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 Considering a Dedicated IC Solution

A very wide range of designs can be accommodated from small transceivers or power management type devices through to large scale chips with a wide range of different pre-designed processor cores on board. Devices can be fabricated to suit many types of packaging and I/O as well. The complexity of the design and the technology will favour either a full ASIC implementation or a FPGA, the latter getting ever more sophisticated. Nowadays numerous devices, able to accommodate many different and varied functions and complexity, are readily available from firms such as Xilinx or Altera.

For most products requiring volume production it make sense to implement an ASIC/FPGA design, however this isnít always the case. Furthermore, although itís possible to effect designs at Ķm geometries that may be more difficult at larger scales, an ASIC isnít a cure for poor initial concept, technology choice or fundamental design.

 How much redundancy?

The decision to opt for a specific chip design will not only be based on projected production volume against total production costs but also on design longevity. That is, how long the design is likely to survive, and be useful, with current advances in technology, or until some other kind of hardware change is forced. 

Other factors that need to be carefully considered are decisions about what software and hardware boundaries are to exist, for example, we might ask are there any existing soft functions that it would make sense to move in to the hardware?

Migrating an Existing Design

Other things to consider

Even relatively high levels of integration could benefit from migrating to a dedicated solution

Producing your own chip is an expensive business and itís even more expensive if the prototype or pre-production devices donít work. This would include ensuring that a new chip design incorporated in an end product would meet any approvals or certification required Ė particularly important for mixed-signal devices where isolation or higher frequencies are involved.

Nevertheless, custom chips, or Application Specific ICs (ASICs), can yield huge savings in production and in many cases deliver better performance as well as higher product reliability.  In many situations production costs, of any given product, may well be too high to contemplate without a VLSIC implementation.

 Production Test and Packaging

A successful design must take numerous other factors into consideration, for example, end production methodology: 

How is the device to be tested in-situ? In production, does it make sense to include on-chip test macros specifically to validate off-chip systems?  If so, what kind of test interface should we create? Depending on system complexity and/or technology, these can range from simple serial connections or test pins, through to complete GUIs. Once a design has been introduced what about second/multiple sourcing?

 Where Chelsfield Can Assist

Chelsfield Solutions can assist you though the maze of offers and assess reports made by various contributors during each stage of the process.

We provide independent assessment of schematic capture verification, device and/or component simulations together with layout checking and can provide liaison between the design team and fabrication houses.

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