Friday, January 29, 2010

"CHIPS: ASIC pioneer reinvents 3-D FPGAs"

ASICs were once the number one choice for ultra-low cost consumer electronic devices, because of their low per unit cost and very small size. Unfortunately, their set-up cost has skyrocketed to $50 million or more. Gate arrays have been the only alternative, but their cost per unit is expensive compared to ASICs per unit cost. Now 3D gate arrays may fill the gap, with a low-cost alternative to ASICs with nearly equal per unit cost and small size. R.C.J.

Serial entrepreneur Zvi Or-Bach is touting a three-dimensional field-programmable gate array (FPGA) technology that he claims could achieve the densities of an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC). Or-Bach's new company, NuPGA, uses anti-fuses that start out as an open circuit but can be reprogrammed to create a low-resistance connection when pulsed with a high voltage. By arranging anti-fuses in a separate layer above logic, they could boost the interconnection density of FPGAs to rival ASICs, according to Or-Bach. The only problem is that the high-voltage programming transistors take up so much room that they negate the density boost. NuPGA claims to have solved that problem by burying the programming transistors in a 3-D "foundation" layer beneath the traditional FPGA circuitry.
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