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ARM and UMC team up for low-cost chips

Although the press mostly reports about high-end chip solutions designed for leading-edge electronics and made using state-of-the-art process technologies, the market continues to need very low-cost products that are far from being technological breakthroughs. On Tuesday ARM Holdings and United Microelectronics Corp. announced partnership to enable such devices.

ARM has developed physical implementation of its energy-efficient Cortex-A7 core for UMC’s 28nm high-performance low-power (HLP) process technology. ARM’s Artisan physical intellectual property platform and ARM POP IP technology allow its customers to quickly integrate its processing engines into system-on-chip (SoC) designs tailored for the same process technology (UMC 28nm HLP in this case), which greatly speeds up development of various SoCs.

The energy-efficient ARM Cortex-A7 32-bit processor has seen broad adoption in smartphones, tablets, DTV and other consumer products. The ARM POP IP for the Cortex-A7 processor is targeted for 1.2GHz on UMC’s 28HLP platform, and delivery began in December 2013. System-on-chips based on ARM Cortex-A7 are not very expensive, yet have enough compute power for a wide variety of consumer electronics.

arm_cortex_a7_block_diagram

UMC’s 28HLP process relies on poly-SiON gate dielectric, which limits performance, but lowers cost of the chips. The foundry describes its 28HLP manufacturing technology as an “optimal balance of size, speed and power leakage”.

“Through our close collaboration with UMC, ARM’s physical IP and POP IP enable optimal SoC implementation and streamline the design flow so that our mutual customers can achieve world-class implementation and get to market in the shortest time possible,” said Dipesh Patel, executive vice president and general manager of physical design group at ARM.

UMC is one of the world’s largest contract makers of semiconductors. The company provides competitive prices, but generally is behind its rivals when it comes to volume manufacturing using leading-edge process technologies. The collaboration between ARM and UMC will result into reasonably priced system-on-chips designed for various products that do not require truly high compute power.

KitGuru Says: Perhaps, with availability of low-cost chips based on ARM Cortex-A7 made using inexpensive UMC 28nm HLP process technology, there will be more intelligent consumer electronics products with decent capabilities and performance?

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