Dialog Semiconductor Licenses Flex Logix’s Embedded FPGA Technology for High-volume ICsDecember 18, 2019 by Cabe Atwell
Flex Logix’s eFPGA is a low-power FPGA that can be integrated into SoCs, microcontrollers, and ICs.
IC manufacturer Dialog Semiconductor has collaborated with FPGA developer Flex Logix to license the company’s EFLX eFPGA (Embedded Field Programmable Gate Array) into a new series of high-volume ICs. The two companies are also releasing an EFLX compiler to program the incorporated eFPGAs.
Flex Logix states their EFLX platform is a low-power, fully-functional FPGA that can be integrated into SoCs, microcontrollers, and standard/custom ICs.
Anatomy of EFLX array and EFLX DSP core. Image from (PDF) Flex Logix
Its cores can be utilized to upgrade I/O protocols, change encryption algorithms for increased security, enable elements of SDRs (Software Defined Radios), and accelerate data center algorithms. The EFLX eFPGA can also be used to upgrade existing products and individual systems deployed in the field.
Programming for EFLX Arrays
On the programming side, EFLX arrays can be coded using Verilog or VHDL, while the EFLX Compiler can take the output of synthesis tools such as Synopsys Synplify.
Flex Logix states that the EFLX Compiler "packs, places, routes, generates timing and generates the Configuration Bit Stream to be loaded into the EFLX array to implement the RTL function." Image from Flex Logix
The arrays are also said to handle tasks such as packing, placement, routing, timing, and bitstream generation. When loaded into an array, the bitstream programs the hardware to carry out the requested RTL function.
Flex Logix offers eFPGA cores with similar density and performance to leading FPGAs in the same process node. Dialog Semiconductor explains that these eFPGA cores have been proven at 40nm, 28/22nm, 16/12nm, and 14/12nm; in addition, a 6/7nm EFLX eFPGA is expected at some point in 2020.
EFLX 4K Tiles
The company’s eFPGA was designed around ‘tiles’ known as EFLX 4K, which is offered in two versions: all logic, or mostly logic with some MACs (Multiply Accumulators). The programmable logic for the EFLX 4K tiles is titled LUTs (Look Up Tables) that can carry out any Boolean function.
ArrayLinx, an interconnect, connects EFLX 4k tiles into arrays with a mesh interconnect. The above image is a TSMC 28HPC+ 2×2 array with RAM. Image from Flex Logix
The EFLX 4K Logix (all logic) version is outfitted with 4000 LUT4 equivalents. The EFLX 4K DSP, on the other hand, comes equipped with 3000 LUT4s and 40 MACs, each having a 22-bit pre-adder, a 22×22 multiple, and a 48-bit post adder/accumulator.
XFLX Interconnect Network
The secret sauce behind Flex Logix’ EFLX 4K tiles lies in the interconnect network—which the company dubs XFLX— that ties any logic blocks together. XFLX uses about half the area of traditional interconnects, but only uses five to seven metal routing layers with high throughput.
The EFLX 4K tiles also take advantage of ArrayLinx mesh interconnects that connect the tiles into arrays and tie into the XFLX interconnect. Two types of cores can be mixed into the arrays with up to 500K LUT4s and a roadmap to >1M LUT4s.
RAM of any kind can be spread throughout the array using Flex Logix’ RAMLinx interconnect, which can be integrated between rows or columns within the EFLX 4K array, making them highly adaptable for SoCs and microcontrollers.
Compatibility with Process Nodes
Flex Logix states that the EFLX 4K eFPGA is available in both Logic and DSP versions with the following process nodes:
- TSMC 12FFC+/FFC/16FFC+/FFC/FF+ (silicon proves, evaluation board available)
- TSMC 22ULP/28HPC/HPC+ (silicon proven, evaluation board available)
- TSMC N6/N7 (slated for 2020)
- GlobalFoundries 12LP/LP+/14LPP (silicon in validation, evaluation board available soon)
- Sandia 180 (a proprietary port for Sandia National Lab’s own 180nm wafer fab)
Smaller EFLX 4K eFPGAs
Smaller EFLX 4K eFPGAs are also available, which include:
TSMC 16FF+/16FFC/12FFC: EFLX 150 (silicon proven)
- TSMC 40LP/ULP: EFLX 100 (silicon proven)
Applications for EFLX 4K eFPGA
Applications for the EFLX 4K eFPGA series include networking (network, security, and storage protocols), acceleration for co-processors, wireless base station DFE, and MCU/MPU reconfigurable I/Os.
Sandia Labs utilized Flex Logix's eFPGA for their Dragonfly SoC in multiple applications. Image from (PDF) Flex Logix
They can also be utilized for SSD programmable timing and ECC, integrated FPGAs for aerospace and defense projects, and encryption/decryption security applications.
Dialog Semiconductor feels confident that this joint effort with Flex Logix will help them heighten the "configurability" of Dialog Semiconductor products in the future—thus expanding design opportunities for engineers.
In a recent press release, Davin Lee (Dialog Semiconductor's senior VP and general manager of the advanced mixed-signal business group) stated, “Adding eFPGA functionality to our products will give our customers the flexibility to keep pace with rapidly changing market needs. By partnering with Flex Logix and leveraging its EFLX eFPGA, there is a massive opportunity to increase the configurability of future Dialog products within several of our target markets, such as IoT, computing, storage, and mobile."