Reconfigurable Hardware Interface for Computing and Radio

Version 1.1 of the Rhino Platform running Linux 3.1 RC 1 with Borph

Rhino V11 power and in action

Project Description

The RHINO Project is an Open Source effort born out of the radar remote sensing group at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, motivated by CASPER and the SKA Africa project. The goal of the project is to provide a hardware platform and software toolchain for Software Defined Radio (SDR) which is both easy to use, easy to learn and affordable to a broad audience. It is hoped that this effort will consolidate and enhance the teaching and research resources available for Software Defined Radio (SDR).

Hardware Architecture

RHINO Hardware follows the same fundamental computer architecture as the current ROACH-based CASPER hardware, namely a single FPGA element with memory, high speed communication, and IO expansion slots, all controlled via a processor running the BORPH operating system. Below is an overview of the RHINO architecture.

Key Features

  • FPGA Subsystem
    • Spartan6 FPGA, XC6SLX150T-2FGG676C
      • 676-pin package, 150K logic cells, 180 DSP48A1 slices, 8 GTP transceivers, 4 integrated DDR3 Memory Controllers
    • Dual DDR3 x 16 memory
      • Micron DDR3-1066, upto 512MB, upto 25.6Gbps total bandwidth
    • Dual FMC-LPC Vita 57.1 IO expansion
    • Dual CX4 10Gbps IO
      • Supports 10Ge,Infiniband, XUAI, copper-to-fibre adaptors
  • Processor Subsystem
    • Texas Instrument Sitara AM3517ZCN ARM Cortex A8 processor (600MHz)
    • Dual DDR2 upto 256MB, 10Gbps bandwdith
    • Upto 256MB NAND flash memory
    • USB Host, USB on the go, SD Card, HDMI, Audio (in/out)
    • Support booting off USB drive, flash memory or SD card
    • JTAG openocd debugger support through FDTI device
    • Dual serial port via USB
    • 100Mbs Ethernet with IEEE 1588 PTP support (sync to within 10ns)
  • FPGA/Processor Link
    • 16 bit bus, upto 1.3 Gbps
    • Select Map Configuration( device configuration within 1s)
    • Support FPGA ICAP interface via processor bus

Detailed Project Information

(Need to add Requirements Specification)


We needed a 16 layer stack-up to accomodate all the high speed signals; it is quite tough length and impedance matching most of the signals from the FPGA. Altium(TM) has a really progressive 3D cad functionality which allows one to review the mechanical design of the board prior to that first prototype. You need to put in the required effort to generate all the pretty 3D CAD models for the components. But when its done, the results are pretty rewarding.

Initial 3D model of Rhino


Date Event
01-02-2010 Start of Rhino Project
01-03-2010 High Level Design Complete, Block Diagram's released for review
01-06-2010 First Draft of Schematics Complete
15-06-2010 Second Draft of Schematics Released fro Review
01-07-2010 Components Database complete
01-08-2010 Layout Begins
01-09-2010 Initial Placement complete and ready for review
010-11-2010 Layout complete and ready for review Layout
26-11-2010 Proposed completion date of manufacture of the Rhino PCB
15-12-2010 Proposed date for receiving first Rhino prototypes
22-12-2010 First 4 Rhino prototypes received
27-12-2010 Processor is booting from SD Flash; we have a uboot prompt
5-01-2011 FPGA up and running
10-01-2011 Both DDR3 memories up and running!
10-02-2011 Almost all peripherals have been tested
29-03-2011 Borph/Linux is ported
10-04-2011 CAD files updated to Version 1.1 - fixed all the minor bugs
30-04-2011 6 new Rhino V1.1 PCB's fab'd and sent to Digicom
15-05-2011 2 new Rhino V1.1 fab'd
15-06-2011 Simon gets S/N 1100001 working and solves weird boot up issue (beware of 4mil spacing!)
15-07-2011 Receive and set to work 3 more Rhino's, one sent back to Digicom for some repair.
30-07-2011 Linux ecosystem gathering tools at www.borph.org
16-08-2011 Brandon updates Borph to Linux 3.1 RC 1!

Where to get it

Production is managed by Mo at Digicom (www.digicom.org). Send production-related inquiries to mo at digicom dot org. Production is grouped into batches, so lead times are variable.

archi.jpg (75 kB) Alan Langman, 2010-09-14 21:04

Rhino3DModel.PNG - Initial layout of Rhino (194.6 kB) Alan Langman, 2010-10-26 14:39

Rhino3DModel.png - Initial 3D model of Rhino (252.2 kB) Alan Langman, 2010-10-26 14:48

rhino_populated_photo.jpg - Rhino V1.0 (146.5 kB) Alan Langman, 2010-12-29 09:29

Rhino2.jpg - Better picture of the rhino board (138.3 kB) Alan Langman, 2010-12-31 16:37

rhinov11.jpg - Rhino V11 power and in action (49.7 kB) Alan Langman, 2011-08-18 20:03