Texas Instruments Microcontroller Development

Texas Instruments, or TI, has been a long-time leader in the semiconductor industry over the past few decades. The company is well known for its extensive product portfolio, especially in the area of digital signal processors and analog ICs, as well as offering a broad range of mid-range to high-end microcontrollers across four families – from the MSP430 ultra-low power 16-bit MCUs; the high-performance C2000 32-bit real-time controllers; the Tiva™ C Series ARM® MCUs and the Hercules Safety ARM MCUs, designed for safety applications.

In addition to the company’s comprehensive microcontroller portfolio, very broad support exists for design engineers via an extensive design/development ecosystem including microcontroller development kits and plug-in modules – usually labelled under the respective TI monikers: LaunchPads and BoosterPacks – along with an enviable range of low-cost or free software development tools and a whole host of application reference designs.


16-bit MSP430 Microcontrollers

The 16-bit MSP430 ultra-low power RISC-based mixed-signal microcontrollers are aimed at a myriad of low power and portable applications. The MCUs’ low power consumption has been achieved via a combination of a low-leakage manufacturing process, advanced design and architecture techniques, and software-managed power conservation capabilities including low-power modes at both the peripheral and device level. More than 400 MSP430 devices offer high-performance peripherals including USB, RF, LCD controllers and Sigma-Delta ADCs, and a high level of integration enables solutions with smaller physical footprints and reduced bill-of-materials costs. The peripherals have been designed to deliver maximum functionality and provide system-level interrupts, resets and bus arbitration at the lowest power. Many peripherals may function autonomously, thereby minimizing CPU time spent in active mode.


The MSP430 MCUs offer a wide range of Flash options from 0.5KB to 512KB, up to 64KB RAM, operation up to 25MHz, and availability in more than 25 different packages with pin count up to 113 pins. A key constituent of the 16-bit MSP430 range is the highly cost-effective ‘Value Line’ of MCUs.

A unique element of the “FRAM Series” of MSP430 platform is the use of embedded FRAM (Ferroelectric Random Access Memory) – a type of non-volatile memory that combines the speed, ultra-low power, endurance, and flexibility of SRAM with the reliability and stability of Flash memory – to combine program and data into one unified memory space, thereby delivering low power and an easy-to-use microcontroller architecture. An additional sub-family  of the range is the CC430 technology platform, which provides a SoC solution offering one of the industry's lowest power single-chip RF microcontroller families for RF networking applications for a wide array of applications such as in industrial and building automation, asset tracking, energy harvesting, alarm and security systems, and many others.

A wide range of MSP430 starter development kits or ‘LaunchPads’ is available to enable engineers to learn and quickly begin using and programming the MSP430 MCUs. Key LaunchPad kits include:

The MSP-EXP430G2 LaunchPad is an easy-to-use flash programmer and debugging toolkit that provides everything engineers require to start developing on the MSP430 Value Line MCUs. It includes a DIP socketed target board with integrated emulation to quickly program and debug MSP430 Value Line devices in-system. Flash memory can be erased and programmed in seconds with no external power supply required due to the MSP430's ultra-low power Flash technology. The LaunchPad interfaces MSP430 devices to an integrated software environment such as the Code Composer Studio integrated development environment (IDE) version 4, which is free and unrestricted on MSP430 Value Line devices. The LaunchPad supports all MSP430G2xx Flash parts in a 14- or 20-pin DIP package.

The MSP430F5529 LaunchPad is an easy-to-use evaluation module for the MSP430F5529 USB microcontroller containing everything needed to start developing, including on-board emulation for programming and debugging, as well as on-board buttons and LEDs for quickly adding a simple user interface. Rapid prototyping is easy due to 40-pin access headers and a wide range of BoosterPack plug-in modules, enabling technologies such as wireless, display drivers, temperature sensing, among many others. The board is also compatible with many low-power RF wireless evaluation modules from TI.

The MSP-EXP430FR57xx Experimenter Board is a development platform for the MSP430FR57xx family of MCUs, which integrate FRAM memory. The kit includes the 8MHz MSP430FR5739 MCU with 16KB FRAM and 1KB SRAM and includes accelerometer, thermistor, LEDs, switches, connections for RF modules, and an integrated Flash emulation tool.

The company’s eZ430 development platform moves development capabilities up a level and include all the hardware and software needed for a complete MSP430 project – in a portable USB stick. The eZ430 tools include a free IDE, which provide full emulation capabilities and detachable target boards. A key example is the MSP430 Solar Energy Harvesting Development Tool, which is a complete solar energy harvesting development kit to help create a perpetually powered wireless sensor network.


32-bit C2000 Real-Time Control MCUs

TI’s C2000 devices are 32-bit microcontrollers with high-performance integrated peripherals designed for real-time-control applications. Operating up to 300MHz, with up to 1MB of Flash and 512KB of RAM, the C2000 MCUs are based around the TMS320C28x 32-bit DSP core featuring single-cycle 32×32-bit hardware multiplies and single-cycle instruction execution. The math-optimized core provides designers with the means to improve system efficiency, reliability and flexibility. C2000's development software tools – including the free controlSUITE – create an open platform with the goal of maximizing usability and minimizing development time.

A key LaunchPad for the C2000 Real-Time Control MCUs is the C2000 Piccolo LaunchPad, which is an inexpensive evaluation platform based on the Piccolo TMS320F28027 with features such as 64KB of on-board Flash, 8 PWM channels, 12bit ADC, I2C/SPI and UART. The kit also includes many hardware features such as an integrated isolated XDS100 JTAG emulator for easy programming and debugging, 40 PCB pins for easy access to the pins of the F28027 processor, reset button and programmable button. The LaunchPad also provides access to example code, libraries, drivers and other resources through controlSUITE, which is available free. Along with controlSUITE, users can also download an unrestricted version of Code Composer Studio integrated development environment (IDE) version 5. All together the LaunchPad enables learning and developing of real-time control systems in areas such as digital lighting, motor control, digital power conversion, precision sensing, among many others.


32-bit Tiva™ C Series MCUs

The Tiva™ C Series use the ARM Cortex-M4 core with scalable memory and package options, unparalleled connectivity peripherals, and advanced analogue integration. Key highlights of the TM4C123x MCU for example includes operation up to 80MHz, up to 256KB of Flash, up to 32KB single-cycle SRAM and 2KB EEPROM, two high-speed 12-bit ADCs, up to two CAN 2.0 A/B controllers; serial communication via 8UARTs, 6 I2Cs and 4 SPIs and low-power consumption down to 1.6uA.

A key LaunchPad kit for the Tiva™ C Series is the TM4C123G LaunchPad kit is a low-cost evaluation platform for ARM Cortex-M4F based microcontrollers. The kit highlights the TM4C123GH6PM microcontroller with a USB 2.0 device interface and hibernation module. It also features programmable user buttons and an RGB LED for custom applications. The stackable headers of the LaunchPad make it simple to expand functionality when interfacing to other peripherals with the company’s MCU BoosterPacks, such as the CC3000 Wi-Fi evaluation plug-in module, for example.


32-bit Hercules Safety Microcontrollers

The Hercules safety microcontroller platform consists of three ARM Cortex based microcontroller families. Designed specifically for IEC 61508 and ISO 26262 safety-critical applications, the Hercules platform provides advanced integrated safety features while delivering scalable performance, connectivity and many memory options. Highlights include: the ARM Cortex-R4 core offering both fixed- and floating-point options and delivering 1.66-DMIPS/MHz performance; operation from 100 to 220MHz; 384KB to 3MB of Flash with ECC and 32KB up to 256KB RAM with ECC; motor control and programmable timer interfaces and multiple network and communication peripherals such as Ethernet, USB (host and device), CAN, UART, SPI and I2C.

Hercules safety microcontroller LaunchPad kits available include the Hercules RM42 LaunchPad and the Hercules TMS570LS04 LaunchPad, which are inexpensive evaluation platforms designed to help users evaluate and get started on development with the Hercules microcontrollers. The first is based on the Hercules RM42L432, while the second is based on the TMS570LS0432. Both kits feature on-board emulation for programming and debugging, on-board buttons, LEDs and ambient light sensor and the standard 40-pin BoosterPack-compatible expansion header to support a wide range of plug-in modules for added functionality such as displays. Both kits also come pre-programmed with the Hercules Safety MCU Demo enabling users to easily learn about the key safety, data acquisition and control features of the Hercules MCU platform.

Software Development Tools

TI supports all its microcontroller platforms with the industry-leading Eclipse-based Code Composer Studio (CCStudio), which is an integrated development environment (IDE) for TI’s embedded processor families. It comprises a suite of tools used to develop and debug embedded applications and includes compilers for each of TI's device families, source code editor, project build environment, debugger, profiler, simulators, real-time operating system and many other features. The intuitive IDE provides a single user interface through each step of the application development flow. Code Composer Studio is based on the Eclipse open-source software framework and combines the advantages of the Eclipse framework with advanced embedded debug capabilities.

In addition, a broad range of third-party tools from Mentor Graphics, IAR Systems, Keil and ARM, among others, complement the TI tools to provide complete development environments for TI’s microcontrollers, including compilers, debuggers, analyzers, and simulators.