SAN JOSE, Calif. – Texas Instruments is unveiling today (May 3) a new suite of ultra-low-power ferroelectric random access memory (FRAM) microcontrollers. The company will be demonstrating its development kit here at the Embedded Systems Conference this week.
The announcement signals that chip manufacturing may be making a comeback.
By combining a new low-power memory technology with the company’s already popular, entry-level 16-bit microcontrollers (MSP430 series), TI believes its new FRAM microcontrollers can open the door to a host of “smart” applications that require embedded systems to write data faster, collect more data points and/or retain data in all power modes.
TI claims the new FRAM microcontrollers, dubbed MSP430FR57xxFRAM, “ensures data can be written more than 100 times faster and uses as little as 250 times less power than flash- and EEPROM-based microcontrollers.”
Scott Roller, TI's vice president of microcontroller products
The essence of TI’s new microcontroller lies in its “ultra-low power embedded memory,” said Scott Roller, vice president of microcontroller products at TI, in an interview with EE Times
. “If you can drive down the power consumption, new markets will be created. That’s been always our fundamental belief at TI.”
TI’s announcement may also indicate that MCUs are becoming the next battleground for new memory technologies.
Then, there is the process technology angle that is signaling that fabs are back. In an increasingly fabless era, one rarely hears about a microcontroller company saying that process technology differentiates its product from others. TI asserts that its proprietary process technology, jointly developed with FRAM partner Ramtron, enables it to integrate its MCU with an FRAM and other analog options on the same chip.
Fujitsu’s FRAM foray
TI isn’t the only company to embed FRAM into microcontrollers, and its announcement isn’t the first time the industry is hearing about the advantages of FRAM used microcontrollers.
Last fall, Fujitsu Semiconductor America introduced a single-chip, 8-bit MCU featuring embedded FRAM for a variety of general purpose applications, including consumer electronics products, healthcare and industrial systems.
At the time, Fujitsu said “embedding FRAM into an MCU reduces the total footprint and cost, and simplifies system design,” while adding that “the architecture eliminates chip-to-chip interconnects, which significantly improves the transaction speed and internal bus interface between the MCU and memory. This enables performance that Flash or EEPROM cannot provide.”
TI has claimed that its MSP430FR57xx FRAM microcontroller offers “the industry’s lowest power.” Roller said it reduces “the industry’s best active power by up to 50 percent,” when executing code from FRAM, operating at 100µA/MHz in active mode and 3 µA in real-time clock mode.