Maintaining a stable process control with Atmel’s SAMA5D3 eMPU

The concept of process control is typically associated with industry, as it enables mass production and regulation of multiple activities and facilities including oil refining, paper manufacturing, chemicals and power plants. Specifically, process control facilitates automation, allowing a relatively small staff of personnel to operate a complex process from a central control room.

The controller itself is tasked with ensuring predictable operation of functions such as logic, sequencing, timing, counting and algorithms. As such, design considerations must take a number of critical variables into account, including secure and reliable communication to ensure data integrity and encryption. In terms of connectivity, a broad range of interfaces are required to communicate with end nodes, a user interface (UI) and other control blocks.


Atmel’s SAMA5D3 (ARM) Cortex-A5 based eMPU can be used to power such a controller along with additional Atmel components including the AT86RF231/232/233 RF Transceiver, ATZigBit RF Module and ATPL100A FSK PLC Controller.

“SAMA5D3 eMPUs boast high-bandwidth, hardware security and rich connectivity to address key design considerations for a process controller. First off, it offers high-bandwidth architecture for real-time and reliable operation, along with a fully integrated MMU and Floating Point Unit (VFP) for accelerated graphics processing,” an Atmel engineer told Bits & Pieces.

“The SAMA5D3 also features 64-bit internal bus architecture, 32-bit external bus interface (EBI) and supports up to 39 DMA channels to enhance real-time performance. Meanwhile, Secure Boot supports encrypted code storage – allowing authenticated start-up and secure field upgrades. Additional security features include Integrated Hardware Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA), True Random Number Generator (TRNG) and AES/DES Encryption Engines.”

On the connectivity side, Atmel’s SAMA5D3 (ARM) Cortex-A5 based eMPU lineup supports Fieldbus to End Nodes, Ethernet to Smaller PLC or I/O Devices, or Ethernet to HMI or Higher-Level Control. Additional key hardware specs include Gigabit EMAC with real-time stamping (IEEE 1588), 10/100 EMAC, three HS USB Ports, Dual CAN, three SDIO/SD/MMC, 7 UARTs and 6 SPIs.

In terms of software, Atmel’s SAMA5D3 offers an extensive development ecosystem with Linux 3.6.6 OS support, including sources, pre-built demos with installation scripts, build
instructions, as well as tips & tricks.

There are also in-house and third-party suppliers of modules, kits, UI solutions and OS/RTOS/Middleware, along with an ATSAMA5D3-EK Evaluation Kit that facilitates rapid evaluation and code development.

Additional information about Atmel’s SAMA5D3 eMPUs can be found here.

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