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Technology / AI and automation


SGS-Thomson Microelectronics NV has announced the ST10 F166, a new 16-bit microcontroller with on-chip flash EPROM memory, based on core 16-bit microcontroller technology from Siemens AG. This is the first product of the collaboration with Siemens, and the first working samples of the device have been available since December. SGS-Thomson says the new controller takes it into high-performance applications for the automotive, telecommunications and industrial markets it already serves. The agreement with Siemens was signed back in March 1990, with the aim of providing a comprehensive and integrated common solution for high-end 8-bit and 16-bit microcontroller applications. SGS-Thomson’s expertise is in memory, and the non-volatile flash technology is its own. A 32-bit bi-directional bus is used to interface 32Kb of flash memory to the Siemens 16-bit microcontroller core, all on one chip. The flash memory is, according to the company, easily programmed like an EPROM but erased electronically like EEPROM, the in-circuit erasability rendering the device useful for control applications requiring multiple code updates or data parameter modifications – such as in the reprogramming of system parameters in engine control units over the life cycle of a car. The flash memory is organised into four banks of 12Kb, 12Kb, 6Kb and 2Kb, which are arranged as 8Kb by 32Kb. This partitioning is designed to enable bank modifications apparently not possible with EPROM devices; 32 bits are written in 100mS, a typical erasure time being one second with a 12V power supply. The minimum internal 32-bit access time is 100nS. Currently 100 write-erase cycles are specified but SGS-Thomson expects this will increase to 1,000 and eventually 10,000 write-erase cycles. Development tools are ready now; engineering samples will go out to some customers in the second quarter with commercial sampling starting in the fourth. SGS-Thomson expects to see the devices implemented in automotive engines, cable television decoders, hard disks and mobile telecommunications kit. This is the first product in a range of new ST10 devices, all to be targeted at high-end applications requiring real-time control, featuring RISC-like execution times. SGS-Thomson, which makes its products in Italy, is currently migrating to a 0.8 micron CMOS process like its competitors.

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