Freescale tweaks Cortex-M0+ MCU to squeeze die size down

By Chris Edwards |  No Comments  |  Posted: February 27, 2014
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Freescale Semiconductor has developed a successor to its ARM-based KL02 microcontroller that uses circuit-level and implementation improvements to shrink die size by more than 15 per cent on the same process node. The KL03 is the result of a change in processes that will see the chipmaker quickly spin successive devices that provide density, cost or performance improvements.

Geoff Lees, general manager of Freescale’s microcontroller division, claimed the KL03 is 35 per cent smaller than comparable MCUs from competitors, providing a 48MHz ARM Cortex-M0+ core alongside 32Kbyte of onchip flash, 2Kbyte of SRAM, a 12bit analog-to-digital converter and voltage reference. Through the use of chip-scale packaging, the device measures 1.6 x 2mm, for an area of 3.2mm2, down from the 4mm2 of the KL02.

“Finding a 20 per cent reduction in 4mm2 die is not easy but it has better power management on-chip, better analog, and more attention to detail on power architectures and power gating,” said Lees, adding that the device results from a change in approach to designing MCUs at the company. “The idea that we would release a product and stay stable for three or four years, that’s not happening anymoe. If we can see a way to take 40 per cent more power out, for example, we will do it.

“We are working on the same kind of achievement for the K series, and again it will be using the same process technology,” Lees said.

Although Freescale aims to squeeze more out of existing process nodes, the MCU operation plans to move quickly down the process curve to the 28nm node, which Lees sees as becoming potentially the most cost effective technology for 32bit MCUs that target smart devices and the Internet of Things.

“In just a few years, from the 28nm process, we will see an integration of functionality: mixed signal, non-volatile memory and on-chip RF together with embedded processing technology,” said Lees. “I hope in two or three years time to show something of similar size to the KL03 with the integration of all these functionalities.

“WIth the combination of process shrinks and design advancements, we see no end in sight to developing new and better MCUs,” Lees claimed.

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