SAN MATEO, Calif. " Fabless ASIC supplier Flextronics Semiconductor Inc. is considering a move into structured ASICs to give customers another way to reduce system-development cost.
The Sunnyvale, Calif., company has partnered with startup eASIC Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.), developer of a one-mask metal programmable array that can either be embedded in a cell-based design or used as the base fabric for fast-turnaround ASICs.
Flextronics is now evaluating the eASIC fabric as the basis for a planned 0.13-micron structured array product, said Elli Yaniv, the general manager of Flextronics Semiconductor. The first test chip is being run at one of Flextronics' manufacturing partners-which include STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and a third, undisclosed chip maker.
ST announced a working relationship with eASIC at the 40th Design Automation Conference last June. But it's not yet clear what this three-way alliance will produce. Yaniv declined details, saying only that Flextronics expects to reach the first "milestone" of the eASIC co-development arrangement by next spring.
Today, Flextronics Semiconductor provides FPGA-to-ASIC conversion services for a number of tier-one customers of its parent company, contract manufacturer Flextronics International (Singapore). The company is trying to engage those same customers for 0.18- and 0.13-micron system-on-chip designs, and sees a structured ASIC offering as rounding out its custom-chip offerings by providing a method for fast-turnaround designs with low nonrecurring engineering charges.
"One way Flextronics can give customers cost reduction at the system level is through the [company's] semiconductor business, and we do that with integration, conversions and low-cost designs," Yaniv said.
But, so far, FPGA-to-ASIC and end-of-life ASIC conversions still account for most of Flextronics' revenue.