Actel Corp. is extending the reprogramming capabilities of its flash-based FPGAs to military applications with its launch today of Mil-Temp ProASIC Plus.
The family of three parts offers a density range equivalent to 75,000 to 250,000 ASIC gates with embedded RAM and single-chip nonvolatility--qualities previously available only in custom parts, said Ken O'Neill, director of marketing for military and aerospace products at Actel, Mountain View, Calif.
"This gives designers the ability to integrate much more into a single chip that's live at power-up," O'Neill said. "Just about every type of equipment in the military market needs more gates and more memory. Primarily, these are designs that would have used ASICs."
Actel has supplied antifuse-based FPGAs for high-reliability space and military applications since 1990, but its participation was limited to lower-density designs. Starting last year, the company began duplicating its commercial market strategy in the hi-reliability sector, aggressively pushing its most advanced parts as alternatives to ASICs that its low-density FPGAs normally accompanied.
Finding customers willing to substitute larger, pricier FPGAs for ASICs has been easier than one might imagine, according to Actel. Cost and time-to-market pressures are forcing military system designers to look at flexible options while they also are confronting an ever shrinking supply base.
"Fewer semiconductor companies are willing to invest in developing products for military applications," O'Neill said. "It takes quite a bit of investment to set up military qualification lines, and that gets amortized over only a few units."
Gartner Dataquest, San Jose, said programmable logic has gained ground in the military segment vs. ASICs, and this year could match ASIC revenue at $190 million. By 2007, PLD revenue in the segment should nearly double that of ASICs.
Cost considerations have also made military system designers less rigid in certain aspects. For example, in some cases they will choose to leverage lower-cost industrial-grade packages, O'Neill said.
With the Mil-Temp ProASIC Plus family, Actel claims to offer the first flash-based FPGAs qualified for the full military temperature range, as well as hermetically packaged parts with Mil-Std 883B screening.
Based on nonvolatile flash memory, the devices are immune to firm errors caused by radiation effects and are secure from reverse engineering--a concern of designers considering SRAM-based parts, who must download their design configuration from a separate device.
The APA300, APA600, and APA1000 will be available in plastic and hermetic packages. Mil-Temp Plastic (MTP) packages are designed to handle extreme temperatures from - 55°C to 125°C, while Mil-Temp Hermetic (MTH) packages are offered for extreme temperatures in high-humidity environments.
Actel's MTP parts are available, starting at $290 in quantities of 5,000. MTH parts will be available in September, priced from $510 in 5,000s, and 883B devices are slated for release in the fourth quarter, priced starting at $860 in similar quantities.