Renesas’s RX72M MCUs for Ethernet-supported Industrial Applications

4 months ago by Sam Holland

Renesas's RX72M product line for industrial applications comprises of the RX family’s highest performance and memory capacity to date.

The increase in Ethernet communication efficiency, the need for miniaturisation, and of course the demand for security, are all crucial elements that need to be taken into account for engineers developing industrial applications. All of these aspects are reflected in the below 3 examples, which show just some of the RX72M line's key features.

 

3 Key Features of the RX72M MCUs

Alongside having 4 MB of Flash memory and the highest static random access memory (1 MB) of any other entry in the RX MCU group to accommodate memory-intensive middleware systems, the RX72M product line also achieves such feats as the following:

  • EtherCAT Support—They’re the first entry in the RX MCU family to provide a slave controller for the said EtherCAT system;
  • Space Saving—They help to offer engineers flexible, compact circuit board real estate, thanks to the MCUs’ combination of space saving and a high pin count: 176-pin low-profile quad flatpacks (LQFPs), and 176-pin ball grid array (BGA) configurations; plus, they even offer the RX family’s first 224-pin BGA package; and
  • Reliable Cryptography Functions—They offer high hardware security due to their memory protection and encryption systems, which altogether ensure both copy protection and support for equipment authentication.

 

EtherCAT Technology Group’s graphic impression of their EtherCAT solution. Image courtesy of EtherCAT.

 

Ethernet Control Automation Technology Support

The fast-growing EtherCAT, 1 of the 8 industrial Ethernet products recommended by Renesas (second only to Profinet), is a leading Ethernet fieldbus with a self-proclaimed “virtually limitless... network topology”, due to both its absence of hubs and switches, alongside its automatic link detection and almost boundless node availability.

As mentioned, the RX72M is the first RX family to support EtherCAT, which means that the MCUs grant a new level of connectivity and efficiency to engineers who are designing industrial applications: for the reasons touched on above, EtherCAT boasts both its affordability and compatibility with several areas of automation—including automatic T&M, and of course, robotics (such as mechanical arms and automated guided vehicles).

By introducing the integration of on-chip EtherCAT slave functions, Renesas maintains that it has reduced industrial equipment designers’ overall BOM—and even accommodated the engineering industry’s increasing demands for miniaturisation (a feat which is discussed more directly below).

 

Space Saving

Again, miniaturisation is a key consideration when it comes to designing industrial systems. Industrial system designers will continue to encounter challenges in space constraints as circuit boards and other components ‘shrink’ exponentially. Accordingly, citing Renesas’s “extensive embedded design expertise”, the VP of Renesas’s Industrial Automation Business Division, Akira Denda, said this:

“[A]s a leading global MCU supplier and solution provider for industrial networks, ... Renesas introduces the RX72M devices, which allow approximately 50 per cent reduction in circuit board area compared with earlier devices, ... offering customers an easy and flexible path to industrial equipment design."

The RX72M group’s “revolutionary solutions for circuit board miniaturisation” (to again quote Akira Denda) include the best-of-both-worlds approach of having both ~50 per cent space saving solutions in place, alongside the said flexible and high-pin options of MCU packaging—altogether offering industrial system designers more room to work with, at a time when miniaturisation matters more than ever.

 

Security Functions

Last but not least, the RX72M MCUs tackle the increasingly-prevalent need for security in MCU design, namely in the form of its encryption module. As touched on, some of the chief security functions baked into the hardware concern copy protection (e.g. from IP thieves) and equipment authentication measures.

Such features are covered by Renesas’s 4 memory protection systems: code protect, trusted memory, area protection, and a memory protection unit. And the RX72M group is the first RX entry to include all of these aspects and more: its list of encryption features, including the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and a true random number generator (TRNG), are all also active in the product line, as per Renesas’s RX Security page and their table below.

 

A table that shows the active and inactive hardware-based security features in Renesas’s RX family of microcontrollers. Note that the RX72M product line in questions ‘ticks all the boxes’. Image courtesy of Renesas.

 

Ultimately, just as Renesas’s use of both EtherCAT and circuit board space saving has accommodated the modern requirements for leading Ethernet connectivity and miniaturisation, so too has its RX72M line addressed the current need for security at the hardware level, through memory protection and encryption measures.

 


Samples of Renesas’s RX72M series of microcontrollers are available now, and their production is planned for September 2019. For more information, visit Renesas’s product page.

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