Hardware self-made prominent hacker Bunny Fan talks about the usefulness of custom chip

You can hack Xbox to make free use possible, or use the tool kit "Chumby"STB kit you can make yourself"NetTVAnd involved in the development of the well-known hacker in the world of hardware developmentAndrew · "Bunny" · fanIn response to the IEEE Spectrum interview, Mr. Kim expressed his thoughts on the usefulness of small startups to design and manufacture their own chips independently.

How to Design a New Chip on a Budget - IEEE Spectrum

Mr. Hwang is the world's first open source notebook PC "Novena"I'm an engineer with a skill arm with a different name of" Hardware · Guru (Master) ". Mr. Hwan said that there is the opinion that even small-scale organizations such as venture companies launched with university colleagues can fully design and manufacture dedicated custom chips. So IEEE Spectrum interviewed Mr. Fan to hear about the merits of making custom chips.

"Why start with a small startup,ASICDo you want to use? Can accommodate any productFPGACan not you use? In response to the question "Mr. Fan said," The reason is that there are areas where FPGAs can not be used ", firstly. For example, in a field where very thin and small chips are required, such as a GPS terminal for tracking animals, a small device to be embedded in the body, an electronic gift card etc., the FPGA with a relatively large package size It is not going to go. In such fields, "cheap and energy-saving" is often required, and FPGAs are not suitable and ASICs are likely to be used.

In fact, in developing NeTV's next-generation aircraft which is his masterpiece work, Mr. Fan said that he was considering adopting ASIC. FPGAs are used in the current NeTV, but the output at 1080p is the limit. However, there are also ASICs that can output 4K movies at half the cost of FPGAs, he said. After all, because ASIC that satisfies all Mr. Fan's requirements was not present, it seems that we have abandoned hiring, but there are many situations where cost performance is better than FPGA depending on the application, even with limited ASIC, There seems to be a need for an ASIC.

On the other hand, Mr. Fan says that ASICs are sometimes required in exactly opposite categories. That category is a high-end device that requires high performance. Mr. Hwang, Google's machine learning machine "TPU"It seems that there seems to be" I want this! ", And it seems that I estimate how much it costs if it is implemented in FPGA. The result was that FPGA equipment alone exceeded Google's TPU cost by several thousand dollars (about hundreds of thousands of yen), and furthermore a huge software license cost was required.

"For example, if you are a large company like Microsoft, it would be possible to get a significant discount by partnering with an FPGA maker and make hardware that can compete with Google's TPU using FPGAs, If you are planning to make very interesting machines with individuals or small companies, you will be talking about $ 17,000 per chip (about 1.9 million yen), "said Mr. Fan.

Mr. Hwan responds that the software is abundant in response to the question "How long will it cost to design a very simple ASIC? Are there rules for design?" A typical open source tool "SCMOS"(PDF file) and"Open-V"Is functional, and for the design, Xcircuit, IRSIM, NetGen, Qrouter, Qflow etc. are summarizedMagicLayout tool set is available as open source.

Mr. Hwan thinks that it is possible to use open source tools up to the process rule 180 nm. Although it is certain that the 180 nm process is not so fine from today's semiconductor standards, Mr. Fan says that it can produce products that are impossible by combining individually designed chips.

Regarding the price of custom-made ASIC, masking and chip prices are secret and it is difficult to calculate accurately, but according to Mr. Fan's information he knew it was manufactured using a 250 nm process node A simple ASIC chip of several square millimeter size seems to cost several thousand dollars (several hundred thousand yen) with dozens of samples.

in Hardware, Posted by darkhorse_log