NXP is resurrecting its ‘Freedom’ development board, this time for the low cost MCX A microcontroller with support for Arduino, MikroBus and PMOD peripherals.
The Freedom board was a key part of the Kinetis microcontroller platform at Freescale Semiconductor, which NXP bought back in 2015.
The MCX A is launched today and shipping with the FRDM board. A key difference is that the board supports Clik boards from MikroElectronika, Arduino shields and PMOD peripherals.
This is part of the family of microcontrollers based on the ARM Cortex-M33 core. The MCX N family, also based on the M33 core and launched at electronica in 2022 with neural networking accelerators, also starts shipping today with a separate development board.
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“You will see MCX A in a simpler, smaller form factor than N which has more integration and needs more space with the MCU link for debugging. The primary role is for rapid prototyping,” Romain Ricci regional marketing manager for microcontrollers in EMEA in Munich tells eeNews Europe.
The FRDM development board is a key aspect of the A deployment and builds on the long history of development boards in Kinetis, he says. “What we are doing is bringing the latest evolution to the latest MCX with the same form factor and headers and we have a large variety of different connectors, there’s MikroBus, PMOD and Arduino so there is a lot we can support. It gives easy access to the IOs and expansion boards, shields and Clik boards.”
“It is also backed with easy software integration to port middleware to the board and then on top there is the expansion board hub to select from the variety of expansion boards with access to the right SDK and drivers, with all of this running in the MCUxpresso environment. We are producing expansion boards to demonstrate the performance of our own chips and external suppliers.”
“The major challenge is to provide the SDK to support the wide variety of expansion boards because it’s not enough for the designers that it is hardware compatible but we already support a wide number of boards supported on the FRDM and we will keep expanding it,” he said.
“This is one part of the development platform along with MCX N series announced at electronica 2022. There was a decision to launch the N, A and the Freedom boards to have all three together. We have customers evaluating N and with the A we started the alpha programme later,” he said
“Now we are experiencing an exponential growth in the smart connected devices. Everything we do in our secure smart connected edge is aligned for the secure edge and that’s where MCX is finding its place. This builds on the LPC and Kinetis portfolios and MCX is the next generation,” he said.
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All the MCX A devices include pulse width modulation and support for motor control.
“This is a general purpose device and the motor control is part of our standard offer. We are thinking of devices that will embed stronger features for motor control, not less. The Flex PWM can also be used for digital power control,” said Ricci.
“The Motor Control subsystem uses the Flex PWM timer to drive three phase motors with a quadrature encoder. This allows us to drive advanced motors for fans and pumps alongside a 12bit ADC with a 16bit mode that uses oversampling,” he said.
“The MCX A allows you to plan an entire product portfolio based on a single family, with the same M33 core up to 48MHz and 96MHz with the same design and same peripheral mix. These are pin to pin and software compatibility and all M33 based, reusing the same IP blocks when it makes sense,” he added.
“The N includes the AI/ML eIQ Neutron processing unit for a complete system on chip. At this stage an AI core in the A is not the plan but eIQ gives us the ability to scale across the whole family up to the i.MX9 but its too early to say if it will scale down.”
There are three package types available at launch and NXP is planning to expand the options in 2024. The smallest package options is a 32QFN measuring 5 x 5mm with 64 and 128Kbyte flash RAM and 8KB of ECC memory for functional safety.
“A lot of industrial customers are not so interested in chip scale packages. For the launch we are focussing on industrial applications,” said Ricci.