Tiny 8-bit MCUs deliver precision analogue performance

19th November 2015
Posted By : Nat Bowers
Tiny 8-bit MCUs deliver precision analogue performance

Delivering what is claimed to be the highest analogue performance and peripheral integration in the 8-bit market, Silicon Labs has introduced the latest addition to its EFM8 MCU portfolio. The EFM8LB1 Laser Bee MCUs combine a high-speed ADC, multiple DACs, a highly accurate temperature sensor, two comparators and a 72MHz 8051 core with up to 64kB of flash.

The Laser Bee MCUs are supplied in a tiny 3x3mm QFN package, making them a good fit for space-constrained, performance-intensive applications such as optical modules, test and measurement instrumentation, industrial control equipment and smart sensors.

The EFM8LB1 Laser Bee MCU family is well suited for high-speed, analogue-intensive optical transceiver modules, which are widely used in telecomms and data communications. Optical module applications require small-form-factor MCUs offering exceptional analog performance and integration. The EFM8LB1 family’s high degree of analog integration helps eliminate the need for external analog components, reducing the overall system BOM cost and PCB space while enhancing performance. For example, Laser Bee MCUs integrate up to four 12-bit DACs, eliminating the need for four external DACs typically required by optical modules.

The Laser Bee MCU’s on-chip 14-bit, 900kS/s ADC includes an input sequencer and Direct Memory Access (DMA) controller, enabling raw data collection without MCU intervention. This capability frees the MCU for other tasks, providing an increase in overall system performance while enabling the MCU to enter a low-power mode for energy-saving benefits. In addition, the MCU’s 72MHz pipelined 8051-based 8-bit core can execute more than 70% of instructions in 1 to 2 clock cycles, satisfying the processing needs of high-speed optical modules and other computationally intensive applications.

EFM8LB1 MCUs integrate four Configurable Logic Units (CLUs), enabling designers to implement combinational logic and/or synchronisers without using external components. The industry’s smallest CLU implementation, the logic units support a variety of digital functions such as replacing system glue logic, generating special waveforms or synchronising system event triggers. Each CLU is completely programmable, making it easier to interface Laser Bee MCUs with other chips in the system. By reducing the component count and PCB space required to support glue logic, the logic units ultimately minimise BOM cost and time-to-market.

Many precision analogue applications include sensors or other components that require temperature compensation. For example, laser drivers and other components in optical modules are sensitive to temperature variations. To maintain constant communication data rates, optical modules must precisely measure module temperature and adjust the laser power accordingly. If an MCU lacks an accurate temperature sensor, it is necessary to calibrate the module temperature during manufacturing, which is costly in terms of manufacturing time and equipment. Laser Bee MCUs address this need with a built-in, factory-calibrated ±3°C accuracy temperature sensor, enabling very accurate temperature measurement without any customer calibration.

“As a leading supplier of 8-bit MCUs for the optical module market, Silicon Labs is dedicated to meeting customer needs for higher analogue performance, smaller form factors and lower BOM cost achieved through single-chip integration,” said Daniel Cooley, Vice President of Marketing, IoT products, Silicon Labs. “Our Laser Bee MCUs provide a next-generation 8-bit solution for optical module developers who need precision analog capabilities backed by comprehensive hardware and software development tools.”

Silicon Labs simplifies 8-bit development with native support for EFM8LB1 Laser Bee MCUs within the Simplicity Studio development platform. Simplicity Studio streamlines the process of developing IoT applications by providing MCU and wireless developers with one-click access to everything they need to complete their projects, from initial concept to final product, in a unified software environment. Simplicity Studio includes an Eclipse-based IDE, graphical configuration tools, energy profiling tools, network analysis tools, demos, software examples, documentation, technical support and community forums.

To simplify application development using Laser Bee MCUs, Silicon Labs offers the SLSTK2030A EFM8LB1 starter kit with software demonstrations showing how the MCUs can perform temperature and voltage measurements as well as highlighting ADC and DAC capabilities for oscilloscope and function generator applications. The SLSTK2030A starter kit is available now and priced at $29.99.

Samples and production quantities of the EFM8LB1 Laser Bee MCUs are available now in a choice of QFN24 and QFN32 packages. EFM8LB1 product pricing in 10,000 unit quantities begins at $0.52 and varies depending on peripheral features, amount of RAM (ranging from 1 to 4kB) and amount of flash memory (scaling from 16 to 64kB).

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