Noting that “hobbyists basically made Micrcchip who we are today,” Microchip and Digilent have launched the first 32-bit-microcontroller-based, open-source development platform compatible with Arduino hardware and software. 


Manufactured by Digilent, the chipKIT consists of two PIC32-based development boards and open-source software that is compatible with the Arduino programming language and development environment. The platform provides four times the performance of any existing Arduino solution and. equally good news, the boards start at just $26.95 each.


Apart from hobbyists Microchip expects users of the Arduino compatible dev platform to come from academia – everything from after school robotics assignments all the way to biomedical engineers’ final year projects—and the embedded engineering community, for those who wish to make a very quick rapid prototype of an idea.


The chipKIT hardware is compatible with existing 3.3V Arduino shields and applications, and can be developed using a modified version of the Arduino IDE and existing Arduino resources, such as code examples, libraries, references and tutorials. Aside from a small number of shields that require 5V operation, many existing Arduino hardware and software sketches are compatible with the chipKIT platform, without modification.Arduino standard libraries have been also been modified to support chipKIT boards. All of this work has been contributed back to the open-source Arduino community. 


The PIC32-based chipKIT boards enable 80 MHz performance, and provide up to 512 KB Flash, with up to 128 KB RAM.  The boards feature connectivity peripherals, including Ethernet, CAN, and USB (Full-Speed Host, Device and OTG); plus peripherals such as multiple timers, a 16-channel 1 MSPS Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC), two comparators, and multiple I2C™, SPI, and UART interfaces.


The chipKIT Uno32 (part # TDGL002TDGL002) development board is a clone of the Arduino Uno board, and features 128 KB Flash program memory and 16 KB RAM, with two each of the I2C, SPI and UART peripherals.  This board is priced at $26.95 each.  A clone of the Arduino Mega board, the chipKIT Max32 (part # TDGL003TDGL003) development board features 512 KB Flash program memory and 128 KB RAM, with USB, CAN and Ethernet communication, as well as 5 each I2C, 4 each SPI, and 6 each UART peripherals.  The chipKIT Max32 board is priced at $49.50 each. 


Both chipKIT boards can be ordered today. chipKIT Network and I/O Shields are expected to be available in June 2011.