A device denoted a board saver has been developed as a means of reducing wear and tear of a printed-circuit board onto which an antifuse field-programmable gate array (FPGA) is to be eventually soldered permanently after a number of design iterations. The need for the board saver or a similar device arises because (1) antifuse- FPGA design iterations are common and (2) repeated soldering and unsoldering of FPGAs on the printed-circuit board to accommodate design iterations can wear out the printed-circuit board. The board saver is basically a solderable/unsolderable FPGA receptacle that is installed temporarily on the printed-circuit board.

The Board Saver is shown here in a simplified plan view (greatly reduced number of via holes) and not to scale, to facilitate understanding of its basic layout.
The board saver is, more specifically, a smaller, square-ring-shaped, printed-circuit board (see figure) that contains half via holes — one for each contact pad — along its periphery. As initially fabricated, the board saver is a wider ring containing full via holes, but then it is milled along its outer edges, cutting the via holes in half and laterally exposing their interiors. The board saver is positioned in registration with the designated FPGA footprint and each via hole is soldered to the outer portion of the corresponding FPGA contact pad on the first-mentioned printed-circuit board. The via-hole/contact joints can be inspected visually and can be easily unsoldered later.

The square hole in the middle of the board saver is sized to accommodate the FPGA, and the thickness of the board saver is the same as that of the FPGA. Hence, when a non-final FPGA is placed in the square hole, the combination of the non-final FPGA and the board saver occupy no more area and thickness than would a final FPGA soldered directly into its designated position on the first-mentioned circuit board. The contact leads of a non-final FPGA are not bent and are soldered, at the top of the board saver, to the corresponding via holes. A non-final FPGA can readily be unsoldered from the board saver and replaced by another one. Once the final FPGA design has been determined, the board saver can be unsoldered from the contact pads on the first-mentioned printed-circuit board and replaced by the final FPGA.

This work was done by Andrew Berkun of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-44745

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Board Saver for Use With Developmental FPGAs

(reference NPO-44745) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the September, 2009 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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