The MSP430 MCU family also offers an extended operating temp for industrial factory automation applications

By Gina Roos,
editor-in-chief

Texas Instruments (TI) has expanded its portfolio of MSP430 Value Line microcontrollers
(MCUs) with new parts that offer integrated and configurable signal-chain
elements and an extended operating temperature range for sensing and measurement. Target applications include smoke
detectors, sensor transmitters, and circuit breakers. The key benefits: greater
design flexibility, a reduction in printed-circuit-board (PCB) size, and lower
bill-of-materials (BOM) cost.

The new MSP430FR2355 ferroelectric random
access memory (FRAM) MCUs now offer an extended operating temperature range
from –40°C to 105°C, enabling the devices to be used in applications that
require higher operating temperatures like industrial factory automation
systems. Previously, the line offered a temp range of –40°C to 85°C.

The biggest benefit of this product line expansion is the
signal-chain configurability. The new MCUs provide engineers with greater
design flexibility by providing four smart analog combo modules that can be
integrated into a number of combinations. These modules can be configured into
multiple 12-bit digital-to-analog converters (DACs) and programmable gain
amplifiers, along with a 12-bit analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and two
enhanced comparators.

The four smart analog combos, configurable by the user, can
be configured independently of each other or linked internally. It allows the
developer to build up some fairly complex signal chains, said Dave Smith, TI’s
marketing manager.

“There is a lot of flexibility in each of these modules,” added
Smith. “Each module can be configured as either a 12-bit DAC or as an op amp or
programmable gain amplifier. The part also has a 12-bit ADC and two enhanced
comparators. When you take all of these blocks, you can start to build out some
nice system-on-chip configurations.”

The ultra-low-power FRAM MCU line also delivers more memory
and processing speed options. The family offers memory up to 32 KB (with 16-KB
options) and CPU speed operation up to 24 MHz. However, designers can scale
with the complete MSP430 FRAM MCU portfolio for designs that require more
memory, higher performance, and more analog peripherals. The higher-performance
lines within the MCU430 family include capacitive sensing and ultrasonic
sensing.

Still, the “value-line” MCUs pack a lot of flexibility with
the capability to configure one, two, three, or all four analog combo modules
in any configuration. This also makes them suitable for a variety of
applications, enabling designers to remain with the lower-cost devices rather
than scale up.

“When looking at considerations when designing products, we think
about design complexity,” said Smith. “This could be multiple components going
onto a board — a
microcontroller, op amp, DACs, and EEPROM memory. These parts can be used to
help reduce design complexity especially at the PCB level.”

One of the things that these new devices can do is integrate
a lot of those external components into a single chip, he added. It can reduce
component count, ease the design and layout, and reconfigure systems on the fly.

The family also offers value in terms of cost. “If we allow
customers to remove op amps, an external DAC, or external EEPROM, it starts to
add up from a pure component cost standpoint,” said Smith. “There are other
advantages, such as inventory management if you only have to purchase one
device rather than four or five components. Space savings also translates into
reduced PCB area in many cases, and that can help save some costs.”

TI-MSP430-40options

To kick-start your design, TI has introduced a new
MSP430FR2355 MCU LaunchPad development kit (MSPEXP430FR2355). LaunchPads are TI’s
self-contained hardware development tools. Key features include an eZFET
debugger with EnergyTrace, 40-pin BoosterPack headers, two LEDs, two user
pushbuttons, an ambient light sensor, and a Grove module interface to add
sensors/actuators. Reference designs are available for 4-mA to 20-mA
loop-powered temperature transmitters, smoke detectors, and thermostats.

Pricing: The LaunchPad dev kit is priced at
$12.99 at the TI store. Samples can also be purchased.