Build your own Mandelbrot Fractal Generator with FPGA

Greetings FPGA lovers! Today’s post takes you into yet another interdisciplinary project that links pure mathematics, FPGA and VHDL to build something beautiful! The Mandelbrot set is a series of complex numbers that tend to infinity when operated upon by a special operator. These numbers when grouped together create a beautiful image sequence which might appear to be chaotic initially. But simplifying the set, we soon find that Mandelbrot’s numbers are nothing but fractals and this concept can be explored and understood visually with FPGA and VHDL.

Today’s project is an FPGA based Fractal explorer that has been built out of the Papilo Duo kit which includes Xilinx Spartan 6 LX9 FPGA, an ATmega 32U4 microcontroller and a 512 MB Static RAM. Some other hardware needed is a basic 7” LCD screen, a Joystick, a few buttons and a rotary encoder.

The colour map shown in the project is navigated by using the joystick to move around, rotary knob to chose colour scheme and the buttons to zoom in and out. These controls are connected to the ATmega 32U4 microcontroller which is interfaced with the FPGA through an SPI interface.

The LCD has been tweaked to display 800 x 600 and the FPGA has also been correspondingly set to process 800 x 600 pixel fractals using the inbuilt DSP 48s. The project is inspired by the Mandelbrot Fractal Generator by Hamster.

Though the code for this project is still unavailable at the moment, you can refer Hamster’s project to get the basic dataflow and code in the C language. Once you do have the logic at hand, the project can easily be converted to the FPGA/VHDL combination instead of the Computer/C combination used by Hamster.

The project is an excellent way to continue learning coding through VHDL and get used to the Papilo Duo Kit.


By Larry McGovern

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