Microchip’s New Plug-and-Play Bluetooth Solutions Lower RF Design Barriers

June 07, 2024 by Mike Falter

Microchip's 12 new Bluetooth Low Energy devices may help designers of all experience levels to incorporate short-range, low-power wireless capabilities into their products.

Microchip Technology is expanding its Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) portfolio with twelve new products designed to reduce design hurdles and make it easier for engineers to integrate Bluetooth (LE) functionality into their products.   


Bluetooth Low Energy for industrial applications

Bluetooth Low Energy for industrial applications. 

Among the new products are the 2.4-GHz, RF-capable WBZ350 module and the PIC32CX-BZ3 system-on-chip (SoC), both of which facilitate the incorporation of BLE-capable microcontrollers (MCU) into product designs. As part of the release, Microchip is also introducing the fully plug-and-play RNB350 module.   

The new low-power wireless chipsets are intended for use in IoT smart homes and buildings, industrial IoT (IIoT), and automotive systems.


The Challenge of BLE Design

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a short-range, low-power wireless data communication protocol used mostly in battery-powered, remote, or portable consumer and industrial systems. Bluetooth typically extends a few feet, although the protocol can support ranges up to 200 m. While most consumers are familiar with BLE for wirelessly connecting external devices (watches, wearables, speakers, etc.) to their phones or computers, the now ubiquitous standard is also used in medical and industrial applications.  

Bluetooth transceivers operate at 2.4 GHz, within the industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) band of 2.402 to 2.480 GHz. Microchip’s Bluetooth radios support data rates up to 2 MBPS while consuming only a handful of mA during transmit and receive cycles.

However, designing and working with BLE transceivers can be challenging, often requiring specialized skill sets and experience. According to Rishi Vasuki, Microchip's VP of wireless solutions, today’s BLE system designers need a breadth of options that accommodate varying skill levels, development timelines, and application needs. 


Microchip's New RF Chipsets and Modules

A Bluetooth microcontroller (or SoC) provides the base functionality needed to implement transceiver protocols. Microchip’s PIC32CX-BZ3 SoC (datasheet linked) incorporates an Arm-based Cortex M4 processor, onboard power, memory (Flash and SRAM), I/O (SPI, GPIO, I2C, etc.), and a full BLE wireless subsystem to support BLE and other IEEE 802.15.4 protocols.        

The biggest challenge of designing a wireless transceiver often extends beyond the silicon chipset into the “black art” of antenna design and other aspects of radio frequency (RF) signal conditioning. For engineers with RF system expertise, a Bluetooth (LE) SoC is a great starting point for designing a customized Bluetooth solution.



PiC32CX-BZ3 2.4-GHz system-on-chip (SoC) RF solution. 


However, for designers who do not have the time, experience, or requirement to build a customized RF solution, Microchip’s RNBD350 (datasheet linked) is a fully plug-and-play Bluetooth module that integrates all the required radio components and subsystems, including a printed antenna and matching circuits.   

Available in a 30-pin surface-mountable package (13.4 mm x 18.7 mm x 2.8 mm), the RNBD350 is a fully certified BLE solution that can quickly be integrated into an existing product platform to introduce wireless connectivity.


RNBD350 2.4-GHz RF module with a printed antenna

RNBD350 2.4-GHz RF module with a printed antenna.

The module also supports Zigbee 3.0 and proprietary 2.4 GHz protocols in addition to BLE.


Printed Antenna

When we think of antennas that can efficiently collect and transmit RF energy into the airwaves, we often think of large metal discs or similar objects.


WBZ350 module antenna radiation pattern

WBZ350 module antenna radiation pattern (Phi = 0°). 

However, for a 2.4 GHz Bluetooth radio, a simple but carefully designed metal trace on the surface of the PCB module can suffice as a functional antenna. Microchip’s module solutions incorporate a printed antenna about 16 mm in length with a peak gain of 3.5 dBi at 2,420 MHz.



All images used courtesy of Microchip.