I'm trying to build a simple fpga logic analyser and wondering how to best design the input circuit.

I would like to support 8 channels, voltage between 0-5V, with a adjustable threshold range (lets say between 0.7V~2.8V) connected to 3.3V tolerant pins. Not sure what frequency I can hope to achive, as high as possible I guess...

Since I'm fairly new to electronic I'm not sure exactly how to approch this,

My first idea was to use something like a LP38500TS adjustable linear regulator for the threshold, connect that to the inverted input of a comparator and my input signal to the non-inverted and set VCC to a value higher than 5V and then have a voltage divider after the comparator to bring the signal down to 3.3V...

Tried it in ltspice and it looked ok... :) But I have a feeling that there are much better ways of doing this.

  • Will this design even 'work' in the real world?
  • What would the easier/better/saner design be? (I'm sure there is one…). Wouldn't surprise me if I'm making this more complicated than it really is.

For making a logic analyzer, the main speed bottleneck is going to be your voltage comparator. Even the super fast ones are typicaly not as fast as a normal digital logic buffer. A comparator with a propagation delay of 4 ns is considered to be super fast for analog but not very fast for digital logic. 4ns would work for an analyzer that runs somewhere in the 50-100 MHz range, which is just barely suitable for a lot of the things I do.

If I were doing a logic analyzer I would just use the normal FPGA inputs along with some protection features to prevent damage from 5v inputs and ESD-- mostly a current limiting resistor and some ESD protection diodes.

But let's move on to the voltage comparator threshold. I would create a DAC. The easiest way is to output a PWM signal from the FPGA and run that through an RC filter. The RC filter output should be an analog voltage whos voltage is related to the duty cycle of the PWM signal. Start with 3.3K ohms and 1 uF, and go larger if there is too much noise on that signal. Then buffer the RC output using a simple Opamp. The output of the opamp goes to the voltage comparators. You might need several buffers, or a cascade/tree of buffers if you have a lot of comparators.

Another thing to consider is that many opamps/comparators do not handle rail-to-rail inputs. This is more important when your inputs are low voltage signals, like 1.5 and 1.2v. But could be an issue even with 3.3v logic inputs if you do not carefully select the comparator. One way around this is to power your comparator off of something other than GND and +3.3v (or whatever). Maybe -1.0 and +5v is more appropriate. Beware, however, that you give the FPGA valid input voltages otherwise you risk blowing that up.

Good luck!


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