Interfacing digital electronics to analog world is needed in many applications. There have been several attempts at devices that might be called field-programmable analog arrays (FPAAs) over the years, but most have failed to establish a significant market presence (maybe except Cypress Semiconductor PSoC). The Analog Swiss Army Knife article tells that without a proper ADC and DAC, you won’t be delving into the analog domain with your programmable logic. Maxim has just put out a chip that does just that: MAX11300 is an analog swiss army knife with 20 pins that are configurable as analog to digital converter, digital to analog converters, GPIO, or any mix of the above.
The ADCs and DACs are 12-bit, with input and output ranges from -10V to +10V. Ports can be configured as a logic level translator or an analog switch, and analog output values can be read back using an internal ADC for correction and calibration. Instead of creating a FPAA, Maxim has created the analog equivalent of a simple programmable logic device (PLD). In best cases it could replace many traditional chips and discrete parts in designs, it is claimed that it allows you to Replace 20 Discrete Chips with One Configurable Data Converter (I might not buy this high number though…)
The chip is controlled over SPI, making it easy to drive from microcontroller. MAX11300 is available in either 40-pin TQFN or 48-pin TQFP packages for about $5.80 USD in quantity 1000, or $11.37 in quantity one. MAX11300 features a serial digital interface (SPI or I2C) and digital control core, which can be used to configure the device, to read values from the input ports, and to write values to the output ports.
This really looks interesting. PIXI devices (MAX11300) look very good for a wide range of applications including industrial automation (CNC , low-end PLCs, servo), test and measurement, and wireless-wired infrastructure (biasing and monitoring circuits).
There is exaluation kits available, but I quess this chip will find it’s way to many kinds of interesting uses, maybe even to cheap open source hardware Arduino Shields.One project going on this direction is Hammerhead.