STM32 Input Capture & Frequency Measurement Example | Timer Input Capture Mode

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STM32 Timers – STM32 Input Capture Mode & LAB
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STM32 Input Capture Compare Mode Tutorial - Frequency Counter Measurement Example


In this article, we’ll be discussing the timer module operation in input capture mode (STM32 input capture). How to configure a timer to operate in input capture mode. And how to enable one of the input capture channels to capture an external signal on the rising edge. We’ll use this for frequency measurement as we’ll be building a simple frequency counter application in the LAB of this tutorial. So, let’s get started!


   Required Components For LABs   


All the example code/LABs/projects in the course are going to be done using those boards below.

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1 USB-TTL Converter or FTDI Chip Amazon Amazon eBay  eBay

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   STM32 Input Capture Mode Preface   


As we’ve discussed in an earlier tutorial, the timer modules can operate a variety of modes one of which is the input capture mode. Where the timer gets clocked from an internal source and its current value is captured and saved to the input capture register whenever a special event occurs on the input capture channel pin. Here is a brief description of the capture compare channels in STM32 timers modules. And also note that every single timer module has multiple (input capture/compare output) channels (3, 4, 6, or whatever found in the datasheet).

STM32 Timers – Capture/Compare Channels

Each Capture/Compare channel is built around a capture/compare register (including a shadow register), an input stage for capture (with a digital filter, multiplexing, and Prescaler) and an output stage (with comparator and output control). The input stage samples the corresponding TIx input to generate a filtered signal TIxF. Then, an edge detector with polarity selection generates a signal (TIxFPx) which can be used as trigger input by the slave mode controller or as the capture command. It is prescaled before the capture register (ICxPS).

Here is a diagram for a capture/compare channel’s input stage.

STM32 Input Capture Example HAL - Frequency Counter Measurement

And here is a diagram for the capture/compare channel 1 Full Circuitry

STM32 Input Capture Compare Channel Tutorial - Frequency Counter Measurement

STM32 Timers In Input Capture Mode

In Input capture mode, the Capture/Compare Registers (TIMx_CCRx) are used to latch the value of the counter after a transition detected by the corresponding ICx signal. When a capture occurs, the corresponding CCXIF flag (TIMx_SR register) is set and an interrupt or a DMA request can be sent if they are enabled. If a capture occurs while the CCxIF flag was already high, then the over-capture flag CCxOF (TIMx_SR register) is set. CCxIF can be cleared by software by writing it to 0 or by reading the captured data stored in the TIMx_CCRx register. CCxOF is cleared when written to 0.


   STM32 Input Capture Frequency Counter   


LAB Number 11
LAB Title Timer Module In Input Capture Mode – Frequency Counter Mini-Project
  • Set up TIM2 to use the internal clock and configure CH1 to be input capture on every rising edge
  • Read the CCR1 register and save it to variable T1 on the first edge, on second edge read CCR1 and save it to T2. And now, the input signal’s period is T2 – T1, and therefore, the frequency is easily calculated from 1/period.
  • Configure USART1 in Async mode with baud rate = 9600bps
  • Print the calculated frequency to the serial port terminal


   STM32 Input Capture Mode Frequency Counter   


In this LAB, our goal is to build a system that measures the digital signal’s frequency using the timer module in the input capture mode. The system will go through a couple of states I’ve chosen to name them (IDLE, DONE). In the IDLE state, the system is ready to capture the first timestamp using TIM2 that is running in the background until the external signal does a rising edge transition on the IC1 input channel pin.

On the first rising edge, the value of timer2 is captured to the CCR1 register and an interrupt is fired. In the ISR, we’ll save the CCR1 value to a variable called T1. And the system state is changed from IDLE to DONE,

In DONE state, the system will be running normally until a rising edge happens again on the IC1 pin. Therefore, in the ISR, the captured value is saved to the T2 variable. And the measured period is (T2-T1), so the frequency is calculated as (1/(T2-T1)). And then, it’s printed to the serial port using UART1. Finally, the system state is flipped again to IDLE, and the whole process is repeated.

STM32 Input Capture Example Frequency Counter Tutorial - Timer Input Capture Mode

A noteworthy point is that TIM2 is susceptible to overflow before the second rising edge arrives. This especially important at the low-end of the frequency spectrum, while you’re measuring low frequencies with long periods. Hence, the TIM2 overflow interrupt has also to be enabled and we shall keep track of how many overflows did occur since we’ve saved T1 value. So the OVF_Count is added to T2 value, each overflow accounts for 65536 ticks.


And now, let’s build this system step-by-step


Step1: Open CubeMX & Create New Project

Step2: Choose The Target MCU & Double-Click Its Name

Step3: Configure Timer2 Peripheral To Operate In Input Capture Mode

STM32 Input Capture Compare Channel Tutorial - Frequency Counter Measurement Project

Enable Timer2 interrupts from the NVIC control tab.

Step4: Configure USART1 Module To Operate In Async Mode With 9600bps

Step5: Set The RCC External Clock Source

STM32 RCC External Clock Selection CubeMX

Step6: Go To The Clock Configuration

Step7: Set The System Clock To Be 72MHz

Step8: Name & Generate The Project Initialization Code For CubeIDE or The IDE You’re Using


Here is The Application Code For This LAB

Download The Frequency Counter LAB11 Project

Note: when you download the code, you’ll have to add one extra line in the main.c code. Re-check the code snippet above or scroll down to the comments section to know what I’m talking about. It’s basically a situation that will occur when the timer overflow, the interrupt has to be enabled. And this was missing in the downloadable project code.

The Resulting UART Messages Can Be Decoded By A DSO

As you can see on my DSO screen, the decoded message shows 1999Hz for a 2kHz signal which is amazing and a huge improvement over the last tutorial results.

STM32 Input Capture Compare Mode Tutorial - Frequency Counter Measurement Project


The Resulting UART Messages On Serial Port Terminal (Test Video)


My Comments On This LAB Results

The error (drift) in the frequency measurement is nearly 0.001% at the low end of the frequency spectrum. And it gets even better at high-frequencies the error percentage is even smaller at higher frequencies. There does exist a fundamental limitation for the upper and lower measurable frequencies using this technique. And I’m pretty sure a lot of optimization effort can be put into this to make it even better.

However, it seems good to me and we’ll move on to the next topic to see other modes of operation for STM32 timers. And we’ll definitely revisit the input capture in future projects and LABs. It’s going to be very useful for sensors interfacing like an ultrasonic sensor for example which gives you an output pulse that you need to measure its width. This can be easily achieved using a timer in input capture mode, as we’ve done today.

A lot of other examples do exist and we’ll go through each of them in the future. And that’s it for this tutorial! if you’ve got any questions, problems, or suggestions, please drop me a comment. I’ll be always here for help.




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Khaled Magdy
Embedded systems engineer with several years of experience in embedded software and hardware design. I work as an embedded SW engineer in the Automotive & e-Mobility industry. However, I still do Hardware design and SW development for DSP, Control Systems, Robotics, AI/ML, and other fields I'm passionate about.
I love reading, writing, creating projects, and teaching. A reader by day and a writer by night, it's my lifestyle. I believe that the combination of brilliant minds, bold ideas, and a complete disregard for what is possible, can and will change the world! I will be there when it happens, will you?

5 thoughts on “STM32 Input Capture & Frequency Measurement Example | Timer Input Capture Mode”

  1. It seems to me that function

    void HAL_TIM_PeriodElapsedCallback(TIM_HandleTypeDef* htim)

    fires only if TIM2 is set for general counter mode.
    This callback is not working for input capture mode.
    The presented counter should fail for frequencies less than 1KHz because the period elapsed event is undetected.

  2. To enable the TIM Update interrupt to fire void HAL_TIM_PeriodElapsedCallback(TIM_HandleTypeDef* htim)
    in main()
    HAL_TIM_Base_Start_IT(&htim2); //vs
    HAL_TIM_IC_Start_IT(&htim2, TIM_CHANNEL_1);

  3. Howdy ᴠery nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing ..
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  4. Hi, you are doing a simple and most effective way of frequency measurement, but in my case frequency accuracy was 0.15% @100Hz, is there any way to improve this error to 0.05%. Thank you.


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