To be more competitive in a tough economy, microcontroller manufacturers are innovating. As always, they're boosting the speed and memory of their products, but they're also integrating other features, such as touch screen capabilities and advanced communications protocols.
"Customers are embedding cooler user interfaces into their applications," says Alexis Alcott, product marketing manager for Microchip Technology Inc.'s Advanced Microcontroller Architecture Div. "People are using their iPods and cell phones, and they're getting used to the easy interfaces. They want to see those kinds of displays on all their products, whether they are in the industrial space or in appliances, or just about anywhere else."
By adding new software and boosting speed and memory, microcontroller manufacturers help OEMs meet those needs, enabling them to build better, faster displays and add such capabilities as wireless.
"All those features end up driving the need for program memory and greater performance," Alcott says.
Here, we've collected new microcontroller announcements from Freescale, Microchip and Texas Instruments. They should provide a starting point for engineers developing new electronic products ranging from washing machines to cell phones to automation systems.
Microchip's LCD-Drive Microcontroller
Microchip Technology Inc.'s PIC18F87J90 8-bit direct LCD-drive microcontroller features 64-128 KB Flash and 4 KB RAM. It is said to be the industry's first 8-bit MCU to include a real-time clock and calendar (RTCC) and charge time measurement unit (CTMU) peripheral for capacitive touch sensing or precise time measurement. The new family of devices is pin-compatible with Microchip's PIC18F85J90 devices, providing a migration path across the company's entire LCD-drive MCU family. With its extended memory range and integrated peripheral set, the PIC18F87J90 is targeted at display applications using capacitive- or inductive-touch user interfaces.
Freescale's 45-nm Communications' Processor
Freescale Semiconductor's MPC8569E PowerQUICC III communications' processor is a high-performance, low-power device based on 45-nm silicon-on-insulator technology. Aimed at advanced wireless and wire line communications equipment, it supports a wide range of wireless protocols and delivers up to 1.3-GHz performance within a sub-10-W power envelope. The device's integrated design allows for a single-chip solution, consolidating network processing and control processing functions. It's designed to address ever-increasing performance and protocol support requirements, as well as demand for low-cost operation for broadband access equipment, such as 3G/WiMAX/LTE base stations, RNCs, gateways and ATM/TDM/IP equipment.
TI's Real-Time Microcontroller
Texas Instruments' 32-bit TMS320F2802x/F2803x microcontrollers are targeted at delivering real-time control for cost-sensitive applications. Starting at less than $2 apiece in volume, the new "Piccolo" microcontrollers, as they're known, feature architectural advancements and enhanced peripherals in package sizes starting at 38 pins. Its real-time performance makes the device a candidate for industrial, consumer and automotive applications, such as solar power micro-inverters, LED lighting, white goods appliances, power line communications and hybrid automotive batteries.