SAN FRANCISCO Answering critics who maintain that programmable analog represents a limited market, Anadigm Inc. has come out swinging. The company has not only cracked the formula for small production runs, president Michael Kay said, but will push open new markets with a dynamically reconfigurable device it has just introduced.
Anadigm reports user success stories for its field-programmable analog arrays (FPAAs). The devices, replacing multiple analog ICs and passives with a single package, are primarily for signal-conditioning applications, Kay said, and the typical Anadigm customer uses 1,000 to 100,000 per project. These small production runs for analog circuits are a lot larger than the prototypes for which the analog blocks were slated and a potentially profitable business with high average selling prices.
But the company's latest devices are reconfigurable processors that allow real-time parameter changes. Analog functions are developed in software and "compiled" with an embedded system. An embedded core C-programmable and SRAM-based in the Anadigmvortex device (the AN220E04) allows analog signal conditioning to be "adaptive." Reconfigurability paves the way for fully adaptive circuits, Kay insisted. The 220 Anadigmvortex replaces 20 separate analog blocks, Kay said, and already has nine design wins.
The company can already report design wins and shipments for its statically reprogrammable devices. They are used for low-frequency signal-conditioning applications (under 2 MHz), references, signal generators, amplifiers and filters as well as for control of phase and frequency, said Kay. Markets include industrial controls and monitoring, photonics (laser tracking) and automotive controls.
Abbott Labs uses the devices in blood analyzers, Kay said. Schlumberger uses them in currency-scanning and -verification equipment. Industrial programmable logic controllers employ Anadigm parts for amplifying and linearizing low-level signals from thermocouples and linear displacement sensors.
The dynamically reprogrammable 220 Anadigmvortex has four differential inputs and two output cells (for conditioning/monitoring applications in low-voltage differential signaling ), a 170-MHz op amp (with a 150-volts/microsecond slew rate), an 8-bit successive approximation register A/D converter and a switched capacitor fabric. It offers signal-to-noise of up to 100 dB for audio signals and common-mode rejection of better than 80 dB for signal-conditioning circuits. But while the device allows savings from "inventory reduction," it isn't cheap: $15 each in lots of 10,000.
Users are typically those with multiple signal-conditioning projects but limited design resources, said Kay. Reuse is important to them. Major competitors for Anadigm are not other programmable analog vendors, but microcontroller vendors with analog front ends like Microchip Technology or Cypress Microsystems, whose microcontroller is said to include some programmable analog circuitry, Kay said.
Anadigm's programmable analog technology originated with U.K.-based Pilkington, which was acquired by Motorola in the mid-1990s. Motorola promoted the FPAA concept and helped develop much of the programming software, but was impatient with the market results. Anadigm was spun off, with venture backing, in January 2000. Its major investors include 3i, Quester and NIF, which offered roughly $5 million in two successive rounds.
Anadigm maintains relationships with foundries Chartered Semiconductor and UMC. Its devices are built with a double-polysilicon analog process with 0.35-micron geometries on 8-inch wafers.
With headquarters in Campbell, Calif., and design centers in Crewe, U.K., and in Phoenix, Anadigm sees its mission as reducing analog design complexity. "There are few software-centric tools for analog," Kay said, and, "conversely, few programmable analog vendors to attract tool development. We've had to develop our own tools."
Like other embedded-processor and FPGA vendors, Anadigm maintains a library of signal-conditioning functions in software that can be downloaded into its devices. The software allows a designer to trade between bandwidth and power consumption in signal-conditioning circuits. The output of the AnadigmDesigner2 package is exportable ANSI C code.
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