Atmel picks metal for low-run custom ARM micros

Atmel is using a programmable-metal fabric to encourage fabless companies to use an ARM7 core as the basis for low-volume custom microcontrollers.

The CAP7L provides 200,000 gates of programmable logic on a device that can be fabbed in a quarter with a non-recurrent engineering charge of $75,000, with unit costs down to $5 as volumes approach 50,000 units. Atmel claimed the CAP7L SoCs are economical in volumes of 10,000 units, with a fully-amortised unit cost of $17 and there is no need for the customer to buy their own ARM licence to use the processor core.

Atmel said its second-generation metal programmable cell fabric technology. called MPCF-II, cut the mask charges to $75,000 by using only three metal and three via layers for configuration.

Jay Johnson, Atmel’s director of CAP marketing, claimed: “Fabless semiconductor companies are often stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to implementing new designs. Low-volume, quick-turnaround ASICs typically have unit costs of hundreds of dollars and often require the purchase of an ARM IP license. The CAP7L provides an affordable low-volume solution with the power consumption, performance characteristics and IP security of a custom SoC, without excessive license fees or units costs.”

The hardware description code for any custom IP is developed using standard FPGA design tools.

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