Patchwork [RFC,3/6,PWM] Documentation

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Submitter Bill Gatliff
Date Oct. 8, 2008, 4:43 p.m.
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Bill Gatliff - Oct. 8, 2008, 4:43 p.m.
Signed-off-by: Bill Gatliff <>
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+                       Generic PWM Device API
+                          October 8, 2008
+                           Bill Gatliff
+                       <>
+The code in drivers/pwm and include/linux/pwm.h implements an API for
+applications involving pulse-width-modulation signals.  This document
+describes how the API implementation facilitates both PWM-generating
+devices, and users of those devices.
+The primary goals for implementing the "generic PWM API" are to
+consolidate the various PWM implementations within a consistent and
+redundancy-reducing framework, and to facilitate the use of
+hotpluggable PWM devices.
+Previous PWM-related implementations within the Linux kernel achieved
+their consistency via cut-and-paste, but did not need to (and didn't)
+facilitate more than one PWM-generating device within the system---
+hotplug or otherwise.  The Generic PWM Device API might be most
+appropriately viewed as an update to those implementations, rather
+than a complete rewrite.
+One of the difficulties in implementing a generic PWM framework is the
+fact that pulse-width-modulation applications involve real-world
+signals, which often must be carefully managed to prevent destruction
+of hardware that is linked to those signals.  A DC motor that
+experiences a brief interruption in the PWM signal controlling it
+might destructively overheat; it could change speed, losing
+synchronization with a sensor; it could even suddenly change direction
+or torque, breaking the mechanical device connected to it.
+(A generic PWM device framework is not directly responsible for
+preventing the above scenarios: that responsibility lies with the
+hardware designer and the application and driver authors.  But it must
+to the greatest extent possible make it easy to avoid such problems).
+A generic PWM device framework must accomodate the substantial
+differences between available PWM-generating hardware devices, without
+becoming sub-optimal for any of them.
+Finally, a generic PWM device framework must be relatively
+lightweight, computationally speaking.  Some PWM users demand
+high-speed outputs, plus the ability to regulate those outputs
+quickly.  A device framework must be able to "keep up" with such
+hardware, while still leaving time to do real work.
+The Generic PWM Device API is an attempt to meet all of the above
+requirements.  At its initial publication, the API was already in use
+managing small DC motors through a custom-designed, optically-isolated
+H-bridge driver.
+Functional Overview
+The Generic PWM Device API framework is implemented in
+include/linux/pwm.h and drivers/pwm/pwm.c.  The functions therein use
+information from pwm_device, pwm_channel and pwm_channel_config
+structures to invoke services in PWM peripheral device drivers.
+Consult drivers/pwm/atmel-pwm.c for an example driver.
+There are two classes of adopters of the PWM framework:
+  "Users" -- those wishing to employ the API merely to produce PWM
+  signals; once they have identified the appropriate physical output
+  on the platform in question, they don't care about the details of
+  the underlying hardware
+  "Driver authors" -- those wishing to bind devices that can generate
+  PWM signals to the Generic PWM Device API, so that the services of
+  those devices become available to users; assuming the hardware can
+  support the needs of a user, driver authors don't care about the
+  details of the user's application
+Generally speaking, users will first invoke pwm_request() to obtain a
+handle to a PWM device.  They will then pass that handle to functions
+like pwm_duty_ns() and pwm_period_ns() to set the duty cycle and
+period of the PWM signal, respectively.  They will also invoke
+pwm_start() and pwm_stop() to turn the signal on and off.
+The framework also provides a sysfs interface to PWM devices, which is
+adequate for basic needs and testing.
+Driver authors fill out a pwm_device structure, which describes the
+capabilities of the PWM hardware being driven--- including the number
+of distinct output "channels" the peripheral offers.  They then invoke
+pwm_register() (usually from within their device's probe() handler) to
+make the PWM API aware of their device.  The framework will call back
+to the methods described in the pwm_device structure to configure and
+use the hardware.
+Note that PWM signals can be produced by a variety of peripherals,
+beyond the true "PWM hardware" offered by many system-on-chip devices.
+Other possibilities include timer/counters with compare-match
+capabilities, carefully-programmed synchronous serial ports
+(e.g. SPI), and GPIO pins driven by kernel interval timers.  With a
+proper pwm_device structure, these devices and pseudo-devices can all
+be accomodated by the Generic PWM Device API framework.
+Using the API to Generate PWM Signals -- Basic Functions for Users
+pwm_request() -- Returns a pwm_channel pointer, which is subsequently
+passed to the other user-related PWM functions.  Once requested, a PWM
+channel is marked as in-use and subsequent requests prior to
+pwm_free() will fail.
+The names used to refer to PWM devices are defined by driver authors.
+Typically they are platform device bus identifiers, and this
+convention is encouraged for consistency.
+pwm_free() -- Marks a PWM channel as no longer in use.  The PWM device
+is stopped before it is released by the API.
+pwm_period_ns() -- Specifies the PWM signal's period, in nanoseconds.
+pwm_duty_ns() -- Specifies the PWM signal's active duration, in nanoseconds.
+pwm_duty_percent() -- Specifies the PWM signal's active duration, as a
+percentage of the current period of the signal.  NOTE: this value is
+not recalculated if the period of the signal is subsequently changed.
+pwm_start(), pwm_stop() -- Turns the PWM signal on and off.  Except
+where stated otherwise by a driver author, signals are stopped at the
+end of the current period, at which time the output is set to its
+inactive state.
+pwm_polarity() -- Defines whether the PWM signal output's active
+region is "1" or "0".  A 10% duty-cycle, polarity=1 signal will
+conventionally be at 5V (or 3.3V, or 1000V, or whatever the platform
+hardware does) for 10% of the period.  The same configuration of a
+polarity=0 signal will be at 5V (or 3.3V, or ...) for 90% of the
+Using the API to Generate PWM Signals -- Advanced Functions
+pwm_config() -- Passes a pwm_channel_config structure to the
+associated device driver.  This function is invoked by pwm_start(),
+pwm_duty_ns(), etc. and is one of two main entry points to the PWM
+driver for the hardware being used.  The configuration change is
+guaranteed atomic if multiple configuration changes are specified.
+This function might sleep, depending on what the device driver has to
+do to satisfy the request.  All PWM device drivers must support this
+entry point.
+pwm_config_nosleep() -- Passes a pwm_channel_config structure to the
+associated device driver.  If the driver must sleep in order to
+implement the requested configuration change, -EWOULDBLOCK is
+returned.  Users may call this function from interrupt handlers, for
+example.  This is the other main entry point into the PWM hardware
+driver, but not all device drivers support this entry point.
+pwm_synchronize(), pwm_unsynchronize() -- "Synchronizes" two or more
+PWM channels, if the underlying hardware permits.  (If it doesn't, the
+framework facilitates emulating this capability but it is not yet
+implemented).  Synchronized channels will start and stop
+simultaneously when any single channel in the group is started or
+stopped.  Use pwm_unsynchronize(..., NULL) to completely detach a
+channel from any other synchronized channels.
+pwm_set_handler() -- Defines an end-of-period callback.  The indicated
+function will be invoked in a worker thread at the end of each PWM
+period, and can subsequently invoke pwm_config(), etc.  Must be used
+with extreme care for high-speed PWM outputs.  Set the handler
+function to NULL to un-set the handler.
+Implementing a PWM Device API Driver -- Functions for Driver Authors
+Fill out the appropriate fields in a pwm_device structure, and submit
+to pwm_register():
+bus_id -- the plaintext name of the device.  Users will bind to a
+channel on the device using this name plus the channel number.  For
+example, the Atmel PWMC's bus_id is "atmel_pwmc", the same as used by
+the platform device driver (recommended).  The first device registered
+thereby receives bus_id "atmel_pwmc.0", which is what you put in
+pwm_device.bus_id.  Channels are then named "atmel_pwmc.0:[0-3]".
+(Hint: just use pdev->dev.bus_id in your probe() method).
+nchan -- the number of distinct output channels provided by the device.
+request -- (optional) Invoked each time a user requests a channel.
+Use to turn on clocks, clean up register states, etc.  The framework
+takes care of device locking/unlocking; you will see only successful
+free -- (optional) Callback for each time a user relinquishes a
+channel.  The framework will have already stopped, unsynchronized and
+un-handled the channel.  Use to turn off clocks, etc. as necessary.
+synchronize, unsynchronize -- (optional) Callbacks to
+synchronize/unsynchronize channels.  Some devices provide this
+capability in hardware; for others, it can be emulated (see
+atmel_pwmc.c's sync_mask for an example).
+set_callback -- (optional) Invoked when a user requests a handler.  If
+the hardware supports an end-of-period interrupt, invoke the function
+indicated during your interrupt handler.  The callback function itself
+is always internal to the API, and does not map directly to the user's
+callback function.
+config -- Invoked to change the device configuration, always from a
+sleep-capable context.  All the changes indicated must be performed
+atomically, ideally synchronized to an end-of-period event (so that
+you avoid short or long output pulses).  You may sleep, etc. as
+necessary within this function.
+config_nosleep -- (optional) Invoked to change device configuration
+from within a context that is not allowed to sleep.  If you cannot
+perform the requested configuration changes without sleeping, return
+The author expresses his gratitude to the countless developers who
+have reviewed and submitted feedback on the various versions of the
+Generic PWM Device API code, and those who have submitted drivers and
+applications that use the framework.  You know who you are.  ;)