Sometimes you need to increase data throughout in your application. Interrupts are powerful things that allow you to have a lot of control over what is done when, but there is a problem with interrupts. Even the fastest interrupt gives some latency in execution. This is especially noticeable during data transfer and that is the purpose of the DMA controller. It can transfer data from  memory to peripherals or memory to memory without CPU intervention. In this post we will look at using the DMA controller on board the PIC32MX270F256D.

PIC32 DMA Controller


DMA or Direct Memory Access is one of the most over complicated modules on microcontrollers. With all its terminology and supposed complexity. In order to look at the DMA on the PIC32 microcontroller let us first consider what exactly is DMA.

DMA allows data transfer to take place between the memory and peripherals of the microcontroller without the need for the CPU to become involved.  The DMA can also transfer data from memory to memory. This is important because usually when a CPU is performing reading and writing of some peripheral it cannot respond to anything else.

When you use the DMA controller to transfer data, the CPU simply initiates the data transfer without itself taking part in the actual transfer of data. This is powerful because it allows the microcontroller to transfer data at a rate faster than the CPU can possibly manage on its own.

DMA is especially useful for tasks such as refreshing displays where a lot of data is needed to be transferred to the display.

DMA on PIC32

On the PIC32MX270F256D microcontroller, there are 4 identical DMA channels. The DMA can transfer data using an interrupt or can be triggered using software control.

In order for DMA transfer to take place you must define a source register as well as a destination register. You must specify the size of the source register using DCH0SSIZ and you specify the size of the destination register using DCH0DSIZ. It is important to know and initialize the size of the source and destination register for your code to work properly. The size of the source and destination need not be the same as is shown in the example we have set the source and destination to differing sizes.

The number of bytes you will transfer during a DMA request is known as the cell size. The cell size is configured by the cell size register DCH0CSIZ. 

The DMA on the PIC32 allows chaining as well as pattern matching.



Three LEDs are connected to the lower bits of PORTC.

C Program

 * File: Main.c
 * Author: Armstrong Subero
 * Processor: PIC32MX270F256D w/Ext OSC @ 4MHz, PLL to 48 MHz, 3.3v
 * Program: 16_DMA
 * Compiler: XC32 (v1.44, MPLAX X v4.00)
 * Program Version: 1.0
 * Program Description: This Program Allows PIC32MX270F256D to use the DMA 
 *                      controller to transfer data to PORTC of the 
 *                      microcontroller.
 * Hardware Description: Three LED's are connected to the lower bits of PORTC
 *                       on the microcontroller via 1k resistors. 
 * Change History:
 * Author             Rev     Date          Description
 * Armstrong Subero   1.0     21/09/2018    Initial Release.
 * Created September 21st, 2018, 12:20 PM

 Includes and defines
#include <xc.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include "PIC32MX270_STD.h"
#include "Delay.h"

uint32_t srcAddr;
uint32_t dstAddr;

const uint8_t outData[] = {0b00000101, 0b00000010, 0b00000110, 0b00000011};

* Function Name: void __ISR(_TIMER_5_VECTOR, IPL1SOFT) Timer5ISR (void)
* Specification: interrupt routine for Timer5
void __ISR(_TIMER_5_VECTOR, IPL1SOFT) Timer5ISR (void)
    // On interrupt clear the interrupt flag
    IFS0bits.T5IF = 0;

* Function Name: void initMain (void)
* Specification: initializes main
void initMain(void)
    uc_init();              // initialize microcontroller

* Function Name: void main (void)
* Specification: main function
void main(void) {
    initMain();         // initializes main function
    TRISC = 0;          // set destination TRIS to 0
    // Source and Destination
    srcAddr = (uint32_t) &outData & 0x1FFFFFFF;   // source address 
    dstAddr = (uint32_t) &LATC    & 0x1FFFFFFF;   // destination address 
    //Initialize timer 5 
    PR5 = 47999;          // (ms) = CLK / PR1 + 1 with pre-scale of 256 = 1000 ms
    T5CONbits.TCKPS0 = 1; // set prescaler to 256
    T5CONbits.TCKPS1 = 1;
    T5CONbits.TCKPS2 = 1;
    T5CONbits.TGATE =  0;  // not gated input (the default)
    T5CONbits.TSIDL =  0;  // stop in idle mode off
    T5CONbits.TCS =    0;  // PCBLK input (the default)
    T5CONbits.ON =     0;  // ensure timer 5 is off
    // Initialize timer 5 interrupts
    __builtin_disable_interrupts(); // disable interrupts    
    IPC5bits.T5IP = 1;              // timer5 interrupt priority
    IPC5bits.T5IS = 0;              // timer5 sub-priority
    IFS0bits.T5IF = 0;              // clear interrupt flag
    IEC0bits.T5IE = 1;              // enable timer5 interrupt
    INTCONbits.MVEC = 1;            // enable the multi vector interrupts
    __builtin_enable_interrupts();  // enable interrupts
    // Initialize DMA module
    DMACONbits.ON = 1;                 // DMA module on
    DCH0INT = 0;                       // no DMA interrupts being used
    DCH0SSA = srcAddr;                 // channel source start addr
    DCH0DSA = dstAddr;                 // destination source start addr
    DCH0SSIZ = 4;                      // size of source      (4 bytes)
    DCH0DSIZ = 1;                      // size of destination (1 byte)
    DCH0CSIZ = 1;                      // size of cell        (1 byte)
    DCH0ECONbits.SIRQEN = 1;           // cell transfer on CHSIRQ matching int
    DCH0ECONbits.CHSIRQ = 0b00011000;  // DMA transfer on interrupt 24 (Timer5)

    // Enable DMA
    DCH0CON = 0b10010011; // priority 3, auto enable, no chain, ignore events,on
    // turn on timer5
    T5CONbits.ON = 1;
      // do nothing completely CPU free

We first setup Timer5 to generate an interrupt every second and on the interrupt all the timer does is clear the interrupt flag. We also specify the source and destination address and setup the cell size. The DMA is configured to perform a transfer on matching CHSIRQ bit being detected finally we set the DMA to use a Timer5 as the event to begin transfer. We then turn on the DMA and confgiure it to ignore events if the channel is disabled and leave the channel continuously enabled and give it the highest priority since it is the only channel.

Link to Project

You can download the entire project here!

DMA Project


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