New 16-bit MCU and DSC families: Performance, memory, peripherals, migration


Information Control

Microchip's new products include 22 general-purpose MCUs (PIC24 family) and 27 DSCs (dsPIC33 family)-available in 64-, 80-, and 100-pin thin quad, flat pack (TQFP) units.

With embedded system designers facing increased challenges—on-time project delivery while hitting cost goals, responding to new customer/marketing demands, and providing product differentiation—welcome relief may be at hand via new 16-bit microcontroller (MCU) and digital signal controller (DSC) families recently announced by Microchip Technology Inc . A total of 49 devices comprise the introduction. MCUs featuring up to 40 MIPS performance, 16 kB RAM, and 256 kB flash program memory (PIC24 family) are Microchip's first 16-bit devices, while DSCs operating at 40 MIPS provide 8-30 kB RAM and 64-256 kB self-programming flash (dsPIC33 family).

PIC24 and dsPIC33 devices are said to offer cost-effective increase in performance, memory, and peripherals for current 8-bit MCU users. Yet they maintain architectural attributes of interrupt responsiveness, excellent bit manipulation, and C-code efficiency that embedded-control applications require. Importantly, the new device families provide a seamless migration path from Microchip's mid-range 8-bit MCUs in terms of nomenclature, pin, and peripheral compatibility.

The MCU family consists of two series: "Cost-optimized" PIC24F (9 devices) and "performance-optimized" PIC24H (13 devices). F Series has 16 MIPS performance at 32 MHz. "These devices represent middle of the range on performance, but are designed for an attractive price point," Sumit K. Mitra, VP of Microchip's Digital Signal Controller Division, told Control Engineering . Meanwhile, H Series operates at 40 MIPS and upgrades performance via direct memory access (DMA), one or two 12-bit A/D converters, and up to 2 CANbus connections. Mitra stressed PIC24's favorable throughput performance (MIPS) and C-code efficiency of its instruction set versus several competing 16-bit microcontrollers.

Initially, two dsPIC33 digital signal controller lines will be offered, consisting of 15 general-purpose DSCs and 12 motor-control and power-conversion devices. Among common features are 3.3-V operation and available serial I/O subsystems, including SPI, I2C, UART, and CAN peripheral buses (up to two each). General-purpose DSCs add one or two 12-bit A/D converters (500 ksps). Motor-control devices feature quadrature encoder interface and one or two 10-bit A/D converters (1.1 Msps) with up to 8 sample and holds for simultaneous sampling.

To allow users to lower tool investments and learning curves, the company's MPLab Integrated Development Environment (IDE) platform works across more than 350 of its 8-bit and 16-bit devices. Besides MPLab IDE, other Microchip development tools—such as MPLab C30 C compiler, emulator, debugger, and MPLab PM3 universal device programmer—support the new chip families. Also, Explorer 16 development board that supports all 16-bit controllers is expected to debut in November 2005.

Selected devices are available for early-adopter sampling. General sampling for all 49 devices is slated to begin in 1Q06, with volume production planned to start in 2Q06. Unit prices in 10k quantities are as follows: PIC24H ($4.55-$6.33), PIC24H ($5.16-$9.53); and dsPIC33 ($5.43 to $10.31).

4-billionth MCU shipped

In related news, Microchip Technology announced in late September 2005 the delivery of its four billionth PIC microcontroller, PIC16F877 high-performance Flash device, to Insta Elektro of Lüdenscheid, Germany. Insta Elektro designs and manufactures lighting; blind (shutter) controls; heating and air conditioning; and security and sensor products.

Frank J. Bartos, executive editor

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