The BeagleWire, FPGA for the BeagleBone

Alasdair Allan
2 min readMar 5, 2018

Over the last year, perhaps two, the FPGA has made heavy in-roads into the maker market. Once viewed as a niche product, they’re now showing up pretty much everywhere. They’re turning up as drop-in replacements for the Arduino but with optimized hardware implementations of processor intensive functions, and as an easy way to control 9,000 NeoPixels. The long standing problem holding back widespread adoption of the FPGA, the lack of open source toolchain, is also getting solved.

Enter the BeagleWire, now raising on Crowd Supply.

The BeagleWire. (📷: QWERTY Embedded Design)

Based around a Lattice iCE40HX FPGA the BeagleWire is an FPGA cape for the BeagleBone range of boards, with both the hardware and software of the cape—along with the toolchain needed to make use of it—being open source.

Importantly, the toolchain to use the board will run comfortably on the BeagleBone itself. While that might seem like an obvious feature, it’s actually not that common for many FPGA boards where the toolchain needs to be run on Windows. Or just flat-out on something more powerful than a BeagleBone or Raspberry SBC.

The BeagleWire has 32MB of SDRAM, and 4MB of SPI Flash for FPGA self-configuration. The board has 4×Pmod connectors, and 4×Grove connectors, as well as 4×LEDs, 2×push switches, and 2×DIP switches. It’s compatible with the BeagleBone Black and its clones, in addition to element14’s industrial version of the board.

The hardware design for the BeagleWire. (📷: Patryk Mężydło)

However the main attraction of the new board has to be how open it is, with the hardware design, software, and toolchain all being open source. There is even extensive documentation on the project Wiki.

The BeagleWire is now on Crowd Supply and costs $85, with free shipping inside the US and worldwide shipping costing an additional $10. Orders placed now are expected to ship towards the end of May.