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FPGA VS ASIC Design [Comparison]

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FPGA VS ASIC Design: From the blog’s subject, you all must have already got the gist of what we will discuss. The term “versus(vs),” which is the prime keyword here, technically means “against” or “conflict.”

 

In the realm of hardware, there are conflicts as well, viz., between operating systems, gaming consoles, and even chip development (FPGA versus ASIC). We may not see the makers of these advances battling on the NYSE floor, not yet, at any rate, it doesn’t imply that there is no aggravation (loss of pay).

In this era of wireless communication, cloud computing, and AI, enormous demands on computing platforms are continuously placed. Hardware acceleration, particularly in the form of custom logic, is helping in this regard to meet the increasing needs for performance, lower power, and lower total cost of ownership.

For example, 5G demands higher clock rates within a limited power budget in high-bandwidth wireless services.

With regards to hardware design, system architects have a few kinds of custom logic solutions for browsing. FPGAs, organized ASICs, and ASICs are all part of the custom logic continuum.

FPGAs and ASICs are the two kinds of integrated circuits frequently thought about while executing electronic product design. FPGAs and ASICS are comparative in their circuit design flow.

They comprise arrays of logic cells that can be customized utilizing a hardware description language.

Regarding language-driven design flows, ASIC designers will generally compose entirely compact code (in VHDL or Verilog) and utilize minimum instantiated (explicitly named) cells. By examination, FPGA architects are more likely to instantiate explicit low-level cells.

A Group of gates can be put together near one another in ASIC to such an extent that their track delays are minor. This implies that ASIC architects can sometimes be a little messy regarding something like this contingent upon the design. By examination, if this kind of configuration were executed on an FPGA with every one of the gates implemented in a different LUT, it would “fly like a block” on the grounds because the track delays on FPGAs are considerably more critical, somewhat talking.

Indeed, a LUT can address several logic levels, so the position isn’t exactly pretty much as crucial as it might appear from the get-go. Having said this, basically to raise (or keep up with) execution, FPGA designs will, in general, be more profoundly pipelined than their ASIC counterparts. This is worked with by how each FPGA logic cell will, in general, include both a LUT and a register, which makes registering the output very simple.

Be that as it may, these two technologies vary in more than one way, including their purpose and capacity. The two technologies, ASICs and FPGAs, are phenomenal and have incredible advantages; however, it’s dependent upon you to sort out which innovation to utilize in light of your product.

There is a particular benefit to FPGAs at times, and in different cases, ASICs are an advantage.

The accompanying factors are immeasurably essential to consider. They can direct you toward the choice that bodes well for your application:

  • Volume: The quantity of your production run is a significant factor since this determines which sort of microchip will be savvier. ASICs are the better option for any big production run.
  • Customization and integration: One principle distinction between ASICs and FPGAs is the degree of customization they offer. If you need an integrated circuit that is custom-made impeccably to your application, you ought to pick an ASIC.
  • Efficiency: One more mark of distinction is the degree of effectiveness ASICs and FPGAs offer. ASICs are pretty more effective than their multipurpose counterparts.
  • Budget and time to market: The amount you’re ready to spend on advancement and creation and the plan you’re working with will likewise impact which kind of chip you ought to pick. ASICs will, in general, be more practical in large quantities; however, they require a higher initial expense and a more extensive time venture for design

Related Post: CPLD VS FPGA: The Never-Ending Conquest

What is FPGA?

Field Programmable Gate Array or FPGA is in direct contest with ASIC chip technology. FPGA is, fundamentally, a chip that can be modified and reinvented to play out various functions at any single point in time.

Besides, a single chip comprises thousands of units called logic blocks that are connected with programmable interconnects. The FPGA’s circuit is made by interfacing several configurable blocks, and it has an unbending internal structure. In synopsis, an FPGA is a programmable rendition of an ASIC.

FPGAs are pre-assembled and programmed by the client in their labs or the field. They don’t need non-recurring engineering costs (NRE) and can assist innovators with having the opportunity to advertise amazingly quickly.

This makes FPGAs an incredible choice for separation in a rapidly evolving environment. By and large, the FPGA affords general functionality that allows programming to your specifications. Notwithstanding, as there are two sides of the same coin, there are results of FPGA’s flexibility as well.

For this situation, it is an expanded expense, increased internal delay, and limited analog functionality. The issue is that FPGAs are not entirely customizable; for instance, one can’t add a particular analog block or integrate RF capability into an FPGA; external ICs should implement those functionalities, accordingly making the product more extensive and all the more exorbitant.

What is ASIC?

ASIC stands for Application-Specific Integrated Circuit. Besides, as the name infers, it is a chip that fills the need it has been designed and doesn’t allow reprogramming or modification. Thus, it implies that it can’t play out another function or execute another application once programming is finished.

Since the ASIC’s design is intended for a particular function, this decides how the chip receives its programming. The programming process itself comprises drawing the resultant circuit permanently into the silicon.

As new features mature, it very well may be more conservative and power-efficient to harden integrated circuit designs. Application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) are purpose-built and mass-produced for a specific function. In contrast to FPGAs, they can’t be reprogrammed, and they require a critical NRE investment.

With a standard cell-based ASIC, each layer of the integrated circuit should be customized. This requires specific design teams and software tools designing for intended functionality, just as making significant investments in design for test (DFT) architecture advancement to ensure the design is manufacturable and has excellent quality.

ASICs can be analog, digital, or a blend of the two. Analog Components can incorporate an amplifier or ADC, while digital components can incorporate a microprocessor or EEPROM. The analog part of the chip is designed utilizing transistor-level design methods and manual layout processes.

The digital section is created using Hardware Description Language (HDL) and afterward followed by an automated place-and-route layout process.

On the opposite side, ASICS is a lot denser. One can incorporate a few unique functionalities into one chip and thus offer small size, low power, and minimal expense arrangement.

FPGA vs ASIC DESIGN

FPGA and ASIC examinations are jotted down throughout the following section as far as application, business suitability, and technology aspects are concerned. Remember that the two technology dominates in different applications. It ordinarily decays into which suits your requirements regarding the decision.

Time to Market: 

With regards to the measure of time it takes to plan and foster FPGAs versus ASICs, FPGAs are by and large simpler and faster to deliver as they don’t need layout/masks and can be reprogrammed in the field on a case by case basis, so there is to a lesser extent a need to perform testing and verification processes like that of ASICs.

ASIC design, however, is more complicated, often requiring custom design and a complex design flow. Moreover, because of the intricacies and customizations, it can require a higher expectation to learn and adapt, stretching the time to market.

Ventures worried about an ideal opportunity to showcase over all the other factors are ought to think about FPGAs first. Contingent upon the intricacy of the plan, an FPGA can require weeks or months to plan. A structured ASIC takes around six to nine months, relying upon complexity. A cell-based ASIC requires somewhere close to 18 to two years.

NRE: 

NRE represents Non-Recurring Engineering costs. As you can envision, with the words recurring and costs, each business is concerned when they hear those two words in a similar sentence. Thus, any reasonable person would agree that this is a fundamental primary consideration. Additionally, on account of ASIC, this is incredibly high, though, with FPGA, it is almost non-existent.

Be that as it may, in the grand scheme, the total costs get lower and lower the more massive the quantity you need in terms of ASIC. Besides, FPGA can set you back since its unit costs are higher per unit than ASIC.

Design Flow:

Every Engineer and PCB designer favors a more difficulty-free and simplistic design process. Since what you do is mind-boggling, it doesn’t imply that you need to muddle the actual interaction. ASICs have a significantly more intricate and tedious design flow contrasted with FPGAs. Since ASICs are not reprogrammable, designers need to perform different processes, including design conceptualization, chip optimization, logical/physical implementation, design validation, and verification.

For FPGAs, such a design flow isn’t required. Since their function can be changed after fabrication, designs can take out the mind-boggling planning, place and route, and timing analysis.

FPGA Flow

FPGA VS ASIC Design | FPGA Flow

ASIC Flow

ASIC FLOW

Unit Cost: 

Even though ASICs have a high NRE cost, the unit cost per chip is somewhat low, making it ideal for high-volume, large-scale manufacturing. Then again, FPGAs have a high unit cost, so this sort of chip isn’t appropriate for large-scale manufacturing. It is anyway thought to be financially savvy whenever created in more modest quantities.

Performance and Efficiency:

As far as performance, ASICs outflank FPGAs just barely, principally because of lower power utilization and the different potential functionalities that you can layer onto a single chip. Additionally, FPGA has a more rigid internal structure. At the same time, with an ASIC, you can design it to dominate in power utilization or speed. FPGAs require more power to perform comparable functions as ASICs.

Power Consumption: 

Because ASICs are intended for a dedicated purpose, it offers better and speed contrasted performance than FPGAs. ASICs are likewise substantially more power-efficient than FPGAs because of their capacity to control and improve power utilization levels. Particularly with electronic gadgets that are battery worked. FPGAs require more power to perform comparative functions as ASICs.

Unit Size:

As far as size, it involves physical science. With an ASIC, its design is intended for one functionality; in this manner, it comprises precisely the number of gates needed for the ideal application. However, with FPGA’s multifunctionality, a single unit will be fundamentally bigger given its internal structure and a particular size that you can’t change.

Operating Frequency: 

FPGAs have limited operating frequencies, the factor at the detriment of which we get the capability to reconfigure the chip. ASICs tend to have the ability to run at higher frequencies as compared to FPGAs at the same node, inferable from the fact that they have been designed to serve one function only and cannot be configured to accomplish something else.

Barriers to Entry: 

Barriers to entry allude to the difficulty in acquiring these technologies and the forthright cost associated with them. Concerning ASICs, the barrier to entry is pretty high considering the high upfront NRE costs, the intricacy of operations, and other necessary ventures associated with it.

Reports show that ASIC development can range into the millions. In contrast, with FPGA, you can start development with less than a few grand (<$5000), making it the easier route to take in terms of capital speculation.

FPGA VS ASIC Design

Configuration/Flexibility:

In general, the most evident distinction between FPGA and ASIC is programmability. Subsequently, the apparent result here is FPGA offers more choices as far as adaptability is concerned. FPGAs are not only flexible, but they also provide “hot-swappable” functionality that allows modification even while in use, a feature that makes it a popular choice among individuals and fields looking for high velocity, accelerated computing, such as in data centers

Analog Designs:

While FPGAs are reconfigurable, we can’t utilize them to make analog designs like ASICs. They can use analog hardware like ADC, RF blocks (Bluetooth, WiFi), and more to work with the analog design.

FPGA VS ASIC Analog

FPGA And ASIC Pricing

FPGA VS ASIC Design pricing

FPGA versus ASIC Crossover Point

The chart shows total expense versus the number of units. The inconvenience of the FPGA per-unit cost premium over ASIC lessened over the long run as NRE costs turned into a more significant part of the total cost of ownership of Application-Specific.

ASICs have exceptionally high Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE costs) up in millions. However, the actual per die cost could be in pennies. On account of FPGAs, there is no NRE cost. You pay for the genuine FPGA IC, and for the most part, get free software for that FPGA (up as far as possible). In this way, the total expense for ASICs begins extremely high inferable from the NRE cost;

however, its slope is flatter. That is, prototyping ASICs in small quantities is exorbitant. Yet, in huge volumes, the cost per volume turns out to be exceptionally more minor. On account of FPGAs, the IC cost is significantly higher, so in huge volumes, it turns out to be exorbitant in contrast with ASICs.

Here is the breakdown of ASIC cost parts: 

  1.       ASIC EDA tools and training
  2.       Cost of designing
  3.       DFT cost
  4.      Cost of simulating
  5.      ASIC Masks Cost
  6.      Wafer Cost
  7.      Wafer Processing
  8.      Die Utilization
  9.      Yield & Manufacturing Loss
  10. Packaging

In contrast with the above list, the FPGA cost is just for the IC to pay off the rack..

You got Questions?

No Worries. We got you covered.

Related Post: FPGAs for Data Center Acceleration

FPGA FAQ’S

What is FPGA Mining?

FPGA mining is a highly effective and quick way of mining, contrasted with GPU mining and outflanks CPU mining. FPGAs regularly burn through small amounts of power with somewhat high hash ratings, making them more feasible and practical than GPU mining.

Can FPGA mine Bitcoin or Ethereum?

Indeed, it can. Yet, for Bitcoin, ASIC is now there, so it would make no sense for FPGA to contend with ASIC because ASIC would be much faster than FPGA. For Ethereum, ETH PoW calculation (Ethash) is memory escalated (requires a lot of memory).

FPGA isn’t appropriate because FPGA is core intensive; FPGA hashing speed would be around GPU. Be that as it may, FPGA with HBM can mine Ethereum quicker than GPU because HBM permits the accelerators to perform memory-bound compute tasks a lot faster than existing technology while burning through substantially less power than external DRAM.

How to cool your FPGA?

The following are the ways to cool the FPGA-

What are the different modes of programming the FPGA?

The different ways of programming the FPGA are –

  • SRAM via JTAG or programmable cable
  • Flash
  • USB and SD-Card

What is a constraint file, and why do we use it?

A constraint file is required to make the design as per your requirements, like sending signals to particular pins of FPGA, defining clocks, setting false or multicycle paths.

Name some FPGA manufacturing companies.

  • Xilinx (~50%)
  • Altera (~40%)
  • Lattice Semiconductor
  • Microsemi(Actel)
  • QuickLogic

What is the difference between ‘Hard Processor Core’ and ‘Soft Processor Core’?

By and large, FPGA is categorized in the following two ways in terms of design.

  1. Hard Processor Core – Some FPGA parts have fixed blocks like processor core and some typical standard IPs. There are few spaces available for other logic implementation.
  • Capable of work on high speed due to better optimization.
  • But have a fixed configuration and can not be altered.
  1.  Soft Processor Core – Full FPGA can be utilized for logic. Users need to implement a soft processor core if required.
  • It can be easily modified and have more logic
  • But limited in terms of speed of the fabric

How does FPGA provide substantial benefits to enterprises?

As client request continues to change, manufacturers need to change or redesign their products to remain relevant. FPGAs are intended to give the required flexibility and make changes to the product functionalities anytime, even after deployment at the clients’ end.

The reception of FPGAs has been driven by the idea of consolidating the best features of ASICs and processor-based frameworks. FPGAs can be advantageous across different industries, given their features such as parallel processing, simple design cycle, adaptability, reusability, and quicker time-to-market.

ASIC FAQ’S

What is the development time from specification to ASIC prototypes?

ASIC design, including production silicon for cost decrease programs or scaling down, is accessible in 12-22 weeks. Analog ASIC prototypes can be finished in just two months relying upon the chip plan and intricacy. ASICs for new product advancement, where the performance and specification of the ASIC are dependent upon changes, take somewhere in the range of 18 and 28 weeks.

Do we need to partition our system-level schematics for ASIC integration before STA can provide us with a quote?

It very well may be helpful to however isn’t required. Our application engineers have a broad foundation in system design. They are persistently keeping up with knowledge of the size/valuing issues of discrete components.

What level of ASIC design expertise should we have to ensure a successful project?

The Customer ought to have a point-by-point familiarity with the system-level objectives and the working environment of the target product. No ASIC design proficiency is required.

What level of assistance is provided by STA during the prototype evaluation stage?

Ordinarily, we will evaluate prototypes for detailed conformance before they are shipped off to the client. When the timing of the evaluation is critical, a full assessment stage for the ASIC can be given.

Can the production schedule be expedited?

Indeed, now and again, tested parts can be conveyed in just fourteen days. Assisted timetables are accessible on a restricted premise.

How can we be sure that all production parts meet specifications?

The client should approve test flow and test limits before the beginning of production. Test parts tested by the production test program are provided for accreditation. At production, 100% of the wafers and 100% of packaged parts are tried for compliance.

What are the open-source tools being often used in ASIC Design?

  • For Simulations- Xilinx Vivado, Mentor’s ModelSim.
  • For Logic Synthesis- Yosys
  • For Floor Planning, Placement, and CTS- Graywolf
  • For Routing- Qrouter
  • For STA- Open Timer

What is mixed-signal ASIC Design?

Mixed-signal ASIC design implements analog and digital circuits on a single semiconductor integrated circuit, which shares a standard power supply. This integrated circuit is viewed as an experimental stage for building savvy electronic applications.

 What is Clock Gating?

The dynamic power associated with any circuit is related to switching activity and the total capacitive load. In digital VLSI designs, the most frequently switching element are clock elements (buffers and other gates used to transport clock signals to all the synchronous elements in the design).

In some of the designs, clock switching power may be contributing as high as 50% of the total power. Power being a very critical aspect, we need to make efforts to reduce this. Any measure that can be made to save the clock elements toggling can help in reducing the total power by a significant amount.

Clock gating is one of the techniques used to save the dynamic power of clock elements in the design. Clock gating is a popular technique used in many synchronous circuits for reducing dynamic power dissipation by removing the clock signal when the circuit is not in use. Clock gating saves power by pruning the clock tree at the cost of adding more logic to a circuit.

What Is Stuck-at Fault?

A Stuck-at fault is a particular fault model used by fault simulators and Automatic test pattern generation (ATPG) tools to mimic a manufacturing defect within an integrated circuit. Individual signals and pins are assumed to be stuck at Logical’ 1′, ‘0’, and ‘X.’

For example; an output is tied to a logical ‘1’ state during test generation to assure that a manufacturing defect with that type of behavior can be found with a specific test pattern. Likewise, the output could be tied to a logical 0 to model the behavior of a defective circuit that cannot switch its output pin.

Conclusion

FPGA or ASIC- What to Choose and When ? Still Confused?

 

On the off chance that you are an interloper in the VLSI world, FPGAs and Simulation Software are what you should go for. Likewise, the adaptability in the design of FPGAs makes it reasonable for applications and devices that need to be changed and often overhauled rather than ASICs appropriate for more long-lasting applications.

This component likewise settles on FPGA as the best decision for prototyping purposes. The circuit can be altered if there is a mistake or improvement, something impossible on an ASIC as it is permanent. That is the reason FPGAs are often used to prototype ASICs before they are made.

Then again, the last ought to be the go-to decision for large volume productions in case configurability is an immaterial factor.

If your design is advanced and remarkable with exceptionally explicit prerequisites (as far as cost, power, speed, and so on), then, at that point, you have no choice but to go with the ASIC route. Any other way, FPGAs can oblige most utilization cases, particularly when you need reconfigurable equipment.

The contention among FPGA and ASIC can be decided by your design type (analog or digital), configuration requirements, and budget. Despite the decision, the most important consideration ought to be your design needs. If you are as yet going back and forth, try simulation first.

If you would profit from utilizing FPGAs in your following product yet you’re uncertain where to begin; Logic Fruit Technologies can help.

We here at  Logic Fruit are well equipped to make the fundamental compromises to optimize time to market, power, performance, cost, and unwavering quality of your product. We offer design services ranging from digital protocols to FPGA acceleration on data centers for real-time data processing.

To ultimately capitalize on the advantages of utilizing FPGAs, you need to band together with the right plan and creation group that can assist you with understanding your vision. Logic Fruit Technologies leverages expert designing and venture the executives’ abilities to help with each level of the design process.

 

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