Freescale Semiconductor has added a new Kinetis series of MCUs with an increased operating frequency up to 200 MHz. Built on an ARM Cortex-M4 core, with DSP and floating point instructions, the X series include 1 to 4 Mbyte of flash and 0.5 Mbyte of SRAM, with multiple off-chip memory options also available for expansion headroom.
In addition, the X series offers an advanced suite of connectivity, security and HMI peripherals, all accompanied by Freescale’s bundled software enablement. This powerful combination of processing performance, feature integration and extensive support makes the Kinetis X series optimal for a range of applications, including automation, point of sale, medical instrumentation, test and measurement and systems that incorporate a humanmachine interface (HMI).
The Kinetis X series MCUs include several hardware acceleration techniques designed to maximize system performance by freeing the core from memory access limitations and peripheral servicing constraints. These include large on-chip instruction and data caches that maximize CPU efficiency, 32 KB of tightly coupled SRAM for single-cycle access to scratchpad data and a 64-channel DMA controller that offloads general peripheral and memory servicing tasks from the CPU. The X series also includes a 64-bit AXI bus that increases concurrent data transfer capabilities from several bus masters.
According to Geoff Lees, vice president of Freescale's Industrial and Multi-Market MCU business, factory automation in particular is driving performance up. "We have seen some customers starting to look at applications processors but realizing that the real time capabilities are not provided by a linux system so this is designed to extract the maximum performance from operating systems that are closer to the core than linux.
Virtually any type of external memory can be addressed including NOR and NAND flash, serial flash, SRAM, low-power DDR2 and DDR3. Execute in place (XIP) is possible from NOR or Quad-SPI serial flash.
To enable the acquisition re, process and display a large number of system parameters securely and in real-time. Kinetis X series MCUs address these requirements with Ethernet, high-speed USB On-The-Go, CAN, IIS and serial communication interfaces, as well as cryptographic acceleration and tamper detection units.
Applications that require a graphical user interface can select from a low-power segment LCD or graphics LCD controller. The on-chip SRAM supports graphics LCD panels of up to WQVGA resolution without the need for an external frame buffer. If required, this can be expanded to accommodate higher-resolution panels using external, 8-bit DRAM. To aid the development of embedded GUIs the Portable Embedded GUI WindowBuilder suite id available as well as a low-resource eGUI LCD driver.
Software and tools support includes Freescale’s MQX real-time operating system with integrated TCP/IP and USB stacks and support for low/no-cost graphic LCD and encryption plug-ins. Also bundled with Kinetis MCUs is the Eclipse-based CodeWarrior 10.x integrated development environment with Processor Expert. This provides a visual, automated framework to accelerate the development of complex embedded applications.
Kinetis Tower System modules and a growing range of Tower System peripheral modules, including Wi-Fi, sensing and precision analog also ease design with the MCUs. Support is also supplied by the ARM ecosystem, including development tools from IAR Systems, Keil and Green Hills.
Freescale plans to introduce a software development platform before the arrival of silicon to reduce customers’ software development cycle time. This follows a similar announcement that accompanied the introduction of a platform that integrated ARM Cortex-M4, -A5 cores. Lees said a lot of the modules are similar so it makes sense to apply the platform across a number of new developments. "The virtual machine simulation approach enables code development which is a really significant part of the development costs for customers projects. Not all customer are familiar with developing in a simulation environment, typically there have been on core simulators but now we have a complete platform simulation." An enablement bundle includes Freescale or third party tools and testing for compatibility is being carried out now. "The next stage of MCU development is to have close coupling between all of the tool ecosystem as well as the complimentary OS we provide for Kinetis. We will bringing up the VM for some alpha customers during the rest of this quarter and rolling it out depending on the resources we can offer customers."
While its is already working with a small number of customers, Kinetis X series alpha samples and development tools are due to be supplied to other select customers in the second quarter of 2012, with production quantities available in the first quarter of 2013.