Freescale 5200 PowerPC Project

Freescale Evaluation Board

5200 Freescale board

Postgrad Research

In 2003, Freescale announced a low-cost PowerPC with similar specifications to the Alchemy Semiconductor AU1000 that we had previously used. The 5200 also ran at 400 MHz and dissipated slightly more than the AU1000, but we were looking at motion control for a six axis robot, so power was not such an issue. One of the 5200 evaluation boards had an early exit from this world, but they were cheap enough to order a replacement. After some dabbling with the Xilinx Virtex-II Pro PowerPC 405 core, the 5200 was a more attractive option for industrial automation, particularly due to standard Ethernet without having to debug VHDL.

In 2003, I was in academia so was fortunate to have students who had similar interests and could share much of the work. As part of the evaluation of a suitable core, Warwick Smith had also experimented with the range of boards we had. He changed from the FPGA based Xilinx PowerPC to the Freescale 5200. We used the Green Hills Software toolchain (academic license) with the 5200. Warwick Smith’s thesis was titled, Motion Controller With Diagnostics and Monitoring for a 6-Axis Robot, from 2004 to 2005.

Green Hills Software

During one of the SlingShot probe upgrades, the probe became “bricked”. There were some errata on the 5200 reset circuit from the GHS software. The upgrade problems were covered in chapter 6 of Debugging Embedded Systems (some early 32-bit work) (PDF) 7,9Meg. Fortunately, there were two SlingShot probes (came with each 5200 evaluation board), but they required firmware changes for different processors, and sharing probes late into a student’s project was impractical. Our own research was on the AMCC 440GX PowerPC with a SlingShot probe. (The Virtex-II Pro boards were debugged with Xilinx Parallel-IV cables.)

Freescale as a vendor

The Freescale documentation, application notes, prices and general ease of business make Freescale one of our favourites.

Future PowerPC work

We like the Freescale QorIQTM PowerPC hardware, but they will be adding in ARM cores in the Layerscape series. We bought Freescale ARM hardware some time back, however, if you're interested in joint projects, give us a call.

Warwick Smith’s 5200 PowerPC board

Warwick’s 5200 board

Funding for the robotic project arrived about a year after it was originally promised. After several weeks of testing various platforms, the time came for Warwick to develop some hardware. The first couple of boards were fairly straight forward, and were used to become familiar with the schematic-, layout- and other tools. The power supply boards would also be used in my own projects as well as the FPGA board. The PowerPC processor board shown to the left and the FPGA board in Student Robotic Project, were the two main boards in Warwick’s project.

Center Balls not soldered

BGA balls on 5200 project 6x center balls

Center balls on the Freescale 5200 PowerPC that had not connected to the base board. Photo here is 6× enlarged on a microscope. The center pads were for power, so no wonder the board did not work. When pulling a BGA chip for forensic work, expect a few tracks to get hurt. For the testing of the FPGA board, Warwick attached ribbon cable to a 5200 evaluation board. Thankfully, the motion controller board’s FPGA was properly attached.

Edge balls partially soldered

BGA balls on 5200 project 6x center balls

Another view of the corner balls on the PowerPC component that was ‘pulled’ off the PCB. The BGA components were attached by the Pretoria Technikon, who had been setup as the South African academic Electronics Cluster (PE Technikon was the Automotive Cluster), but the setup was not ready for prime time. Certainly did not X-ray the boards or check with side view microscopes/ optics.