Mountain View, Calif.In the next six to nine months, Actel Corp. will unveil products that employ its latest technology called Fusion, which combines mixed-signal analog capabilities with flash memory and field-programmable gate array (FPGA) fabric in a monolithic programmable system chip (PSC).
Fusion brings the benefits of programmable logic to application areas that until now have only been served by discrete analog component and mixed-signal ASIC suppliers, said Martin Mason, director of flash product marketing at Actel.
"Devices based on Actel’s Fusion technology will offer designers field reprogrammability, discrete components and mixed-signal capability that ASICs do not," he said. "Designers will be able to turnaround mixed-signal designs in a much shorter timeframe in comparison to the time needed to turnaround an ASIC design."
Actel has been working on the technology for more than two years. Fusion is a natural evolution of the work Actel has put into developing flash-based FPGA technology, Mason said. Fusion-based PSCs will integrate Actel’s ARM7 and 8051-based soft microcontroller (MCU) cores.
Since products will not be available until next year, the company didn’t release pricing or detailed technical product information.
"Actel’s Fusion technology takes advantage of the unique properties of the Actel flash-based FPGAs, including a high-isolation, triple-well process and the ability to support high-voltage transistors to meet the demanding requirements of mixed-signal system design," he said.
The capabilities will be incorporated into a single chip, reducing board space and system cost in many different applications. Fusion technology will be applicable in many different areas, including the industrial, consumer, communications, medical, automotive, military and aerospace sectors.
"End applications continue to demand increased flexibility, configurability, and performance, while at the same time reducing power demands, board space and cost," said Rich Wawrzyniak, senior analyst at Semico Research, a market research firm in Phoenix, Ariz. "The horizontal integration of analog, memory, logic and soft MCU implementations, in a single chip has the potential to create new markets and alter the current landscape of system design."
Engineers will be able to design at both very high and low levels of abstraction. Fusion peripherals include hard analog IP and hard and/or soft digital IP. Peripherals will communicate across the FPGA fabric through a layer of soft gates, which would be considered the Fusion Backbone.
The Fusion Backbone, or bus interface, integrates a micro-sequencer within the FPGA fabric and will configure the individual peripherals and support low-level processing of peripheral data.
The technology will also enable designers to reconfigure analog block settings to perform widely different functions by downloading data from embedded flash memory.
"Devices will be priced from quite low to more expensive for more integrated chips," said Mason. "Actel devices based on the Fusion technology will be very competitive for high-volume applications; however, full pricing cannot be disclosed until the time of product launch."
Actel is also developing a series of tools that will be implemented as extensions to its Libero Integrated Design Environment (IDE). The tools will allow designers to instantiate and configure peripherals within a design, establish links between peripherals, create or import building blocks or reference designs, and perform hardware/software verification.
The tool suite will also include a hardware/software debug capability and utilities to simplify the development of embedded soft ARM and 8051 processor-based solutions.
Actel Corp., 1-888-992-2835, www.actel.com