The RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA) is increasingly generating interest and momentum within the embedded community. The free and open RISC ISA is driven by open collaboration with the goal to enable freedom of design across many industries and applications. Renesas is at the forefront of such initiatives and the release of the ASSP EASY for motor control marks an industry-first milestone in the productization of an MCU-class solution.
The RISC-V ecosystem is still in its emerging stage and especially for the tiniest devices like microcontrollers, certainly not yet comparable with the large software offerings available for existing architectures that have developed and grown over many decades. Currently, state-of-the-art professional tools for application development and debugging are available to support such new designs. Software development might be the remaining challenge for many, though.
At the lowest hardware level perspective, the RISC-V ISA enables energy-efficient and small CPU implementations. Chip manufacturers can benefit from this and further push the performance and cost boundary for end customer benefit.
At the toolchain level, most initial inefficacies (in the compilers and linkers) have been removed and others are continuously improving, thereby closing the gap with more established architectures in terms of memory footprint. One important factor is the CPU support for additional ISA extensions (like C, M, B, and so on) that contribute to boost performance and make the code more compact – compared with the ‘basic’ ISA implementation – with negligible impact on cost. This removes another initial source of concern, especially for lowest-end devices where available program memory is constrained and any wasted space has a large cost impact.
The challenge now remains in terms of software development. Historically, a wide portion of customers invested large amounts of time and resources to align with now mature ecosystems so the potential interest for new solutions based on a different architecture must be carefully weighed in terms of the RISC-V benefits provided. Namely, new features, power efficiency, lower cost, or any mix of them.
The Renesas approach bridges this gap for customers, lowering the entry barriers to adopt new technology and products. We’ve identified a few application-specific areas where compatibility with a certain CPU core isn’t a must-have requirement, the focus is rather on the value added by a configurable, ready-to-use solution that can eliminate concerns about breaking with legacy software investment.
The first device of the ASSP EASY group focuses on motor control applications. Specialized third parties have used this device as a base hardware platform to develop software covering many different classes of appliances and end equipment. This production-ready software can be customized for the specific motor parameters and the end user does not have to write a single line of code. Designers just connect the available evaluation kit, start up the configuration and monitoring software, evaluate and tune the motor parameters, verify the operation of the solution, and then be ready to go to production. On the hardware side, a complete reference design is available to suggest the most complementary analog and power products from the extensive Renesas portfolio. This is a further aid that can save a lot of time in scouting for the necessary companion ICs to create a complete system.
This simplified 3-phase motor control system allows for a minimalistic motor control approach, not requiring any user code programming. The ASSP allows users to store specific motor characteristics in the device data flash using our provided GUI interface. Additional input channels are available to add signals from a motor position encoder, Hall sensors or from the Renesas IPS2200 inductive position sensor (using absolute SIN/COS signals). A Pmod interface with I2C and serial port also allows for simple connection of external environmental sensors or wireless connectivity.
Our partner network is prepared to support you and your next project. Are you ready to jump on the ASSP EASY express?
Visit renesas.com/risc-v to learn more and get started.