The following abstract is taken from the Electronics Design article published on July 15, 2019.

The Economics of ASICs: At What Point Does a Custom SoC Become Viable?

ASICs aren’t the preserve of only the richest in Silicon Valley. Ian Lankshear (Managing Director, EnSilica) looks at the economics behind developing an ASIC and how to keep costs to a minimum.

Much has been made in the press recently of the rising use of custom ASICs among Silicon Valley’s biggest tech firms. It’s part of a drive to create cutting-edge artificial-intelligence chips and cloud-computing services.  In April, it was Tesla reporting its ASICs for self-driving vehicles. In February, it was Facebook. And before those, Amazon and Google. Indeed, Amazon’s 2015 acquisition of Annapurna Labs, which gives Amazon the ability to create the ASICs that runs its EC2 software at a higher speed and lower cost, was recently cited by Forbes as “one of the most successful and strategic acquisitions for Amazon, giving Amazon Web Services an edge against its arch-rivals, Microsoft and Google.”

Amazon purchased Annapurna for $350 million. And anecdotal mentions of hefty sums for a single mask set (with seven zeros) and design costs that stretch into hundreds of millions of dollars have been reported for applications that use a leading-edge silicon process technology.  However, these figures are for just that: high-volume, high-value consumer products (such as smartphones) – devices that need the most advanced processes to remain competitive. They’re very much not the norm. For many applications, including IoT, heathcare, automotive, industrial and communications, taking a custom ASIC route can prove better value than using standard parts. But you need to calculate your ROI carefully, as well as talk to your existing supply chain to make sure a standard part that would solve all your issues isn’t on their roadmap.

In this Electronics Design article we look at two case studies that outline the costs and break-even point, to ask at what point does a custom ASIC become viable? And what should you know when specifying one?

Read the Full Article at Electronic Design online.