I was just cackling to myself while feasting my eyes on 3D images of my forthcoming robot platform (shown below) when the hot news from Microchip broke about its latest MCU offerings: the PIC32MZ Embedded Connectivity (EC) family of 32-bit MCUs. The company says they offer large amounts of memory, high peripheral integration, and breakthrough performance.
What has my robot got to do with Microchip's announcement? Apart from anything else, I want to show the world how cool it is. As we discussed in an earlier blog, my platform will boast three omni-directional wheels. To keep things simple, the supporting structure will be formed from two types of elements: large (12-inch diameter) flat mounting plates and small vertical risers.
The above image shows only a single layer of two mounting plates separated by risers, but the idea is that I can add as many layers as I wish. Generally speaking, there will be three risers between each adjacent pair of wheels. The image above shows one riser in the foreground (just to the right of the wheel on the left). The other two risers in this trirant (what's the triangular equivalent of quadrant?) have been removed to show a stack of controller boards inside.
In reality, the controller boards will probably go on the next layer. This bottom layer will be reserved for the motors, batteries, and so forth. The boards are shown here because I wanted to make sure the risers were tall enough to accommodate a stack of four boards -- for example, a main processor board, two motor controller boards, and a prototyping board, along with spacers, cables/connectors, and such.
But we digress. The reason the recent Microchip announcement made me think of my robot platform is that the controller board models shown here are based on the chipKIT Uno32, which ispowered by one of Microchip's 32-bit PIC processors with 128 KB of flash program memory and 16 KB of SRAM data memory running at 80 MHz. The PIC32MX320F128 powering the chipKIT Uno32 is pretty impressive, but it pales in comparison to the new PIC32MZ EC family of 32-bit MCUs. Let's start with class-leading 32-bit MCU performance with 200 MHz/330 DMIPS and 3.28 CoreMarks/MHz (more than three times the performance of previous-generation PIC32 MCUs).
Microchip is also boasting class-leading code density ("30% better than competitors"), class-leading 12-bit ADC throughput (28 Msps), up to 2 MB of on-chip Flash and 512 KB of on-chip RAM, high integration (Hi-Speed USB, 10/100 Ethernet MAC, 2x CAN, 6x UART, 5x I2C, 6x SPI/I2S, SQI), and a full-featured hardware crypto engine with a random number generator for data encryption and authentication (AES, 3DES, SHA, MD5, and HMAC). Furthermore, the MIPS microAptiv Core includes a DSP engine along with 159 additional DSP-centric instructions.
PIC32MZ microcontroller block diagram.
As part of this release, Microchip is also announcing a suite of affordable starter kits and development boards -- all available at launch. These include the PIC32MZ Embedded Connectivity Starter Kit (DM320006) and the PIC32MZ Embedded Connectivity Starter Kit with Crypto Engine (DM320006-2).
PIC32MZ Embedded Connectivity Starter Kit with Crypto Engine
(Part No. DM-320006-2).
These USB-powered boards feature an integrated debugger/programmer, 10/100 Ethernet development using PIC32 MCUs, Hi-Speed USB (Host, Device, Dual Role, and OTG), 4MB SQI Flash, and online tools and software download. Furthermore, these boards enable the addition of a PIC32 expansion board for connecting application-specific daughter cards.
PIC32 Multimedia Expansion Board II (Part No. DM320005-2).
The Multimedia Expansion Board II offers high quality (LCCG WQVGA graphics), multi-touch projected capacitive touch, a forward-facing VGA camera, WiFi and Bluetooth wireless, 24-bit stereo audio, and an onboard three-axis accelerometer and temperature sensor.
Of course, I cannot help but wonder if there will ever be any chipKITs that feature these new MCUs. Probably not, because they may simply be too powerful for my needs (and I didn't expect to say that). If you are interested in discovering more about the PIC32MZ EC 32-bit MCUs, contact any Microchip sales representative or authorized worldwide distributor, or visit Microchipís website.
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun &