Turnkey ASICs

For nearly three decades, CSS has specialized in design and manufacturing services for custom analog, mixed-signal, RF, and high-voltage turnkey ASICs. CSS empowers our customers to become leaders in their markets with low-cost, cutting-edge ASICs.

What is an ASIC?

An ASIC is an Application Specific Integrated Circuit.  An Integrated Circuit (IC) is a dense combination of electrical devices—both active (e.g., transistors, diodes, etc.) and passive (e.g., resistors, capacitors, and inductors)—connected with metal traces to form analog, digital, and memory blocks that collectively perform electrical signal processing.  This dense mass of functionality is manufactured in one silicon microchip.  It is not uncommon for an integrated circuit to contain millions, or even billions of transistors on a single die.  An application specific IC (ASIC) is designed for a dedicated end-use, in contrast to a chip that is designed to meet a single function suitable for many applications (i.e., a standard product).

ASICs usually integrate the functions of several discrete standard products into a single silicon solution saving both cost and solution size.  Furthermore, ASICs are fully customized.  In addition to consolidating discrete functions, novel functions and optimized performance are also designed into the chip.

An ASIC product is commissioned by, and exclusively sold to, a single customer who has full control over its use in production.  Turnkey is a term used to denote the translation of an idea all the way through to production deliveries.  Our streamlined and robust ASIC Development Flow allows both experienced and first-time ASIC customers to come to CSS with merely an idea for a new chip—sometimes even on the back of a napkin!   CSS will flesh out the idea into a full product specification, design the product, and then supply the product over its lifetime.

Layout image of thermal controller chip.
Illuminated chip.

Why an ASIC?

There are many compelling benefits of a turnkey ASIC:  

  • Many discrete components are integrated into one microchip
    • Large cost savings
    • Reduction in build of materials (BOM)
    • Smaller solution size and weight
  • A custom design optimizes the total solution
    • No wasted silicon—all of the silicon is used for target application
    • Functionality that fits the problem—add or take away specific functions as needed.
    • Optimize performance versus power consumption—stop wasting power on unnecessary performance
  • Flexible form factors.
    • ASICs can be sized to unique dimensions to meet application demands.
  • ASICs can realize functionality and performance which is not feasible with discrete components
  • Protect valuable IP
    • Large barrier to reverse engineer a microchip with unpublished specification
  • Reliability improves with component reduction and fewer PCB interconnections
  • Faster and cheaper PCB testing
  • Improve final product yield
  • Guaranteed to use chip at the beginning of its lifecycle

Turnkey ASIC Development

Engagement Models

At Custom Silicon Solutions, we specialize in the design and manufacturing of ASICs for the Industrial, Medical, Aerospace and Defense, and Consumer markets. The most common engagement for most customers is for CSS to turn an idea into a production microchip. But we also offer a variety of other engagement models.

In this engagement model, CSS partners with a customer from start to finish.  A customer provides the idea for a new ASIC in the form of a Technical Requirements Document and CSS fully defines the chip in a Product Technical Specification.  We will then design the entire chip, prepare the GDS for fabrication, prototype and evaluate the chip, and then supply it in high volume once released to production.  The tooling will be owned by CSS and we will manage the supply chain 100%.  See our detailed Turnkey ASIC description for full details.

A hybrid turnkey engagement looks very similar to a full turnkey with the exception that along with CSS, the customer is also doing some portion of the circuit design.  For hybrid turnkey engagements, CSS runs final DRC/LVS/DFM checks on the top level, tapes out the GDS to the wafer fab, owns the tooling, and manages all of the supply chain in production.

Examples of Hybrid Engagements:

  • Customer does all analog design and layout and digital HDL design.  CSS does Auto Place and Route (APAR) and top-level integration.
  • Customer does cell design of one critical analog block.  CSS does everything else.
  • Customer provides hardened digital block and CSS integrates it into chip level design.
  • CSS provides some IP blocks and customer completes analog design.  CSS does digital design and top-level integration.

In hybrid engagements, CSS and the customer will agree to a Statement of Work (SoW) that details which party is responsible for each element of the of the design.

When CSS engages in design services, we only provide elements of the final design.  For example, CSS could provide specific existing IP blocks or develop new cells for use in the customer’s design.  In this model, CSS will not own the top-level design nor perform top-level DRC/LVS/DFM.  The tape out of the device files to the wafer fab, as well as supply chain management will be in the hands of the customer.

Other standalone design services include feasibility studies, layout contracting, and production test program development.  A Statement of Work (SoW) will document the exact services CSS will provide.

Custom Silicon Solutions will manage the supply chain for a chip designed and owned by a customer.  In this model, any existing tooling would be transferred to CSS.  Similarly, any new tooling would be purchased and owned by CSS.  We then manage the production supply chain throughout the lifecycle of the product.  Typically, CSS would develop a test program for the product to leverage its low-cost, in-house test capabilities.

CSS also offers a small, but growing, portfolio of standard products.  For example, CSS provides the world’s lowest power 555 timer as a standard product.

Design Flow

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