First Arduino-compatible 32bit MCU development platform launched

May 25, 2011 // By Phil Ling
Microchip Technology and Digilent have co-launched the first 32bit microcontroller-based, open-source development platform that is compatible with Arduino hardware and software. Designed and manufactured by Digilent, Microchip’s authorised design partner, the chipKIT platform is claimed to be the first and only 32bit Arduino solution in the industry.

It is intended to enable hobbyists and academics to easily, and inexpensively, integrate electronics into their projects, even if they do not have an electronic-engineering background. 

The platform consists of two PIC32-based development boards and open-source software that is compatible with the Arduino programming language and development environment, thanks to the work done by Mark Sproul and Rick Anderson through Fair Use Building and Research Labs. 

The chipKIT hardware is compatible with existing 3.3V Arduino shields and applications, and can be developed using a modified version of the Arduino IDE and existing Arduino resources, such as code examples, libraries, references and tutorials.  The platform provides an unprecedented level of features for the Arduino community, and four times the performance of any existing Arduino solution at a low price—the boards start at just $26.95 each.  A video can be viewed online at www.microchip.com/get/D268.

The PIC32-based chipKIT boards enable 80MHz performance, and provide up to 512 KB Flash, with up to 128 KB RAM.  The boards feature connectivity peripherals, including Ethernet, CAN, and USB (Full-Speed Host, Device and OTG); plus peripherals such as multiple timers, a 16-channel 1 MSPS Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC), two comparators, and multiple I2C, SPI, and UART interfaces.  Microchip states that a tremendous software engineering effort has been invested to ensure maximum compatibility with existing Arduino shields, applications and courseware. 

The Arduino programming environment has been modified and extended so that it supports the PIC32-based chipKIT boards, as well as traditional Arduino boards.   The Arduino standard libraries have been also been modified to support chipKIT boards and traditional Arduino boards.  All of this work has been contributed back to the open-source Arduino community. 

Aside from a small number of shields that require 5V operation, many existing Arduino hardware and software sketches are compatible with the chipKIT platform, without modification.

The chipKIT Uno32 development board is a clone of the Arduino Uno board, and features 128 KB Flash