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Process instruments include the electronics required to measure process variables, such as temperature, pressure, level and flow, using a variety of sensors and methods. Power consumption in active mode is critical for these products, as most field instruments are powered though a 4-20mA current loop interface, which strongly limits the available power budget for the electronics. Process instruments must often be able to operate in hazardous areas, and cannot buffer energy.

Atmel® has become a leading supplier of microcontroller for the manufacturers of industrial process instruments.

Features and Benefits

  • Atmel 32-bit microcontrollers can operate down to 1.62V and achieve sub 1mW/DMIPS power consumption figures.
  • Process instruments often operate the microcontroller at low frequencies to reduce power consumption. Atmel has optimized the Flash read accesses in these conditions.
  • The Atmel AVR 32-bit microcontroller and the Atmel ARM® Cortex™-M3 processor-based SAM3 family provide modern and efficient RISC architectures, supporting more complex signals.
  • Embedded DSP functionalities (MAC, saturating arithmetic) and FPU, along with middleware libraries to support them, considerably simplify signal conditioning.
  • Complex signal algorithms, field bus or industrial Ethernet support, functional safety test routines, and multi-language menus, require increasingly large embedded Flash support. Atmel offers 32-bit microcontrollers with embedded Flash up to 512KB.
  • Atmel microcontrollers integrate dedicated hardware mechanisms to support the implementation of the IEC61508 safety standard. Learn more about Atmel microcontroller safety functions.
  • Wireless communication is attractive for industrial sites with instruments dispersed over a large area. The Atmel wireless microcontroller product line provides the required hardware platform to build products compatible with the popular Wireless HART protocol. The Atmel best-in-class RF properties help increase range and make RF links more robust, yet highly efficient.
  • The Atmel CryptoAuthentication™ family of hardware security products provides easy-to-implement, cost-effective and low standby power solutions for secure communication to/from process instruments.
Process Instruments Diagram

The Atmel SAM3, SAM7 and the AVR UC3 32-bit families deliver a unique combination of low power and excellent signal processing capabilities.

  • Low power consumption
  • Efficient signal processing (DSP and FPU)
  • Wide Flash size availability
  • Sensor element and field bus connection
  • Safety functions according to IEC61508
  • Capacitive touch
  • Wireless microcontroller

Atmel Products

MicrocontrollerTouchSecure AuthenticationRF MicrocontrollerMemory
AVR UC3 B Series

ARM-based Solutions: SAM3S/7S

AVR XMEGA
Buttons, Sliders and Wheels

QTouch library

maXTouch™ Touchscreen controller
CryptoAuthentication
Single-chip (Microcontroller and Transceiver)

Transceivers

ZigBit Modules
CryptoMemory: Secure EEPROM

Serial EEPROM

Overview of the Atmel Safety Features

 FeaturesAtmel SAM3 FamilyAtmel AVR XMEGA FamilyAtmel AVR UC3 Family
Code IntegrityFlash with write protectionSelectable flash regionsApplication and boot sectionSelectable flash regions
Dual BankYes (SAM3U)  
Flash ChecksumCRC unit (SAM3S)CRC UnitSoftware
WatchdogRunning from an internal RC oscillatorYesYesYes
Lock functionLocked after first writeLocked per fuseKey protected
Window modeYesYesYes (AVR UC3)
Software RunawayMemory Protection UnitYesNoYes
Lock function for the IO registerYes, using the MPUYesYes, using the MPU
Lock function for the Clock ConfigurationYesYesYes
Lock Event System ConfigurationN/AYesYes
Clock FailureStart-up from internal RC oscillatorYesYesYes
Main clock failure detectionYes (SAM3S)YesYes
Automatic switch to the internal RCYes (SAM3S)YesYes

Atmel AVR and ARM Comparison

CPUAVR FamilyARM-based Solutions
Product FamilyAVR XMEGA 8/16-bit microcontrollerAVR UC3 32-bit microcontrollerSAM3 microcontrollerSAM9 MPU
CPU FeatureBest-in-class 8/16-bit RISC hardware multiplier32-bit RISC with DSP support (Single cycle MAC, saturation)Cortex-M3 with MPUARM926-EJ
Active Mode0.5 mW/MHz< 1mW/MHz1 mW/MHz0.125mW/MHz
Wait Mode0.55µA70µA4.6µA8mA
RTC Mode0.55µA1.6µA1.6µA9µA
Power Down< 100nA100nA100nA 
Field InstrumentTemperature, Low-end Pressure & FlowTemperature, Pressure, Flow, Level, AnalysisTemperature, Pressure, Flow, Level, AnalysisLevel, Flow, Liquid Analysis

Learn more about the Atmel solution Application Notes, Devices, and Tools and Software.