CSS Mixed Signal ASIC Solutions

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Why Develop a Mixed Signal ASIC?

March 3rd, 2009 by Keith



Our ASIC customers are fully aware of all the advantages of mixed signal ASICs, but for those who have never considered one, this top-level review should be helpful. When compared to a system designed with Standard ICs, a mixed signal ASIC can reduce power, size and production costs and improve performance and reliability. The importance of these advantages varies with the application and your needs.

Power is often a significant consideration. Custom mixed signal ASICs can considerably reduce the power consumption of your electronic system. With power as a primary concern, the logic for a custom ASIC can efficiently be implemented in a state machine and avoid the power consumption of a microcontroller clock solution. Also, analog functions in a mixed signal ASIC can be optimized for low power operation, a feature not often available in Standard ICs. At CSS we find that system power can often be reduced to a small fraction of what it would be in a system built with Standard ICs.

On the other hand, speed may be more important than power. You have the option of a speed/power trade-off in the design of a custom ASIC. Or, perhaps noise is a critical issue in your design. The point is that with a custom mixed-signal ASIC, the characteristics most critical for your application can be optimized during the design of the ASIC.

Analog performance may also improve with a mixed signal ASIC. Here, CSS has a particular advantage. We have developed the capability to trim important analog functions using nonvolatile memory (EEPROM) cells built into the ASIC. For example, with this capability we can trim out production variations and set amplifier gains as needed to meet critical specifications.

Of course, an ASIC is much smaller than all of the Standard ICs that it may replace. So, if this is one of your requirements, a custom ASIC may be the only solution. You can further reduce size by selection of a small surface mount package, such as a QFN package. CSS has access to a wide variety of small packages and packaging facilities to meet your needs.

A custom ASIC will also improve your system reliability. The reduction in component count and their required interconnects at the board level provides for a significant improvement in reliability.

Finally, a custom mixed signal ASIC can significantly reduce your production costs. This is often the primary motivating factor for developing an ASIC. The production cost of a custom ASIC can be considerably less than the Standard IC components it replaces. In addition, the reduction in components will reduce the system assembly costs.

The downside of a custom ASIC often presented is that they are expensive and time consuming to develop. The development cost (NRE) of an ASIC should be compared to the savings it will provide in production. Our experience at CSS is that when a custom ASIC is compared to the Standard ICs it replaces, the development NRE can typically be recovered in a year of production savings.

Development time for a custom mixed signal ASIC is, of course, longer than the development time using Standard ICs. Development time depends on the complexity of the ASIC and the experience of the ASIC design team. CSS has extensive design experience in the development of custom ASICs. By using a proven development process and use of previously designed cells whenever possible, we are able to develop a custom ASIC in a relatively short time.

Finally, in considering the development of a custom ASIC, you need to consider how much knowledge of ASIC development is required and what internal resources are necessary for your development to be successful. Our customers are always pleased to find that they can acquire a mixed signal ASIC without the need to dedicate staff to the job or to cope with all of the technical aspects. We provide a turn-key ASIC solution.

One Response to “Why Develop a Mixed Signal ASIC?”

  1. Kelly Brown says:

    Hi, gr8 post thanks for posting. Information is useful!

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