16-kB-FRAM-memory MCU plus LCD controller, with quick-start kit

October 13, 2014 // By Graham Prophet
Texas Instruments claims the lowest-power MCUs with an on-chip LCD controller, extending TI’s family of ultra-low-power MSP430 microcontrollers (MCUs) with a 16 kB memory version: and a low-cost LaunchPad rapid prototyping kit that demonstrates the advantages of non-volatile FRAM in a small memory footprint.

MSP430FR4x/FR2x MCUs include 60 capacitive-touch-enabled general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins that developers can use to create ultra-low-power products for home automation systems, household appliances, remote controls, and energy harvesting.

These MCUs join TI's portfolio of ultra-low-power MCUs with integrated LCD support on-chip. The new MCU featured on the MSP-EXP430FR4133 LaunchPad kit includes a segmented LCD driver with software-configurable LCD pins to enable hardware layout and an integrated charge pump that allows the LCD contrast level to be maintained even when the MCU is in low-power modes. The LCD controller can drive up to 256 segments to support large displays used in panel meters and portable health and fitness equipment. TI says these are the lowest-power MCUs available with LCD.

FRAM MCUs offer fast write speeds, with 10 billion times more write- cycles than traditional non-volatile memory solutions – exponentially increasing the amount of data that can be collected, outlasting the product lifetime itself. FRAM simplifies code development because it does not require pre-erasure of segments and can be accessed at the bit-level, enabling constant on-the-fly data logging with zero extra power. Wireless firmware updates are less complex, faster and lower energy. FRAM can also reduce manufacturing costs by decreasing programming times on an assembly line.

Power consumption is 126 µA/MHz (typical) and less than 1 µA standby with LCD powered on. The low-cost MSP430FR4133-based LaunchPad rapid prototyping evaluation kit enables designers to evaluate non-volatile FRAM memory, EnergyTrace technology and integrated LCD. An example design is contained in a TI Design for an intelligent thermostat based on MSP430FR4x MCUs that uses the LCD controller and overall flexibility of the device. Integration includes two timers, a 10-bit ADC, real-time clock counter and SPI and I²C communications. Resources for developers include detailed migration guides and application notes to ease the migration from existing MCUs to MSP430FR4x/FR2x MCUs.

The MSP-EXP430FR4133 LaunchPad costs $13.99. MSP430FR4x/FR2x chips will be priced from $1.65.

Texas Instruments; http://www.ti.com/ep-mcu-msp-fr4x-pr-pf1-en