Interesting ASIC/FPGA hybrid

Retroactively posted March 3, 2005

This is probably outside the immediate use of the wearables group, but I ran across this company and thought their stuff looks interesting.

The deal is that they make chips which are intended to be used in applications that require a good amount of custom logic, but are small enough production runs that the one-time cost of ASIC development is prohibitive.

So they fab chips which have a lot of generic logic resources (MAC blocks, RAM banks, etc.) in them, and then can mask-program those sections together at the factory according to your design. Once you get your chips, you can then further customize them on the fly with some FPGA techniques, as they also include programmable logic blocks.

The result is, apparently, that you can hit a sweet spot for quantities of about 1000-100,000, wherein you get most of the performance and power-savings of an ASIC, most of the reconfigurability of an FPGA, with much more modest startup costs and vastly quicker turnaround compared to fabbing your own from scratch.

Like I said, it's not really of immediate importance to the group, but if you ever run across a situation where you have a working prototype of some device using a big, power-hungry FPGA and you want to turn it into a better-performing production run of 1000, this might be a good way to go about it.