The other day, I happened to run across some samples that I had ordered of the Microchip PIC32MZ a while ago but never had an opportunity to place into a test circuit. I really like the Microchip devices, even though most of the ARM work that I have done has been with either the PSoC devices from Cypress, or with the STM32 family of devices from STMicroelectronics.
Yes, I go with what I know to avoid potential pitfalls encounter when trying new things.
So, why bother looking at Microchip?
Microchip still makes non-BGA package variants of every device. Many even are available as SSOP or QFN/QFP variants with under 100 leads! The ones that I found in the lab happen to be 64-lead QFN devices. Woot!
Packaging is a huge deal, at least to me, since most of the boards on which I work are small, and more importantly, low-tech (no micro vias). Also worth mentioning is that the boards are generally hand assembled prototypes. Since I value my eyesight, don’t have infinitely deep pockets, and might want to have a sip of coffee, I generally steer clear of BGA-type components unless absolutely required.
SoC Specs at 100,000 feet
It boils down to this: The PIC32MZ is a high-performance system-on-a-chip that sports up to 2 MB of Flash for applications and 128K, 256K or 512K of RAM. There is a high speed ADC (18Msps) for analog measurements, along with a host of other peripherals (most are standard to any MCU) plus a limited MMU. Yes, this has an actual memory management unit and it is theoretically capable of running Linux; albeit a very, very, very RAM constrained version.
So, I downloaded the 736 page datasheet and started digging into the design of a board. The goal is to build a small card to try out the MZ using breakout cards I have or can easily obtain online. For this card I will be implementing a Feather Wing compatible footprint.
The Starting Line
Rather than start from a completely new board design, I looked at Callisto as a starting point. Callisto already has most of the hardware I’ll need. It also has a Feather Wing compatible footprint. Next time, I’ll get into the specifics of what was altered to replace Callisto’s STM32F413 with the beefy PIC32MZ2048EFM064.