Vegard Wollan talks AVR chips and tools

While some of my earlier segments with Vegard explored the history of AVR, this video with its co-inventor addresses its product line and the tools one would use to write the firmware for the 8-bit chips.

Vegard touches on the availability of AVR chips in DIP (dual in-line) packages. These larger packages are loved by Makers and hobbyists since they are easy to prototype with. You can solder to the pins without a microscope and it is easy to make changes. They are also well-suited to installing in sockets, so you can replace them, or yank them out and program them in a separate programmer board.

Atmel-DIP-package

Atmel still makes parts in the older DIP package, loved by hobbyists and Makers alike.

In the interview, Vegard refers to the ball grid array, commonly referred to as BGA by us acronym-loving tech people. BGAs are extremely small, just a little bigger than the silicon die itself. They also tend to transfer heat out of the die effectively, but that is rarely a factor in AVR chips since they are so low power. The headache with BGA chips is that you need an IR reflow oven to solder them on a board. Now, my buddy Wayne Yamaguchi has figured out a toaster oven will get the job done, just don’t toast any bread in it after you put a lead-soldered board into it.

Atmel-BGA-package

Atmel parts in BGA packages are very small, but take special inspection and rework equipment.

The real headaches with BGA packages are rework and inspection. To replace the chip, you would need a camera mounted hot-air rework station from Metal/OKI; in order to make sure it is soldered correctly would require an X-ray machine (no, I am not kidding) to see that all the balls have sweated onto the pads under the chip. It helps to use gold-immersion finished circuit boards since they tend to be flatter than HASL (hot air solder-leveled) boards. However, if you are making some leading-edge tiny consumer product, all these prototyping and QC hassles are well worth it to get the smallest size possible.

Metcal-OKi-Scorpion-hot-air-rework

To remove and resolder a BGA on your circuit board, you need to use a high-dollar camera equipped hot-air station like the Metcal Scorpion from Oki.

Vegard confirmed that Atmel uses the AVR 32-bit UC3 core in our touch controllers and mouse controller products. As you will see in the video above, we then went on to discuss Atmel’s legacy of providing really inexpensive demo boards and development tools.

Vegard-Wollen_Paul-Rako_AVR-demo-board

Vegard Wollan smiles with pride as I show him an old demo board I used in 1999.

I also dragged out the actual AVR ICE 200 in-circuit emulator (ICE) I used in 1998, to design a point-of-sale terminal (note I misspeak in the video, calling it an STK200). The remarkable thing was this system would emulate an AVR chip in-circuit, and it only cost 200 dollars, back in an era when Intel Blue-Box 8051 systems were 50 grand.

Vegard-Wollen-smiling-at-the-STK200

Vegard Wollan really beams as I describe the 200-dollar Atmel AVR ICE 200, that got my startup off to a fast start in 2001.

To conclude the segment, Vegard Wollan shares how the Atmel Studio 6 integrated development environment is a high-quality software tool to develop your application, and works with AVR 8- and 32-bit parts as well as Atmel ARM-core microcontroller chips. When you add Atmel Gallery, Atmel Spaces, and the Atmel Software Framework (ASF), Atmel Studio becomes an integrated development platform (IDP). And, don’t forget you can get Atmel demo hardware through our distributors or the Atmel Store.

 

One thought on “Vegard Wollan talks AVR chips and tools

  1. Pingback: Vegard Wollan talks AVR chips and tools | Latest News

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