CH32V003 RISC-V MCU gets $1.5 development board, open source GCC toolchain and flasher utility

When we first wrote about the 10-cent CH32V003 RISC-V MCU it was offered in a $7 development board and the closed-source MounRiver Studio IDE had to be used for programming. But things have improved since October 2022, and now, you can buy a CH32V003 board for as little as $1.5 plus shipping, and an open-source GCC toolchain and flasher/downloader are now available.

Let’s have a look at the hardware first with the low-cost nanoCH32V003 development board featuring a 48 MHz CH32V003 RISC-V microcontroller with 2KB SRAM and 16KB flash, a USB Type-C port for power, a reset button, and two rows of headers for the GPIOs.

Cheap CH32V003 RISC-V development boardMuseLab nanoCH32V003 specifications:

  • MCU – WCH CH32V003F4U6 32-bit RISC-V2A microcontroller up to 48 MHz with 2KB SRAM, 16KB flash (QFN20 package)
  • Expansion – 2x 11-pin headers with up to 18x GPIOs,  1x USART, 1x I2C, 1x SPI, 8-channel 10-bit ADC, 5V, 3.3V, GND
  • Debugging – 3-pin 1-wire serial debug interface to connect WCHLink-E debugger
  • Misc – 24MHz crystal oscillator, Reset button, and LED
  • Power Supply – 5V via USB-C port
  • Dimensions – TBD

nanoCH32V003 Development Board WCHLink E debuggerThe board requires the WCHLink-E debugger shown on the right above for programming and debugging. MuseLab provides PDF schematics, demo binaries, tools, and documentation on GitHub. Two development methods are available: the usual MounRiver Studio IDE and WCH-LinkUtility for the WCH-LinkE downloader/debugger, and an open-source toolchain based on GCC named xPack RISC-V Embedded GCC along with samples that can be compiled with make:

But you’d still need to use the WCH-LinkUtility programs to flash the resulting binary to the board through the WCHLink-E debugger.

That’s unless you rely on CNLohr work, as he played with the CH32V003 MCU to create the Makefile samples compiled with the gcc-riscv64 toolchain and the minichlink open-source utility to flash the program to the board. It can be tried with the blink sample as follows:

It fails for me because the make command will not only compile the sample, but also flash the hex file to the board, and I don’t have the board nor the WCHLink-E debugger attached to my computer:

The toolchain and utility can be used in Windows, Linux and/or WSL, but minichlink program still needs some work as it currently ignores all the response codes, except when querying the chip. As a side note, there’s also another project that updated OpenOCD to support CH32V003 microcontroller.

You can purchase the nanoCH32V003 for $1.5 on Aliexpress. But that price does not include shipping ($3.78 here), and you may want to purchase a pack of ten for $15 instead since the shipping fee is the same. You may also want to get one WCHLinkE provided in a $6.5 bundle with the nanoCH32V003 since it’s needed to program the board.

Via LinuxGizmos and thanks to Zoobab and Jon for the tips.

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