Friday, April 13, 2012

PCIe hardware design

I realised that I'd need some extra hardware to connect the PCIe card to the console panel. The I/O pins on the Xilinx board operate at either 2.8 or 3.3 volts, and my console panel circuitry operates at 5 volts. So, what I need is some level shifters. I got four of these 4-way level shifters, and put them on a piece of veroboard with connectors for the Xilinx board and a 50-pin ribbon cable.
The 50-pin ribbon cable terminates in an HD50 connector (commonly used for narrow SCSI applications) on a PCI bracket. The panel has been fitted with the same connector, so a SCSI cable can be used as an interconnect between the PC and the panel.

A new probem is that the PCIe card doesn't fit the computer case. The pc is housed in a 4U high 19" case. Even though there's a good deal of space, the Xiling card is just too tall. A few connectors and the CompactFlash card stick out.

For now, I've put the top cover on four standoffs. I just daren't put any real load (like the console typewriter) on top of it now.

I'm going to create some extra space in the top of the case by replacing the video card and cpu cooler with low-profile ones. I can then mount the Xilinx card horizontally above those components, using a flexible PCIe extender, similar to this.

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