OpenCores is an open source hardware community developing digital open source hardware through electronic design automation, with a similar ethos to the free software movement. OpenCores hopes to eliminate redundant design work and slash development costs. A number of companies have been reported as adopting OpenCores IP in chips, or as adjuncts to EDA tools. OpenCores is also cited from time to time in the electronics press as an example of open source in the electronics hardware community, for example,
OpenCores has always been a commercially owned organization. In 2015, the core active users of OpenCores established the independent Free and Open Source Silicon Foundation (FOSSi), and registered the libreCores.org website, as the basis for all future development, independent of commercial control.
Damjan Lampret, one of the founders of OpenCores stated on his website that it began in 1999 . The first public record of the new website and its objectives was on CNET News in 2001. Through the following years it was supported by advertising and sponsorship, including Flextronics.
In mid-2007 an appeal was put out for a new backer, and, in November of that year, Swedish design house ORSoC AB agreed to take over maintenance of the OpenCores website. EE Times reported in late 2008 that OpenCores had passed the 20,000 subscriber mark. In October 2010 it reached 95,000 registered users and has approximately 800 projects, in July 2012 it reached 150,000 registered users.
During 2015, ORSoC AB formed a joint venture with KNCMiner AB to develop bitcoin mining machines. As this became the primary focus of the business, they were able to spent less time with the opencores.org project. In response to the growing lack of commitment, the core OpenRISC development team set up the Free and Open Source Silicon Foundation (FOSSi), and registered the libreCores.org website, as the basis for all future development, independent of commercial control.
In the absence of a widely accepted open source hardware license, the components produced by the OpenCores initiative use several different software licenses. The most common is the GNU LGPL, which states that any modifications to a component must be shared with the community, while you can still use it together with proprietary components. The less restrictive 3-clause BSD license is also used in some hardware projects, while the GNU GPL is often used for software components, such as models and firmware.
The OpenCores library
The library will consist of design elements from central processing units, memory controllers, peripherals, motherboards, and other components. Emerging semiconductor manufacturers could use the information and license designs for free.
The cores are implemented in the hardware description languages Verilog, VHDL or SystemC which may be synthesized to either silicon or gate arrays. The project aims at using a common non-proprietary system bus named Wishbone, and most components are nowadays adapted to this bus.
Among the components created by OpenCores contributors are:
- OpenRISC - a highly configurable RISC central processing unit
- Amber (processor core) - an ARM-compatible RISC central processing unit
- A Zilog Z80 clone
- USB 2.0 controller
- Tri Ethernet controller, 10/100/1000 Mbit
- Encryption units, for example DES, AES & RSA
- HyperTransport Tunnel
- A PIC16F84 core
- Zet: an x86 compatible core
In April 2011 OpenCores opened donations for a new project to develop a complete System on a chip design based on the OpenRISC processor and implement it into an ASIC-component. OpenCores affiliated with OpenCores, for example OpenSPARC and LEON.
- Andrew Orlowski, "Flextronics demos open source chips", The Register, 12 December 2003, 
- Rick Merritt, "Vivace plans to release HD media processors", EE Times India (online edition), 20 April 2006 
- Dylan McGrath, "Firm packages OpenCores IP with EDA tool", EE Times (online edition), 9 January 2006 
- "OVP Simulator Smashes SystemC TLM-2.0 Performance Barrier", EDA Cafe, 5 February 2009 
- Richard Goering, "Doors 'open' to hardware", EE Times (online edition), 6 June 2005 
- John G Spooner, "Open-source credo moves to chip design", CNET News, 27 March 2001 
- Peter Clarke, "OpenCores website, brand up for sale", EE Times Europe (online edition), 25 June 2007 
- Peter Clarke, "Swedish design house agrees to maintain OpenCores", EE Times Europe (online edition), 28 November 2007 
- Anne-Francoise Pele, "OpenCores records 20,000 users", EE Times Europe (online edition), 28 October 2008 
- Announcement of FOSSi at ORConf2015, CERN, Genva. schedule and video
- risc16f84 http://www.opencores.org/project,risc16f84
- zet86 http://opencores.org/project,zet86
- Call for OpenRISC ASIC donations, 30 April 2011