Arm DesignStart is an entry-level program that provides designers access to Arm Cortex-M0 and Cortex-M3 CPU cores, Arm Cordio Bluetooth IP, and supporting design resources to develop innovative products and take them to market quickly. The program aims to lower the barrier to entry for creating Arm-based designs by offering free access to Arm IP, tools, and support.
Overview of Arm DesignStart
The DesignStart program grants access to a selected range of Arm IP, software tools, models, and online training materials to help designers kickstart building prototypes and products based on Arm technology. This allows even small teams and startups with limited engineering resources to leverage Arm’s power-efficient CPU and wireless IP to create innovative connected devices for IoT and other embedded applications.
Specifically, DesignStart provides access to:
- Arm Cortex-M0 and Cortex-M3 processor IP and related peripherals
- Cordio Bluetooth LE IP
- Arm Keil MDK toolkit with μVision IDE and debugger
- CMSIS RTOS and device abstraction layers
- Models, implementation examples, and online training
With this complete package of IP, software, and resources, designers can quickly build prototypes on FPGA or test chips, or go directly to manufacturing by tapping into Arm’s broad ecosystem of partners and development tools. Importantly, the program is free to join and does not require any license fees or royalties on silicon. Participants only pay for manufacturing the chip.
Benefits of Arm DesignStart
The key benefits of joining the Arm DesignStart program include:
- Low barrier to entry: No upfront license fees to gain access to Arm CPU and wireless IP to start prototyping.
- Simplified design: The Cortex-M0 and M3 are pre-configured, pre-verified CPUs that are easy for novice teams to work with.
- Proven technology: Ability to leverage industry-proven Arm processing and wireless IP in your custom SoCs.
- Ecosystem support: Tap into Arm’s broad ecosystem of development tools and manufacturing partners.
- Online resources: Models, examples, and training materials to support the design process.
- Customizable designs: Integrate your own IP along with DesignStart IP to create differentiated solutions.
- Low manufacturing cost: Only pay for chip production, no royalty fees.
For resource-constrained teams, these advantages combine to lower the barriers to creating custom chip designs significantly. DesignStart unlocks the capability to integrate Arm’s industry-leading cores and wireless IP into your semiconductors quickly and cost-effectively.
How to Join the Arm DesignStart Program
Joining Arm DesignStart only takes a few simple steps:
- Visit the DesignStart website (www.designstart.arm.com) and click on “Register Now.”
- Create your Arm account and provide some basic contact information.
- Read and accept the terms and conditions to complete your registration.
- You will receive a confirmation email with instructions to activate your account.
- Start accessing the IP, tools and resources available in the DesignStart program.
The registration and account creation process is free. You only need to accept the license terms to gain access to the DesignStart IP and resources.
DesignStart IP and Resources
With a DesignStart account, developers can access a selected set of Arm IP, models, tools, and learning resources to help accelerate designs. Here are some of the key offerings available:
- Cortex-M0: A 32-bit RISC core optimized for low-power embedded applications. Delivers better performance efficiency than 8/16-bit microcontrollers.
- Cortex-M3: A feature-rich 32-bit core with DSP extensions suited for more complex embedded and IoT applications. Offers system performance up to 1.25 DMIPS/MHz.
- Cordio Bluetooth LE: Ultra-low power IP for Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity. Complies with Bluetooth 5.0 specifications.
- Keil MDK: Complete C/C++ compiler toolchain, IDE, and debugger for Cortex-M processors.
- Models: Architectural reference models to support design exploration.
- CMSIS libraries: Software abstractions for peripherals, RTOS, and more.
- Training: Online courses on Cortex-M and Bluetooth LE design topics.
- Documentation: Datasheets, user guides, application notes, and reference manuals.
- Community: Forums to get help and connect with other designers.
With DesignStart access, small teams can utilize these IP cores, downloads, training materials and other resources to gain hands-on Arm architecture experience and accelerate their prototype and product designs.
DesignStart Design Considerations
Here are some key points to keep in mind when starting an Arm DesignStart project:
- Carefully define the product requirements upfront relating to performance, power, connectivity, cost, etc.
- Evaluate which DesignStart IP cores (CPU, Bluetooth LE, etc.) fit your design constraints.
- Plan your full system-on-chip (SoC) architecture including clocks, memory, interfaces, custom logic blocks.
- Become familiar with the DesignStart IP configuration options and implementation materials.
- Leverage the Keil MDK toolkit, documentation, and online training content.
- Model and prototype your design on FPGA first before taping out.
- Partner with a semiconductor manufacturer for production.
With clear requirements, thoughtful architecture, and thorough prototyping, DesignStart enables rapid development of optimized Arm-based products.
Licensing for Post-Prototype Commercialization
The DesignStart program is intended for evaluation and prototyping purposes without any royalty fees. Once you are ready to commercialize your product, licensing is required as follows:
- Cortex-M0 and Cortex-M3 cores require a commercial license from Arm.
- Cordio Bluetooth LE requires the purchase of a suitable IP license.
- The Keil toolchain must be upgraded to a commercial MDK license.
Arm offers a range of licensing options scaled for different applications and volume requirements. Your account manager can provide pricing details tailored to your specific product plans.
In summary, Arm DesignStart lowers the barrier to tapping into Arm technologies for entrepreneurs, academic researchers, and design houses looking to create custom chips and products. By providing easy access to proven Arm IP along with implementation resources, the program kickstarts practical learning and accelerated prototyping.