F P G A, It’s Fun to Play With an F P G A

We recently posted a case history written by Paolo Catterina of EUROelectronics (Die Is Cast for FPGA Control), an Italian company that delved into using FPGA-based controller technology to handle a particularly demanding control app for position and speed of an hydraulic cylinder on a diecasting machine. I liked this article because it's an example of a company that realized its tried-and-true, and overall quite satisfactory, PLC control scheme just couldn't cut it for the speed and precision they needed, so it had to think very differently. I won't regurgitate the whole story line, but the decision to use FPGA technology revolved largely on the relationship they'd established over the years with National Instruments in Italy. That's all well and good when you indeed have a good relationship with a vendor and can genuinely explore whether that vendor's flagship product really is right for you. I wondered out loud if that's the only way to get a group of basically conservative machine control professionals to put on pioneer hats and charge out ahead on their own. Recall that a favorite machine builder definition of "pioneer" is "those guys out there on the prairie, lying face up with arrows in their chests." So, lacking that tight relationship that EUROelectronics has, what would it take for you to head out in the unknown to try a new technology that you think might give you a competitive advantage? Read our April 2008 articles, "Die Is Cast for FPGA Control" by Paolo Caterina and "FPGA Can Speed Development." Do you use FPGA-based controllers? Take our Web poll.