems inside a programmable hardware design space.

In conventional electronics system design flows, hardware must be frozen early so that prototypes can be manufactured to provide a platform for software development and testing. LiveDesign, on the other hand, provides an iterative “design-implementation-debug” process that facilitates interactive hardware/software codesign and utilizes an FPGA as the development and implementation platform. The reprogrammability of the development platform removes the need for system-level simulation and minimizes multiple prototype spins. During development the circuit can be probed, analyzed and debugged interactively using FPGA-based virtual instruments.

LiveDesign allows developers to work at a level of abstraction and interactivity not previously possible, and Altium believes that it will have a profound impact on the way future products are designed. “Because LiveDesign is a new approach to electronics engineering that we believe is important to the future of electronics design, we want to make it as easy as possible for engineers and designers to see for themselves how time-efficient it is to develop and verify complex embedded system-on-FPGA applications in an interactive and real-time design environment,” said Nick Martin, Founder and Joint CEO, Altium.

A complete LiveDesign evaluation toolkit
The LiveDesign evaluation kits combine a software evaluation license of Altium’s Unified Nexar-Protel 2004 system, which includes a complete range of PCB and FPGA hardware design tools, integrated software development tools, ready-to-use FPGA-based components and processor cores and virtual instrumentation, with a versatile, low-cost, FPGA-based LiveDesign evaluation development board plus cabling and accessories. The kits also come with an extensive range of tutorial and support documentation to ensure an easy and productive evaluation of Altium’s design software and to allow users to experience the benefits of the LiveDesign process. There are over 10 reference designs featuring the range of included processor cores that show how to get a simple processor-based design running on the board.

When customers are ready to purchase any of Altium’s LiveDesign-enabled design systems after using the evaluation kit, they have the option to purchase Altium’s NanoBoard – a fully-featured, LiveDesign development board that provides an expanded range of peripherals from those found on the evaluation board, and houses the target FPGA device on swappable daughter boards to enable easy retargeting of the design to a wide range of supported devices from multiple FPGA vendors. The NanoBoard also provides the ability to connect into the system FPGA-based user boards or final production board, allowing the LiveDesign process to be extended to the target PCB. Also, multiple NanoBoards can be chained together to support the development of systems with multiple FPGA devices.

“The availability and affordability of these evaluation kits makes it easy for all engineers to discover the benefits of LiveDesign and gain a sense of the power that the full Unified Nexar-Protel system can bring to their designs,” said Martin.

Versatile FPGA development board included
The development board supplied with the LiveDesign evaluation kits can be specified with either a high-capacity Altera Cyclone or Xilinx Spartan-3 FPGA, and features a wide range of on-board peripherals and connectors to provide a versatile development platform.

Key features of the LiveDesign evaluation board include:

The evaluation board connects to the user’s PC via the parallel port to interact ‘live’ with the software. Pin configuration on the parallel port conforms to the relevant FPGA vendor’s standards for the target FPGA. This means that after the software evaluation period has expired, the evaluation board can be used directly with the FPGA vendor tools as a standard development board, independent of the Altium design software.

Pricing and availability
Altium’s LiveDesign evaluation kits are priced at US$99 and include the Unified Nexar-Protel 2004 software evaluation license and a LiveDesign evaluation board with the choice of either the Altera Cyclone EP1C12F324C8 or Xilinx Spartan-3 XC3S400-4FG456C FPGA device.

Altium’s Unified Nexar-Protel 2004 software is priced at US$9,995 and the NanoBoard is priced at US$995. The standard NanoBoard package includes two daughter boards; the Xilinx Spartan-IIE daughter board and the Altera Cyclone daughter board. Additional daughter boards such as the Altera Stratix daughter board and the Xilinx Virtex-II daughter board are available for purchase at US$495 each.

For more information, visit or contact your local Altium Sales and Support Center.

About Altium Limited
Altium Limited (ASX: ALU) is a global developer and supplier of electronics design software for the Microsoft Windows environment. Founded in 1985, Altium released the world's first Microsoft Windows–based printed circuit board design tool in 1991 and continues to provide advanced, easy-to-use and affordable software design tools to electronics engineers, designers, and developers worldwide. Altium's products offer tailored solutions covering a range of hardware and software design processes including the Nexar, Protel, P-CAD and TASKING brands. Altium is headquartered in Sydney, Australia and has sales and support offices in Australia, the United States, Japan, Europe and China. More information is available at

Altium, CAMtastic, CircuitStudio, Design Explorer, DXP, LiveDesign, NanoBoard, NanoTalk, Nexar, nVisage, P-CAD, Protel, Situs, TASKING, and Topological Autorouting and their respective logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of Altium Limited or its subsidiaries.

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