Embedded Software IP & Technology Transfer in Power Electronics Applications

DSPs, MCUs or Mixed Signal FPGAs in motor control?

Here is a good article on the subject from Actel…

While the article provides a general overview of variable-speed motor control drive importance in the industry , it also gives some interesting numbers :

electronic motor control could result in savings of as much as 15% of the total electric power used in the US. This equates to an annual reduction in energy consumption of as much as 300 billion KWh, thereby saving $15 billion and reducing greenhouse gasses by more than 180 million metric tons a year

Later, the author briefly summarize the pitch for FPGA against DSP and MCU by the following :

DSP : “these can be expensive and also typically require the addition of analog components, control elements and sub-systems

MCU : “have the advantage of being relatively cheap (around $1 to $2 for an industrial motor controller application), but they are typically clocked in the range of 10 to 50 MHz, which limits the speed with which they can control the pulse width modulation.

FPGA : “(…) FPGA fabric can be used to implement massively parallel processing of the motor control algorithms. […] The use of a mixed-signal FPGA with an integrated soft processor allows motors to be built with sensor-less sinusoidal current control, eliminating costly sensors and further reducing the price of the electronic controls. […] In addition to monitoring the bus voltage, motor currents, and speed, the combination of a Cortex-M1 processor in a mixed-signal FPGA can also perform diagnostics and handle any user interface requirements“.

Can we expect a new release of the Actel-Ishnatek FPGA-based motor control board in a near future ?

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