LVDS in Xilinx (Spartan-3)

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Hello all,

I am considering using the LVDS mode in spartan-3 FPGAs to run
offboard via a cat-5 RJ-45 connector.  We have been doing this for a
long time with LVDS parts from TI and National, but using the FPGA
directly would be a cost savings (but also require a lot of pins!)

I am concerned about exposing these I/O pins this way, I feel much
safer with the layer of protection the LVDS parts put between the FPGA
and the outside world.  I have no doubt that these parts are safer,
but do I need this?  Most Xilinx parts claim a 2kV ESD spec,
human-body model, whereas the LVDS components spec 20kv.  Or maybe I
would need to diode-protect these (expensive).

Does anyone have any advice, or has anyone had any good or bad
experiences doing this?  Along these lines, what do you recommend to
protect any exposed FPGA pin?  We usually try to avoid them, but
otherwise we will use series resistors and diode protection depending
on the application.

Jason Daughenbaugh

Re: LVDS in Xilinx (Spartan-3)

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Yup, that is a big difference.  2 KV of HBM ESD is really not very
robust at all.  

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My only experience  is 5V Spartan FPGAs and XC9500 CPLDs.  I have ONE
customer who has blown up DOZENS of Xilinx parts.  I have never been to
his location, I'd like to find out what he is doing to cause this much
I have never had a field failure with any other customer.  The product
of several boards, one FPGA or CPLD each, that plug into a backplane.
In another related product that puts much of that function into one larger
FPGA, I went to the trouble of adding a bunch of Littelfuse SP720AB
ESD suppressor arrays.  I get them from Digi-Key, with 14 protected lines
for $2.82 in quantity of 10.  All I can say at this point is they don't
the operation of the circuit.  They do spec a low capacitance.

I have had a few strasnge Xilinx incidents I can comment on.  Once, in the
winter, I was working on a board with an XCS10-3PC84C FPGA, and as
I sat down, I touched the board.  Sparks shot all over it, I am positive I
saw at least 5 separate sparks, 4 of them jumping between pins on the
board, and one from my finger!  The board was powered on at the time,
which may be relevant.  That board is still working today!

Another time, on the "related" product mentioned above, with an XCS30-4TQ144
FPGA, I had just assembled the board, powered it on, checked that it
correctly (I have a RED LED that lights and goes off when the config
OK) and then powered it off, to connect it to test gear.  When I applied
again, it did not power up.  The chip was shorted, and when I applied an
bench supply, the chip was drawing 1.8 A.  I replaced the Spartan, and
it worked
fine.  I was not aware of any particular thing that happened that could
have caused
an ESD event.


Re: LVDS in Xilinx (Spartan-3)
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Consider that a customer may plug your RJ-45 into an ISDN
socket with 100V DC across some of those pins.

Look at at some ethernet phy app notes.

   -- Mike Treseler

Re: LVDS in Xilinx (Spartan-3)
Don't quote me on this, but I seem to remember that CE required a 15KV
human body model - you might look it up just to make sure, but if you
plan to ship to the CE, you'll need this.


Jason Daughenbaugh wrote:

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