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Another Way To Make Your Own Metal Buttons

I have to say someday I’d like to make my own metal buttons.

In the past, I’ve covered Microchip’s mTouch metal-over-cap technology (here and here), which uses capacitive technology.  Microchip has a groovy app note which shows some of the ways you can use it, and has an eval kit available for ~$150 (base mTouch kit plus metal over cap accessory kit).

Now TI has a reference design for creating your own metal buttons using TI’s inductive sensor technology.  TI’s reference designs provide that: a reference design with layout, calculations, and notes.  You can’t buy them pre-made, but you can use them as a good starting point.

I’ve glanced through the manual for this reference design, and it is full of good info – and the design is pretty neat, too.  For example, it includes two different haptic types, ERM/LRM and piezo.  I have the HapTouch Booster Pack which features the same ERM/LRM haptics technology, and I’m not too impressed – it’s similar to the haptic feedback from a current smartphone.  (Note that I think the problem is with the basic ERM/LRM technology, not the controller).

Other approaches to non-moving metal buttons include piezo electric and ultrasonic.


March 19, 2015   No Comments

Notes from the EE Live! 2014 Exhibition

In early April I managed to sneak off work for a day and wander down to the San Jose Convention Center for the EE Live! 2014 Exhibition (formerly known as the Embedded Systems Conference).  The ESC has had its ups and downs, going from the San Jose Convention Center (which I like a lot) to the Moscone in SF (bigger, but not better), back to the SJCC, and next year, down to the Santa Clara Convention Center (which is a pretty nice setup, but not the location for major shows).

I skipped ESC last year, so I was surprised how much the show has shrunk.  On the plus side, there was a lot of exhibition floor training sessions, and all the ones I saw were well attended.  In fact, NXP skipped the product booth and only did training.  Since I do enjoy harassing talking to sales dudes and want to encourage companies to come back, I spent most of my time at the vendor booths.  Here are my show notes, which reflect my interests (which tend towards industrial applications, MCUs, and DSPs):

  • I was surprised at the size of the x86/x64 contingent: Intel, AMD, and a trio of motherboard manufacturers (Asrock, Supermicro, and MSI).  There were also several flash vendors.
    • I have to put in a plug for ASRock, because my desktop PC has an ASRock motherboard, and when it had a minor problem (PS/2 ports quit working), ASRock’s service was quite good.  However, the industrial division is separate (and much smaller), selling compact industrial motherboards direct or through distributors such as Logic Supply.
  • TI had a pretty big booth, showing off their more embedded-oriented lines (no C6x DSPs or analog), including the BeagleBone and the various LaunchPads.
    • TI’s EE Live! 2014 videos are available on Youtube.
    • TI still did their tool swap, so I traded an old Philips 8051 CAN dev kit for a shiny new Tiva Connected LaunchPad, which I have since donated to an eLua volunteer.  TI said the Connected LaunchPad was very popular.
    • I had fun discussing industrial safety (standards, light curtains, safety PLCs, and such) with the Hercules guys – and verified that the RM48 Hercules MCUs do indeed support double precision floating point.
    • It’s always fun to see motors run, and TI was demonstrating their InstaSPIN techology with a conveyor.  I had fun complaining about too many serial encoder protocols (Biss, EnDAT. SSI, Panasonic, Tamagawa, etc).
  • Microchip had a pretty big booth, with a wide array of products.  The new PIC32MZs are pretty impressive, but what I wanted to see was their metal-over-cap button technology.  Microchip has been improving it; this year they showed off metal dome capacitive buttons (my favorite, since they had good tactile feedback) and backlit buttons.
    • Microchip App Note AN1626 [PDF] has lots of interesting information on how to design and backlight metal over cap buttons.
    • The backlit buttons were a demo of Demmel’s metalLight technology.
    • The tactile buttons were a demo of grafos steel’s Click-Inox technology.




  • ST ran a lot of in-booth seminars;  I listened to the mbed presentation for a while (and now want to learn more).  I didn’t spend much time looking at their products since I’m pretty familiar with them.
    • ST was giving out STM32F401 Nucleo boards if you were lucky enough to get a goody bag (I managed to snag the second-to-last bag).  This Nucleo includes the sweet STM32F401 MCU, Arduino headers, and mbed compatibility (SDK (Software Development Kit) and HDK (Hardware Development Kit)).
  • Atmel didn’t have a booth: instead they had their roadshow trailer.  The coolest demo was a 3D printer, powered by Atmel of course.
  • NI had a booth showing off LabView and their hardware, including a motion-and-vision demo featuring Kollmorgen drives and motors.  I spent most of my time there discussing industrial applications with a guy from Xilinx who is interested in industrial applications (such as real time Ethernet) for FPGAs.
  • I took a class from Rhode & Schwarz on oscilloscopes basics, and received a free Digital Stimulus Board for my time.  My big take-away from the class: short, good grounds are critical (long, looping ground wires can be great antennas).  Their oscilloscopes are impressive and fun to play with, but quite a bit more advanced than I need.
  • I stopped by Pico Technology briefly to see what was new.  Pico makes what are probably the highest end USB oscilloscopes.  Some of the newest models support USB 3.0.  Another series has variable resolution (you can trade slower speeds for increased resolution).  Most of them are fairly large.  I asked about USB latency; the salesman said they used some tricks, but noted that they perform a lot of processing in the scope using a FPGA, so the USB connection isn’t as critical.
  • Vision Components was showing off their OEM smart cameras, so I stopped by as always to see what was new.
  • I stopped by Acces I/O and chatted about industrial Ethernet protocols and data acquisition.  Their USB-DA12-8A is one of the more affordable options if you need a precisely timed DAC output.  And they might have some good stuff coming in the Ethernet DAQ arena.
  • I talked briefly with Sealevel Systems; they make a variety of industrial grade computers, serial interfaces, digital I/O, and analog I/O.
  • Trinamic was showing off their stepper and DC motor drive chips, boards, and enclosed drives.  Although they’re not the best fit for my current requirements, they’re worth checking out, and have some low cost models (especially for the chips and boards).  Some models support CANOpen or EtherCAT.
  • Silvertel was showing off a variety of PoE modules, with prototypes up to 200W.  They claim their module pricing is cost-competitive with rolling your own up to medium volumes (say 1000’s or 10,000’s per year).

April 23, 2014   No Comments

Interesting Microcontrollers

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to follow embedded development, but unfortunately don’t have much time to do it, either at work or at home.  There truly is an amazing number of very capable microcontrollers, such as the ST STM32F4, NXP LPC18xx, and Microchip PIC32MZ, that most don’t stand out.  However, I’d like to highlight a couple MCU families that have uncommon features:

  • TI’s Tiva TM4C129x is a typical high end ARM Cortex M4F MCU with FPU, up to 256K SRAM, up to 1M flash, and lots of connectivity and other peripherals.
    • What’s unusual?  It includes an Ethernet PHY on chip (IIRC, the only other ARM MCU with PHY was TI Stellaris LM3S9B models, which are now legacy parts.  Freescale also has some MCUs with Ethernet PHYs, such as the Coldfire MCF5223X).
  • NXP’s LPC4370 is another Cortex M4 MCU, clocked at 204MHz,  with FPU, 264K SRAM, no flash, Cortex M0 co-processor, and lots of peripherals.
    • What’s unique?  An 80M samples/sec 6-channel 12-bit ADC.  Even if the ADC isn’t as good as a dedicated ADC chip, that’s still quite impressive, especially for the price (~$10 in small quantities).
  • Freescale’s Vybrid series features a Cortex A5 at up to 500MHz, optional Cortex M4 co-processor, 1.5M SRAM, no flash, and lots of communications peripherals; a low cost dev board is available.
    • What’s unusual?  The most SRAM in an affordable (VF3xx is <$12 in 100’s) and available chip; double precision FPU is also uncommon.  (Renesas has some MCUs with 1M SRAM, with up to 10M SRAM coming, but they aren’t widely available or affordable).
  • Cypress’ PSoC 5LP is a Cortex M3 MCU with up to 64K SRAM, 256K flash, 2 1M samples/sec ADC, and a 20-bit ADC.
    • What’s unique?  Cypress’ PSoC programmable analog peripherals combined with a powerful ARM core.
  • The XMOS xCORE-XA has a Cortex M3 core, up to 192K SRAM, up to 1M flash, and a $15 dev kit that attaches to a Raspberry Pi.
    • What’s unique?  It also has 7 deterministic XMOS cores, for a total speed of 500 MIPS, which can be used to create peripherals in software.  The concept is very similar to Ubicom’s chips (Ubicom started by making the speed PIC-compatible SX chips, then created a multi-threaded (IIRC) MCU.  They went bankrupt, and IIRC, Qualcomm bought their assets), and a bit similar to the Parallax Propeller (but much faster).  Note: the dev kit uses the xCORE-Analog A8 chip with  8 xCORES, but no Cortex M3.
  • Spansion’s FM series of MCU’s are a broad range of ARM-based MCUs.
    • What’s unique?  All series include parts that can run at 2.7V to 5.5V, which is very unusual for a 32-bit MCU.

Note that the Tiva and FM series aren’t in full production yet.

December 2, 2013   3 Comments

My Impressions From The TI Industrial Control Workshop

I went to the three day TI Industrial Control Workshop in Santa Clara.  Instead of repeating stuff (such as class outline) that you can read on the wiki link (above), I am going to give my impressions.

The bottom line: yes, the workshop is well worth attending if you like to (or just have to) control motors.  5/23/2013: I also want to add that I think this workshop is good for automation developers like myself.  OK, I’m not sure it’s worth flying to another city to attend, but if there’s one close (next one is 17-19 September 2013 at Brookfield, WI) then it’s good to attend — you’ll learn a lot more about what goes on underneath the covers of your VFD or servo drive.  I know I have a better understanding and appreciation of my drives.  Also, you can just about do the course on your own by downloading the materials, but it’s not the same experience.

Disclaimer:  I paid for this class myself (OK, at $79 it wasn’t a big deal – and the price includes snacks, lunch, and a F28069 controlStick); it was a very nice break from my typical workdays.

Update Feb 2014:I notice TI now has 4 videos from a more recent Control Theory Seminar, with the first episode here, and videos for the C2000 One Day Workshop, with the first module here (there’s also an older set of video modules).  I couldn’t find videos for Day 2 (Motion Control Theory), although TI has a wide variety of other motor control videos.  So download the materials, watch these videos, and you’re almost there!  (But I still recommend attending in person if you can).

Overall Notes

Considering TI must be subsidizing the workshop, it had amazingly little marketing content – less than a typical trade mag article.  There was no mention of TI products at all on the first day (control theory) and very little on the second day (mostly pride in TI’s new instaSpin solutions).  The third day was all about TI products (F28x DSP), but it was all about the product (architecture, peripherals, Code Composer Studio, etc), not marketing.

Overall, there were many good discussions, and lots of questions.  I enjoyed learning about what other people are doing.

I think all three instructors did a good job; the biggest issue was time – each class easily could’ve been at least a week, so they had a real challenge trying to fit in as much material as possible, explaining it in an understandable manner, while still answering questions (and all three did a good job of answering the many questions).

Day 1 – Control Theory (Richard Poley)

On day 1 I felt like I was back in college; it was like a month (or more!) of college stuffed into one day — and the soft-spoken instructor, Richard Poley,  reminded me of a college professor.

You do need to have a good math background to follow the theory.  Fortunately I had a lot of math in college, and I did some reviewing via wikipedia before the workshop.  I won’t claim I understood everything perfectly, but I felt I remembered enough to follow the basic concepts.

The theory got a little practical at the end of the day with sections on Digital Controller Design, Implementation Considerations, and a Suggested Design Checklist.

I’m pretty sure the vast majority of attendees don’t use control theory day to day.  I know I don’t; for example, we rarely have problems tuning motion controller PID loops.  So for me, the theory isn’t very useful for my day today tasks; in fact, trying to use it when it’s not necessary is a waste of time.

But it’s still good to know the theory for when the normal experienced-based approach doesn’t work.  (The same applies to programming, say sorting: if you have a small set of data, all sorting methods will be reasonably quick.  But if you have large data sets, knowing the theory of different sorting methods is critical).

I’m now interested in learning about state variable control theory, which is covered in the two day version of the Control Theory seminar, but it will be a while before I’ll be able to find time for project.

Day 2 – Motor Control Theory (Dave Wilson)

Dave Wilson is a motor geek and a primary contributor to TI’s Motor Control blog, which is a treasure trove of motor control information (even if you don’t use TI chips, since most of info isn’t TI-specific).

Dave Wilson emphasized AC induction motors and servo motors, because none of us were interested in stepper motors.  He covered motor control theory and all the common algorithms (such as field oriented control).  He discussed advantages and disadvantages of the different motor types and motor control algorithms.  He did a good job of answering the many questions.  And, yes, he is very excited by TI’s instaSPIN solutions (especially instaSPIN-FOC).

I really like Dave Wilson’s Power Point and VisSim animations that graphically showed what was going on to make the motors spin.

Day 3 – Intro to F28x (Ken Schachter)

This day was a rapid fire introduction to the F28x DSP series.  The instructor, Ken Schachter, gave an overview of the peripherals, an overview of the available software such as controlSuite, and then we spent a lot of time doing labs that showed off some of the Code Composer Studio (CCS) goodness (like graphing memory).

I’d call the class an orientation – I wouldn’t even say I become comfortable, but I do feel like I got my feet wet with the tools, and have a better idea of how to start.  CCS is pretty intimidating at first, and TI does provide a lot of libraries and examples.

May 21, 2013   No Comments

BeagleBone Black: Great Control Potential for $45

The BeagleBone Black is out, and many are comparing it to the Raspberry Pi (RPi) and Arduino.  Compared to the previous BeagleBone, the major changes are the price ($45, down from $90), a HMDI output,  more speed (1Ghz vs 720MHz),  more memory (512MB DDR3L instead of 256MB DDR2) and 2G on-board eMMC flash memory.  The BeagleBone Black also has a 100BaseT Ethernet port, a USB 2.0 HS host port, a USB 2.0 client (device) port, and a microSD slot.

Note: in May 2014, the BBB Rev C is coming, with eMMC flash memory doubled to 4G, and price increased to $55.  It’s very possible third parties will continue to make the Rev B.

If you just want a little Linux box for learning and compact computing tasks, the BB-B is just a little more than the RPi: a little more expensive ($45 vs $25/$35), a little faster (1GHz vs 700MHz), a little more flash (2G eMMC vs nothing) — and a lot less popular (by volume, the RPi has outsold by BeagleBoard + BeagleBone by at least 10:1, although that probably will change now with the Black’s lower price).

But the BeagleBone’s great potential is as a controller, not a RPi clone, since it has excellent digital peripherals (better than many microcontrollers)  available on its 2 46-pin connectors.

This Bone isn’t perfect.  I really wish the new Bone had 1G Ethernet (since it has 1G MACs) instead of 100M Ethernet.  Since the BeagleBone’s pins are heavily multiplexed, you can’t use all the peripherals at the same time.  Some expansion pins are also used by the system (e.g. one of the I2C channesl must be shared with the cape ID memory).   (11/1/2013 – from following the BeagleBone group, I’d say pin conflicts can be a big issue, though it’s far to note this is true on most embedded processors.  Also, note that the only potentially shareable cape pins are the “bus” pins such as I2C and SPI).

So what’s available on the expansion connectors?

Expansion Communications

  • 1 McASP buffered serial port (e.g. for audio devices)
  • 2 SPI ports
  • 2 I2C ports
  • 4 UART ports
  • 2 CAN ports

Memory and Parallel Bus

  • 2 MMC channels (the BB-Black uses one of these for its eMMC memory).
  • GPMC (General Purpose Memory Controller, a 100 MHz 16-bit external bus)

Timers and DIO

  • 4 Timers
  • 2 eCAP (enhanced capture) units
  • Up to 66 GPIO (general purpose I/O)


  • 7 Multiplexed 1.8V analog inputs going to a 100KHz 12-bit ADC (the eighth channel is used by the system).

Motion Control Peripherals

  • 3 HRPWM (high resolution PWM) systems with 6 outputs.
  • 3 eQEPs (enhanced quadrature encoder inputs, used with incremental encoders).

At a glance, I’d say TI has “borrowed” theF28xHRPWM, eQEP, and eCAP peripherals for various other chips, including the Sitara chip used in the BeagleBone.  The F28x DSPs have a good selection of motion control software available from TI, such as the various InstaSPIN libraries and controlSuite.  TI has ported some of their motion control software to the Stellaris and Hercules lines, but not to the Sitara.  It’d be great if they did, but not even TI has infinite resources, and the payback probably isn’t there; after all, the volume motor control market is in stuff like cars and clothes washers, and those guys aren’t going to replace a $3 DSP with a $15+ Sitara module (MPU, DRAM, flash, etc).

PRUSS (Programmable Realtime Unit Sub-System)

I’ve always been intrigued by programmable co-processors, going back to the days of the Freescale (Motorola) MC68332, which has a TPU (Timing Processing Unit).  I’m pretty sure the TPU was mainly used in high volume applications (not by many hobbyists), although Circuit Cellar Ink did run a series on programming it.  The MC68332 was used for motion control in several Galil controllers.

TPUs and improved TPUs were also used in a variety of ColdFire and PowerPC microcontrollers.  Freescale also developed a communications co-processor, the QUICC Engine, which was used in a variety of PowerPC MCUs such as the MPC8360.  Recently, I think Freescale has moved away from co-processors, possibly due to the increased speed of MCUs.  For example, none of the QorIQ PowerPC chips have the QUICC Engine.

TI has used similar co-processors before, such as the HET (High End Timer), NHET, and N2HET on many Hercules safety MCUs, the CLA (Control Law Accelerator) on some C28x DSPs, and the original PRUSS on earlier Sitara MCUs.

The BeagleBone’s unit is officially called the PRU-ICSS (Programmable Realtime Unit – Industrial Communications SubSystem); it’s easy to see why, since peripherals include 1 12Mbps UART (perfect for Profibus), 2 Ethernet MII’s, 1 MDIO, and 1 eCAP.  TI provides drivers using the PRU-ICSS for real time industrial networks such as Profibus, EtherCAT, and Ethernet PowerLink.

The PRU-ICSS has two 32-bit processors inside that run at 200 MHz, with each instruction taking one cycle, so it’s great for deterministic tasks, especially if the BeagleBone is running a non-real time OS.  TI has released PRU development tools, and a Linux driver.

I think the PRU-ICSS can be used for a lot of things that it wasn’t designed for, and open source is already making a difference.  For example, there’s the PyPRUSS software.  The PRU is already being used for stepper control by BeBoPr and Replicape capes.  Another possible PRU use is producing precise, high speed digital waveforms for test.

5/23/2013: some additional PRU notes: according to a g+ discussion by Charles Steinkuehler, the GPIO logic can only be updated every 40nS, which limits its maximum GPIO frequency.  Also, there’s a good BBB PRU overview and getting started guide here.  11/1/2013: I’ve seen various discussion on how fast the PRU can toggle, so do your own research first if you need ultra-fast bit toggling.

5/28/2013: here’s another creative use of the PRU: interface to a serial mode LCD.


BeagleBone capes are similar to Arduino shields: they’re boards that stack onto the BeagleBone’s expansion bus.  Theoretically, you can use up to 4 capes at one time, but the practical limit is typically much less, since the expansion pins have many different uses, and if the capes fight over the pins, the result won’t be pretty.

Capes currently available or available soon include RS232, RS485, Profibus, 1-wire, CAN (with driver and connector), prototyping area,  stepper motor drivers, camera, WiFi, LCD touchscreens, and FPGAs.  The variety of capes make it that much easier to create a one-off BeagleBone system to perform a specific task.  Most capes cost more than the BeagleBone Black.

Operating Systems

Operating system support includes several Linux variants (including the  Xenomai real time framework for Linux), Android, Minix3 (port in progress), several commercial RTOS’s (at least QNX, Integrity, Nucleus+), SYS/BIOS, and the no-OS StarterWare.

Linux adds a lot of power, but it also adds a lot of complexity, especially when all you want to do is simple I/O.  To make the BeagleBone easier to use, the BeagleBoard folks have produce Bonescript, a node.js based language featuring Arduino-style functions.  Bonescript can run in a brower or in the Cloud9 IDE.

TI has realized that not everyone wants or needs a OS, so TI created StarterWare.  StarterWare components include peripheral drivers, the IwIP TCP/IP stack, MMC/SD drivers, and simple graphics borrowed from StellarisWare.

StarterWare can also be combined with an OS; TI’s SYS/BIOS combines StarterWare with a RTOS, and is used by the real time Ethernet drivers for the Sitara AM3359-based ICE (Industrial Communications Engine).  Since the BeagleBone uses a similar CPU (AM3358 or AM3359), it should be easy to get the Sitara SYS/BIOS working (although the EtherCAT client won’t work on a AM3358).

The BeagleBone’s Place In The Linux World

There are other ultra low cost (<$50) Linux boards, including the aforementioned Raspberry Pi, the OLinuXino ($30-$80), the Aria G25 SOM, the Cosmic board (based on the intriguing Freescale Vybrid SoC) and possibly others.  If you just want to run Linux, and maybe use some I2C, SPI, or UART ports, all will do the job.

The i.MX233 and Allwinner A13-based OLinuXino’s have two big advantages: they’re easier to use in your own design because they do not use any BGA chips (which are unaffordable to assemble in small quantities), and the schematics are in Eagle PCB (which is much more affordable than Allegro which is used by the BeagleBone).

The BeagleBone’s big advantages are its peripherals (especially the PRUSS, GPMC, HRPWM, and eQEPs, which give it a big edge in control applications) and its expanding cape ecosystem, which make it easier to get something built without doing a lot of custom design.  It really is a kind of Raspberry-Duino.

Beagle CNC

The BeagleBone is a natural for CNC with its networking, fast CPU, PRU-ICSS, PWMs, and QEPs.  Here are some BeageBone CNC resources:

The BeagleBone’s Place In The Embedded World

All of the ultra low cost Linux boards provide a lot of bang for the buck.  For example, the BeagleBone Black versus the Arduino Due (~$50) looks like no contest: 1GHz vs 84MHz, 512M DRAM vs 96K SRAM, 2G flash vs 512K flash.  The Due has better analog I/O, but the ‘Bone has better digital I/O, Ethernet, high speed USB, and more.

Arduinos are still going to be around because of its extensive ecosystem and ease of use.  Heck, BASIC Stamps are still around.  For example, my nephew is getting an Arduino because of its simplicity, the size of Arduino ecosystem (it’s so easy for him to find examples), and because he’s not ready to benefit from the BeagleBone’s extra features.

Custom PCBs with microcontrollers aren’t going anywhere, either.  Think about the challenges in fitting a RPi or BeagleBone into a case that fits your product, but still provide access to all of the connectors…  And, if you don’t need the extra compute power, these little Linux boards still add cost, complexity, size, and power compared to a single chip microcontroller.

I think BeagleBone could use an easy to hack, close to the metal solution such as a straight port of eLua, or a “eLua-JIT” port consisting of the LuaJIT Just-in-Time Lua compiler, libraries similar to eLua’s, resting on the base of StarterWare or maybe SYS/BIOS + StarterWare.

I think the BeagleBone is similar to the PC: frequently used in embedded applications because they provide great price/performance, and rapid development because there’s lots of hardware, software, and documentation available.  Similarly, the BeagleBone might cost more than a full custom solution, but for one-off or small volume projects can provide a much quicker solution with its software (Linux, Android, etc) and available capes.  (To be fair, the Arduino already provides a similar environment for rapid prototyping).

My verdict: next time I order from Mouser/Digikey/Newark, I’ll be adding a BeagleBone Black; my next challenge will be finding time to play with it…

P.S. – After I wrote all of this, I realized that most of my post also applies to the original BeagleBone — except the Black’s price is 50% lower, and that makes all the difference in the world.  Last year, if I had needed a little Linux controller board, I would have seriously considered the RPi over the BeagleBone; now, using the Black is the obvious choice for me.

P.P.S. 11/1/2013 – I’ve done some more updating.

May 7, 2013   2 Comments

Learning Servo Motion Control

Although I use commercial motion control equipment, I enjoy learning about the fundamentals of servo motor control.  I’m currently going through the posts in TI’s Motor Control blog; they have a high signal to marketing ratio, and include a lot of non-obvious tips, like the best time to measure current.

The posts include a number of simulations which are helpful in understanding the different control topologies.  However, there is still no substitute for spinning actual motors.

Commercial controllers are great at getting you up and running quickly, but don’t let you play with different control techniques.  For learning, motion control development kits are the way to go.

My dev kit is TI’s DRV8312-C2 kit with a F28035 DSP, DRV8312 brushless DC driver chip, and servo motor (unfortunately TI didn’t include a dual shaft model, but I have plenty of servo motors with encoders).  TI’s ControlSuite software provides a variety of control methods.

May 3, 2012   No Comments

TI Slashes Code Composer Studio Prices

I’ve had a fun time watching CAD pricing gyrations, especially Alibre’s pricing. TI has also varied pricing on Code Composer Studio (CCS) Platinum; most of the time it’s been $3595, it was $995 for a couple months, and it’s been around $2000. All the time the annual maintenance was $600/year.

Now a new node-locked license is $445 and annual maintenance is $99/year. A floating license is $795 with annual renewal at $159/year. TI calls this Promotional Pricing, so the price may go up, but with the drop in the yearly maintenance, I think they’ll keep the prices low.

Deelip and others think pricing too low is bad for CAD. I think there’s a point to this: the CAD (and embedded) market size is only somewhat elastic, and there are significant switching costs, so if you cut prices too much, your market size won’t increase much, but your revenues will go down.

However, TI is in the semiconductor business, not the software business, and the point of CCS is to sell more TI chips. Also, unlike the CAD space, there is significant open source competition (gcc and such). My guess is that TI will, over several years, significantly benefit from this; I suspect a major goal is to increase microcontroller developers’ familiarity with the rest of the TI processor (MCU, MPU, DSP) lineup. For example, my brother is more likely to design in a TI C6000 or OMAP processor after this price cut.

CCS is a great value; it includes the IDE and development tools for all of TI’s processors (MSP430 MCU, C28xx DSP, Stellaris MCU, C5000 DSP, C6000 DSP, TMS570 safety MCU, high-end ARM, etc) and a royalty free run time license for TI’s DSP/BIOS RTOS. Most commercial embedded IDE’s are quite pricey, typically starting at $1000 or more for a single architecture.

October 22, 2011   No Comments