CSS Mixed Signal ASIC Solutions

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Very Low Power ASICs

March 23rd, 2010 by Keith


Lower system power comes naturally for an ASIC.  By combining separate digital and analog functions in one chip, power is automatically reduced as the capacitance between these functions is dramatically reduced.   Power reductions of 2X to 10X are possible with no sacrifice in performance.

Even more power reduction can often be achieved in an ASIC by optimizing power reduction in a trade-off with speed.  One can achieve very low power in an ASIC if high speed is not required.  This trade-off is usually not available to a significant degree in standard products as they are often a compromise of speed and power to meet the largest market segment.  Low power is an area that we specialize in at CSS.  Many of our ASIC customers have a requirement for very low power and high speed is not required.  This allows us to design their ASIC to operate at extremely low power.  Some examples are instructive.

Applications with battery power usually want to conserve power to extend the battery life.  One of our ASICs is required to operate on its battery for 20 years!  The battery is about the size of that for a PC.  Another ASIC is required to work with an operating current of 50 nano-amps.  With this extremely low current drain, the ASIC could operate on two AAA batteries for 3.5 years.

These examples illustrate that for very low power applications, an ASIC may be the only solution.  For less severe power requirements, power may be reduced to a minimum for the required speed.  This may be the case for an ASIC in a “green” application that simply strives to conserve energy by not using more energy than is necessary for the application.

If you have a need to reduce power in your electronic system, and especially if you need to significantly reduce power, a low power ASIC is an excellent way to go – it may be the only way to go.  Please give us a call or email your requirement.  We know how to lower power and will be happy to show you what can be done for your application.

Custom Silicon Solutions was invited to attend the ON Semiconductors Executive Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona during the last week in February.  This annual event provides an opportunity for ON’s major customers to meet one-on-one with ON Executives and discuss how to work together more productively.  The 3-day event consisted of a General Session and then Breakout Sessions.

The General Session began with David Somo, Vice President Corporate Marketing, presenting opening remarks and outlining the events for the conference.

Keith Jackson, President, CEO and Director, followed with an in-depth review of event of the past year.  These events were dominated with the sharp demand experienced since the end of 2009 – assumed to be primarily a result of the considerably reduced inventories during the recession.  ON indicated that they were experiencing an unprecedented order rate as the economy begins its recovery.

Bob Mahoney, Executive Vice President, described ON’s marketing strategy – to expand their SAM and SOM through acquisitions, new products and integrated solutions.  Major acquisitions over recent years include:  LSI Logic Gresham Fabrication Facility in 2006, Analog Devices CPU Voltage & PC Thermal Monitoring Business in 2007, AMI Semiconductor and Catalyst Semiconductor in 2008, PulseCore Semiconductor in 2009 and California Micro Devices in 2010.

An Operations overview was presented by John Nelson, Executive Vice President and COO.  John indicated that lead times are extending for materials, capital equipment and for products from ON Semiconductor with all markets continuing to ramp up.  He also indicated that 2010 Capital spending will focus on Back-End expansion as enhanced utilization of the Gresham facility reduces need for Front-End capital.

In the days following the General Session, Breakout Sessions were held individually with the Companies present.  This was an ideal opportunity for executives to discuss issues and make plans for the coming year.

A golf tournament was held to round-out the experience.  ON hosted the scramble event at the McCormick Ranch Golf Club.  The tournament was well attended and fully enjoyed by all.  CSS was represented in the following foursome, including left to right:  Laurent Jenck (Director of Power Supply Applications & Marketing, APRG (ON Semi), Terry Conant (Executive Vice President, ID Tech), Greg Ochinero (Sales Area Director Western Area & Latin America, ON Semi) and Keith Shelton (President, Custom Silicon Solutions).


Silicon Wafer

Many of our customers have very long-term program lifetimes. We have experienced program lifetimes over 20 years – from initial design of the ASIC through high volume production to the decline of sales prior to development of a replacement product.   ASIC development requires our commitment to provide the product to the customer from beginning to end.   This may require changes in the silicon fabrication process as technology evolves, changes in the package (such “green” packages) and it certainly involves our product engineers continuously monitoring the entire production process to assure that yield and quality is maintained.

We just renewed an annual agreement for continued production of an ASIC with a customer we have worked with for many years. We have been producing this ASIC in millions annually for over three years and plan to continue production for the lifetime of our customer’s product.  We have experience with other long term customers, where the annual volumes are volatile and change with market conditions. We fully supported these changing requirements.  Long-term commitment to customer support is essential for a successful ASIC company and CSS is in business to provide that kind of service.