Download: Designer’s Designing for Efficient Production Corner with In-System Re-programmable Flash µCs

Designer’s Designing for Efficient Production Corner with In-System Re-programmable Flash µCs By: OJ Svendlsi always the component where the majority of the engi- neering hours are spent. Thus, making sure the micro- For products where time-to-market and efficient pro- controller has what it takes to ease the development duction is important, selecting the right microcontroller should be given some priority. architecture plays a big role. To get the shortest possi- ble development time, the following requirements Selecting the Right Development Tools should be filled: When selecting a microcon...
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Designer’s Designing for Efficient Production Corner with In-System Re-programmable Flash µCs

By: OJ Svendlsi always the component where the majority of the engi- neering hours are spent. Thus, making sure the micro- For products where time-to-market and efficient pro- controller has what it takes to ease the development duction is important, selecting the right microcontroller should be given some priority. architecture plays a big role. To get the shortest possi- ble development time, the following requirements Selecting the Right Development Tools should be filled: When selecting a microcontroller, you are also selecting • Good and easy to use development tools the development tools you are blessed with. These • Enough resources on-chip to meet require- development tools range from the simplest evaluation ments kits to high-end In-circuit emulators and production • Efficient for high level languages programmers. Depending of the complexity of the end • Flash program memory for fast and product, different debugging solutions will be optimal. A reliable programming 1-2K microcontroller with a minimum of on-chip resources can often be debugged using a free archi- The megaAVR family from Atmel has all tectural simulator such as AVR Studio. For complex these features and more, making them a applications on big parts with many peripherals, using perfect choice for advanced products an advanced In-circuit emulator with advanced features requiring short time-to-market. such as Trace capabilities, advanced breakpoints and Code coverage functionality might reduce the design This white paper discusses the advantages of time significantly. this family related to getting the shortest time-to-mar- ket and the most efficient production once the product Parts with on-chip debug capability offers a very low is ready. cost alternative for the debugging. The JTAGICE mk-II from Atmel is available for only $299, but still provides Development debugging capabilities like breakpoints, data watch, During development of a new product, the microcon- single stepping through code and full overview of troller is normally the most important module, and processor internal resources. An additional important www.atmel.com page 16, advantage of on-chip debug is that the debugging is tenance of the code is simplified when compared to Procurement done on actual production silicon. Because of this, code written with very many global variables. It is also When using Flash microcontrollers, it is much easier to many of the problems designers run into when switch- much easier to reuse code when it is written with handle the procurement of the products. It is often eas- ing from an emulator platform to the real thing is elim- extensive use of local variables. When all the parame- ier to handle surprise orders since the microcontroller inated. ters going in and out of a subroutine is defined in the used is a standard line item. The chance that other function call, it is very easy to port that subroutine into companies are using the same microcontroller is usu- Starter kits are useful when evaluating a microcontroller a new project. ally big. This makes it possible to stock the microcon- that might fit in the application. Many starter kits can troller both at the distribution level and at the device also be used as target hardware during initial code The biggest drawbacks of writing code in a HLL are that manufacturer. If the same microcontroller is used for a development before the target hardware is ready. the code normally becomes bigger and slower than a number of applications, inventory can be moved from similar program written in assembly. However, as the one product over to another to maximize the revenue. Programming in a High Level Language number of code-lines increases, the gap in size Handling multiple versions By programming the microcontroller in a high-level lan- between the HLL code and the assembly code starts to guage (HLL), like for instance ‘C’, it is possible to reduce shrink. For a typical AVR user, the crossover point where With a Flash microcontroller the same device can be the development time significantly compared to writing the HLL and assembly code is the same size is around used to handle multiple software versions. In many in assembly. Generally one can say that an experienced 4K. However, the HLL code will almost never be faster products, the only difference between a high-end and designer can write the same amount of lines of code than the assembly code. If execution speed of a certain a low-end version of a product is the firmware. In these per day in C and assembly. However, the code-lines part of the program is critical, the solution is often to cases, a flash microcontroller is ideal. The PCB can be written in C will do much more than the same number write the code for the critical parts in assembly, and assembled and completely tested in advance. Once the of lines written in assembly. write the skeleton and less critical subroutines in HLL. order comes in for a specific product, the code for this product can be programmed in, and the product Typically, a program written in a high level language will Integration shipped to the customer. also be much more structured than a similar program The level of integration in a microcontroller can also written in assembly. Because of this, it is generally eas- affect the development time, in addition to power con- Many larger manufacturers are selling the same prod- ier to debug a program written in a high-level language. sumption and board space. Integrated functions such uct to different OEM customers. In many cases, the dif- as Brown-out protection, Watchdog timer and Power-on ferences between the products shipped to these OEMs reset circuitry gives the most reliable operation of the lies in the software. Again, an In-System reprogram- microcontroller, while functions like integrated EEP- mable flash microcontrollers can be programmed withProject ROM, internal RC oscillator and strong push pull port the correct code at the production line. Alternatively, the Progress C drivers eliminates external components and reduces OEM account can program the parts of the code that is Assembly cost and complexity of the design. With fewer external individually changeable by using the boot-capability of devices on the PCB, the possibility of running into noise the megaAVR devices. related problems is also reduced. Especially the internal RC simplifies the design from a noise tolerance point of Calibration view. Many analog sensors have a relatively large offset error that needs to be calibrated out to achieve good meas- In-System Programmable urements. Devices with integrated non-volatile data Flash Program memory memory and high performance Analog to Digital con- Having In-System reprogrammable flash memory sim- verters are ideal for this. With the AVR microcontrollers, plifies the development of a microcontroller application special calibration software can be used to run the cal- significantly compared to ROM/OTP solutions. The ibration and store the calibration values in the internal devices can be soldered into the application, and then EEPROM. After this, the main code can be programmed Development be reprogrammed when a problem with the code is in, and use the values stored in the EEPROM. found. Using the AVR microcontrollers, the reprogram- Time ming can be done either through the SPI interface, or if using a JTAG on-chip debug or programming tool, Most 8-bit microcontroller architectures come with a C- through the integrated JTAG interface. If using a boot compiler. However, there is a big difference in how effi- loader with the self-programming memory, other com- cient the architectures are for high-level languages, and munication channels can also be used to reprogram the how the C-code should be structured to be efficient devices. The non-volatile memories of the AVR devices with one particular microcontroller architecture. can be used to store history when debugging a pro- Generally one can say that accumulator-based archi- gram. The contents of the memories can then be read tectures like the 8051 architecture from Intel works out after the program is finished. best with global variables, while register-based archi- tectures like the AVR from Atmel works best with local Production variables. The advantages of using modern flash microcontrollers do not stop when the development is completed. Also The benefits of using local variables are that the code when in full volume production, the benefits are many becomes more structured and the portability and main- as outlined here. www.atmel.com page 17]
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