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Holtek HT48F: In-house or Outsourced Programming

High-performance and affordable RISC microcontrollers from Taiwanese manufacturer HOLTEK are now also available as programmable Flash microcontrollers. This new product is an interesting alternative to mask ROM products and ideal for large production quantities.

The difference in price between mask ROM products and programmable Flash microcontrollers is becoming increasingly smaller. And how much more flexible is a Flash microcontroller, say in comparison to OTP technologies?

More and more often special module-specific information (e.g. IP addresses, MAC addresses, version, production data, etc.) is needed in the Flash program memory or EEPROM data memory. This is outwith the realm of mask products.

In Holtek Flash Microcontrollers, however, it must not be forgotten that the demanding memory conditions needed to save, for instance, serializable data makes manufacturing programming particularly challenging, too. One requirement, for instance, is a high processing rate for manual or automatic programming, while another is a reliable, transparent programming method for the module-specific data in this complex process. Such processes have to guarantee 100% traceability - an absolute must in view of today's high quality standards.

There are two possible ways of meeting these requirements: either use suitable programming systems with production-friendly operating software in-house or, alternatively, outsource the work to external programmers. ertec GmbH covers both possibilities. To programme medium-sized quantities of Holtek MCU's, it would be feasible to carry out the programming, marking and re-packaging in-house on manual programming stations. ertec's production-friendly user interface PSI67 (from the PGS67 modular programming system) provides all the necessary features - from the OTP or MTP file, which is created directly from the output files of the HOLTEK development system HT-IDE3000 (available free), right up to the fully programmed, verified, labelled and fully documented HOLTECK MCU Flash series in various package types (DIP, SKDIP, SOP, SSOP, LQFP).

For larger quantities that may even involve module-specific programming data in MCU Flash or EEPROM an automatic programming process is essential. Investing in such complex programming robotics only makes sense financially in the case of a few large-scale projects (i.e. for large quantities). In the majority of cases it makes more sense to outsource the programming to experienced programming firms. This is where ertec GmbH steps in: At the ertec programming centre, programming robot BEAVER carries out the different individual steps in a single "all-in process". In the BEAVER, the differently packaged Holtek microcontrollers are taken from their tape, stick or tray, programmed, laser marked, checked for pin or labelling marking defects and re-packed in a fully automatic process, reducing the human error factor to an absolute minimum.

© ertec GmbH, 91058 Erlangen/Germany
Author: Dipl.-Ing. Peter Nickel ((Managing Director - Technical Operations))