Microchip plans extensions to its 8-, 16- and 32-bit PIC microcontroller lines (see comparison chart, bottom) in the coming months that will, among other things, integrate more analog functions, continue to fight the good fight on stand-by leakage, and boost performance.
That’s the word from Fanie Duvenhage, director of applications, architecture and marketing for Microchip who chatted with me on the phone this week.
While the 32-bit segment remains relatively new for the company, it’s wasting no time turning the crank on 8- and 16-bit families, he said.
After a number of portfolio enhancements in the past two years—reducing power consumption, updating peripherals and adding analog functionality—the company is pushing on.
“You’ll see more of the same in the next couple of months,” Duvenhage said.
The company continues to squeeze cost and performance in the 8-bit lines because both it’s analog technology and flash memory cells (high endurance, high robustness on erase/write cycles) are home grown.
The company uses its own foundry for 8-bit, where are 32-bit is built at TSMC.
“We run that flash tech on a mixed process where we have a .35 micron transistors on a .2-ish copper back end,” he said. The reason is largely tied to leakage concerns: The 8-bit world still looks for 5v operation, he added.
Early next year, the company will likely roll 8-bit enhancements with more integrated op amps, faster comparators, integrated switches for power conversion and other analog features, he said.
Microchip has set a performance upgrade for 16-bit devices for within “the next few months,” he said.
Engineers also will leverage the company’s XLP low-power technology at the low end of the 16-bit segment (as well as 8-bit).
“We’ll selectively put higher-end peripherals such as motor control PWMS and so forth … so you have a small, cost-effective 16 bit device with more features,” Duvenhage said. “Features you’d expect on higher-end products that you’ll see on lower-end products.”
The newest segment for Microchip will take a little longer to ferment. Duvenhage said product announcements are probably two quarters away in the 32-bit MIPS-based lines, with an emphasis and effort on software.
“If you look at an 8 bit, it’s slower, there’s more emphasis on hardware peripherals and buses,” he said. “32 bit is more communications intensive, a lot more algorithmic- and software-centric. You have to have a bigger software or firmware library presence. That’s coming through pretty loud in how we’re approaching it.”
As users of MCUs in general or Microchip lines in particular, what enhancements would you suggest in the coming months? They’re all ears.
I think Microchip is a little late with their M14K development. Meanwhile Cortex-M3 and M4 are penetrating rapidly and most likely will acquire most of the market segment.
Also in the MIPS world, one can can not find anything reasonable like beagle board (..and its clones and alike). So a developer thinks that he will get stuck with an MCU with a maximum of an RTOS support with no Linux running (Microchip has licenced M14K and not M14Kc). Off course there are upward options like NetLogic's Alchemy series but those are not very popular.
So I think Microchip must hurry on their M14K and also start M14Kc based designs.
Correct me if I am wrong.
Will Microchip also plan to put some interesting high performance analog peripherals in the 32-bit family? I like the graphic user interface so that people don't need to care too much about write complex codes but rather can focus more on the Matlab/Simulink kind of approach. With more anlaog front-end to choose from, I believe that can bring Microchip to a healthier industrial market.
Microchip has a great portfolio of microcontrollers & other sub-system components. I feel that they are doing a great job by also providing software development tools along with their chips.
Recently, their addition of the WiFi support & the graphics library have not just enhanced their givings, but also given the user a quick turn around for product development.
We are working on the graphics library to develop graphic consoles to be used for various applications. Currently working on the PIC 24 part, we intend to release the product with a PIC32 controller & Capacitive touch sensing.
For the folks at Microchip, I only have to say that continue doing the good job & integrate more mixed-signal functionality to the controllers. If they could also add programmable logic, that would be a full circle !
A curious name game: PIC16 was 1st member of 8-bit family, PIC12, PIC10 are down-grades, PIC18 is an upgrade/high end of 8-bit family.
16-bit family consists of PIC24x, PIC30/33.
Finally, PIC32 is what the names implies: the 32-bit family. You can do a lot with Microchip's no-cost software. I still remember a PIC16C54 project using assembly code and nothing else.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.