While application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) revolutionized the electronics industry by shrinking a printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) onto a single chip, the cost of making a chip on the newer process nodes has increased to the point where companies think it is too expensive to consider. Presto Engineering, a provider of outsourced operations for semiconductor and internet of things (IoT) device companies, points out that ASICs can actually be a cost-effective alternative to PCBAs even for small runs by using mainstream, well established nodes.
The company maintains that many applications, such as IoT devices, don't need state-of-the-art process technology. Mature nodes have well-established design tools and a set of masks can cost as little as $100,000, enabling ASICs to be manufactured for around $1-$2 each in sub million-unit volumes as an affordable option. Using inexpensive but highly reliable nodes makes low volume, simple ASICs economically attractive and paves the way for the second ASIC revolution.
However, foundries and leading outsourced semiconductor assembly and test companies tend to only deal directly with large firms that have significant volume requirements and with whom they have long, well-established relationships. Presto solves this problem by acting as an aggregator: it aggregates volume from a number of its customers and has long established relationships with the leading production providers. This enables it to process even small runs for customers by having them, for example, on multi-project wafers with designs for other customers.
This flexibility and ability to accommodate small runs extends to the next stages of test and qualification in its facilities in France, California and Asia. These operate to the defined industry standards, and for innovative, novel chips Presto can custom design a test solution to suit the unique functionality and performance of the device. Presto Engineering will be discussing this and its many other manufacturing and testing services on stand 603 in Hall 3A at the Embedded World show in Nuremberg, Germany, from February 27 to March 1.
More information about the affordability and feasibility of considering a new ASIC design using Presto Engineering as your test, qualification and supply chain partner can be found in the white paper "Is an ASIC Right for Your Next IoT Product," which can be found here.