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Brief Introduction to ARM Cortex M3 Microcontroller

Updated on April 8, 2014

What is ARM Cortex M3

ARM Cortex M3 is a popular microcontroller which is heavily used in industry. First of all let’s see about ARM company.  ARM was found in 1990 as Advanced RISC Machines ltd as a joint venture of Acron Computer Group, Apple Computer and VLSI Technology. ARM does not manufacture any microprocessors or microcontrollers directly. ARM just licenses the processor designs to business partners to manufacture their processors and chips. This business  method is called intellectual property licensing.

ARM has introduced various number of Processor Architecture versions in past. ARM cortex M3 is featured with ARMv7 architecture. ARMv7 architecture is divided in to three profiles named as “A profile” which is designed for high performance application platforms, “R profile” which is designed for real time applications and “M profile” which is designed for embedded microcontroller systems. ARM Cortex M3 is belongs to ARMv7 M profile; therefore this design can be used in embedded microcontroller system applications.

Features of ARM Cortex M3

Here are some features of ARM cortex M3

  • Low power consumption

     This ensures longer battery life by saving the cost and useful for portable products and it has power saving mode support.

  • High performance

    Can do more work without increasing power or frequency. It supports bit band operation and byte invariant big endian mode. Interrupt latency is reduced by tail chaining method and late arrival acceptance.

  • High code density

    Ensures the code fits in even smaller memory footprints.

  • Has number of development tools

   There are many free or low cost development software to use.

  • Easy to use

    Provides the debugging facility JTAG or serial wire debug interfaces and provides fault handling features. Unlike in PIC microcontrollers in Cortex M3 ,stacking and unstacking is automatic when handling exceptions.

Getting started with ARM Cortex M3

Before you getting started with ARM cortex M3 microcontroller you have to have a good knowledge in basic microcontrollers. It is highly recommended to study about PIC microcontrollers which are basic microcontrollers manufactured by Microchip. If you worked with PIC microcontrollers you will find ARM cortex has much more features than PIC microcontrollers. Actually PIC microcontrollers are basic microcontrollers and cannot used for advanced projects. Since CortexM3 is an advanced design compared to PIC microcontrollers you have to study about ARM Cortex M3 design before you start your project . While PIC microcontrollers have short list of instructions set, Cortex M3 has a very long instruction set that you have to familiar with before you getting started with Cortex M3. There are so many features that are not included PIC, available in ARM cortex M3. You may feel that it is difficult to handle a project with ARM Cortex M3. But if you are going to do a advanced project which cannot do with PIC microcontrollers you will have to use ARM cortex M3 which is suitable for advanced projects base on embedded microcontroller systems.  There are many resources to study about ARM cortex M3. There are books, e-books, internet resources such as educational sites, videos, forums and so on. Good luck with your ARM cortex M3 based project.


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