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STM32 evolves to target budget applications

13 Jun 2012

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STMicroelectronics has expanded its STM32 portfolio with the release of the STM32 F0, which combines its enhanced features with the ultra-low power ARM Cortex M0 embedded processor for extremely cost-sensitive applications. The new microcontroller (MCU) bridges the gap for applications using 8- and 16bit devices. The company re-engineered the STM32 to include low-power efficiency, a diverse set of advanced peripherals, and valuable ecosystem of development tools. The new STM32 F0 family builds on this structure by using the Cortex-M0 core, running at a 48MHz high-value version.

Further claims Michel Buffa, general manager for ST's microcontroller division "The STM32 F0 family extends the platform advantages of the Cortex-M portfolio. By combining best-in-class communication and control peripherals with the M0 core, the STM32 F0 series enables developers to deliver new solutions offering functions and capabilities traditionally associated with significantly higher price points." The MCUs extend the STM32 portfolio by addressing applications previously served by 8bit MCUs. The enhanced features of the MCUs include up to seven timers suited for controlling items such as heaters or motors. It also enables a single device to control multiple elements in an induction cooker, for example.

In an interview with EDN Asia, Franck Martins, ST's MCU marketing manager for Greater China & South Asia, discussed how different the STM32 FO series is as compared to other similar product lines. According to Martins, "differentiation lies mainly in what we call the STM32 DNA, which we refer to as the pillar of the family. This is composed of the ARM Cortex M0 architecture platform. It boasts power efficiency, one of the common features of the processors, combination of all design techniques and advanced process technologies to deliver efficiency. The Cortex M0 that we are embedding in the system is compatible with a lot of hardware and software applications."

"For the flash controller, we provide about 10 to 15 percent efficiency factor. The non-volatile memory access, which unleashes the power of the system is also a unique advantage. We also provide a touch-sensing software library for hardware and software applications, and user interfaces that are common in everyday digital devices such as white goods and appliances," Martins added.

The STM32 F0 series also integrates hardware support for Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) included in the HDMI interface. This simplifies design into numerous home multimedia devices, allowing connections based on the latest industry-standard protocols while leaving the MCU's CPU, memory and peripherals free to perform other tasks. The CEC kernel can be independently clocked by a low-speed 32kHz external or internal 8MHz clock further reducing system cost. In addition, the STM32 F0's 12MHz I/O toggle speed allows developers to build sophisticated control applications at lower cost power consumption. The STM32 F0 MCUs also take advantage of the modern ARM Cortex-M0 32bit embedded processor architecture.

Explains Martins, "The Cortex M0 market is dominated by 8bit and 16bit in the ASEAN region and India in terms of volume. ARM has a clear understanding of the market demand in the region – that's why we partnered with them in 2006. We share their vision of the market, and future technology improvements. For the same part, design engineers can enjoy a 32bit engine since it touts more power efficiency. Market opportunity in the ASEAN region is huge. The STM32 FO MCUs can also be used for sensors and networks. In the future, there will be a need for higher integration for smart nets and various appliances. The future will require more efficient solutions since most area networks will be connected to each other."

"We see an opportunity in the 8-, 16- and 32bit markets. ST is the first to develop the 32bit product portfolio. A lot of manufacturers are producing different MCU sizes and are trying to capture a slice of the market. We are just consistent in the way we implement our strategy in expanding our product portfolio. The STM32 DNA is currently deployed and generalized to all of our products," Martins added.

The 32bit STM32 FO MCUs series is currently in full volume production. It offers embedded memory densities from 16KB to 64KB Flash, 4KB to 8KB SRAM, and UFQFPN32, LQFP48 and LQFP64 packages. Prices start at $0.95 in order quantities of 1,000 pieces. A dedicated Discovery Kit is also available for $7.99.

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