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Crossroads For Mixed-Signal Chips

Cutting and pasting intellectual property speeds the design of a system on chip by fabless semiconductor companies

10 min read
Crossroads For Mixed-Signal Chips

fictitious IC design

ILLUSTRATION: LUTHER EASON
Building a System on Chip: Compatibility is the key to building an SoC, as is illustrated by this fictitious IC design. To build it, a fabless semiconductor company has used blocks of intellectual property (IP) acquired from several IP houses. The fabless designers must ensure all the blocks will work together and be compatible with the semiconductor process of the foundry chosen to fabricate the chips.

The last decade saw a surge in the number of small IC design houses that provide systems manufacturers with application-specific ICs (ASICs). These fabless enterprises, so-called because they farm out IC fabrication to commercial silicon chip foundries, cost relatively little to start up yet can be richly rewarded if the market adopts their products. Sustained by a wealth of design tools, they have earned a place alongside long-established, large chip manufacturers like IBM, Intel, Motorola, and Texas Instruments.

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3 min read
The SpinLaunch centrifuge
SpinLaunch

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3 min read
An arial view of large white building surrounded by black parking lots is embedded in a mix of farmland and forest.

A rendering of Intel's Ohio fab site as it might look when complete in 2025.

Intel

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