Turn-key PCB assembly services in prototype quantities or low-volume to mid-volume production runs

How much should ARM development board cost?

It is no surprise that ARM microcontrollers become number one choice in many areas. One thing is that in many ways 32-bit ARM can be cheaper that other micros like AVR or PIC. Smaller price and better performance makes decision even easier. Developing tools also evolved in to user friendly solutions. You can see many ARM Cortex development boards made by different manufacturers for about $10. But are there really cheap ones that would have all necessary means to start developing projects? By means a have in mind, basic circuitry to keep chip running, programming and debugging interface and so on. It appears that Development board can go as low as $4. Cypress Semiconductor offers Cy8CKIT-049-41XX development board that has 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3M0 microcontroller running at 48MHz. Board comes with USB to serial bridge part which can be easily snapped of when deployed. Board also comes with CapSense interface, user LED, push button and all GPIO pin connectors. Continue reading

Nucleo-F401RE Arduino shape with Cortex-M4 power

STMicroelectronics Nucleo boards are another way of prototyping with ARM Cortex-M microcontrollers. The idea was to get closer to Arduino interface, but still have ARM power and versatility. The shape of Nucleo board is somewhat close to Arduino Uno, just a bit wider so it could carry two types of connectors. Lets look at Nucleo-F401RE – one of four boards available now. First of all it features ARM Cortex-M4 STM32F401RET6 microcontroller which of course have FPU module and DSP instructions. There are 512KB of flash and 96KB of SRAM on chip and can be clocked up to 84MHz. Any Nucleo board have Arduino UNO compatible headers where most of Arduino shields can be plugged and used for fast prototyping. Other pins are brought out by using Morpho headers: Continue reading

ST-LinkV2 Programmer for the STM32

STM32 is the basic kit which everyone looks forward to when they need an exposure to 32-bit set of controllers. The good thing is that it’s cheap powerful and you get support from all over the world. Although a lot of debugger exist in the market from low cost t to some that are very costly. This programmer is a low cost programmer as well as debugger and have the basic necessity function. The debugger is small as well as easy to carry and not clumsy like the existing programmers. The board takes power from the USB and hence no external adaptor is needed. Once you have installed the necessary drivers, you are ready to go.  For those interested in the project, a schematic has been provided and the source code can eb requested from the owner. However if you are too lazy to build one yourself, you can get it directly from the owner since he has some spare copies of the programmer. Continue reading

Developing Teensy 3.x projects with CodeSourcery

Teensy 3.x boards are powerful small modules that have breadboard footprint, but carry ARM Cortex- M4 microcontroller. The only problem most advanced developers may find is that it is made ready for Arduino IDE. Arduino doesn’t seem very convenient for serious projects. IDE is far from being useable. Also Arduino programming style hides many important things that aren’t optimal in many cases. So how to benefit from having Teensy3.x and avoiding Arduino nature? Simple – go with bare-metal programming. This might scare a little at the beginning as it needs setting things up by yourself like compiler, make files, linker. Karl have done most of this work by setting initial template for CodeBench Lite from Mentor Graphics. He’s using MS Visual Studio 2008 Express as IDE which provides all professional editing capabilities. He has made a blinky demo program to start with. Prorgams can be flashed with existing Teensy Loader application. By bare-metal programming you can be sure that you can squeeze most of microcontroller. Continue reading

There is always a choice between cost and performance

Some time ago it was quite obvious which microcontroller you had to pick for your next project. For low cost and slower applications you simply selected 8-bit micro. When design needed to do intense processing you most likely had to go with ARM or other solution. Today situation is a bit different. Sometimes you are in situation when lowest end ARM microcontroller is way cheaper than 8-bit micro and it still offers several times better performance. And final decisions sometimes are driven by loyalty, experience or ecosystem. Lets not get in to that kind of discussion. Every microcontroller family has to offer something unique that looks attractive in particular situations. ARM Cortex microcontrollers have great position right now because they have something to offer all embedded hardware niches. Lets take a quick look at two development boards from STM where one carry ARM Cortex-M0 and another ARM Cortex-M4F microcontroller. You can get both discovery boards from Newark really cheap. The first one is called STM32F0Discovery, The name already says that it is based on ARM Cortex-M0 microcontroller STM32F051R8T6. It has… Continue reading

Software USB implementation on ARM Cortex M0+

Smaller ARM microcontrollers don’t have native USB interface. So you are left with couple choices – use dedicated level converter like FT232 or try to bit-bang software based protocol. Obviously, first choice was the easiest one, until now. Guys from lemcu.org have successfully implemented software based low speed USB peripheral which is lightweight (~4KB flash footprint) and includes HID stack. In order to run code out of box, they assembled Zero Gecko 110 breakout board with EFM32ZG110 mcu which is small size and has most periphery for building devices, debugging and programming. This achievement will allow building cheaper and smaller footprint devices using ARM cortex M0+ and probably other micros that don’t require fast speed USB. Continue reading