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Why to use ASIC ("Application Specific Integrated Circuits")?

What are the different ASICs?

In this page we have tried to put some of the facts about ASICs. We will be happy to provide more explanation and/or if you have an application where you don't know if an ASIC is feasible, contact us and we can tell you how to make the best choice.

What is an ASIC?

  • An ASIC is developed based on a specific Specification, for well-known use. Therefore, ASIC is specific and cannot be found in the range of the standard components available on the market (ASSP).
  • Features and performance that with out an ASIC cannot be developed.
  • ASIC is owned by the company who paid for. The manufacturer is allowed to sell the ASIC only to this company or by owner permission to others.
  • The company pays for the development cost and for the manufacturing of the ASIC devices.

Why choosing an ASIC instead of a solution with standard components?

  • Cost Reduction - for components, assembly and PCB (printed circuit board).
  • Smaller size and simpler PCB.
  • Higher production yield and less repairs.
  • Lower purchasing and stock holding costs.
  • Lower costs for field service.
  • Better performance.
  • Lower current consumption.
  • Better reliability.
  • Better environment conditions (temperature...)
  • Better copy protection.
  • More features at same cost.

Why you would not choose an ASIC?

  • Higher development cost.
  • Longer development time.
  • Longer time and costs to implement a change.
  • Dependency on single supplier.

Main ASIC Types

  • There are three ASIC categories: Digital ASIC, Analog ASIC and Mixed-Signal ASIC (Analog & Digital in single ASIC).
  • Electrically Programmable Devices (CPLD, PLD, FPGA). These types are provides programmable capability. The programmability is an advantage however performance goes down and pricing goes up (related to ASIC).
  • Gate Array ASIC. The ASIC design based on ready to use hardware blocks. The Array is based on blocks and the design is focused on the internal and external connectivity of the blocks. Therefore shorter development phase is an advantage however ASIC area is disadvantage and therefore device price is higher then Standard Cell ASIC.
  • Standard Cell ASIC. The ASIC design based on ready to use libraries, which cut time to market.
  • Full Custom ASIC. ASIC design form gate level. This is the most performance effective way however the most expensive way down to the long development phase.

In the follow table we've summarized some of the basic rules:

  CPLD/PLD/FPGA Gate Array ASIC Standard Cell ASIC Full Custom ASIC
Development cost Lowest Low Mid Highest
Performance Low Mid Good Best
Flexibility Yes No No No
Power Consumption Highest Mid Low Lowest
Unit Price Highest Mid Low Lowest

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