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The first in China! Flathead just announced the open source risc-v core MCU chip design platform

via:博客园     time:2019/10/21 17:46:10     readed:61


The target group of open-source MCU chip design platform includes chip developers, IP suppliers, universities and scientific research institutes. Developers can design customized chips for subdivision based on this platform.

Article: Bao Yonggang

According to Lei Feng, pingtouge just announced the open source MCU chip design platform at the Internet Conference in Wuzhen. This is the first open source chip design platform company in China. It is also another new product of pingtouge after xuantie 910, Wujian SOC and Hanguang 800.

The target group of open source MCU chip design platform includes chip developers, IP suppliers, universities and scientific research institutes. Developers can design customized chips for subdivision based on the platform. IP suppliers can develop core IP that was born on the platform. Universities and scientific research institutes can carry out chip related teaching and research activities.

I. The first open source chip design platform in China

MCU chip design platform includes processor, basic interface IP, operating system, software driver and development tools. This open-source platform is equipped with xuantie 902 processor, providing UART, SPI, I2C, timer, PWM and other IP and drivers. Among them, based on risc-v architecture, xuantie 902 is compatible with rv32emc instruction set and adopts 2-level minimalist pipeline, which is suitable for IOT applications that are extremely sensitive to power consumption and cost. In the future, Flathead will open more IP and xuantie processors.

In August 2019, Flathead released a one-stop chip design platform without sword, which can provide a stable and reliable design platform and verification platform. It can help users save a lot of costs and time in the test, chip flow and other links, and reduce the chip design cost and design cycle by more than 50%.This open source MCU chip design platform belongs to the basic component of sword free platform. Flathead hopes to share the basic common ability of chip design to the whole industry in this way.

On the open source platform, users don't need to spend a lot of money to design the basic component IP in the early stage. What they need to do is to focus on defining the fragmentation scenarios and requirements, design and verify the domain oriented functional IP, and quickly complete the chip mass production.

The open source code of the platform includes basic hardware code and supporting software code, which has been published in GitHub open source community (link: https://github.com/t-head-semi).


What can 32-bit MCU do?

MCU and open source are not new, but open source of MCU platform has different significance. MCU (micro controller unit) can be translated into micro control unit, also known as single-chip microcomputer, similar to computer, MCU has CPU, memory, counter, USB and other interfaces. In the 1970s, Intel introduced an 8-bit MCU with limited functions. Nowadays, MCU has been widely used in communication, consumer electronics, automotive electronics, industrial control and other fields. For example, in the field of automobile, each car needs to use more than 70 MCU on average. The number of MCU used by high-end luxury cars may be more than double. Moreover, with the development of automobile intelligence, the number of MCU carried by each car will increase.

However, different products need different number of MCU, and the performance is also high or low. 8-bit MCU has dominated the market for a long time. Gartner, a market research company, pointed out in the 2014 global market share analysis report of microcontroller that 42 years after the launch of the first 8-bit MCU in the world, its market share is still as high as 39.7%, higher than the market share of 21.8% of 16 bit MCU and 38.5% of 32-bit MCU.

It was not until 2015 that the MCU market took a huge turn.According to the Market Research Report of IC insights in 2015, the global market size of MCU reached 16.8 billion US dollars in 2015, and the shipment volume was 25.5 billion PCs.The 32-bit MCU shipments exceed the sum of 4-bit, 8-bit and 16 bit MCU shipments, and will maintain a high-speed growth of about 30% in the next few years.

The very important driving force of this transformation is the demand of the Internet of things and automotive electronics. Compared with computers or smart phones, the main function of IOT devices is not computing, but to realize sensing, communication, control instructions and other functions. However, with the improvement of IOT devices' intelligent level, the demand for computing is also higher, which can be understood that the application of 32-bit MCU in the field of IOT is higher than 8-bit and 16 bit MCU.

Flathead will be suitable for the age of aiot MCU called the new generation MCU, with AI capabilities and cloud access capabilities is their biggest difference from the traditional MCU chip. In the age of aiot, most of the IOT devices need to carry the next generation MCU chip.IC insights predicted that the compound annual growth rate of the market scale of 32-bit MCU in the Internet of things in 2016-2020 is 17.6%, and the compound annual growth rate is 25.6%, far higher than the overall growth of 10% in the 32-bit MCU market.

III. what is the significance of the new generation MCU platform open source?

However, a very significant feature of the Internet of things market is the diversification of applications. In other words, the Internet of things, especially the aiot market integrating AI technology, will have many very diverse products.The standard and general 32-bit MCU can not meet the needs of low power consumption and low cost of all aiot applications, so the importance of customized MCU is highlighted.However, the chip industry has the characteristics of long cycle, high investment and high risk, so it is very difficult to customize a chip.

At this point, open source looks like a good choice. Bao Yungang, a researcher at the Institute of computing of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, director of the center for advanced computer systems research and Secretary General of the China open directive ecological alliance, pointed out that open source software is a relatively successful experience in the field of the Internet in terms of lowering the industry threshold. In his speech at ccf-gair 2019 hosted by CCF, hosted by Lei feng.com and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen), he mentioned that open source software can reduce the threshold of Internet innovation, users can easily build an app, 90% can use open source code, users only need to write 10%, or even less code to complete their own functions and achieve the business they want to do. In addition, open source software also improves the technology independence ability of Internet enterprises, enabling them to go to IOE and not be controlled by others like chips at the software level.

Bao said that if the chip field can learn from this open-source concept, the cycle of chip development iteration may change from year to month or even week, and the cost may also be reduced from billions to millions or even 100000.


But he believes that we may break the deadlock in the development process.In the field of chip design, there are some new trends in development. One of the big backgrounds is the many new opportunities brought by the aiot scenario.

In this way,Pingtouge open source MCU chip design platform is likely to break this deadlock.According to the official statement, Flathead brother's shared chip design ability and mass production ability is to change the basic process of chip design industry, so that chip design enterprises can focus more on IP design, especially domain oriented and competitive IP design.

In particular, from the start of risc-v kernel open source, hardware open source has become a trend and trend. In the era of PC and mobile Internet, all technologies are led by chip companies and OS companies, and industry standards are defined by several large companies. The advantages of this pattern lie in the convenience of development and the rapid establishment of ecology, but there are also huge disadvantages, such as over concentration of resources, very limited product form, and less and less innovative design.

Risc-v instruction set itself is open-source, and its biggest feature is scalability. It can be customized for different scenarios and performance requirements. From this point of view, the open-source MCU chip design platform based on risc-v core of Flathead can reduce the threshold for developers who want to enter the aiot market.

IV. Flathead model behind open source

Since it was announced last year, grub has issued three products. In July this year, the high-performance RISC-V architecture processor, Liu Tie 910, was released in August and September, and the SoC chip platform was released in succession.

On the one hand, Alibaba Group has accumulated in software and hardware, and on the other hand, Flathead has integrated Damo and Zhongtian micro, which was acquired last year. Zhongtian micro was founded in 2001 as a chip company, with 32-bit high-performance low-power embedded CPU and chip architecture authorization as its core business. Before being acquired, it had shipped 700 million chips, which were applied in smart city, smart home, multimedia and other fields.

Obviously, Pingtou brother did not participate in the chip market in the traditional way. When he released the sword-free platform, Pingtou put forward the chip design.Pingtouge mode, with sword free platform as the core, is open and integrated to the whole stack in the application field, realizing the deep integration of the core technologies of software and hardware such as processors, algorithms, operating systems, etc., breaking the limitations of high cost, difficult use and long cycle of the traditional business mode of IP authorization in the era of general chips, and providing enterprises with the full stack technology capability of chip design.


MCU open-source platform is the basic component of sword free platform. The difference between them is that the open-source platform supports users to carry out IP and chip development verification, while sword free platform can provide customers with one-stop chip design services, including supply chain management services such as agent production, packaging, testing, etc., chip product landing and market verification services, etc., covering chip research and development, mass production and landing. Full link support for.


The MCU open source platform can be seen as a recurring claim to gru

It's not hard to find that pingtouge is a new player in the chip field, but standing on the base of Alibaba's hardware and software technology, it coincides with a new round of technological change period led by aiot, and pingtouge is easier to innovate in both business model and product.

V. summary of Lei Feng

Internet giants have subverted social, retail, transportation, payment and other traditional fields with the Internet model. Now, Flathead has put forward the flathead model of chip design. With the introduction of sword free platform and open-source MCU chip design platform, Flathead has started to help the chip industry, lowering the threshold of chip design through the chip design platform, and promoting the development of the aiot era. Among them, the open source MCU chip design platform can lower the threshold of aiot chip developers and attract more people to join the aiot market, while the sword free platform can help enterprises to mass produce chips and land in the aiot market.

As for market acceptance, at present, Wujian has cooperated with a number of chip companies such as Qingwei, Dahua, yuntianlifei, Boya Hongtu, Hangzhou Weina, etc. The long-term effect of the pinhead model remains to be seen.

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