The markets and applications for embedded FPGA

May 31, 2021 // By Andy Jaros, Flex Logix
The markets and applications for embedded FPGA
This article discusses how embedded FPGA has grown from a technology pushed into the market into something that satisfies multiple application sectors and how technical development, not yet ended, will be increasingly customer-driven.

When embedded FPGA (eFPGA) first arrived on the scene, it was long considered the holy grail of chip design. The idea of being able to make a change after RTL was frozen – without having to do another costly and time-consuming spin – was always something sought after but never possible. eFPGA was a game changer in this area because it finally gave designers the flexibility to make changes at any point in the chip’s life span, even in the customers’ systems. This eliminated many expensive chip spins and enabled chip designers to start addressing many customers and applications with the same chips. It also extended the life of chips and systems because designers were now able to update their chips as protocols and standards changed.

eFPGA has come a long way since it first became available about seven years ago. The industry has already seen several generations of products and with each new generation, eFPGA has become more flexible and more usable for new applications, all driven by customer demand. Flash forward to 2021 and the need for reconfigurability in SoCs has never been greater due to the rapidly rising cost of developing SoCs especially at advanced process nodes. In fact, the applications for eFPGA seem to be so endless that this technology is well positioned to become as pervasive as Arm processors have become in the industry.

Today, eFPGA is available from multiple suppliers and has been implemented by customers in nodes from 180nm to 7nm, with 5nm coming up next. There are many publicly announced adopters of eFPGA such as Boeing, Dialog, Harvard, MorningCore, and Sandia National Labs. Many other companies have chosen to keep their applications confidential and there are even more that are currently in evaluation of eFPGA for a wide range of applications.

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