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Metal Programmable Cell Fabric ASICs Bridge the FPGA Gap

Authored on: Nov 15, 2006 by Jay Johnson

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Standard product ARM processors in combination with low-cost FPGAs have eroded ASIC market share over the past decade. Given their high NRE (non-recurring engineering) costs and long time-to-market, ASICs have not been able to compete with the flexibility and falling prices of FPGAs.

A new technology called Metal Programmable Cell Fabric (MPCF), implemented in 130 nm ARM-based platform or structured ASICs may turn the tide. With nearly identical routed gate densities to those of standard cells in the same process, this technology promises to make ASICs more cost competitive and easier to design, recapturing market share that has been lost to FPGAs. Using this technology, fabless semiconductor companies can develop custom ARM-based platforms, using an off-the-shelf ARM microcontroller and an FPGA for prototyping, and then migrating it to an ARM processor-based MPCF platform with quick turn-around, low NREs and with unit costs that approach those of standard cell ASICs.

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