Microchip adds high-quality graphics processing to PIC32

Microchip has added a high-resolution 2D graphics controller and 32Mbyte of SDRAM to its 32bit PIC32 microcontroller range.

Microchip 2D GPU PIC32MZDA block

It is aimed developers of embedded products wanting high-quality images and animations on displays up to 12inch.

Up to 24bit colour is available in multiple input and output formats – with a global colour palette look-up table (CLUT) supporting 256 colours built in.

One argument for such colour depth, according to Microchip product marketing manager Kurt Parker, is that end-users can achieve accurate colour matches for branding.

Microchip 2D GPU sprite based animationOn-board is a ‘sprite engine’ for animation that is capable of programmable raster operations (ROP3, and ROP4), alpha blending and transparency, as well as hardware accelerators for ‘blit’ (‘bit block transfer’ – stretch, shrink, filter), line draw and rectangle operations (fill, clear)

“We have not found a sprite engine anywhere within other microcontrollers,” said Parker.

14jun17 Microchip 2D GPU bit stretchThree independent composition layers are available, and there is an integrated DMA controller to offload the CPU for clipping, rotation (90°, 180°, 270°) and transparency.

The underlying microcontroller architecture is the MIPS-based PIC32MZ – the graphics-enabled parts have been dubbed ‘PIC32MZ DA‘.

The 32Mbyte of SDRAM is DDR2, and added to the microcontroller by die-stacking. According to Parker, Microchip has a supply agreement with the DRAM manufacturer to isolate volatility in the memory market from its microcontroller pricing.

14jun17 Microchip 2D GPU coffee maker exampleParker has examples of graphics memory requirements (see images) with stretching the lighthouse image taking 12Mbyte and the coffee maker needing 3Mbyte. As well as a graphics buffers, the DDR2 can be used to store communication protocol stacks.

Microchip 2D GPU stretch exampleFor more memory, PIC32MZ DA comes in a version without the stacked SDRAM die, but with an external memory interface that supports up to 128Mbyte. The built-in DRAM version needs fewer PCB layers, pointed out Parker.

Both versions are available with and without a crypto engine.

Package options include: 169ball BGA, 176pin LQFP and 288ball BGA for external DDR2.

Microchip 2D GPU toolsTo aid product development, the firm has added graphics content creation tools to its MPLAB development environment in the form of ‘MPLAB Harmony Graphics Composer’ (right) which is a wyswyg image and animation development environment that can cope with any screen resolution and both portrait and landscape orientation.

Microchip 2D GPU tool overviewAnother facility assists the development of display drivers.

There are two hardware starter kits, one with stacked DRAM and one with a remote memory chip. Both have Ethernet, a Micro SD connector, SQI flash, USB and two Raspberry-Pi-compatible 20way headers.

There is also ‘Multimedia expansion board II’, which has a 4.3inch WQVGA screen with touch – enabled by maXTouch, a 24bit stereo audio codec, VGA camera, 802.11 b/g wireless module, Bluetooth HCI transceiver, temperature sensor, microSD slot and analog accelerometer.

PIC32MX DA parts are in volume production.

Applications are expected in: cookers, white goods, medical controls, patient monitoring, vending machine, home automation, factory automation and audio conferencing.


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