UPC EETAC Bachelor's Degree in Telecommunications Systems and in Network Engineering EEL



DE10-Lite board setup

Lab 1.2

1. Terasic DE10-board

We can implement prototypes for simple circuits using academic boards such Terasic DE10-Lite. This is the 6th step in our VHDL design flow that includes project management, VHDL source files editing, circuit synthesis and simulation, and chip programmming.

DE10-Lite board

Fig. 1. DE10-Lite board, user manual and drivers at Terasic.

Before using the board we have to install the drivers and check that cables and connections are all right. In this unit we explain these steps including am example circuit design: 2-digit bianry to 7-segment decoder. 


Fig. 2. In CSD we will use only a reduced set of features from DE10-Lite board, basically simple digital inputs and outputs. In chapter 2 we will include as weel clocked synchronous circuits.


2. Programmable logic device (PLD), field programmable gate array (FPGA) Intel MAX10

MAX 10 device 10M50DAF484C7 containing up to 50k programmable logic elements is placed in DE10-Lite board. Technology details and datasheets can be studied at Intel page.

Intel MAX10

Fig. 3. 10M50DAF484C7 FPGA (ref.)

We will use this chip at its basic level, paying attention only to its logic elements (LE) capable of implementing logic functions using the plan of RAM memories with 4-input granularity. The chip contains 50.000 of them, meaning that all our introductory projects well fit easily in a single FPGA.

Logic element

Fig. 4. Logic element structure. In Chapter 2 we will use as well the synchronous 1-bit memory cell D_FF.


3. Windows 10 USB Blaster driver

Download and unzip the DE10-Lite system CD where to find manuals, drivers and schematics.


Fig. 5. Resources for the board De10-Lite

Windows 10 generates complications with the USB Blaster driver from this boards, because they are not signed and the operating system do not allow its installation. From this Terasic forum, you find instructions on how to proceed:


Fig. 6. The unsigned version of the USB Driver is found in this forum. USB Blaster Drvier From Q16.1. Unzip it into a known location, for instance: "C:\tmp\Usb_blaster_q16.1".

More information here.

From Windows 10, using Control panel, hardware and sound, device manager, you can install the USB Blaster as follows:

Finding the driver file

Fig. 7. Find the driver file and install it.

Fig. 8 shows the installation process that finishes when the DE10-Lite board is correctly identified as another fully operational USB device connected to the PC.

Driver installation process.

Fig. 8. Completing the driver installation.


4. Control Panel application

Once the USB-Blaster driver installed, if the computer already has been using Quartus Prime, we can control the DE10-Lite board resources from the Control Panel application found in the CD disk from Terasic. Let us test the switches, LED and 7-segment displays.

Firstly, as seen in Fig. 9a, from the directory System CD --> Tools --> ControlPanel, copy the "bin" library to where Quartus Prime is installed in your PC, for example at C:\intelFPGA_lite\20.1\quartus

library to run ControlPanel

Fig. 9a. Copying the ControPanel "bin" library to Quartus Prime folders. 

And secondly, as shown in Fig. 9b, run the "ControlPanel.exe" application to visualise buttons, switches, LED and 7-segment display digits.

Control panel

Fig. 9b. Control panel application for verifying the cable and the De10-Lite interface to the PC.


Thus, now that everything is working correctly, we can use Quartus Prime programmer to configure our projects ob the DE10-Lite board.

5. Example project application

Let us program the MAX10 chip in the DE10-Lite board with a given project.

1. Specifications: Designing a Dec_hex_7seg

Using the HEX_7SEG_decoder invented in P2 applying plan A (or the same Hex_7seg_decoder applying plan B), design a new chip Dec_hex_7seg that includes active-low ripple blanking input (RBI_L) and output (RBO_L) for cascadable zero-suppression capability), and also lamp test (LT_L) functions. This means completing the functionality of the standard 74LS47 chip applying plan C2.

Truth table and symbol
Timing diagram

Fig. 1. Dec_hex_7seg symbol and truth table. Example of timing diagram.

Try in our Proteus virtual laboratory how a chain of several decoders can be implemented for blanking or suppressing leading zeroes in this Hex_7seg_decoder.pdsprj using such control signals as ripple blanking input and output.


2. Planning

As represented in Fig. 2, we will use plan C2 connecting Chip1 and extra logic for implementing the blanking and lamp test functionality.

Truth table for control inputs
Circuit using plan C2

Fig. 2. Proposed plan C2 circuit. The additional logic will complete the specifications solved by Chip1.

Project location:



3. Development

Let us tranlate our plan above in Fig. 2 to VHDL: Dec_hex_7seg.vhd, and start a new Quartus Prime synthesis project targeting specifically the FPGA 10M50DAF484C7 populating the DE10-Lite board. Include in this project a copy of the component Hex_7seg_decoder from P2 (plan A or plan B).

Once the circuit is synthesised we obtain the ideal or register transfer level (RTL) squematic as shown in Fig. 3.

RTL view

Fig. 3. RTL view.

In this project we use 18 logic elements to implement the eight output functions in this 128 row truth table.


Fig. 4. Technology schematic.


4. Testing (functional)

Let us imagine the test bench as usual as represented on Fig. 5. Generate the template from Quartus Prime.

Testbench fixture

Fig. 5. Testbench fixture to verity our design.

Translate the stimulus as in this example file Dec_hex_7seg_tb.vhd and set for instance Min_Pulse = 10 us and run the ModelSim simulation for 300 us.

Simulation results.

Fig. 6. Functional simulation results.

NOTE: Unfortunately, MAX10 technology does not generate standard delay output files (sdo), making impossible running real gate-level simulations in ModelSim. However, we can still use the Quartus Prime timing analyser tool to measure propagation delays. 


5. Prototyping

We have to read the DE10-Lite user manual to find which pins are used for LED, switches and seven segment displays.

Switches and LED

Fig. 7. Pins assigned to the LED row. We propose to use LED9 for representing RBO_L output. We also can used six of the 8 switches availabel for D(3..0) and BI_L, LT_L and RBI_L inputs. 

We ca use one of the six available 7-segment displays to represent decoded hexadecimal symbols. For instance, HEX3 as shown in Fig. 8.

7-segment displays

Fig. 8. Circuitry associated to 7-segment displays from the user manual and the schematics from Terasic. LED segmens are using a 1 kΩ limiting resistors for biasing at IDQ = 1.8 mA.

Let us run the pin planner spreadsheet tool from Quartus Prime as shown in Fig. 9 to annotate inputs and output pins.

Pin planner

Fig. 9. Pin assigment tool.

Pin listing can be exported and imported in spreadsheet format (."csv" extension) Dec_hex_7seg_prj_pins.csv, making it simple continuing projects and adding new features to existing ones.

Pin list export

Fig. 10a. Exporting the list of pins from Pin Planner and saving it as "*_pins.csv" in project directory.


Importing pins

Fig. 10b. Importing from Quartus Prime the list of pin assignments. 

Synthesise all and finally run the programmer selecting the icon from Quartus Prime top tap as shwon in Fig. 11. Select the USB-Blaster as the default programming hardware. It has to be identified correctly if the DE10-lite driver were succesfully installed in Fig. 8 above.  

Programmer icon

Programmer with the USB blaster hardware

Fig. 11. USB-Blaster has to be detected and assigned to the programmer tool. 

Assign the output SOF file Dec_hex_7seg.sof to the MAX10 chip and click start programming. In a few seconds the device will be ready to use.

Programming the device
100% complete

Fig. 12. Select the SOF file located at: "C:\CSD\P3\Dec_hex_7seg\output_files", and click "Start".

De10-Lite board must work as pictured in Fig. 13. You can try inputs and check the circuit truth table. 


Fig. 13. Picture of the final prototype running our project Dec_hex_7seg.

This is the full (zipped) list of VHDL files for this new project Dec_hex_7seg in Fig. 2.

Note: LED not in use are lightly lit by default. You can modify your symbol and assign to all unused LED outputs a '0' to switch them all off.

Note: When the power supply is turned off DE10-Lite resets to the initial default demonstration circuit because we simply have programmed the internal RAM memory. If we like to configure permanently the DE10-Lite as a Dec_hex_7seg we have to program the internal configuration ROM. See details on how to do it in the user manual.