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Monday, September 02, 2019

Chinese chip designer launches RISC-V microcontroller pin compatible with ARM devices

By Nick Flaherty

Chinese chip designer GigaDevice Semiconductor has launched its first 32bit microcontroller based around the open source RISC-V instruction set, allowing a choice of RISC-V and ARM in the same packaging.

A key factor for developers is that GigaDevice provides a complete tool chain support from MCU chips to software libraries and development boards.

The first product line of the GD32V family is the GD32VF103 series, aimed at mainstream designs with balanced performance needs and system resources. There are 14 devices in a range of packages, including QFN36, LQFP48, LQFP64 and LQFP100, and are fully compatible with existing GD32 ARM-based microcontrollers in software development and pin packaging. 

The new devices are specifically targeted for embedded applications ranging from industrial control, consumer electronics, emerging IOT, edge computing to artificial intelligence and deep learning.

The GD32VF103 family uses the Bumblebee processor core jointly developed by GigaDevice and China's leading RISC-V processor core IP provider Nuclei System Technology. This is a two-stage variable-length pipeline microarchitecture with a streamlined dynamic branch predictor and 
instruction prefetch unit and incorporates a variety of low-power design methods as well as a single-cycle hardware multiplier, hardware divider and acceleration unit for advanced computing and data processing challenges

It also includes custom instructions to optimize interrupt handling while supporting the RISC-V standard compilation tool chain, as well as Linux/Windows graphical integrated development environment. The customer interrupt design includes a 64-bit wide real-time timer and can generate timer interrupts defined by the RISC-V standard, with support of dozens of external interrupt sources, while possessing 16 interrupt levels and priorities, interrupt nesting and fast vector interrupts processing mechanism. 

A low-power management unit can support two-levels of sleep mode, and the core supports standard JTAG interfaces and RISC-V debug standards for hardware breakpoints and interactive debugging.

The GD32VF103 MCU series to operate at up to 153DMIPS at 108MHz and under the CoreMark test achieves 360 performance points, which shows a 15% performance improvement compared to the GD32 Cortex-M3 core. At the same time, the dynamic power consumption is reduced by 50% and the standby power consumption is reduced by 25%.

The chips have 16KB to 128KB of on-chip flash and 6KB to 32KB of SRAM cache, as well as gFlash patented technology, which supports high-speed  core accesses to flash in zero wait time..

The chip is powered by 2.6V-3.6V and the I/O ports can withstand 5V voltage level. It is equipped with a 16-bit advanced timer supporting three-phase PWM complementary outputs and Hall acquisition interface for vector control. Also, it has up to four 16-bit general-purpose timers, two 16-bit basic timers, and two multi-channel DMA controllers. The newly designed interrupt controller (ECLIC) provides up to 68 external interrupts and can be nested with 16 programmable priority levels to enhance the real-time performance of high-performance control.

Furthermore, the new MCUs have a variety of peripheral resources for a wide range of mainstream applications, including up to 3 USART, 2 UART, 3 SPI, 2 I2C, 2 I2S, 2 CAN2.0B, 1 USB 2.0 FS OTG and an External Bus Expansion Controller (EXMC). Among them, the newly designed I2C interface supports Fast Plus (Fm+) mode with frequencies up to 1 MHz (1Mb/s), which is twice the previous speed. The SPI interface also supports four-wire system and more transmission modes, including the easy expansion to Quad SPI for high-speed NOR Flash accesses. Additionally, the built-in USB 2.0 FS OTG interface provides multiple modes such as Device, HOST, and OTG, while the External bus expansion controller (EXMC) is more convenient to connect to external memory such as NOR Flash and SRAM.

The new product integrates two 12-bit high-speed ADCs with sampling rates up to 2.6MSPS, provides up to 16 reusable channels, supports 16-bit hardware oversampling filtering and resolution configurability and it has two 12 Bit DAC. Up to 80% of GPIOs support port remapping, which continues to meet the needs of mainstream development applications.

"GigaDevice is the benchmark for the integrated circuit industry and the prominent supplier for general purpose MCU market in China," said Hu Zhenbo, CEO of Nuclei System Technology. "The cooperation between the two parties will give RISC-V a strong base, bringing new breakthroughs and forming a new pattern for general-purpose MCUs in the AI and IOT era. We are working together with customers to achieve win-win results.”

"The RISC-V system has globally emerged and become a rapid development trend in the semiconductor industry for applications such as industrial control, Internet of Things, intelligent terminals and others," said Deng Yu, executive VP of GigaDevice, general manager of GigaDevice MCU business unit. "GigaDevice is the first in the industry to launch 32-bit general-purpose MCU products based on RISC-V architecture and continues to build and strengthen the RISC-V development ecosystem. GigaDevice will further meet the market's differentiated demand for open architecture and cost advantages. We will continuously enrich the GD32 MCU 'department store', providing more innovative choices to our customers.”

Development tools include the GD32VF103V-EVAL full-featured evaluation board along with the
GD32VF103R-START, GD32VF103C-START and GD32VF103T- TART entry-level learning boards, each one with a different chip package and number of pins for users to develop and debug their projects. In addition, GigaDevice provides the GD32VF103-BLDC motor control development board and GD-LINK debugging mass production tool to more fully integrate the GD32 RISC-V design plan.

GigaDevice also cooperates with Nuclei System Technology to provide Nuclei Studio, a free integrated development environment for GD32V MCU series. This Eclipse-based IDE integrates RISC-V related tools such as GCC and OpenOCD. Third-party partners also offer more IDE and tool options, including Huawei IoT Studio, SEGGER J-Link V10 and Embedded Studio. Embedded operating systems including μC/OS II, FreeRTOS, RT-Thread, and Huawei LiteOS are also fully integrated and can
provide connectivity with the cloud. 

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