If you’re an electronics engineer or a chip designer, you’ve probably asked yourself, What is eFPGA? The technology has recently gained momentum with Achronix’s Speedcore IP development. Speedcore enables chip designers to increase performance while reducing power consumption and size. This innovation creates new opportunities for differentiation and profit in chip design.
Unlike traditional FPGAs, an eFPGA embeds an FPGA core onto an SoC, allowing developers to customize its functionality in post-production without affecting the RTL design. As a result, this technology can be helpful in many applications, including always-on sensor hubs and low-power operations. For example, an eFPGA can run at a low power level while the main CPU can hibernate until data from the sensor is available.
An eFPGA has no pin count limitations and can communicate with an ASIC ten times faster than traditional FPGAs. It also tends to consume less power than an FPGA, reducing overall system power consumption. Many ASIC engineers are amazed when they see the size of an FPGA.
Unlike conventional FPGAs, eFPGAs are licensed as IP, allowing anyone to modify the circuitry and design it to meet a specific specification. This allows other manufacturers to integrate blocks of FPGA fabric into ASICs and semiconductors.
FPGA vs. eFPGA
Embedded FPGAs (eFPGAs) are programmable logic arrays, similar to FPGAs but designed for embedded use. Their standard design features include high-throughput digital signal processing, high-bit-width buses, and deep pipelining.
The global embedded FPGA market has regional segments. The major regions in the market include North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and LAMEA. Asia-Pacific is a significant participant in the market and has made substantial investments in embedded FPGA technology. Its growth is due to the growing number of high-end applications for embedded FPGAs.
The embedded FPGA will revolutionize the chip and SoC design process. It will free designers from locked-in projects, prevent companies from missing schedules, and decrease the overall cost of chip design. Embedded FPGAs will be available for production within six months. In addition, they will also be significantly more affordable than existing chips. However, there are a few essential points to remember while choosing an FPGA for embedded systems.
Embedded FPGAs are ideal for time-critical and highly specialized computing. These devices can process multiple instructions simultaneously, and their multi-threading feature can make them faster than conventional microcontrollers. Furthermore, FPGAs can handle many more complex integrated designs than microcontrollers.
Embedded FPGAs are increasingly helpful in fabless semiconductor markets. For example, Socionext uses eFPGA in its 7-nm ASIC for its 5G platform. As a result, the company’s customers can eliminate a single chip from the system while improving the performance and power of the device. Moreover, the customer can also personalize the eFPGA with its proprietary design.
Digitally reconfigurable fabric
FPGAs are programmable, flexible systems with on-chip processing capabilities. However, these systems are limited in memory capacity, negatively affecting their performance, power consumption, and chip area. Furthermore, computing-intensive tasks require high-speed, parallel memory access, which is typically impossible with traditional bus-based memory.
Digitally reconfigurable fabric is an example of embedded FPGA, which consists of blocks of FPGA fabric embedded within a device. A typical eFPGA will consist of hundreds or thousands of inputs and outputs, usually located along the device’s edges.
An embedded FPGA is a system-on-chip design that dynamically reconfigures hardware logic. Typically, these devices can contain from 1,000 to 500,000 look-up tables. However, one IP company, Flex Logix Technologies, has created an eFPGA fabric with high density.
Reconfigurable processing fabrics consist of repeated logic cells that vary in complexity. Logic cells include ALUs and look-up tables. They also have a memory subsystem that includes storage units and direct memory access controllers. This device also consists of a topology, which describes the organization of network routers.
Flex Logix is a flexible platform that enables customers to design chips of any size or configuration. For example, a customer may only need a few hundred LUTs of programmable logic for a single chip or may need 50K-100K LUTs for a large-scale data center processor accelerator. With this, they can achieve tileable building blocks.
High-throughput, low-delay digital signal processing
FPGA and eFPGA are digital reconfigurable structures that combine programmable logic with a programmable interconnect. These devices typically behave like rectangular arrays with inputs and outputs around the edges.
FPGA and eFPGA technologies allow designers to build high-performance, low-latency digital signal processing solutions with reduced resource usage. As a result, technology has become a critical component in the evolution of programmable chips.
A learning curve is involved in designing an FPGA, but technological advancements make the investment worth it. Newer FPGA and eFPGA technologies, such as Efinix Quantum, offer lower costs, smaller form factors, and greater flexibility. As a result, they are ideal for traditional FPGA and emerging edge computing applications.
Another method to implement low-latency, high-throughput DSP on FPGA and eFPGA is using CIC structures. The CIC filter is a multiplier-free filter that works well for significant changes in sampling rate.
VORAGO Technologies, based in Austin, TX, designs and develops MCUs and SRAMs using patented HARDSIL(r) technology. In addition, VORAGO offers custom ASIC design services and validation services.
What’s Really Behind the Adoption of eFPGA?
Embedded-Field Programmable Arrays (eFPGA) have become a popular component in aerospace systems. They help make these systems lighter and smaller. They also provide power savings and flexibility. And as they get smaller, they’re less expensive.
Embedded Field Programmable Grid Arrays (eFPGA)
Embedded Field Programmable Grid arrays are semiconductor devices that implement logic programs in embedded systems. These chips can perform more complicated operations than traditional logic chips. As a result, they are commonly helpful in mobile phones, industrial control systems, and data centers. However, some of the disadvantages of these chips include power consumption and a lack of a standardized verification process. Nevertheless, the eFPGA market will expand significantly over the next few years.
Embedded FPGAs are gaining popularity in several industries, such as aerospace and automotive. Flex Logix has developed an eFPGA based on the EFLX 4K tile. It comes with several programmable logic blocks called LUTs, which can implement any Boolean function. Moreover, Flex Logix’s eFPGAs feature 40 Multiplier-Accumulators (MACs), which have a 22×22 multiplier and a 48-bit post adder.
An embedded FPGA is an IP block that consists of numerous logic cells connected by a fabric. The main benefit of using an eFPGA is that it eliminates the need for external FPGA chips. This can save space, power, and cost. Furthermore, it is easy to modify and add features.
eFPGA, an evolution of FPGA, is quickly becoming a standard for defense systems and applications. The US government is one of the largest users of FPGAs. Using eFPGA technology can give military equipment a higher range, increased data processing, and electronic countermeasures. As more nations seek to beef up their military forces, eFPGAs are becoming increasingly popular for defense applications. Companies such as Xilinx have begun developing military-grade eFPGAs.
But what’s more, eFPGAs have unique security challenges. Since we store the bits within an eFPGA in non-volatile memory (NVM), they’re vulnerable to attacks. This is why it’s essential to secure the bitstream and ensure that it can’t be stolen or modified.
Embedded FPGA IP technology is one of the best ways to save energy and can help reduce costs. In addition to the power and size savings that an eFPGA offers, users can get the most out of an existing SoC or ASIC. It also allows designers to integrate flexibility and programmability into their systems.
Embedded field programmable gate arrays have been gaining traction in the aerospace industry because of their reliability, power efficiency, and flexibility. Boeing first adopted e-FPGAs in 2018, and the company plans to use them in various applications. For example, aerospace applications require high-bandwidth input-output processing. Currently, FPGA manufacturers are developing state-of-the-art products to meet these needs. For instance, Microchip Technology Inc. works on a radiation-tolerant RT PolarFire FPGA. The company expects to have this technology in space flight by 2021.
Flex Logix recently announced that it is EFLX eFPGA IP is already available to 32 SoC developers. Customers include Boeing, DARPA, Air Force Research Laboratory, Datang Telecom/MorningCore Technology, Renesas/Dialog, and Sandia National Labs. Its eFPGA IP is available in 7 nm, 12 nm, and 16 nm process nodes, but the company plans to release the technology at even more advanced process nodes.
The benefits of eFPGA technology extend to other markets. For example, DARPA has expanded its availability to other research teams, and networking companies have incorporated it into their products as an accelerators’ platform. This helps minimize system power consumption and BOM costs while improving performance and reliability. Moreover, wireless communications companies have also begun to use eFPGA to make base stations more flexible. The technology allows them to change base station software in real-time.
As the number of IoT devices grows, IoT vendors increasingly turn to eFPGA technology to implement IoT-centric features. This technology enables manufacturers to build smaller and lighter systems while achieving high performance, power efficiency, and flexibility. In addition, this technology allows for regionalization and real-time updates. This technology is also helping the aerospace industry, which is looking for ways to make aircraft lighter and smaller.
QuickLogic Corporation, a developer of high-performance voice-enabled SoCs and embedded FPGA IP, and eTopus, a provider of high-speed, low-power connectivity IP, recently announced the development of an industry-first disaggregated eFPGA chiplet template solution. The new chiplet interfaces developed by QuickLogic and eTopus deliver unprecedented design flexibility and bandwidth for high-performance applications.
IoT applications for eFPGA can include vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Moreover, eFPGA can improve a device’s security by continuously adapting its communication algorithms and staying one step ahead of threats.
The Markets for eFPGA
The market for eFPGAs is growing rapidly, and it will reach more than $1.1 billion by 2019. With its comparatively lower cost, reduced power consumption, and flexible design, this semiconductor technology is rapidly becoming a key technology for many industries. For example, aerospace companies have begun using eFPGAs to create smaller and lighter systems.
Flex Logix Technologies
Flex Logix Technologies (FLX) offers embedded FPGA solutions and software for embedded and programmable systems, a leader in reconfigurable computing solutions. The company also provides integrated IP solutions for smart sensing, wireless connectivity, and IoT. Among its products is the EFLX embedded FPGA that enables flexible instruction sets. Another product in the company’s portfolio is the SOC2 ASIC, designed by Bar-Ilan University’s SoC Lab in 16 nm technology.
Geoff Tate founded the company. He has extensive experience in the electronics industry. Before founding Flex Logix, Geoff was CEO of Rambus, where he helped to grow the company from a four-person start-up to a $2 billion market cap. He also served on several high-tech boards and was a partner of AMD for over a decade.
Flex Logix has a portfolio of patented technologies that enable reconfigurable chips. The company’s patented Boundless Radix Interconnect technology, for example, allows for 45 percent smaller interconnect areas while maximizing utilization. In addition, the technology is compatible with most metal stacks.
With Flex Logix’s eFPGA solution, semiconductor chip designers can make changes to chip operation without having to respin the chip, which costs millions of dollars and can take months or even years. Additionally, eFPGA enables manufacturers to save on replacement parts, as they do not need to purchase new silicon.
Achronix has a global footprint with sales and design teams in Europe and Asia. In January, the company announced that it had entered into a definitive merger agreement with ACE Convergence Acquisition Corp.
Achronix’s product offerings include its Speedster7nm FPGA and Speedcore eFPGA IP. These technologies are used in high-performance embedded applications, such as machine learning applications, to accelerate computation. The company also provides design tools and accelerator cards.
Achronix is a small company with an exciting product portfolio focused on eFPGA. The company offers high-end FPGA devices, eFPGA IP, chiplet packaging, and ready-to-run accelerator boards. In addition, Achronix is unique among eFPGA vendors in its ability to deliver custom logic in embedded ASICs.
Achronix’s data acceleration solutions provide optimal performance per watt and hardware flexibility. The company’s new Speedster7t FPGAs consist of leading-edge TSMC process technology. In addition, its newly released Speedcore eFPGA IP products will drive further growth.
Achronix’s FPGAs support various applications. Such include compute acceleration, machine learning, artificial intelligence, automotive driver assistance, high-performance communications, industrial & the military applications. In addition, its IP has been implemented in numerous SoCs, saving power and BOM costs for SoC designers.
Embedded FPGAs are increasingly becoming a requirement for systems makers. The rapidly increasing cost of developing SoCs is driving demand for reconfigurable hardware. Reconfigurability in SoCs enables a greater range of applications. This flexibility allows system makers to perform system-level modifications or fix ASIC errors.
FPGAs are also helpful in wireless communications base stations. These devices can meet the needs of their users and offer real-time updates to algorithms and protocols. eFPGA is the ideal programmable solution for these applications. Unlike conventional silicon-based CPUs, eFPGAs are easy to integrate with existing ASICs. In addition, it eliminates the need for redundant circuitry.
Embedded FPGAs are a type of system-on-chip that dynamically reconfigures hardware logic. They can range in size from 1,000 to 500,000 look-up tables. An IP company named Flex Logix Technologies is developing a high-density FPGA fabric for embedded FPGAs.
The automotive industry is a significant contributor to the market for eFPGAs. These systems require high performance-per-watt and flexibility. With the growing demand in the automotive industry, key manufacturers are upgrading their product portfolios to meet these needs. For example, Xilinx recently launched a new automotive-qualified circuit for ADAS and self-driving cars.