Tag Archives: 8-bit Microcontrollers

IAR Embedded Workbench vastly improves performance for 8-bit AVR MCUs


Version 6.70 of the popular toolchain includes improved compiler optimizations. 


IAR Systems has released a new version of its complete C/C++ development toolchain IAR Embedded Workbench for AVR. Version 6.70 of the popular toolchain includes improved compiler optimizations as well as new device support and updates to the add-on tool C-STAT for static code analysis.

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“Embedded systems are growing in complexity and many applications are being migrated to 32-bit microcontrollers. Despite this, the 8-bit AVR microcontrollers are continuously being used in many applications for example within automotive, battery management and wireless solutions,” says Thomas Sporrong, IAR Systems Global FAE Manager. “IAR Systems has a large customer base of developers working with AVR and the company remains committed to supplying world-class tools for embedded developers across the entire range from 8-bit to 32-bit microcontrollers.”

IAR Embedded Workbench for AVR features world-leading code optimizations that create compact, fast-performing code. The optimization technology has been further improved in this version, particularly involving speed optimizations of floating-point data types. These improvements enable developers to gain even better performance in applications where optimal execution speed is critical. To achieve the best possible configuration for the application at hand, developers are able to tune the optimizations. With the possibility to set different optimizations for different parts of the code, the right balance between code size and code speed can be achieved.

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The previous version 6.60 of IAR Embedded Workbench for AVR introduced support for IAR Systems’ static analysis add-on product C-STAT. Completely integrated in the IAR Embedded Workbench IDE, C-STAT can perform numerous checks for compliance with rules as defined by the coding standards MISRA C:2004, MISRA C++:2008 and MISRA C:2012, as well as rules based on for example CWE (the Common Weakness Enumeration) and CERT C/C++. By using static analysis, developers can identify errors such as memory leaks, access violations, arithmetic errors, and array and string overruns at an early stage to ensure code quality and minimize the impact of errors on the finished product and on the project timeline. With the latest release come further updates to the C-STAT tool, including an added report generator and added pragmas for temporary disabling checks.

IAR Embedded Workbench for AVR is a complete set of powerful C/C++ development tools with extensive support for devices in all AVR families. IAR Systems’ high-performance development tools and world-class technical support are available across Atmel’s entire range of 8-bit and 32-bit microcontroller architectures.

Interested? Get started here.

IAR Systems adds powerful code analysis possibilities for 8-bit AVR developers


New version of IAR Embedded Workbench for AVR introduces static code analysis and stack usage analysis.


IAR Systems has unveiled version 6.60 of its IAR Embedded Workbench for AVR microcontrollers. The update extends code analysis possibilities with the integration of static code analysis tools and stack usage analysis.

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The latest version of IAR Embedded Workbench for AVR adds support for IAR Systems’ static analysis add-on product C-STAT. Completely integrated within the IAR Embedded Workbench IDE, C-STAT can perform numerous checks for compliance with rules as defined by the coding standards MISRA C:2004, MISRA C++:2008 and MISRA C:2012, as well as rules based on CWE (the Common Weakness Enumeration) and CERT C/C++. By using static analysis, developers can identify errors such as memory leaks, access violations, arithmetic errors, and array and string overruns at an early stage to ensure code quality and minimize the impact of errors on the finished product and on the project timeline.

Additionally, the version 6.60 introduces stack usage analysis. Seeing as though the stack is a fundamental property of an embedded application, setting it up properly is essential for ensuring the application’s stability and reliability. However, calculating the stack space is notoriously difficult for all but the smallest of systems. This challenging task can be greatly simplified by granting access to information around the worst case maximum stack depth of the application. Enabling stack usage analysis in IAR Embedded Workbench provides just that, adding listings of the maximum stack depth for each call graph root to the linker map file. The analysis process can be customized to take into account such constructs as calls via function pointers and recursion.

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”The new functionality in IAR Embedded Workbench provides great advantages for our customers,” explains Steve Pancoast, Atmel VP of Software Applications, Tools and Development. “Developers can leverage the new analysis possibilities to improve the quality of their code, as well as streamline their development process. Atmel’s strong partnership with IAR Systems gives our customers access to world-leading tools across our entire range of AVR and Atmel | SMART ARM-based microcontrollers and microprocessors.”

IAR Embedded Workbench for AVR is a complete set of high-performance C/C++ tools featuring world-leading code optimizations creating compact, fast performing code. Version 6.60 also features parallel build, which will surely have a major impact on expediting development. Now, the user can optionally set the compiler to run in several processes simultaneously, which can significantly reduce compiler times.

Could the 8-bit MCU be experiencing a renaissance?

So, is the 8-bit MCU experiencing a renaissance? According to Electronics Weekly, it’s rather possible. A recent article notes that despite the rise of ARM architecture and widespread adoption of 32-bit microcontrollers (MCUs), a number of suppliers like Atmel are “more committed to their 8-bit chips than ever before.”

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In fact, the publication points out that companies are now adding higher performance peripherals and extending development tools for their highly-popular 8-bit lineups.

“Atmel is another supplier which continues to invest in its range of megaAVR MCUs. Now in their third generation, the MCUs are attracting growing interest in hobbyist/professional crossover applications as a result of being designed into the Arduino low cost embedded computing platform.”

Since its initial launch in 2002, the megaAVR family has become the go-to choice of Makers and engineers alike. The MCUs, which include the stalwart ATmega328 to ATmega32U4, can be found at the heart of millions of gadgets and gizmos, including an entire lineup of Arduino boards, 3D printers such as RepRap and MakerBot, as well as a number of innovative DIY platforms.

“This family of 8-bit megaAVR MCUs has been highly recognized by a variety of communities from the professional designers using our Atmel Studio ecosystem to the hobbyist and Maker in the AVR Freaks and Arduino communities,” explained Oyvind Strom, Senior Director of Marketing for Atmel’s MCU Business Unit.

These MCUs run single-cycle instructions with performance of 1MIPS per MHz, while on-chip flash memory spans from 4KB to 16KB. These new devices provide next-gen enhancements including analog functionality and features for the latest low-power hungry consumer, industrial and IoT applications.

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As Electronics Weekly notes, the burgeoning Maker Movement combined with the low-cost embedded board phenomenon has created a new playground for 8-bit devices. This “new relevance” has never been more apparent than with Arduino’s adoption of AVR MCUs, which can be found in its wildly-popular Uno (ATmega328), Leonardo (ATmega32U4) and Mega (ATmega2560) to name just a few.

The primary attraction of 8-bit MCUs is not only affordable performance, but with 8, 14 and 20-pin packages, they also are affordable and easier to use than their 32-bit counterparts.

Development tools are also matching the increasing range of higher performance applications for these MCUs as well. Take Atmel’s Xplained Mini 8-bit development platform for instance, which not only costs less than $9 but are also designed with an optional Arduino header for expandability.

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The article goes on to reference IAR Systems, who recently updated its high-performance development tools for 8-bit MCUs. Just a few weeks back, IAR Systems and Atmel announced an extension of their ongoing partnership would include over 1,400 example projects in IAR Systems’ development tools to support Atmel’s entire portfolio. This allows designers using microcontrollers, like the 8-bit AVR, to leverage the Embedded Workbench C/C++ compiler and debugger toolchain with new example projects to bring their products to market faster.

Interested in reading more? You can access the entire article here. Meanwhile, you can also browse through our extensive lineup of 8-bit microcontrollers here.

And the Simply AVR Design Contest winners are…

Back in March, Atmel launched the second stage of its Simply AVR Design Contest, which encouraged Makers, designers and engineers to develop clever, ground-breaking 8-bit microcontroller-based designs using its highly-popular AVR family. After several months of ideation and submissions, we’re excited to announce that the grand prize winner of the contest is Juan Gonzalez for his IoT ATmega2560-powered robot.

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Programmed with Atmel Studio 6.2, the winning IoT project — which garnered nearly 116,000 votes — runs in three modes including Wi-Fi via an Android application, object-tracking mode and MIMIC mode via TCP/IP.

“Atmel AVR MCUs are simple to use, have a robust ecosystem and are extremely flexible, allowing beginner developers to create innovative, out-of-the-box embedded designs beyond traditional applications,” explained Gonzalez.

“The ATmega-powered IoT robot only took me a couple days to put together and I was thrilled when I was notified. Thank you to the Atmel team for enabling me to showcase my design. I will continue to design with AVR MCUs.”

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In total, five winners were selected through public voting on the contest site and Facebook; meanwhile, a separate Simply AVR Design Contest was conducted in parallel in China. Runner-ups included:

Sumit Grover, Remote and GSM-based home automation system

Savvas-George Kokkinidis-Loungos, Wireless remote car device using hand movements

Shreyas Gite, Arduino-powered medical scanner to measure body temperature and other vitals

Rahul Kar, Digital Soduku solver

“I’d like to congratulate our winners for the Simply AVR Design Contest,” said Sander Arts, Atmel Vice President of Marketing. “With over 300,000 votes for all five winners, there was clearly a lot of enthusiasm for the second phase of the Simply AVR Contest. All these projects showcased creative, impressive designs that demonstrate the simplicity of Atmel’s AVR MCUs which extend beyond the traditional boundaries. With a community of AVR enthusiasts, we are looking forward to the continuation of this program.”

With another successful challenge in the books, we’re eager to see what the future holds for these Makers’ prototypes. Perhaps, they will follow in the footsteps of previous design contest champion Pamungkas Prawisuda Sumasta, who recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for his team’s Phoenard all-in-one prototyping device.

Those wishing to browse through some of the other submitted creations can head over to the contest’s official gallery here.

Video: Vegard Wollan reflects on life and innovation

In the final segment of my interview with AVR microcontroller creator Vegard Wollan, I asked about his background and innovation at Atmel.

In response to my question of how he views his expertise, Vegard noted that he started out as a computer architect and digital designer. It’s simple to see the ease-of-use DNA in the AVR product line when Vegard then noted that he soon saw himself as someone that could make life easy for embedded designers. I think this focus on the customer pervades all of Atmel to this day.

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Vegard Wollan reflects on his history of innovation at Atmel.

I went on to ask Vegard what he does in his spare time. His response? Exercising and boating off the beautiful, dramatic Norwegian coastline. I think physical activity is a key thing. In fact, I wish someone had warned me as a young man that engineering has an occupational hazard. You can make a good living sitting at a desk. This was less true when I was an automotive engineer, as I had to go the experimental garage and walk around Ford’s giant complex in Dearborn, Michigan. Nowadays, we all seem chained to a computer, and stuck in a chair all daylong. So, exercise and boating sounds like a great way to stay active and balance our lives a little bit!

As I pictured Vegard sailing around Norway looking at beautiful sunsets, I wondered if that was inspired him to be so innovative. He responded that the primary source of innovation at Atmel is working with a team of creative innovative people. I think this is true in most human endeavors. When I asked my dad why some restaurants had really good service, he noted that good people like to work with other good people. That is why Vegard is spot-on, and quite humble in noting that innovation comes from a team, not any single person.

Want to learn more about the backstory of AVR? You can tune-in to the entire 14-part series here.

Fusing fashion and tech with an Atmel powered robotic dress

A collaboration between 360 Fashion Network CEO Anina Net, Polish couture designer Michal Starost and IT architect Bruce Bateman has led to world’s first robotic dress powered by Atmel microcontrollers (MCUs).

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The dress made its catwalk debut at the “When Technology Meets Fashion” event held during Beijing Design Week.

Aside from an Atmel MCU, the robotic garment features 6 servo-controlled support arms comprised of fiberglass reinforced with aluminum, custom software and a high-powered battery pack. In what sounds like something out of Hunger Games, the arms lift in sync to convert the dress from a day dress to an evening gown.

While the current version of the dress is not Internet-connected and does not employ any sensors, we can surely expect to see further advancements in coming months.

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In fact, Anina says 360Fashion Network is currently on another version that will be smartphone-controlled to lift the dress to the wearer’s desired length. Additionally, future iterations may even monitor vital signs and change color or form depending on the body temperature or heart rate of the wearer.

“More advanced iterations might also communicate with networked databases, adapting the color, weave, pattern, length, and style of the dress based on real-time information on new cultural trends, environmental changes, news developments, or weather conditions. The speed at which such innovations can be realized, however, will depend heavily on progress in fabric technology,” the company wrote in a recent blog post.

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This robotic dress wasn’t the only eye-opening garment exhibited during Design Week. The team at 360Fashion Network also unveiled four dresses that integrated lasers into the fabric as a key design element.

From an [ATmega32u4 based] Katniss Everdeen LED dress to an [Arduino powered] personal space skirt, we are only at the mere beginning of fashion and technology’s coalescence. Like stylists to the latest trends, we’ll be there to piece together these next-gen creations using an assortment of 8- and 32-bit MCUs.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.