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How is microcontroller system development carried out?

Latest Updated:04/01/2006

Question:

How is microcontroller system development carried out?

Answer:

Generally, the development flow steps are as follows.
(1) System design
(2) Parts procurement
(3) Prototype hardware development
(4) Program development
(5) Operation verification and debugging, using in-circuit emulators, simulators, evaluation boards, etc.
(6) ROM programming
(7) Operation verification using actual chip
(8) Development of mass-production board version
(9) Ordering of mask ROM
(10) Operation verification of mask-ROM versions

At step (1), a microcontroller version is selected to suit the system requirements, the operation modes are defined for the microcontroller's internal functions, external connections and addresses are assigned, the processing flow is created, and so on.

Some of the development work at steps (3) and (4) are performed concurrently, by dividing tasks among hardware and software.
At step (3), the board's hardware is designed and components (other than the microcontroller) are mounted. Since the product is still just a prototype at this stage, parts are socket-mounted and wires are either wrapped or soldered.

At step (4), a computer (PC, etc.) is used to create programs (for programming the product).
The programming language that is used is typically C language, or assembly language for certain CPU architectures.
After the programs are completed, they are sent to an assembler if they are in assembly language or to a C compiler if they are in C language, where they are converted to machine language.
Some C compilers convert the program in C to assembly language once, and then assemble it to machine language.
If there are numerous separate machine-language programs, a linker is used to associate (link) them.



At step (5), an IE (in-circuit emulator) and computer may be connected and used to execute programs deployed in the IE instead of using the microcontroller in the target system.
If any problems occur, a simulator or debugger is used to debug the logic and programs.
A socket adapter may be needed in cases where the microcontroller's planned package does not fit the IE's adapter.



At step (6), either a PROM programmer is used for a PROM (internal or external) device or a flash programmer is used for a flash memory device to write ROM code that has been converted from machine language programs created using a computer.



At step (7), the programmed ROM and the microcontroller under development are both mounted onto the target board and program operations are checked.
At step (8), a PCB (printed circuit board) version is created.

At step (9), mask-ROM versions for mass production are created.
In these mask-ROM versions, not only are the programs available but other functions also can be set via mask options.
For description of how these versions are ordered, see "ROM code ordering" (Japanese).
Finally, at step (10), the microcontroller from step (9) is mounted along with other required devices onto the PCB board from step (8), and a final round of operation checks is performed.
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