Microchip’s New MCUs Move Software Tasks to Hardware for Faster ThroughputFebruary 17, 2020 by Gary Elinoff
Microchip’s PIC18-Q43 family is designed to eliminate software bottlenecks and allows designers to bring products to market more quickly.
The new PIC18Q43 family of MCUs from Microchip feature an array of configurable, on-board core independent peripherals (CIP) to directly handle a wide array of tasks that would otherwise depend on interaction with the CPU.
Microchip’s PIC18Q43. Image used courtesy of Microchip
The result is vastly increased throughput and near-zero latency.
What are Configurable Logic Cells?
PIC18-Q43 family’s CIPs include communication ports, timers, A/D converters, and 16-bit pulse width modulation (PWM). There are also complimentary waveform generators, capture/compare/PWM (CCP) modules, and three numerically-controlled oscillators.
They are configured by users via programmable configurable logic cells or CLCs. In a video on the new family, Microchip describes the CLCs as the “glue logic” to interconnect the CIPs for direct hardware customization.
PIC18-Q43 MCUs incorporate eight configurable logic cells to create custom hardware to bypass CPU speed limitations. Screenshot used courtesy of Microchip
The CLCs allow developers to “mix and match” from the wide variety of available CIPs, building blocks from which to structure customized devices. Designers can hand-tailor operations such as timing measurement and waveform generation directly in hardware without being hampered by far slower CPU software execution time.
The CLCs allow the user to designate combinations of signals as inputs to logic functions. CIPs such as PWMs, I/O pins, timers, and serial ports can be internally connected. This not only vastly accelerates throughput but also cuts down on external components, saving BOM costs and board space.
“The PIC18-Q43 family offers CIPs that enable many functions and even whole control loops to be realized in customizable on-chip hardware,” said Greg Robinson, associate vice president of marketing for Microchip’s 8-bit microcontroller business unit.
“With the combination of flexible CIPs and high analog integration, users will significantly reduce development time and improve system performance by automating waveform control, timing and measurement operations, and logic functions.”
Variations Within the PIC18-Q43 Family
There are nine members of the new family currently in production. Here are a few variations among the family members according to pin count, FLASH memory, and SRAM memory:
Each of the nine is available in multiple chip geometries and packages.
Commonalities Within the PIC18-Q43 Family
The PIC18-Q43 family members include an 8-bit processor that can operate at a 64 MHz clock rate. There are six DMA controllers with user-programmable sources and destination, with data transfer signaled by HW or software trigger.
Block diagram of the PIC18-Q43 family. Image used courtesy of Microchip
The units feature low-current power-on reset and a configurable power-up timer. There is also a brown-out reset (BOR) and an optional low-power BOR (LPBOR).
In sleep mode, the units typically draw 800 nA at 1.8 V.
Family members operate over -1.8 V to 5 V. Temperature range is -40°C to +85°C with an extended of -40°C to +125°C range available.
Microchip off an unusually rich array of support tools for the PIC18-Q43 family.
MPLAB Code Configurator (MCC) is a programming tool that generates C code for the PIC18-Q43 family of MCUs. It is used with the MPLAB X Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and the cloud-based MPLAB Xpress IDE.
MPLAB X Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is a software development tool enabling users to configure, develop, debug, and qualify embedded designs for Microchip MCUs.
MPLAB Xpress Cloud-based IDE is a simplified, online development environment containing many features of the MPLAB X IDE. There are no machine configurations or downloads needed, making it easy for developers who are new to PIC MCUs to get started.
PIC18F57Q43 Curiosity Nano Evaluation Kit—DM164150 works with the aforementioned MPLAB X integrated development platform and MPLAB Code Configurator (MCC). The unit provides access to the Core Independent Peripherals (CIP) of the PIC18-Q43 family, most specifically the PIC18F57Q43.
The IC18F57Q43 Curiosity Nano Evaluation Kit. Image used courtesy of Microchip
Feature image (modified) used courtesy of Microchip
Do you know of any underrated design methods or parts that increase throughput? Share your tips in the comments below.