Tag Archives: Microcontroller

STMicro Introduces 20 Cents MCU in 8-Pin Package

STMicro has launched STM8S001J3, a new 8-bit micro-controller that sells for $0.20 per unit in 10k quantities. STM8S001J3 is also the first STM8 MCU offered in 8-pin package (SO8N), and should compete with some of the Microchip Attiny or PIC12F series micro-controllers.

STM8S001J3 has small package and little number of pins, but still it embeds rich set of peripherals. Below some of key features of this device:

  • Core and system
    • Flexible clock control capable to use three clock sources: 2 internal (HSI 16MHz, LSI 128kHz), 1 external clock input.
    • Wide operating voltage range: from 2.95V to 5.5V
    • 5 I/Os
    • 8- and 16-bit timers
  • Memories
    • 8k Flash
    • 1k RAM
    • 128 Bytes EEPROM
  • Conenctivity and debug
    • UART
    • SPI
    • I2C
    • Single Wire Interface Module
  • Analog
    • 10-bit ADC with 3 channels

PICKit 3 Mini

Reviahh has published a new project, the PICKit 3 Mini:

Previously, I made a Pickit 3 clone – (see previous blog post). It works well, but I have often wondered just how little of its circuitry was needed to program and debug the boards I make. For instance – I primarily use the newer 3.3V PIC32 processors, so I really don’t need the ability to alter the voltage like the standard Pickit 3 can. I also have no real need for programming on the go, or even to provide power to the target MCU to program. Knowing this – I decided to see what I could do to remove the circuitry I didn’t need, yet still have a functioning programmer/debugger.

PICKit 3 Mini – [Link]

Attiny Programmer (using Arduino UNO)

by @ instructables.com:

The Arduino UNO is small, but if you require your project to be in a small enclosure, the UNO might be way too big. You could try using a NANO or MINI, but if you really want to go small, you go tiny, Attiny to be precise.

They are quite small, cheap chips (basically small Arduinos) and can be programmed in the Arduino IDE, however you might notice that there is no USB connection. So how do we program it???

Attiny Programmer (using Arduino UNO) – [Link]

DSETA board with an AT89C51ED2

Jesus Echavarria tipped us with his latest DSETA board with an AT89C51ED2.

Some months ago I review the DSETA board due the obsolescence of the microcontroller. I use this board in some projects succesfully. But when I try to manufacture a batch of this boards, I found that the microcontroller (AT89C51RE2) was obsolete. So, the board needs an update to change the microcontroller and maintain most of the features that it has. Now that Microchip buys Atmel, obsolescence and samples will not be a problem.

To replace the RE2 microcontroller, I choose one very similar, the AT89C51ED2 microcontroller. Mainly because it shares most of features with the old one and footprint and pinout is almost the same, so replacement is relatively easy to do.

DSETA board with an AT89C51ED2 – [Link]

20 PIN PIC Development Board

Small size multipurpose 20 Pin PIC Micro-Controller development board, includes onboard 5V regulator, prototyping area and ICSP programing port. The board provided with few more components which includes 4 optocoupler, 2 LEDs connected to RA5, RC7 with series resistors, 2 tactile switches and 2 Trimmer Potentiometers.  These components help to implement Microchip’s AN1660 single phase AC Motor driver. Just need 3 Phase Inverter IPM module to complete the Motor driver, Code and documents can be obtained from Microchip website.  However these components can be used to implement other application or can be left unsoldered.

Features

  • Supply 7-12V DC
  • 20 PIN SO20 PIC16F1509 Micro-controller
  • On Board 5V Regulator
  • Connector for Microchip AN1660
  • CN5 5V Isolated supply required if Microchip AN1660 Used
  • On Board PIC programing ICSP port
  • Two Connected LED on RC7, RA5 port Pin

20 PIN PIC Development Board – [Link]

LoFive – Tiny RISC-V Microcontroller Board

Small breadboard friendly development board using the SiFive FE310 RISC-V Microcontroller.

  • MCU – SiFive Freedom E310 (FE310) 32-bit RV32IMAC processor @ up to 320+ MHz (1.61 DMIPS/MHz)
  • Storage – 128-Mbit SPI flash (ISSI IS25LP128)
  • Expansion – 2x 14-pin headers with JTAG, GPIO, PWM, SPI, UART, 5V, 3.3V and GND
  • Misc – 1x reset button, 16 MHz crystal
  • Power Supply – 5V via pin 1 on header; Operating Voltage: 3.3 V and 1.8 V
  • Dimensions – 38 x 18 mm (estimated)
  • License – CERN Open Hardware Licence v1.2

LoFive – Tiny RISC-V Microcontroller Board – [Link]

Are Today’s MCUs Overdesigned? A Research Team Has The Answer

MCUs are called microcontrollers because they embed a CPU, memory and I/O units in one package. Apparently, today’s MCUs are full of peripherals and in most cases they are not used in the application, and from an engineering point of view this is a waste of money and energy, but on the other hand, for developers and consumers it’s about programmability and flexibility.

Rakesh Kumar a University of Illinois electrical and computer engineering professor and John Sartori a University of Minnesota assistant professor tried to prove that processors are overdesigned for most applications.

Kumar and his colleagues did 15 ordinary MCU applications using openMSP430 microcontroller with bare metal and RTOS approach (both are tested in their study). Surprisingly, the results showed that all of these applications needed no more than 60 percent of the gates. Therefore, smaller MCUs can be used (cheaper and less power consuming). As stated by Sartori, “a lot of logic that can be completely eliminated, and the software still works perfectly”.

Bespoke Processor research results
Image courtesy by: University of Illinois/ACM

In the image above the analysis of unused gates for two applications: Interpolation FIR filter and Scrambled Interpolation FIR. The red dots are the used gates and gray ones are the not used ones.

The research team called the optimum MCU the “Bespoke Processor”, and described the process “like a black box. Input the app, and it outputs the processor design.” says Kumar.

Source: IEEE Spectrum

Open-V, The Open Source RISC-V 32bit Microcontroller

Open source has finally arrived to microcontrollers. Based on RISC-V instruction set, a group of doctoral students at the Universidad Industrial de Santander in Colombia have been working on an open source 32-bit chip called “Open-V“.

Onchip, the startup of the research team, is focusing on integrated systems and is aiming to build the first system-on-chip designed in Colombia. The team aims to contribute to the growth of the open source community by developing an equivalent of commercial microcontrollers implemented with an ARM M0 core.

The Open-V is a 2x2mm chip that hosts built-in peripherals which any modern microcontroller could have. Currently, it has ADC, DAC, SPI, I2C, UART, GPIO, PWM, and timer peripherals designed and tested in real silicon. Other peripherals, such as USB 2, USB3, internal NVRAM and/or EEPROM, and a convolutional neural network (CNN) are under development.

Open-V Chip Specifications

  • Package: QFN-32
  • Processor RISC-V ISA version 2.1 with 1.2 V operation
  • Memory: 8 KB SRAM
  • Clock: 32 KHz – 160 MHz, Two PLLs, user-tunable with muxers and frequency dividers
  • True Random Number Generator: 400 KiB/s
  • Analog Signals: Two 10-bit ADC channels, each running at up to 10 MS/s, and two 12-bit DAC channels
  • Timers: One general-purpose 16-bit timer, and one 16-bit watch dog timer (WDT)
  • General Purpose Input/Ouput: 16 programmable GPIO pins with two external interrupts
  • Interfaces: SDIO port (e.g., microSD), two SPI ports, I2C, UART
  • Programming and Testing
    • Built-in debug module for use with gdb and JTAG
    • Programmable PRBS-31/15/7 generator and checker for interconnect testing
    • Compatible with the Arduino IDE

RISC-V is a new open instruction set architecture (ISA) designed to support architecture research and education. RISC-V is fully available to public and has advantages such as a smaller footprint size, support for highly-parallel multi-core implementations, variable-length instructions to support an optional dense instruction, ease of implementation in hardware, and energy efficiency.

Open-V core provides compatibility with Arduino, so it is possible to benefit from its rich resources. Also when finish preparing the first patch, demos and tutorials will be released showing how Open-V can be used with the Arduino and other resources.

The Open-V microcontroller uses several portions of the Advanced Microcontroller Bus Architecture (AMBA) open standard for on-chip interconnection. This makes any Open-V functional block, such as the core or any of the peripherals, easy to incorporate into existing chip designs that also use AMBA. We hope this will motivate other silicon companies to release RISC-V-based microcontrollers using the peripherals they’ve already developed and tested with ARM-based cores.
We think buses are so important, we even wrote a paper about them for IEEE LASCAS 2016.

Open-V Development Board Specifications

Onchip team are also developing a fully assembled development board for their Open-V. It is a 55 mm x 30 mm board that features everything you need to get start developing with the Open-V microcontroller, include:

  • USB 2.0 controller
  • 1.2 V and 3.3 V voltage regulators
  • Clock reference
  • Breadboard-compatible breakout header pins
  • microSD receptacle
  • Micro USB connector (power and data)
  • JTAG connector
  • 32 KB EEPROM
  • 32-pin QFN Open-V microcontroller

Compared with ARM M0+ microcontrollers, power and area simulations show that a RISC-V architecture can provide similar performance. This table demonstrates a comparison between Open-V and some other chipsets.

OnChip Open-V microcontroller designs are fully open sourced, including the register-transfer level (RTL) files for the CPU and all peripherals and the development and testing tools they use. All resources are available at their GitHub account under the MIT license.

We think open source integrated circuit (IC) design will give the semiconductor industry the reboot it needs to get out of the deep innovation rut dug by the entrenched players. Just like open source software ushered in the last two decades of software innovation, open source silicon will unleash a flood of hardware innovation. The Open-V microcontroller is one concrete step in that direction.

A crowdfunding campaign with $400k goal has been launched to support manufacturing of Open-V. The chip is available for $49 and the development board for $99. There are also many options and offers.

A Mass Programming Bench for ATMega32u4 MCUs

“limpkin” @ limpkin.fr wanted to program some thousand of MCUs so he decided to build his own programming bench. He writes:

As you may know I started the Mooltipass offline password keeper project more than 2 years ago. Together with a team of volunteers from all over the globe I created two Mooltipass devices which were successfully crowdfunded through Indiegogo and Kickstarter, raising a total of around $290k.
Through a secure mechanism it is possible to upgrade the firmware running on the Mooltipass units. On our latest device, the Mooltipass Mini, we implemented signed firmware updates, which involved storing inside the microcontrollers’ memory some cryptographic keys.

A Mass Programming Bench for ATMega32u4 MCUs – [Link]

SMART.IO, An Affordable Remote Control for Embedded Designs

Creating a smartphone application for your embedded products may be a high-cost process that consumes time and efforts. ImageCraft, a producer of high quality low cost embedded system tools, had developed “Smatr.IO” as a very cheap alternative solution that allows you to add a friendly user interface to any embedded project.

Smart.IO is a toolkit that helps you to create a compatible application with your product without the need of any experience in wireless technology or app development. It uses BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) and it doesn’t require an Internet connection or data plan.

Smart.IO consists of three parts:

  • A Small Chip Module compatible with any microcontroller.
  • A Software API for creating Graphical User Interface (GUI) objects.
  • A Programmable Smartphone App that requires only a Bluetooth connection to use.

There is no need to write any wireless code, or write an app. All you need is to add the Smart.IO chip to your existing microcontroller-based design, then use the API to create GUI objects in your firmware.

The Smart.IO Chip Module

The Smart.IO chip module is only 25mmx14mm. It has a 10-pin headers which are easy to solder onto your PCB, or use in a prototype system. It interfaces with your host microcontroller using SPI pins, plus extra pins for interrupts for data notification. Smart.IO draws very little power, typically about 100mA, and much less during standby mode.

If you are an Arduino user, ImageCraft will provide an Arduino-compatible shield that comes with a Smart.IO chip module, so that Arduino users can start using it immediately.

The Smart.IO API

The API functions allow you to create GUI objects and to modify their values. A simple callback mechanism notifies your firmware of input changes. The API code will run in the Smart.IO chip firmware, and the host MCU only runs the API interface layer code, so it will not use the host MCU resources.

The Programmable Smart.IO App

The GUI elements incorporate solid, current user interface principles. The UI will look and work exactly the same way across all iOS devices, from the iPhone 5 to iPhone 7+, and all iPad devices, including the iPad Pro. An Android friendly UI is planned for Spring.

There is also a customized version of the app specific to your product and branding for an inexpensive one-time licensing fee including customized app logo and name and security key to ensure your product will only work with your app.

Smart.IO Security

Secret key encryption is used to ensure secure pairing of the device and customized app. As Smart.IO does not use the Internet, there is no risk of your device being used for DDOS or other types of attacks through the use of Smart.IO.

Through the Kickstarter campaign, Smart.IO reached about $9,500 and pre-ordering is still open here. ImageCraft will start work on the Android version of the programmable app and set up a forum for Smart.IO users. A use case example of Smart.IO is available on the official page.