ADI Blackfin

Blackfin architecture appeared more than 10 years ago and was developed by Analog Devices. It still serves as a basis for innovative products. The key feature of this architecture is RISC-like DSP-core with8 arithmetic/logic units(ALU) in the core(two16-bit ALU, two40-bit ALU, four8-bit video-ALU). This allows carrying out encoding, making use of special instructions, for HD-video coding/decoding, video analysis and other resource-intensive tasks.

A set of instructions of this processor has parallel commands which make it possible to involve practically all ALU at the same time which in its turn facilitates data processing by several times.

Blackfin processor core

It should be noted that among Blackfin processors there is a high-performance microcontroller with embedded Flash-memory and a sufficient set of peripherals – BF50xF. Its clock frequency makes 400MHz and at the moment of its launching it was one of the most productive microcontrollers.

The Blackfin core itself hasn’t undergone any serious changes from the moment of launching of processors. It’s worth mentioning that in 2012 there appeared a new series of Blackfin processors with 2 cores with 500MHz clock frequency each. The key feature of this family is availability of a new storage controller of external memory. This controller supports DDR2 memory operating at 250MHz maximum, hence operating bus frequency is also 250MHz. Previous processor versions supported DDR memory with maximum 133MHz frequency.

Besides, a new family of processors has 2 independent 10/100Mbit network controllers with IEEE-1588 protocol support for timing devices and Pipelined Vision Processor, PVP – embedded accelerator of image processing also known as conveyor video processor. This module consists of a set of computing blocks, intended for such tasks as image (object) detection, tracking (tracing real-time position in space of an object) and image identification. Productivity of this video processor is 8 GMACs.

2D laser scanner processor board with Analog Devices BF609

Board with BF609 processor developed by AXONIM Devices

System-on-Module based on BF609 processor developed by AXONIM Devices

Blackfin processors are low-cost and low-power. At present Blackfin processors can be seen in VoiP-devices, audio-interfaces, fuzz-boxes, multimedia-centers, smart video cameras and other devices.

On account of a10-year experience of work with Blackfin processors specialists of AXONIM Devices can develop either specialized algorithms or applied software for Blackfin platform with thorough understanding of processor architecture.

Software for Blackfin processor can be developed in different ways:

  • Encoding directly in native environment from Analog Devices - Visual DSP and/or CrossCore Embedded ( simplifies code debugging and applies maximum debugging possibilities of Blackfin processor – including code profiling, + possibility to use native real-time OS - VDK);
  • Development of Bare-metal code with the help of GNU compiler – it is necessary to understand program section distribution, setting up Eclipse environment for operation with BFIN GNU compiler and GDB debugger;
  • Code development under Embedded Linux OS for Blackfin – this is uClinux ( Linux without MMU support );
  • In 2008 there appeared yet another variant – possibility to develop a managed code for Blackfin platform with the help of.NET Micro Framework from Microsoft. This helps .NET developers to perform encoding in Visual Studio for Blackfin processor at once.

From our point of view, application of uClinux as an OS for Blackfin processors at present is one of promising trends. On the one hand, the application of uClinux OS for operation with Blackfin processor turns it from a powerful DSP into a general-purpose processor, but on the other hand, availability of Embedded Linux OS well-developed infrastructure allows to make use of all possibilities which are secured by a constantly developing set of applications, utility software and drivers in this OS.

An open project allows to apply a complete uClinux distribution kit which includes:

  • BFIN GNU Toolchain- compiler, debugger and auxiliary utility software;
  • U-boot – initial boot loader;
  • Buildroot – a set of Makefiles and patches which allow generating a complete embedded Linux-system for Blackfin processor.
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