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32-Bit Microcontrollers

Written by Jeff Child

Arm-ed for Success

32-bit microcontrollers have become entrenched as the workhorse of today’s embedded systems. These devices serve a wide variety of embedded applications—adding intelligence, security and connectivity to today’s “smart” systems.

  • What’s happening in 32-bit microcontrollers?

  • PSoC 64 Secure MCUs from
    Cypress Semiconductor

  • Traveo II Body family
    of MCUs from Infineon Technologies

  • MAX32666 from Maxim

  • PIC32MK MCM MCUs from Microchip Technology

  • Nuvoton Technology’s NuMicro M251/M252 series

  • NXP Semiconductors’ S32K3 family

  • Renesas Electronics’ RA6M5

  • STM32WB15CC from

  • TMS320F2838x from Texas

For years, 32-bit devices have defined the top of the microcontroller (MCU) food chain, providing a mix of processing, memory and I/O on a single chip. They are essentially the most advanced engine for embedded systems before moving onto to a microprocessor (MPU)-type device, and all the baggage MPUs bring with them. And as embedded systems have evolved, so too have 32-bit MCUs. The most significant trends in recent years have been the addition of wireless connectivity and advanced security

Today’s crop of MCUs has many product offerings that include on-chip wireless connectivity. This has taken the form of support for Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Wi-Fi and other technologies. With MCUs designed into systems across a wide diversity applications and industries, it’s hard to make any general statement about how they are used these days. But the leading MCU application areas include automotive, industrial systems, IoT, smart city, smart home, wearable devices and medical gear.

An ongoing trend among 32-bit MCUs is the dominance of products based on Arm Cortex CPU cores. While the leading vendors each offer successful lines of 32-bit MCUs based on their own proprietary cores, Arm-core based MCUs have clearly dominated new product rollouts over the past 12 months. In fact, in this article’s product gallery you’ll notice that seven out of the nine representative 32-bit MCUs are based on some form of the Arm Cortex CPU core (or cores).

Healthcare wearables is one of the most dynamic areas of 32-bit MCU design today (Figure 1). With that in mind, Maxim Integrated included its most recent 32-bit MCU product in its Health Sensor Platform 3.0 (HSP 3.0) that it announced last Fall. This ready-to-wear wrist form factor reference design monitors blood oxygen saturation, electrocardiogram, heart rate, body temperature and motion.

Figure 1
Healthcare wearables is one of the most dynamic areas of
32-bit MCU design today.

Maxim’s HSP 3.0 or MAXREFDES104# includes sensor, power management, MCU and algorithm products. The MCU is the MAX3266, a BLE-enabled, ultra-low power MCU with two Arm Cortex-M4F cores and an additional SmartDMA which permits running the BLE stack independently, leaving the two main cores available for major tasks


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Editor-in-Chief at Circuit Cellar | Website | + posts

Jeff Child has more than 28 years of experience in the technology magazine business—including editing and writing technical content, and engaging in all aspects of magazine leadership and production. He joined the Circuit Cellar after serving as Editor-in-Chief of COTS Journal for over 10 years. Over his career Jeff held senior editorial positions at several of leading electronic engineering publications, including EE Times and Electronic Design and RTC Magazine. Before entering the world of technology journalism, Jeff worked as a design engineer in the data acquisition market.

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32-Bit Microcontrollers

by Jeff Child time to read: 2 min