Having carved a comfortable niche on the periphery of the stalwart 8-bit-microcontroller market, Waferscale Integration Inc. is hitching its wagon to the fast-moving 16-bit segment.
A new family of Waferscale programmable system devices (PSDs) being introduced today is designed to satisfy the increasing demand for more flash memory in 16-bit, MCU-based systems while providing an easy migration path to 32-bit designs.
"We've enjoyed the 8-bit market, and we continue to expand our presence there, but I think in some ways the 16-bit market holds more opportunity because designers tend to want bigger memory," said David Raun, vice president of marketing at Waferscale, Fremont, Calif.
The demand for greater sophistication is driving growth in the 16-bit market and slowly eroding 8-bit market share, according to IC Insights Inc. The steady decline in average selling prices may accelerate 16-bit acceptance; but with 32-bit ASPs also falling fast, some OEMs may skip the 16-bit market altogether, the Scottsdale, Ariz., market research firm said.
In general, the 16-bit market is characterized by more complex, central-processing-related applications such as network framers and routers or high-performance embedded control systems, which have large code and data-storage requirements. Higher-end 32-bit controllers and processors, which don't integrate flash, often operate in a X16 data path, Raun said.
Waferscale's new PSD4000 series offers up to 4 Mbits of flash, and the company plans to introduce 8- and 16-Mbit devices by mid-2001 that will extend SRAM density to 1 Mbit.
While a few leading 16-bit-MCU suppliers are integrating as much as 2 Mbits of flash on-chip, that only satisfies about half of the memory need, and special processing requirements make the parts expensive, he noted. Meanwhile, discrete high-density flash chips are in scarce supply.
One PSD4000 series device used alongside a 16-bit microcontroller with no embedded flash will cost about one-tenth that of a single flash-based, 16-bit device with less on-chip memory than a PSD, according to Raun.
The new series - - which achieves its memory density from a flash-based manufacturing process from STMicroelectronics Inc. - - offers in a single chip a large flash memory with a secondary flash array, SRAM, a built-in configurable interface for 16- and 32-bit MCUs or DSPs, a programmable address decoder, and a small CPLD.
Additionally, a four-pin JTAG port enables in-system programming on the production line. The ISP feature has been one of the drivers for Waferscale's earlier product lines supporting 8-bit designs by allowing the parts to be stocked like a standard piece of logic and customized in 10 seconds, the company said.
"Customers want to put a finished box on the shelf, and when an order comes in, they want to program the code without taking the box apart," Raun said.
The first two devices from the PSD4000 series integrate 512 Kbytes of primary flash, 32 Kbytes of secondary flash, and 8 Kbytes of SRAM. The PSD4135G2 features 1,000 CPLD gates, while the PSD4235G2 has 3,000 CPLD gates. Both are available, and are priced at $8.35 and $9.75, respectively, based on quantities of 10,000. A development kit costs $99, and PSDsoft development tools can be downloaded for free at www.waferscale.com.