"If there's anything that people are overlooking as far as microcontrollers, it's that they are not looking enough outside the box," he said. "How can I use a low-cost peripheral onboard in place of an external analog front end chip? What can I use that's different, rather than some external fancy stepper motor driver?"
Curtis also discussed the differences between the application of 8-, 16-, and 32-bit MCUs, and he looked at the growing trend toward multicore MCUs.
For many applications, 8-bit control is still appropriate, he said. For decades, experts have predicted the demise of the 8-bit controller, but the technology continues to proliferate as new low-end mechatronic applications enter the market.
"The 32-bit (MCU) really looks like a processor out of a PC," he said. "It's designed to move data around and do it efficiently. The 8-bit is (targeted) more at the control side."
Curtis also predicted that multicore technology will begin trickling into mechatronic systems for automotive, aerospace, and factory automation applications. The trend will hit first in applications that already use a combination of 8- and 16-bit devices, along with a 32-bit MCU for management. Once an application reaches that point, he said, the next logical step would be to move to microcontrollers with multiple cores.
"We went to multicore PCs because we hit a brick wall in terms of processing power," Curtis explained. "As the complexity in mechatronics starts growing, we're going to have to do the same thing."
Listen to DN Radio's Internet Broadcast of "Microcontrollers for Mechatronics" here.
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