All About ASICs – #10

The future will be built using ASICs! Daniel Bogdanoff and Mike Hoffman sit down with chip sage and planner Mike Beyers to discuss the challenges of building custom application specific integrated circuits. This podcast was inspired by the blog post “Creating an ASIC – Our Quest to Make the Best Cheap Oscilloscope

Video version (YouTube):

 

Audio version:

Discussion Overview:

We’re finally a real podcast now!

What is an ASIC? An ASIC is an application specific integrated circuit, an IC designed for a specific task.

Why do we use ASICs?

ASIC architecture 101 2:46
The main specification people talk about is the size smallest thing you can find on a chip – like the gate of a CMOS transistor

Effective gate length is shorter than the gate length drawn because of the manufacturing  process.

Another key spec is how many transistors you can fit in a square mm
Metal layers for interconnects are also more important, but can cause the mask sets to be more expensive
Do we care more about a gate’s footprint or its depth? 4:11

Will Moore’s Law hit a ceiling? 4:29
What about using three dimensional structures? 5:37
Is Moore’s Law just a marketing number? 5:51

Does technology ever slow down? 6:29

Power is often the largest limiter 6:58
Google builds data centers next to hydroelectric dams 7:34
Battery power 7:43
Power drives cost 7:53

How does the power problem affect ASICs? 8:25
There are power integrity and thermal management concerns
Dedicated routes on an ASIC vs switching on an FPGA 8:14

Who actually uses ASICs? 10:14
IOT technology – 7 nm and 14nm chips

A lot of people are using older technology because it’s much more affordable (like 45 nm)

ASICs on your bike could be a thing? 11:16
SRAM wireless electronic bike shifters 11:57
Is bike hacking a real thing? Yes! Encrypted wireless communication helps prevent it.

Is an opamp (operational amplifier) an ASIC?

What to consider when investing in an ASIC 13:23
What’s the next best alternative to building this ASIC?
With an ASIC, you can often drive lower cost, but you also increase performance and  reliability
Is there a return on investment? 14:24

What happens when Moore’s Law hits a dead end with transistors? 14:46
Could we replace electrical with optical? 15:30
Is it possible that there other fundamental devices out there, waiting to be discovered? 16:20
The theoretical fourth device, the memristor 17:00

Will analog design ever die? Mike was told to get into digital design.

Non-binary logic could be the future 18:23

If someone wants and ASIC, how do they get one? 18:50
In-house design vs. external fabs/foundries, total turnkey solutions vs. the foundry model

You can get a cheaper chip by going to a larger architecture, but the chip will run hotter and slower.

RTL – Most common code languages Verilog or VHDL vs. higher level languages like C 22:50

Behavioral Verilog vs. Structural Verilog 24:00

The history of Keysight ASICs 25:45

Predictions 28:40
How to connect with us 29:00

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