Requirements to RUN a graphics application
A Microchip MLA graphics enabled embedded application requires 4 essential functions:
- 16-bit or 32-bit PIC® MCU running the user application program and either Microchip's Library for Applications (MLA) or MPLAB® Harmony graphics software. (16bit MCUs use MLA and PIC32 devices run Harmony) Under CPU control the graphics software renders the screen image for output.
- Frame Buffer Memory – this dual port memory receives the image from the processor and holds it for display.
- Graphics Controller - takes the content of the frame buffer memory and sends it to the graphics display. The speed at which the graphics controller works depends upon the resolution of the display and the refresh rate required by the display.
- Graphics Display – Displays the information received from the graphics controller.
The picture above shows each of the 4 graphics functions being performed by separate devices. While these four functions are required it may not be necessary to separate the functions into four different devices. Microchip supports several products and configurations which allow some of these functions to be combined in to single devices. Below are some of these possible combinations:
Graphics Subsystem (Display , Frame Buffer and Controller) sold as separate module connected directly to a PIC® MCU's Parallel Master Bus
Frame Buffer and Graphics Controller on a module with the module directly connected to the display.
Frame buffer contained within the Graphics Controller
Low cost solution with the Graphics controller functions and some frame buffer memory contained within the CPU. The PIC24FxxxDA family contains a graphics controller and some frame buffer memory on board. PIC32 MX/MZ processors are fast enough to allow the CPU to perform the Graphics Controller functions in addition to the application program.
Requirements to DEVELOP a graphics application
1 Development Board and Display
To develop a PIC® based graphics applications you will need a set of development platforms from Microchip which perform the above four functions and are capable of running under Microchip’s MLA graphics library or MPLAB® Harmony. Microchip offers a variety of platforms supporting various MCUs, graphics controllers and displays. The list and combination of currently available boards/displays is subject to change. Please check The Graphics Development Tools page to get an up-to-date list of available tools.
The examples and software used in this tutorial are designed to work on any Microchip supported supported platform.
You will need to obtain a programmer debugger to download your application into the development board. Since MLA and Harmony applications can be quite large it is recommended you select either an MPLAB® REAL ICE or MPLAB® ICD 3 due their fast programming capability. If you have selected a “Starter Kit” as your development board you will not have to obtain a programmer debugger. Starter kits contain on-board program and debug capabilities
The PICKIt3™ programmer/debugger is capable of programming and debugging Graphics applications but is not recommended due to it's slower programming speed.
You will need to download and install 3 software items to develop an MLA graphics application:
- MPLAB® X IDE
- 16-bit users will need Microchips Library of Applications (v2013-12-20 or newer). 32-bit users will need MLPAB® Harmony
- A Microchip C compiler.
If you have chosen to use a board with a PIC32 you will need to download and install the MPLAB®XC32 compiler and MPLAB® Harmony. If you have chosen to use either a PIC24 or dsPIC33 you will need to download and install the MPLAB® XC16 compiler and the MLA.
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Integrated Development Environment
Microchip Libraries for Applications
Integrated Software Framework