Microchip, element14 team on prototype-friendly 32-bit MCU board

September 17, 2013

Bernard Cole-September 17, 2013

Looking to take as much advantage of the growing do-it-yourself development board movement, Microchip  has expanded its Arduino compatible chipKIT platform to include a new Raspberry Pi tool that it co-developed with partner element14.

According to Derek Carlson, Microchip’s vice president of Development Tools, the chipKIT Pi Expansion Board is the result of collaboration between volunteers from the chipKIT and Arduino communities and Microchip’s engineers to expand the capabilities of the company’s free chipKIT Multi-Platform IDE (MPIDE).

It is scheduled to be available by the end of the September, but interested developers can pre-register online now. (To view a brief video go to www.microchip.com/get/598S)

He said the kit was designed to allow users to create, compile and program Arduino sketch-based chipKIT applications within the Raspberry Pi operating system. The chipKIT MPIDE is open source and compatible with the Arduino programming language and development environment.

Both tools are based on Microchip’s MIPS-based 32-bit PIC32 microcontrollers (MCUs) in prototyping-friendly, low pin count SPDIP packages, which was previously only available with 8-bit MCUs for the Arduino community.

Carlson said the element14 chipKIT Pi Expansion Board (see photo below ) is the world’s first to enable the development of 3.3V Arduino compatible applications for the Raspberry Pi using a 32-bit, high-performance MCU in a prototyping-friendly package.

Because the Raspberry Pi’s processor is a 3.3V chip, its digital I/O and communications (I2C, UART, SPI) pins require 3.3V. Meaning that existing prototyping-friendly Arduino boards, which are all based on 5V 8-bit MCUs, require users to create or purchase additional components to translate the voltages.

The chipKIT Pi can interface directly to the Raspberry Pi I/O Expansion header without any additional components, reducing both cost and design complexity. In addition to being 3.3V compatible, the chipKIT Pi is also the only Arduino compatible board that brings a 32-bit MCU in a prototyping-friendly package to Raspberry Pi users.

Previously, said Carlson, developers who wanted to develop Arduino applications for the Raspberry Pi using prototyping-friendly, through-hole packages were forced to use boards based on 8-bit MCUs.

Because the chipKIT Pi’s 32-bit PIC32 MCU is in an SPDIP package, he said, even non-experienced users can easily swap out the pre-populated PIC32 with a new one—without having to replace the entire board.  Additionally, users can take advantage of the PIC32’s Peripheral Pin Select feature, which provides the flexibility to re-map certain peripheral I/O pins to suit their applications.

He said the chipKIT Pi board and the Raspberry Pi compatible version of the MPIDE software will allow developers to also take advantage of the large repository of available Arduino tutorials, reference materials, curriculum and more, to create a diverse array of designs.

For more information and additional chipKIT resources, go to the chipKIT Community Site.

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