25 functions for 25 cents

9th November 2017
Joe Bush

The MSP430 range from Texas Instruments is the company’s lowest cost ultra-low power microcontrollers (MCUs) for sensing applications. Developers can now implement simple sensing solutions through a variety of integrated mixed signal features. Additions to the family include two new entry level devices and a new TI LaunchPad development kit for quick and easy evaluation.

The new MSP430FR2000 and MSP430FR2100 MCUs (with 0.5kB and 1kB of memory, respectively) and the new development kit join the MSP430 value line sensing family which includes the MSP430FR2111, MSP430FR2311, MSP430FR2033, MSP430FR2433 and MSP430FR4133 microcontroller families and their related development tools and software.

Pricing and availability
Developers can purchase the value line sensing portfolio through the TI store, priced as low as US$0.29 in 1,000-unit quantities and US$0.25 in higher volumes. Additionally, the new MSP430FR2433 LaunchPad development kit (MSP-EXP430FR2433) is available from the TI store and authorised distributors for $9.99. From today, through to 31st December, the TI store is offering the LaunchPad kit for a promotional price of $4.30.

Learn more about TI’s scalable MSP430 MCU portfolio

Discussing the announcement, David Smith, Product Marketing Manager for MSP430, commented:
“The 25 functions for 25 cents is a slightly different concept in which to take these parts to market. We’re looking at trying to encourage engineers to perhaps do something different to how they’ve done things in the past - taking some very common functions that you’d find on a board and implementing them in one of these new low cost MCUs.”

Why would someone move from a fixed function IC to a programmable MCU?
“The real reason for this is added flexibility,” added Smith. “So, it may be that you want a reset controller or a wake up controller to operate on a specific timing that you can’t get from an off-the-shelf device – so it’s about building-in added intelligence over the standard fixed function ICs.” The MSP430 value line MCUs allow developers to customise frequently used analogue and digital functions to meet their applications needs.

“Code reuse is also important,” continued Smith. “Engineers want to take that investment that they’ve made and import it across multiple designs or perhaps even taking some of those code blocks and combine them to build up more functionality within a system controller. Another key benefit is cost. These are really low cost parts. They are the lowest cost MSP430S that we’ve produced – and offer 25 different functions for 25 cents.”

These 25 functions are incorporated within timer functions, pulse width modulation functions, system functions and communication functions. The new range of ICs is TI’s lowest cost MSP430 MCUs - starting at $0.29 in 1Ku quantities and $0.25 in higher volumes. They come with 3x3mm VQFN package options and a 10-bit ADC on the MSP430FR2100 MCU. It is ultra-low power for extended battery life in portable, battery powered sensing applications.

MSP430 Launchpad development kit
“The first Launchpad was something we introduced a few years ago as a low cost, fully integrated, hardware development tool. When we think back to 2010/11, to begin development on microcontrollers, depending on the manufacturer, you would be looking at several hundred dollars to be able to program and develop on an MCU – in many cases it was into the thousands of dollars.

“So, we introduced the Launchpad as a really low barrier of entry. It’s been hugely successful and we have a number of different Launchpads ranging from the very simple MCU versions to the WiFi BLE Launchpads. So there’s quite a range that allows users to scale between them and pick the processer or functionality they really need, but all the time with focus on it being a low cost tool.

“This new Launchpad is based on the 16kB FRAM devices and the really interesting thing about the ecosystem is what we call Booster Packs. These are plug-in modules that are developed by TI but also a large community that are selling these Booster Packs, which allow developers to literally take a couple of boards, plug them together and get into that rapid prototyping concept and get something up and running.

“This board is being introduced with an introductory price of $4.30. We’ll continue that price until the end of the year and we’ll be running a lot of promotional activity around this board in 2018. We see it being really popular.”

To get started TI also provide a number of integrated development environment options available. “We have TI’s own Code Composer Studio (CCS) which is a very well established, fully featured, environment which is available free of charge,” added Smith. “We also have a Cloud hosted version of CCS, so people can work from multiple PCs, at a desk, in a lab, or at home, but you can still download and debug code to real target hardware.

“We also work closely with IAR Embedded Systems, so the IAR Workbench is also available to support these devices and tools. The other interesting element when we are talking about the rapid prototyping, hacker and maker space is something called Energia. This offers a little more abstraction than regular programming and this also has a huge community following. There’s a really broad knowledge base that’s available, so for anyone who perhaps hasn’t used an MCU in the past, taking a low cost Launchpad and downloading Energia is a great way to start experimenting and exploring the world of electronics.”

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