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issue: February 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Electronics Report
Microcontrollers with LIN Capability


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A new series of 16-bit processors use hardware-based technology to allow engineers to easily implement connectivity features into appliances.

New 16-bit MCUs from Renesas Technology allow designers to implement LIN technology into a variety of appliance applications, including refrigerators, cooktops and air-conditioners.

Adding to its R8C/Tiny series of 16-bit microcontrollers (MCUs) with on-chip Flash memory, Renesas Technology America, Inc. offers new MCUs that use a specialized Local Interconnect Network (LIN) technology. According to the San Jose, California, U.S.-based company, the technology provides designers with a low-cost yet reliable way to add connectivity to consumer appliances.
“The MCUs can be used for stoves, refrigerators and washers/dryers as main processors or as sub processors to ensure good intra-appliance connectivity,” notes Ritesh Tyagi, System LSI Business Unit, Renesas Technology America. “For example, a refrigerator needs to connect a different set of internal subsystems effectively—such as an ice maker, a compressor and a front-panel display—for programming temperatures.”
Although LIN has traditionally been used in automotive electronic systems, the new MCUs are said to reduce noise interferences and system cost, allowing designers to apply the technology to a variety of applications. “Unlike conventional software-based LIN, which required an extensive amount of development work, specialized LIN hardware on the new MCUs allows engineers to implement LIN easily and efficiently,” Tyagi explains.
“In a conventional development environment based on software LIN, engineers are required to use a universal asynchronous receiver/transmitter (UART) and a timer for external communication,” he continues. “By implementing on-chip hardware LIN modules, the new MCUs can enable many new functionalities such as an automatic collision detection function to sense a communication collision between subsystems and an arbitration function to prioritize communication protocols to ensure highly efficient operation of the system.”
Another benefit of hardware-based LIN is the space savings. “In a conventional LIN structure, the ROM size is typically 2 KB plus code development and implementation. With hardware LIN, the ROM size is reduced to 500 bytes, almost by 75 percent,” notes Tyagi. “The new devices also use about 50 percent to 60 percent less CPU space than the conventional system, leaving more room for the CPU to handle other tasks. These features allow engineers to design appliances more effectively and at lower cost.”
Tyagi says that hardware-based LIN also enables better inter-communication within the system, reducing loud noises generated within and from surrounding appliances, which can cause MCUs to act abnormally. The new series was also designed using a center pad layout technique and proprietary techniques to greatly reduce the electromagnetic interference (EMI) and electromagnetic susceptibility (EMS).
This benefit may be especially appealing to cooking appliance engineers. “On average, a high-end cooktop system uses five to six MCUs—four for the burners, one for the display panel and one for the user interface,” Tyagi says. “Until today, a serial communication interface was used as a networking method to connect these MCUs, which required three to four wires with inductive filters. The conventional method often resulted in high system cost and higher susceptibility to noise that can corrupt the system.”
However, Tyagi notes that the new devices use a single-wire protocol to connect all MCUs in the system, reducing unwanted wires. “At the same time,” he adds, “they also minimize the EMI/EMS noise problems, providing enhanced system reliability at a lower cost.”

 

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