FPGA PCB Design Based on ICE40 To Drive 64×64 LED Matrix Display

Arshmah Shahkar

Hardware Components:

1.Capacitor 1uFx4
2.Capacitor 100nFx16
3.Capacitor 18pFx2
5.Schottky Diodex1
6.USB C Cable connectorx1
7.Connector headerx1
8.Connector 10 pins JTAGx1
9.Inductor 22Rx1
10.Resistor 0805 5.1kohmx1
11.Resistor 0805 2.2kohmx1
12.Resistor 0805 12kohmx1
13.Resistor 10kohmx1
14.Resistor 0805 680ohmx1
15.Test pointx4
16.FPGA ICE40x1
17.IC 93LC56B/Px1
18.Level Shifter 74AHCT541DGVRx2
19.IC FT232HL-REELx1
20.IC Flash SPIx1
21.IC Linear Voltagex2
22.Crystal 12MHzx1

Software Tools:


FPGA stands for Field Programmable Gate Array. They are semiconductor devices that are based around a matrix of configurable logic blocks (CLBs) connected via programmable interconnects.

The ICE40 chip is an ultra-low-power FPGA and sensor manager designed for ultra-low power mobile applications, such as smartphones, tablets, and hand-held devices.


FPGA chip ICE40UP5K has the following features:

  • An advanced 40nm low power process
  • Embedded Memory up to 1024 kb Single Port SRAM and up to 120 kb system Embedded Block RAM which is efficient in displaying images
  • It provides controls for driving the 24 mA LED Sink driver, including color controls, LED ON/OFF time, and breathing rate.
  • Ultra-Small Form Factor. As small as 2.15 mm × 2.55 mm
  • It also provides flexible, reliable, and secure configuration from on-chip NVCM (Non-Volatile Configuration Memory)
  • It has two On-Chip Oscillators one is a low-frequency oscillator of 10 kHz and the other is a high-frequency oscillator of 48 MHz

The benefit of using FPGAs is that they can be reprogrammed to desired application or functionality requirements even after manufacturing. That is why they are preferred to use for different applications. Their efficiency is high as compared to other devices. FPGAs are based on digital circuits consisting of thousands of gates. ICE40 is useful in different applications:

  • It is used in Voice Recognition Application
  • In Smartphones, Tablets, and Consumer Handheld Devices
  • For Multi-Sensor Management Applications
  • For USB 3.1 Type C Cable Detect / Power Delivery Application
LED Matrix driving PCB Module

Image processing:

In this project, I have used an application of the FPGA that is image processing. In image processing, we use a digital computer to process the digital images like we can enhance them or view them to get some useful information. I have designed a PCB module to drive an LED display. This LED display will display the images or gifs. This display can be driven using some other microcontrollers but the reason is that they do not have onboard memory to be constantly refreshed to display an image while changing different colors. An FPGA has a feature of lots of onboard memory that helps in displaying the image without any delay.

An example of image processing

BOM file:

For hardware components, I have created a BOM file online on Inventhub where I have mentioned each and every detail of my components like names, footprint, library, and quantity. To embed components on my PCB board I can send this file in CSV format to the component provider. He can download the file and can deliver my components as per my design requirements.

BOM file


This FPGA PCB module consists of the following major components to drive an LED matrix:

Block Diagram of LED Matrix
  • IC 93LC56B:

It is a 2Kbit low voltage EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory) used for communication. It can retain the data for the long term. It consists of an ORG pin connected to the Vcc. If the Vcc is below 1.5V it will not start the operation. This IC provides protection against data if some programming accidentally happens during the normal operation. It is an 8 pins IC.

IC 93LC56B
  • IC 74HC5 Level Shifter:

This shift register is also used for communication. It is an 8-bit serial-in parallel-out protocol. It receives data through serial in and sends data through parallel-out configuration. If it is not used then the matrices will not work accurately. LEDs need low voltages to work like 5V so this level shifter will shift the level of voltages from high to low.

Level Shifter
  • IC FT232HL:

The FT232H is a single channel USB 2.0 Hi-Speed (480Mb/s) to UART/FIFO IC. It has the capability of being configured in a variety of industry-standard serial or parallel interfaces. UART transfer data rate up to 12Mbaud. It has a high transfer data rate necessary for better results of images or gifs. It is a compact 48-pin Lead-Free LQFP or QFN package.

  • SPI Flash IC:

It is also known as flash storage. It is used to store and transmit data mostly used in portable devices. It is also popular in industrial as well as a common level like in mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and embedded devices in industries.


Schematic Design:

For the design implementation, I have decided to work on Altium which is very useful and efficient for complex designs. After creating my schematic I have uploaded my schematic file online on Inventhub for the users. Anyone who wants to implement my design can visually view or download the file from Inventhub and can implement my design.

Schematic on Inventhub


I have implemented the PCB design of this FPGA board on Altium. It is a double layer PCB board one is the top layer and the other is the bottom layer. There is a silkscreen layer on both sides where I have written the text on my board. Autoroute in Altium allows us to route automatically but this design and its routing are quite complex so I did it carefully part by part. After completing the routing I can view the board in 2D or 3D to get an idea of how it will look after fabrication.

Once I have done designing my board I have uploaded the PCB design file online on Inventhub. The manufacturer can view or download my PCB design file to fabricate my board without any error.

PCB on Inventhub

FPGA Programming To Drive LED Matrix:

LED Matrix:

An LED matrix is made up of small dots to form the resolution of the display. The digital display of LED is made up of three basic colors i.e. Red, Green, and Blue named as RGB Matrix. They are also known as sub-pixels because by changing which sub-pixels are lit, and how brightly, the display can create any color.

The RGB matrix has 16 pins some of them are for RGB colors, some are for control pins (clock, latch, and blank), and the rest of them are for address pins.

RGB Matrix Driving Framework:

The framework to drive LED matrix works in three steps:

RGB Matrix Framework

1- Firstly, fetches the data in the form of frame buffer memory which means each color has its own address and space to be fit in the frame. Split them into 64-bit row data

2- Secondly, transmit this data through the data transmitter to read it and clock it

3- Lastly, wait for the correct timing before the next row of data can be sent. This will create an RGB matrix with the display of an image of gifs with multiple colors

For the complete FPGA LED matrix driving code refer to the link below:

Code to Drive LED Matrix with FPGA Chip

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