An introduction to Arm Cortex-M0 DesignStart

Phil Burr and Tim Menasveta , Mar. 09, 2017 – 


The availability of the Arm Cortex-M0 processor within Arm's DesignStart portal makes designing and prototyping a Cortex-M0 based system-on-chip (SoC) much easier. Quick and free-of-charge access to one of the most licensed Cortex-M processors speeds up the development and validation of new, custom SoCs that will enable the growth of smart connected devices.

Combine this with the availability of a low-cost, simplified, fast-track license to the Cortex-M0 for the commercialization phase of the development means that a custom SoC based backed by the #1 ecosystem of tools, software and operating systems is now more readily available.

So what is this Cortex-M0 DesignStart package and what can a developer do with it?

The first thing to know is that there are two components to the Cortex-M0 DesignStart. The first component is the Cortex-M0 DesignStart Design Kit, which is an RTL package containing the Cortex-M0 DesignStart processor preintegrated with an AHB sub-system. In the hands of a Verilog system designer, the package allows for system design and simulation with a suitable Verilog simulator. The second component is the Cortex-M0 DesignStart FPGA Prototyping Kit, which is an FPGA image of the Cortex-M0 DesignStart processor pre-integrated with an AHB subsystem that works with Arm's Versatile Express MPS2 FPGA prototyping board. The AHB subsystem portion of the FPGA image can be customized, by adding or removing logic, to the users' system requirements.

The two components allow a system designer to design and test on a simulator, and then move their design to an FPGA for hardware prototyping.

The Cortex-M0 DesignStart Design Kit can be accessed via the Arm DesignStart portal (designstart.arm.com). Users will need to register, and once approved an email will be sent with instructions on how to download the kit. We do need to do some checks before approving and we do need to set up users on the system, hence it may take approximately one week to do this. For those users who wish to move on to FPGA simulation, instructions on downloading the Cortex-M0 DesignStart FPGA Prototyping Kit are provided in the Design Kit.

By agreeing to an on-line end user license agreement (EULA), the two components can be easily accessed and used for design and prototyping. Once ready for manufacturing, a simplified fast-track license agreement offers the licensee rights to manufacture the Cortex-M0 based device through a low-cost, standardized license agreement. More information on the fast-track purchasing option can also be accessed at designstart.arm.com.

There are some requirements, in terms of tools, that potential users of the Cortex-M0 DesignStart Design Kit and of the Cortex-M0 Design Start FPGA Prototyping Kit, should be aware of. In addition to providing an overview of these two components, this white paper describes these tool-related requirements.

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