Scholarly Communications Project

A Design Methodology for Creating Programmable Logic-based Real-time Image Processing Hardware


Thomas Hudson Drayer

PhD Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Tech in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical Engineering


Joseph G. Tront, Chair
Richard W. Conners, Co-chair
A. Lynn Abbott
D. Earl Kline
Charles E. Nunnally

January 24, 1997
Blacksburg, Virginia


A new design methodology that produces hardware solutions for performing real-time image processing is presented here. This design methodology provides significant advantages over traditional hardware design approaches by translating real-time image processing tasks into the gate-level resources of programmable logic-based hardware architectures. The use of programmable logic allows high-performance solutions to be realized with very efficient utilization of available logic and interconnection resources. These implementations provide comparable performance at a lower cost than other available programmable logic-based hardware architectures. This new design methodology is based on two components: a programmable logic-based destination hardware architecture and a suite of development system software. The destination hardware architecture is a Custom Computing Machine (CCM) that contains multiple Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) chips. FPGA chips provide gate-level programmability for the hardware architecture. Sophisticated software development tools, called the TRAVERSE development system software, are created to overcome the significant amount of time and expertise required to manually utilize this gate-level programmability. The new hardware architecture and development system software combine to establish a unique design methodology. There are several distinct contributions provided by this dissertation. The new flexible MORRPH hardware architecture provides a more efficient solution for creating real-time image processing computing machines than current commercial hardware architectures. The TRAVERSE development system software is the first integrated development system specifically for creating real-time image processing designs with multiple FPGA-based CCMs. New standards and design conventions are defined specifically for creating solutions to low-level image processing tasks, using the MORRPH architecture for verification. The circuit partitioning and global routing programs of the TRAVERSE development system software enable automated translation of image processing designs into the resources of multiple FPGA chips in the hardware architecture. In a broad sense, the individual contributions of this dissertation combine to create a new design methodology that will change the way hardware solutions are created for real-time image processing in the future.

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