Embedded World saw an array of microcontroller unveilings that focus on lower power operation, integrated peripherals, and advanced development tools. Here is Electronic Design Europe’s round-up of the most interesting new devices.
Differentiate With New Peripherals
Silicon Labs moved into the 32-bit realm for the first time with its family of Precision 32 mixed-signal ARM Cortex-M3 devices (Fig. 1).
“We are not the first player in the 32-bit space—so, how to be different?” says Mike Salas, general manager of MCU products at Silicon Labs. “We talked to 100+ engineers about what they wanted to see in a new 32-bit MCU, and they said lower cost, lower power, and a new tool framework.”
The company created a GUI-based drag-and-drop “AppBuilder,” which lets developers configure peripherals without writing a single line of code. Analogue and digital peripherals can be placed on any pin, allowing for much-needed flexibility in PCB layout. Peripherals can be located near connecting components, eliminating pin conflicts and simplifying routing.
“A common complaint is that requirements change at the 11th hour,” says Salas. “With this kind of flexibility we can easily accommodate those kind of changes.”
Another interesting feature of Precision 32 is the integration of six high-drive I/Os, which allow up to 300mA of current to be driven out of any pin or pins in order to drive LEDs, motors, power MOSFETs, etc., or acting as a boost converter controller. Precision 32 also integrates an on-chip oscillator to eliminate the need for an external 8MHz crystal, by allowing crystal-less USB operation while running the core independently at any frequency between 1 and 80 MHz.
Low Power, PWM Peripherals
Microchip debuted three MCUs—one each of the 8-, 16- and 32-bit varieties. Its new 8-bit PIC12F(HV)752 features a built-in high-voltage shunt regulator (Fig. 2). As a result, power can be supplied directly to the chip from a high-voltage source. Moreover, it requires only one external resistor.
Lucio Di Jasio, Microchip’s business development manager, says that an intelligent power-supply solution could be built using only this product, plus an external MOSFET and inductor. The device features a complementary output generator (COG) that provides two opposite signals for PWM peripherals, perhaps two MOSFETs in a synchronous power-supply design.
The 16-bit PIC24F16KL is a smaller, simpler, lower-power, and lower-cost family of additions to the PIC24 series, using the same PIC24 core running at 16MIPS. These devices employ eXtreme Low Power (XLP) technology, drawing as little as 30nA in sleep mode or 150µA/MHz when running.
Microchip also expanded its 32-bit MX1 and MX2 series with new devices that expand flash (16 to 128kB) and RAM (4 to 32kB) memory. They run at 61 DMIPS, according to Di Jasio, which is “an insane amount of processing power—enough to run three MP3 decoding algorithms at the same time.” Consequently, they will find homes in smartphone accessories, consumer audio dock equipment, LCD displays, industrial devices,and test equipment.
All of these devices can use source code provided in the company’s C libraries, and then be compiled for 8-, 16-, or 32-bit devices using its MPLabX IDE.
Pin-Compatible Power Saver
Energy Micro launched a family of 60 ARM Cortex-M4F devices called Wonder Gecko (Fig. 3). Like others in the Gecko range, these MCUs minimise power consumption—just 180µA/MHz in active mode, 400nA in deep sleep mode (with RTC running), and 20nA in shut off mode (which can wake up in 2µs). They pack 256kB of flash and 32kB of RAM. Wonder Gecko sits alongside five other Cortex-M0 and Cortex-M3 Gecko families that feature intelligent peripherals, providing functionality without waking the CPU.
“They are pin- and code-compatible, so it takes almost no effort to upgrade [to Wonder Gecko],” says Geir Førre, CEO of Energy Micro. Førre states that you can easily migrate from one Gecko family to another, providing the target family has the required peripherals.
On-Chip Delta-Sigma Demodulator
The XMC4500 family of cross-market MCUs developed by Infineon features a Cortex-M4 core instead of the previous generation’s 16-bit proprietary core. New peripherals include four parallel fast 12-bit ADCs, two 12-bit DACs, four delta-sigma demodulators, and six capture/compare units (CCU4 and CCU8).
Dr Stefan Zizala, senior director of Industrial and Multimarket Microcontrollers, Infineon, says that the XMC team worked closely with their power colleagues when integrating the delta-sigma demodulator on-chip. The goal was to optimise the interoperability between the XMC4500 devices and the power module, reducing BOM by one IC. He also says that the CCU8’s automatic asymmetric PWM generation means that high-end PWM schemes can be implemented in hardware, without any load on the CPU.
Infineon’s DAVE 3 IDE enables code generation based on DAVE apps, and features a GNU compiler, debugger, flash loader, automatic code generator, and data-visualisation tools.
Easy Migration From AVR To ARM
Atmel revealed its new integrated development environment dubbed Studio 6, which allows Atmel AVR and Atmel Cortex-M users to seamlessly develop and debug their applications in the same environment.
“Designers need to implement 8- or 32-bit quickly,” says Laurent Rakotondrainibe, Atmel’s product marketing manager for ARM MCU and eMCU. “But it’s painful to deal with both tool chains—a full seamless environment is needed.”
Atmel Studio 6, which features a large library of more than 1000 project examples, is now integrated with QTouch Composer. As a result, there’s no need to toggle between development environments when including touch interfaces. The overall aim is to provide easy migration between 8- and 32-bit products.
Also on tap was the company’s new SAM3 family of Cortex-M3-based devices (40 in all) with peripheral sets for increased connectivity. It includes Ethernet, dual CAN, and a high-speed USB host and device with on-chip PHY.
“There’s an integrated USB PHY on-chip, which saves about 80 cents,” says Rakotondrainibe. “This is a unique offering in the market today.”
The SAM3 family also features scalable memory options from 16kB to 1MB.