Electronic Design

Low-Power Microcontroller Combines With An FPGA Or PLD

Rated at 30 MIPS at a frequency of 40 MHz, the Field Programmable System Level Integration Circuit (FPSLIC) combines an 8-bit microcontroller with over 50 kgates of FPGA or PLD programmable logic. Produced by Atmel Corp., it's ideal for custom embedded solutions where the cost of developing a custom system-on-a-chip (SoC) design is prohibitive.

The FPSLIC is based on Atmel's AT40K FPGA core and on a high-performance version of the popular AVR 8-bit RISC microcontroller. It includes a pair of UARTs, timer/counters, an interrupt controller, programmable I/O ports, and 36 kbytes of combined program and data SRAM.

This combined approach is slightly less flexible than implementing a microcontroller and support peripherals in an FPGA, but the advantages are significant. Chip size is reduced by 70%. Power consumption is cut in half. Also, the microcontroller performance is 50% faster than a comparable FPGA implementation, thanks to design optimizations.

Incorporating a large FPGA on-chip still allows for significant customization to complement the built-in peripherals. It significantly reduces system verification as well, since the processor and the standard support peripherals are already tested.

Designers can reconfigure the FPGA any number of times. It's possible, then, to substantially change the design during development without impacting the hardware. This capability also provides design flexibility in applications where the FPGA can be reconfigured on-the-fly to provide different hardware support.

Additionally, coverification tools that can trim design time by several months are available. These tools reduce the time by letting designers conduct hardware and software development and verification early in the design cycle.

Sampling now, FPSLIC devices with a 1.3 million gate equivalent of the Atmel AT94K40 device are priced from $50. Quantity shipments will begin in the fourth quarter. They will be available in 2001 in 250,000-unit volumes for under $7.

Atmel Corp., 2325 Orchard Pkwy., San Jose, CA 95131; (408) 441-0311; www.atmel.com.

TAGS: Digital ICs
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