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Rapid Development Platforms for Embedded Design
By Espen Krangnes – Microchip Technology
Taking an idea from discovery to prototyping, and eventually to the creation of an end product can be a challenging proposition. The prototyping platform one chooses is of paramount importance – as it can impact both the discovery phase and the final production timeline. Ideally, a rapid prototyping platform should be flexible enough to allow the user to explore different design concepts, which can accelerate the component selection phase.
Additionally, the platform should be optimized for production-readiness – in essence, any prototype should be able to transfer to large scale production by simply moving all components and software to a custom PCB.
In order to achieve these goals, the chosen rapid prototyping platform must be easily configurable and support a broad range of extensions in the form of sensors, communications interfaces, and output channels. The most useful platforms are fully supported by a strong suite of software tools that allow users to build a system solution for any problem with ease.
The customizable Curiosity Nano Development Platform features a variety of PIC® and AVR® microcontrollers (MCUs) allowing you to easily evaluate different architectures for your design. They also offer full programming and debugging capabilities to support you throughout your development process through USB. Drag and drop programming functionality as well as power to the MCU and board is provided via the same cable. There is a button and an LED connected to the MCU. IO-pins are routed out each of the sides with 100-mil spacing allowing the range of Curiosity Nano Boards to be easily integrated with other electronics and breadboard prototyping. This makes signals from the microcontroller readily available to provide both input and output to your application. There is a wide range of boards available for both PIC and AVR. The peripherals are available on each side and with a set of headers, the Curiosity Nano can easily be put into a breadboard for rapid prototyping without soldering the headers due to the staggered footprint. If the user wants to connect wires to existing electronic components, that can be achieved as well with the through-holes on the side of the board. The platform is very flexible and is designed for rapid development and prototyping by allowing the user to easily access the functionality of the device and easily set up and explore a broad range of applications.
The Curiosity Nano Base for Click BoardsTM supports all the Curiosity Nano MCU boards and provides a standardized baseboard that users can use to easily add off-the-shelf extension boards to their design with 3 mikroBUSTM and 1 Xplained Pro Extension headers. There are also different powering options available with external power supply and battery operation. The Curiosity Nano Base provides the flexibility and options to mix-and-match extensions and setups, and rapidly develop applications and prototype solutions.
mikroBUSTM Click boards extend to more than 450 add-on boards with all types of sensors, interfaces, and connectivity modules. No wires, no soldering, they just plug directly into the Curiosity Nano Base. The standard consists of dual 8-pin rows with power, I2C, SPI, CS, PWM and interrupt line. These standardized interfaces through a standardized header allow the user to mix and match from the broad range of extension boards to set up a complete platform fast and easily and explore different solutions to find the one that gives the best overall system performance. The range of mikroBUSTM Click boards is continually expanding, many include Microchip devices providing wired and wireless connectivity, security as well as a broad range of sensors and actuator boards.
Xplained Pro Extension Boards is a standard that enables add-on boards with additional functionality, connecting to Xplained Pro kits through standardized connectors. In addition to the serial busses, PWM and control signals that are available on the mikroBUSTM, the Xplained Pro Extension header supports a differential ADC channel. There are several extensions that take advantage of this, for example, the range of capacitive touch boards that supports the PTC module in a broad range of variants and configurations. All Xplained Pro Extension boards are uniquely identified so that the position where the board is connected and which physical pins they are connected to from an MCU’s point of view can be presented to the user. That is ease of use in practice.
With a broad range of Curiosity Nanos, the Curiosity Nano Base, mikroBUSTM Click boards and Xplained Pro Extension Boards, Microchip provides the ability able to reuse components from one design to another. Adding functionality with differentiating features gives users the quickest way to realize the application they are envisioning. That is what rapid development is all about.