The Power of Two: Design Code Separately and Integrate It Seamlessly with Dual-Core dsPIC Digital Signal Controllers

October 4, 2018 Microchip Technology Inc.

dsPIC33CH Family Is Optimized for High-Performance and Time-Critical, Real-World Embedded Control

What is one of your biggest challenges when designing high-end embedded control applications? For many engineers, their pain point is integrating software from multiple teams. In complex applications requiring sophisticated algorithms, frequently one team is focused on developing the time-critical control code while another is working on the code for housekeeping, diagnostics and communication functions. In this type of scenario, a microcontroller with an extra core is an ideal solution. The power of two cores provides higher performance and enables multi-team software development to meet the demanding requirements of digital power, motor control and other embedded designs. This includes applications such as wireless power, server power supplies, drones and automotive sensors.

If you are looking for this type of flexibility for your next design, Microchip has recently added a new series of Digital Signal Controllers (DSCs) with two dsPIC DSC cores in a single chip to their portfolio of 16-bit devices. The dsPIC33CH family has one core that is designed to function as a master while the other is designed to function as a slave. This new family of DSCs was designed specifically to facilitate independent code development for each core by separate design teams and then enable seamless integration when they are brought together in one chip.

The master core can be used to run the user interface, system monitoring and communications functions that can be customized for the end application. The slave core is useful for executing dedicated, time-critical control code.

For example, in a digital power supply, the slave core manages the math-intensive algorithms, while the master core independently manages the PMBus protocol stack and provides system monitoring functions, increasing overall system performance and responsiveness. Distributing the overall work load across two DSC cores in a single device enables higher power density through higher switching frequencies, leading to smaller components. The dsPIC33CH family was designed for live updating of the system, which is especially important for power supplies where firmware updates must be made with zero downtime.

In an automotive fan or pump, the slave core is dedicated to managing time-critical speed and torque control while the master manages the Controller Area Network Flexible Data rate (CAN-FD) communications, system monitoring and diagnostics. The two cores work seamlessly together, enabling advanced algorithms to improve efficiency and responsiveness.

In addition, each of the new cores in the dsPIC33CH devices has been designed to provide more performance than current dsPIC DSC cores. These enhancements include:

  • More context-selected registers to improve interrupt responsiveness
  • New instructions to accelerate Digital Signal Processor (DSP) performance
  • Faster instruction execution

The dsPIC33CH family delivers unprecedented integration. In addition to featuring CAN-FD communications, the dsPIC33CH family’s advanced peripherals are available to each core to reduce system costs and board size. These include high-speed Analog-to-Digital Converters (ADCs), Digital-to-Analog Converters (DACs) with waveform generation, analog comparators, analog programmable gain amplifiers and high-resolution Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) hardware. These dedicated peripherals, along with the dual cores, enable redundant monitoring for increased functional safety and robust system design.

Available in eight package variants ranging from 28 to 80 pins and measuring as small as 5 mm × 5 mm, the dsPIC33CH family also offers memory sizes ranging from 64 to 128 KB of Flash.

Development Support

If you are ready to get started with an application using the dsPIC33CH family, these new DSCs are supported by the MPLAB development ecosystem including the free, downloadable and award-winning MPLAB X Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and MPLAB Code Configurator.

The dsPIC33CH Curiosity Board (DM330028), a cost-effective and flexible development platform, is the perfect starting point for exploring the capabilities of the dsPIC33CH family and quickly creating a feature-rich prototype.

If you are developing a motor control application, you can use the dsPIC33CH128MP508 Motor Control Plug-in Module (MA330039) with the dsPICDEMTM MCLV-2 Development Board (DM330021-2), the dsPICDEM MCHV-2 Development Board (DM330023-2) and the dsPICDEM MCHV-3 Development Board (DM330023-3). The dsPIC33CH128MP508 General Purpose Plug-In Module (MA330040) is also available for use with the Explorer 16/32 Development Board (DM240001-2).

Do you want to take your design to the power of two? You can purchase the dsPIC33CH DSCs from microchipDIRECT or from Microchip’s worldwide distribution network.

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