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Understanding ASIC Development

October 23, 2017, anysilicon

ASIC is an acronym for Application Specific Integrated Circuit. It is designed for a specific or customized use as opposed to one that serves a generally available. Examples of ASIC include chips that are designed to run specific devices such as Apple A11 CPU for example. You can find ASIC chips as part of any product that requires specific features that cannot be achieved by off-the-shelf-ICs. The main reason for using an ASIC is to gain add specific features to your product or (and) gain competitive edge. For that reason many companies are using customized chips for their products.

 

Thanks to advancing technology, ASIC development has managed to grow from roughly 5,000 gates to over 100 million which means that its use has grown exponentially as well. However, the ASIC has been replaced in some ways by the FPGA, the Field Programmable Gate Arrays that allow for chips to be programmed instead of designed from scratch. The FPGA is found in many different applications, but the ASIC is still quite popular in large devices and designs. However, it is true that ASIC designs can become quite expensive in development cost depending on their use.

 

ASIC Development

 

The early ASIC designs that were introduced into personal computers in the early 1980s used what was known as gate array technology. The ASIC was initially considered an economic means of handling computer graphic programs and displays. However, as the ASIC was developed its potential was seen for other devices and uses thanks to the gate arrays that could customized for each chip. A base pattern was developed for ASIC which allowed it to be manufactured cheaper and then be customized for specific uses.

 

By the mid-1980s, the limitations of the ASIC were becoming apparent in the manufacturing process with many designers having to use specific tools to complete the design which drove up the costs. The creation of standard cells helped to improve gate density and provide for excellent performance while cutting down the cost of manufacturing the ASIC.

 

The development of standard cell design in the 1980s was augmented a decade later when tools for logic synthesis became available. This allowed for HDL descriptions to be included for gate level netlists. The result was that integrated circuits that used the standard cell design could be further manipulated to expand their function.

 

computer cpu or central processor unit chip on mainboard.Technology background with computer processors CPU concept and blue circuit, board texture.

 

 

Different Types of ASIC Development

 

There are three basic types of design used for the ASIC:

 

  • Gate Array
  • Full Custom
  • Structured

 

The gate array design uses transistors and other devices in diffuse layers which are predefined and unconnected before the metallization process. From two to nine layers may be placed on the ASIC when using this design. The full custom version differs thanks to the reduced space, improved performance, and its ability to integrate with analog components along with microprocessor cores that create a system on the chip.

 

The structured design is the latest ASIC development and is still new in the industry, although there are still strong similarities to the other designs. What makes it different is that this design is quicker to produce and it bridges the gap between standard ASIC designs and the gate arrays that are field programmable.

 

The ASIC continues to develop even though advancing technology has changed somewhat since its inception in the early 1980s.