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issue: November 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

Technology Report
Programmable System on a Chip

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Cypress MicroSystems of Lynnwood, WA, U.S. has developed a Programmable System on a Chip (PSoC) that is said to significantly reduce the number of components on a printed circuit board (PCB) and shorten the product development cycle.

PSoC CY8C27x devices all include 12-analog and 8-digital programmable blocks, a 24-MHz 8-bit microcontroller, Flash and SRAM memory, a media-access controller, and real-time clock.

The PSoC CY8C27x devices are configurable mixed-signal arrays that integrate the microcontroller and related peripheral circuits typically found in an embedded design. These devices are currently being used in several consumer electronic and appliance applications, ranging from cooking and cleaning appliances to medical devices and consumer electronics. They are also finding their way into robotic, automotive, motor and process control, and industrial applications.

The new PSoCs allow system designers to integrate analog functions such as a digital-to-analog converter (DAC), filters, comparators, amplifiers, and digital functions such as timers, counters, and pulse width modulators (PWM) on to a single chip using a 24 MHz uC with up to 32K Flash. The component contains eight digital blocks and 12 analog blocks that can be configured into many different circuits. More important, block configurations can be stored in RAM, allowing the hardware to be reused.

Unlike standard SoCs, which have a finite number of manufactured variants, PSoCs are fabricated from a Silicon Oxide Nitrous Oxide Silicon (SONOS) semiconductor—a unique Flash process that is said to be both cost-effective and reliable compared to competing Flash technologies. The SONOS process is built on a standard CMOS wafer and requires only three additional layers to create the non-volatile (NV) cell. The SONOS capacitor stores the charge in a nitride memory layer, making the memory cell much more tolerant of defects in the gate oxide, ensuring greater reliability.

The designer uses a simple development Graph User Interface (GUI) and selects the pre-characterized peripheral functions (ADCs, DACs, timers, counters, etc.) or user module, which automatically places them in available blocks and generates the control software. A data sheet is generated to help users understand each function. “Most users integrate up to 90 percent of the analog and digital functions that ordinarily would have been separate components,” says Dave Van Ess, principal applications engineer at Cypress Microsystems. “With a conventional part family, it is not uncommon for a design team to spend a week or more choosing its product variants. PSoCs allow users to configure the system according to their needs, when they need it.”

The programmable configuration allows users the flexibility to change configurations and can remove up to 100 components from the PCB. Mr. Van Ess adds that the same PSoC can be adapted for different models in a product series.

The new PSoCs come with a development tool and reusable PSoC platform that includes compatible devices so that features can be added or subtracted to support different models or product migration.


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