Application specific integrated circuits

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An Application-Specific Integrated Circuit, or ASIC for short, is a very specific kind of integrated circuit chip designed for special applications like specific transmission protocols or hand-held computing devices. It is different from the generic integrated circuits you’ve likely come across, such as RAM chips and the microprocessors in PCs.

ASICs can be premade for a wide variety of general-purpose applications or tailor-made for specific customer applications. Its particular design will depend on the operations it’s supposed to perform in the specific device. Here’s an overview of the three main ASIC circuit designs used today.

Gate-Array ASIC

This design consists of predefined silicon layers and offers the lowest level of customization. This is done by modifying the interconnections that exist between the different circuit components (like transistors) at the metallization phase of the manufacturing process. Functionality is achieved by opening and closing certain switches. The downside of gate-array ASICs is that they are limited in their applications.

Full-Custom ASIC

This design allows you to build your ASIC from scratch. It is built to the exact specifications of the application down to the transistor level. It’s the best option when the capabilities of standard, pre-made ASICs are too limiting for specific applications.

Standard Cell ASIC

This semi-customizable design is a compromise between gate-array and full-custom ASICs. It has silicon layers made up largely of functional standard blocks, which work as library components. Standard cell ASICs allow you to customize the mask layers to match the requirements of the application.

The main advantage of using ASICs over any other integrated circuit is their high-level performance, exceptional efficiency, long-term cost-effectiveness, and high-volume production run.

Engineers use ASICs in devices built for permanent applications since these chips aren't designed to be modified. They're commonly found in computers, smartphones, TVs, voice recorders, and a host of other devices that call for specialized integrated circuits.

 

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