PIC microcontrollers gain GPU, memory to run LCD graphics

PIC microcontrollers gain GPU, memory to run LCD graphics

New Products |
By Graham Prophet

To meet this need, Microchip has configured the PIC32MZ series. These take the existing PIC32 architecture, based on the 32bit MIPS microAptive core (IP from Imagination Technologies) and add a 2D graphics processing unit (GPU), an LCD driver, and – in one version – 32 Mbytes of tightly-coupled memory. The integrated 32 MB of DDR2 DRAM is implemented in a two-chip, stacked-dice package – a memory chip sits atop the microcontroller die and is wire-bonded directly to it. Microchip stresses the importance of memory in graphics applications; if 32 MB is not enough, an alternative version of the device will address up to 128 MB of off-chip DDR2, for frame buffering and other graphics storage.


The graphics controller handles three planes and drives 24-bit colour on panels up to SXGA. As well as adding the IP for the graphics controller, Microchip has parameterised the driving function, as the user approaches it in the company’s MPLAB Harmony development environment. You provide it with the key parameters of the panel your application will employ, and the system generates the complete driver software (you can inspect the code it produces). Continuing the theme of “MPU-like-graphics on an MCU”, Microchip says that this is the only full 2D GPU available on an MCU. On-chip (as opposed to in-package) memory is up to 2 MB of flash and 640 kB of RAM. There is a full hardware crypto engine with random number generator for authentication, and for protection of end-product IP.

24-bit colour may be important in a final product, microchip says, to accurately reproduce brand-identifying shades; there is an 8-bit-addressable, 256-colour look-up table to build a palette of specific colours. Three full composition layers are manipulated by the GPU in terms of transparency, alpha blending, and rotation/scaling. There is a “sprite engine” to product pseudo-full-motion animation. The base MCU core runs at 200 MHz; target frame rate is 60 Hz.


The stacked-dice package results, Microchip says, in fewer components in a design, fewer layers in the PCB, security of product IP as certain memory traffic does not appear on external pins, and a possible reduction in EMI issues.


Target applications are widely-spread, in white goods, vending machines, all forms of controls, industrial automation, printing systems, medical devices, home automation – and many others.


The PIC32MZ DA family is supported by Microchip’s MPLAB Harmony Integrated Software Framework, MPLAB X Integrated Development Environment (IDE), MPLAB XC32 Compiler for PIC32, MPLAB ICD 3 In-Circuit Debugger and MPLAB REAL ICE In-Circuit Emulation System. Available starter kits – several of which also demonstrate the addition of Microchip’s maXTouch capacitive touch interface – include;

– PIC32MZ Embedded Graphics with Stacked DRAM (DA) Starter Kit (DM320010) at $130

– PIC32MZ Embedded Graphics with Stacked DRAM (DA) Starter Kit (Crypto) (DM320010-C) at $130

– PIC32MZ Embedded Graphics with External DRAM (DA) Starter Kit (DM320008) at $140

– PIC32MZ Embedded Graphics with External DRAM (DA) Starter Kit (Crypto) (DM320008-C) at $140.

Pricing for the devices starts at around $7.73 (10,000) for the stacked-dice package. Devices in the PIC32MZ DA family will come in in a variety of package options including a 169-ball BGA, a 176-pin LQFP and a 288-ball BGA for external DDR2 applications.








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