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Application-Specific MCUs

Written by Sam Wallace

While the general-purpose microcontroller (MCU) isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, this month’s gallery of nine new application-specific MCUs demonstrates that building for hyper-specific solutions continues to be an active, diverse, and broad area of MCU design.

  • Application Specific MCUs
  • Analog Devices MAX32660
  • Infineon EZ-PD
  • Microchip PIC18-Q84
  • Nordic nRF9160
  • Nuvoton I91535ADI
  • NXP’s MC56F80
  • Renesas RA4T1
  • STMicroelectronics Stellar 32
  • Texas Instruments TMS320F2800157

Microcontrollers (MCUs) geared toward specific industries and markets are not a new concept. Aside from general-purpose MCUs, there are MCUs designed for broad swaths of industry, such as automotive, industrial, and wireless MCUs. Over the last few years, we’ve seen an increase in further specialized MCU designs that come with tailored feature sets aimed at specific application needs. These application-specific MCUs provide developers of embedded systems with solutions that are just the right size: complete with feature sets, packaging, and/or performance levels that fit their system requirements.

This was originally primarily seen in 32-bit MCUs—and indeed, at least a couple such products pop up in this month’s gallery. But these days, even 8-bit MCUs are finding use in application-specific solutions (such as this month’s automotive offering from Microchip Technology). Meanwhile, 32-bit MCUs are incorporating AI capabilities along with IoT functionality. Overall, there has been a lot of movement and evolution in multiple directions in the world of MCUs built for hyper-specific needs. As many readers are aware and as this column will make plain, automotive MCUs are a very active sector within this category.

Application-specific MCUs are often most practical (and most widely deployed) in high-volume use cases like motor control, as many of the intended applications in the following gallery pages illustrate. You’ll find products built for wearable devices, designed for power delivery inside vehicle cabins, or geared toward low-power cellular applications. Our gallery features MCUs, system-on-chips (SoCs), and system-in-packages (SiPs) for everything from smart sensor networks, to high-quality audio, to digital signal control, to software-defined vehicles. The array of specific applications is, of course, endless, so naturally this gallery of nine products represents only a small sampling of recent releases from MCU manufacturers.

PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • August 2023 #397 – Get a PDF of the issue

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Editor-in-Chief at KCK Media Corp. | + posts

Sam Wallace - became Circuit Cellar's  Editor-In-Chief in August 2022.
His experience in writing, editing, and teaching will provide a great perspective on the selection, presentation, and clarity of editorial content. The Circuit Cellar audience will benefit from his strong academic background encompassing a Master of Fine Arts in Writing and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with honors. His passion for learning and teaching is a great fit for Circuit Cellar's continuing mission of Inspiring the Evolution of Embedded Design.

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Application-Specific MCUs

by Sam Wallace time to read: 2 min