New Industrial Microcontroller Reduces, Space, Power Requirements

Texas Instruments Integrates PHY and MAC in New TM4C Microcontrollers

TM4C129x Specifications.

In fast-changing fields like computer technology, very few designs and concepts have a long life, especially on the order of several dozen years. The Harvard CPU architecture is one, having first gained a following in the 1940s and has carried on until today with some of the latest microprocessor chips. Another example is the layered network architecture, which achieved prominence with Arpanet and its mammoth successor, the Internet. These two design concepts are at the heart of the latest Texas Instruments offerings in process control and automation, the TM4C129 microcontroller.


Critical, Real-Time Control

Above, an experimental solar panel array at
Brookhaven National Laboratory
on Long Island. N Nat

The latest TM4C microcontroller, the TM4C129XNCZAD, provides a class of highly connected designs that allow critical, real-time control. The MCU features integrated communication peripherals along with other useful analog and digital modules to provide a foundation for a number of diverse target uses.

Among its performance features are an ARM® Cortex® -M4F-based processor core, 120 MHz clock, a large hierarchical memory (1024 KB flash memory, 256 KB SRAM, 6KB of EEPROM, internal ROM loaded with C-Series software), and spigots for additional memory or peripherals. Its security features include CRC redundancy checking, data encryption, a hash accelerator and support for up four tamper detection devices. Communications interfaces include an array of UARTs, USB ports, 10/100 Ethernet MAC, and Ethernet PHY. Specifications appear below.

Because of its power and versatility, the TM4C129x series of microcontrollers are adaptable to many application areas running the gamut from solar power inverters, network system management, programmable logic controllers and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Having so many functional units within one device is particularly appealing in applications where space is at a premium. The data protection features are welcomed where reliability and security are important, and these days, where are they not?

With IoT devices propagating through the world, applications for compact, highly-connectable modules abound. Among them are networked industrial components such as meters, controllers and gateways, interconnected residential and commercial building systems and industrial inverters and motor drives. The TM4C129x MCUs were designed with those challenges in mind.

Solar power applications are mentioned in the TI promotional literature in passing, but if ever there was a growth industry in need of strongly-connected, far-flung, and robust components, solar is it. TM4C MCU-based systems can be used in power conversion, metering, regulating and securing the systems that tap this important energy source.


Less Space, Lower Power Consumption

With the introduction of the TM4C129x MCU family, the advantages of an MCU with integrated MAC/PHY are now available. With the Ethernet PHY integrated into the MCU, board space requirements, power consumption and system cost are all reduced. And as usual, TI brings a number of engineer-friendly features to the design table. Among them are development tools, LaunchPads, application notes, upward compatibility and interoperability with the entire TM4C Series of MCUs, and an extensive user community. Sound design techniques and many decades of experience has created a series of industrial automation products that are extremely powerful and easy to use.

The latest micro-controller from TI is no exception. If integrated PHY and MAC are a next logical step in control system integration, and IoT designs then TI has a graceful stride.

Texas Instruments has sponsored promotion of their power management systems on They have no editorial input to this post – all opinions are mine.  Arnie Peskin