ASIC Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

ASIC Total Cost of Ownership

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Total Cost of Ownership Considerations for
ASIC Integration

An electronic product has a total cost of ownership (TCO), that when framed in financial terms, consists of the Total Cost of Acquisition and the Operating Costs associated with the opportunity. Typically, in a company that makes electronic products, TCO cost elements are more commonly referred to as the Development Costs or Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) Costs and the Recurring or Production Costs

Integrating a printed circuit board of discrete electronics into an optimized application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) often delivers a quite favorable return on investment (ROI) and
internal rate of return (IRR). 

Implementing electronics in a custom ASIC delivers cost savings in the areas of:

  • Reduced bill of material (BOM) costs
  • Reduced manufacturing costs including pick and place and inventory costs
  • Reduced warranty costs through improved reliability (fewer PCB-level components to fail and fewer solder joints)
  • Reduced power consumption which often results in reduced battery size and cost
  • Reduced mechanical costs through the use of smaller packaging afforded by ASIC size reduction in PCB area requirements
  • Reduced PCB costs resulting from reduced PCB size, reduced PCB complexity and reduced PCB layers
  • Reduced losses from intellectual property theft that result when a discrete PCB design is reverse engineered or cloned
Barriers to achieving ASIC TCO benefits

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Challenges to Achieving Cost Savings with Traditional ASICs

Companies are eager to obtain the ASIC integration costs savings, shown above. 

Unfortunately, traditional ASIC development has been challenging from a risk and total cost of ownership perspective.

  • High NRE associated with traditional ASIC development (often well over $1-million)
  • Long development cycle (often 1.5 to 2 years)
  • Low reuse of traditional ASIC meaning that the investment in the first ASIC cannot be leveraged to significantly reduce the cost of subsequent ASICs. Follow on ASICs for derivative products have roughly the same NRE and time requirements as the first development.

Triad’s Agile ASIC™ Total Cost Ownership Advantages

Triad’s approach to ASIC development is unique in the industry. We deliver full-custom IC performance and production pricing. And, we have a unique and patented approach that makes your ASIC reconfigurable

What is a Triad Agile ASIC™?

  • Triad develops full-custom mixed signal ASIC solutions to your specification.
  • And, we can make your custom ASIC reconfigurable. An Agile ASIC is a via reconfigurable mixed signal ASIC. 
  • You can completely reconfigure the analog and digital sections of your Agile ASIC with a via-only mask layer change.

How an Agile ASIC is Made & Used

  1. An Agile ASIC contains full-custom analog and digital IP and circuits. 
  2. Triad’s patented global routing fabric is superimposed over the mixed signal circuits.
  3. Wafers containing you Agile ASIC are processed at the foundry.
  4. Prototype devices are delivered to you for evaluation.
  5. If changes need to be made to your ASIC then schematic circuits are redrawn & simulated.
  6. Your updated design is then processed by Triad’s Mixed Signal Aware™ Place & Route Software, called ViaPath™. ViaPath can place and route a complete mixed signal design in hours. ViaPath configures and interconnects the entire design by placing vias in the global routing fabric. NO FULL CUSTOM RIP UP OR RE-LAYOUT REQUIRED.
  7. A new Via Mask is fabricated and processed against wafers, staged at the foundry, containing your Agile ASIC die. Since only one mask layer is processed at the foundry the fabrication costs are significantly reduced and fabrication time is days not months.
  8. This same process can be repeated anytime a new feature needs to be added to your Agile ASIC. The reconfiguration process from Steps 5 through 7 replace the typical ASIC design process with a reconfigurable process that reduces costs by 70% and reduces development times from years to a few months.

How an Agile ASIC Delivers Improved
Total Cost of Ownership

Triad Semi Agile ASIC

An Agile ASIC is a highly reusable resource for your company. The initial development cost (NRE) for an Agile ASIC is often 70% less than a traditional full custom only ASIC. If you make mistakes in the development process then the cost to fix a mistake in an Agile ASIC is small both from a time and fabrication cost perspective compared to other approaches.

  • Assuming a traditional ASIC has a development cost over $1-million.
  • Then, an Agile ASIC would have a development cost around $400,000.
  • Mistakes on a traditional ASIC can often cost 50% of the original quotation or $500,000 or more to repair.
  • Mistakes on a traditional ASIC can require 6 months or more to fix and obtain reworked prototypes.
  • Fixing a mistake or adding a feature on an Agile ASIC is almost free. Actually, it is so inexpensive that a 2nd spin is typically included in an Agile ASIC quotation at no additional charge.
  • No full custom layout is required to modify an Agile ASIC. Design changes can be implemented in hours compared to months.
  • Because an Agile ASIC requires only a single mask processing step at the foundry then new prototypes can be obtained in weeks.
First time development on an Agile ASIC is likely to result in at least $900,000 in development cost savings and time-to-market improvement of 12 months or more. The development cost and time savings directly translates to improvements in ROI and internal rate of return. The total cost of ownership of the program is also improved because development costs are reduced and production ramp is achieved faster.

Agile ASIC Reconfigured for ongoing TCO benefits

An Agile ASIC Continues Delivering
Value in Subsequent Reuse

In a traditional full-custom analog or mixed signal IC development, very little of the development on the first design can be reused on subsequent designs. The very “hand-crafted” nature of many analog design methodologies makes reuse unlikely. 

Your Agile ASIC is a highly reusable platform for subsequent designs

Once an Agile ASIC is in production, we often hear this familiar story. The customer’s marketing team says something like:

 “We could add another large customer if we only had feature X in the ASIC.” 

In a traditional ASIC flow, this request would mean the complete develop (big cost and time penalty) of a new ASIC.

Using an Agile ASIC, it is very reasonable to implement a new design configured on top of your company’s existing Agile ASIC. This development is often half the cost of your original development with Triad. Projects like this can go from kick off to working silicon in as little as 3 to 5 months.

Companies adopting Triad’s Agile ASIC methodology are getting products to market a year ahead of traditional schedules with 70% cost savings over traditional approaches. This is for their first use of Triad’s Agile ASIC approach. When used on a succession of projects companies are savings millions of dollars and cutting their product introduction cycles in half. 

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