Aiming to bring new functionality to embedded systems that have strict cost requirements, Philips Semiconductors Inc. (www.semiconductors.philips.com) has unveiled what it says is the first ARM7 core with embedded flash memory made on a 0.18 micron processing line. The fine processing geometry keeps costs down while permitting high levels of integration—and engineers have packed in more features.
Perhaps equally important is the inclusion of flash memory that runs at much higher speeds than conventional flash, letting it run at the same speed as SRAM. The speed is achieved by configuring the flash a bit differently than normal. "We use a very wide flash, 4 x 32-bit words that can be read in parallel," says Geoff Lees, marketing director for Philips' new microcontroller line, launched in September.
The flash also has a longer lifetime than some types of flash, approaching 100,000 cycles. That longevity opens up applications where update happens fairly often. In this era of heightened security concerns, Lees notes that keeping memory on chip makes it much more difficult for hackers to attack the system and gain access to potentially sensitive information.
Another factor in keeping system costs down is that the processor's on-chip emulation lets users check the system using lower-cost equipment than with some other processors, he adds.
The first member of this line—the LPC2100—runs at 60 MHz, providing 54 Dhrystone MIPS. The ARM core includes an in-circuit emulator and real-time monitor. The chip has 128 kbytes of flash and 16 kbytes of SRAM. Peripherals include a real-time clock, timers, and a watchdog. The device fits in a 48-pin package. Pricing starts at less than $5 in quantity. Parts are packaged in a compact chip scale package in which leads are visible so they can be examined by low-cost inspection equipment on the manufacturing line.