Renesas Adds First 22nm MCU to Popular RA 32-bit Cortex-M Family
By moving to 22nm, Renesas hopes to improve performance and power consumption in its RA family.
In the world of computing, one of the most discussed specifications is a processor’s technology node. Because smaller node sizes often translate to lower power consumption, higher performance, and greater density, scaling down processors has been the name of the semiconductor game since the 1960s.
While the conversation about node size is normally focused on processors, this scaling affects the performance of microcontrollers (MCUs), too. Renesas recently announced that it will begin sampling its RA 32-bit Cortex-M family MCUs at 22nm for the first time.
Reneasas’ new 22nm MCU. Image courtesy of Renesas
The RA 32-bit Family
The RA 32-bit Cortex-M family is among Renesas' most popular microcontroller offerings.
First introduced in 2019, the RA family consists of a number of different 32-bit microcontrollers, each of which targets a different use case. For example, the RA2 series is optimized for low-power embedded applications, while the RA8 family focuses on high performance for applications like human-machine interfaces.
The family's flagship RA6M4 MCU is designed for high-performance applications. Designed around a 200 MHz Arm Cortex-M33 core, the RA6M4 is built off of an Armv8-M architecture that includes security extensions. This computing core is supported by up to 1 MB of code flash memory, 8 KB of data flash memory, and 256 KB of SRAM with parity/ECC (error code correction).
The RA6M4 MCU. Image courtesy of Renesas
Alongside the computing core, the system features two integrated 12-bit ADCs, two integrated 12-bit DACs, and an integrated temperature sensor. Supported communication protocols include I2C, SPI, Quad SPI, USB 2.0, CAN2.0B, and Ethernet. Additionally, the MCU comes equipped with security features such as a secure cryptography accelerator and Arm TrustZone.
Moving to 22nm
This week, Renesas announced that the first MCU to be produced on its new 22nm node will be an extension of the RA 32-bit Arm Cortex-M family.
The MCU will be a wireless-focused device, one that will offer software-defined radio and support for Bluetooth 5.3 low energy, including support for in-field upgrades for new wireless capabilities. End product developers will now only need one device to support the features of all previous Bluetooth specification releases, including Bluetooth 5.1 Angle of Arrival/Angle of Departure and low-power stereo audio transmission via Bluetooth 5.2 isochronous channels.
According to Renesas, the move to a smaller process node will have big implications for the performance of the MCU, enabling lower power consumption through reduced core voltages. The MCU will also pack in the same functionality into a smaller die area, the company claims, yielding smaller chips with higher integration of memory and peripherals. While Renesas is now sampling the 22nm device, the company expects to fully launch the device to market in the fourth quarter of 2023.