The embedded FPGA (eFPGA) technology continues to build momentum as system-on-chip (SoC) designers look to incorporate reconfigurability into their communication and data center chips. Then there are the Internet of Things (IoT), industrial, consumer, and aerospace/defense industries, taking advantage of eFPGA technology by enabling a single SoC to service multiple applications, each with slightly different requirements.
The eFPGA technology allows developers to dramatically extend the useful life of the chip by adding flexibility to their SoC designs. Moreover, it repays high development costs over a much longer period of time.
Geoff Tate, CEO of Flex Logix, is now comfortable claiming that eFPGA technology has moved far beyond a novel IP only seen in validation and test chips five years ago. “We’ve seen a 71% CAGR on the number of licenses over the last five years through December 2021, with the majority of these licenses being used for production chips.”
Flex Logix claims to have licensed its EFLX eFPGA IP to 32 SoC developers, including Air Force Research Laboratory, Boeing, DARPA, Datang Telecom/MorningCore Technology, Renesas/Dialog, Sandia National Labs, SiFive and Socionext. The company’s eFPGA IP is available in 7 nm, 12 nm, 16 nm, 22 nm, 28 nm and 40 nm process nodes, while more advanced nodes are planned for future release.
Figure 1 The modular composition of EFLX allows designers to spread the eFPGA fabric across the chip. Source: Flex Logix
Flex Logix’s EFLX technology allows chip developers to implement eFPGA from a few thousand look-up tables (LUTs) to hundreds of thousands of LUTs with density per square millimeter similar to leading FPGA players in the same process generation. Additionally, its modular design enables developers to spread arrays throughout the chip, have all-logic or be heavy-DSP, and integrate RAM in an array of many types.
More IP contracts on way
Another eFPGA IP supplier that has announced a licensee is Menta; the French supplier of eFPGA IP has signed a strategic partnership with Trusted Semiconductor Solutions, which produces radiation-hardened ICs on export-controlled technology nodes. Defense customers can work directly with Trusted Semiconductor to specify their programmability needs based on Menta’s IP and then adapt it for the target foundry technology.
QuickLogic is another eFPGA IP supplier showcasing its contract wins. In June 2020, the San Jose, California-based semiconductor firm unveiled the QuickLogic Open Reconfigurable Computing (QORC) initiative, which equips hardware and software developers with tools supported by both the user community and QuickLogic.
Next, in September 2021, QuickLogic launched Australis eFPGA IP Generator, which enables chip developers to define and implement customized eFPGA IP in an easy and highly-automated way. Its standard cell design approach allows SoC designers to generate custom eFPGA IP, and the delivery can be complete in two to three months.
Figure 2 Australis is a culmination of three decades of experience in FPGA technology. Source: QuickLogic
Australis can produce eFPGA IP for different processes from different foundries. QuickLogic claims to have supported the 22-nm node on three of the world’s most popular fab processes. The company has also hinted about announcing more eFPGA contract wins in 2022.
Majeed Ahmad, editor-in-chief of EDN and Planet Analog, has covered the electronics design industry for more than two decades.