Early Access Program offers free NRE
Santa Clara, Calif., March 10, 2010. Tier Logic, Inc., a privately held fabless semiconductor company, today introduced its new 3D-based technology for FPGAs and ASICs, known respectively as its TierFPGA™ and TierASIC™ devices. Tier Logic is the only company to solve the digital designer's dilemma: Should their system use an FPGA, which is ideal for making quick, easy design changes, but is expensive in terms of cost and power? Or is an ASIC a better choice? An ASIC has cost and power benefits, but has traditionally meant high risk and high development costs. Tier Logic’s innovative 3D-FPGA™ technology approach offers the best of both worlds—flexibility in design AND low cost in production.
Tier Logic's 3D-FPGA Technology
Tier Logic separates user circuits and configuration circuits into three-dimensional (3D) stacked layers. Reducing the configuration overhead from the base-layers of silicon allows Tier Logic to produce smaller, denser, faster, lower-power, and more reliable FPGAs. In addition, once the design is stable, the programmable configuration circuitry layer can be replaced by a simple metal layer and turned into an ASIC version. However, unlike any other type of ASIC conversion, the timing remains identical between the FPGA and ASIC, allowing zero-risk, zero-effort conversions.
Industry-Standard Tool Flow
Although Tier Logic’s 3D structure is different from other FPGAs, users will be very familiar with the architecture and tool flow when they design with the Mobius™ tools from Tier Logic because they have the same features as existing FPGA providers and the design flow is exactly the same. New or existing FPGA designs are easily synthesized, packed, placed, and routed into Tier Logic devices using industry-standard design tools, such as Precision® Synthesis from Mentor Graphics, combined with Tier Logic's Mobius design tool suite. Mobius tools also create the bitstream for TierFPGA devices and the metal-mask data for TierASIC devices.
Tier Logic CTO Raminda Madurawe commented, “The innovation of Tier Logic's monolithic 3D-FPGA significantly enhances the value of programmable solutions. By moving programmable overhead into the third dimension, we improve cost, power, performance, and security – all of the drawbacks associated with traditional FPGAs – without losing programmability. We can remove this overhead completely from the device without altering implemented designs to offer users timing-exact, very-low-cost ASICs—something traditional FPGAs simply can't offer.”
Like other mainstream FPGAs, TierFPGA devices use SRAM cells to store programming information. However, in the Tier Logic 3D-FPGA structure, these SRAM cells are implemented monolithically in an additional silicon layer built from thin-film transistors (TFTs) that sits on top of the user’s active logic. By pulling these cells out of the active logic layer, the chip area is reduced and the active logic blocks are moved closer together. This smaller, stacked FPGA structure results in lower cost, lower power, and higher performance.
Tier Logic products are fabricated using the company's patented process technology. All devices in the product family are offered in FPGA and ASIC platforms. Tier Logic utilizes two interchangeable process techniques to fabricate configuration circuits. The FPGA family uses reprogrammable TFT SRAM for configuration, while the ASIC family uses a one-mask hard-wired customer bit pattern for configuration. Thus, all features and resources found in the FPGA are also identically duplicated in the equivalent ASIC. This process allows a single design, once finalized, to be fabricated either as an FPGA or as a timing-exact ASIC with zero risk and with no additional engineering effort, time, or cost.
The structure of the TierFPGA device was designed to transition effortlessly from a prototype FPGA platform to a low-cost ASIC platform. Once the TierFPGA design is frozen and signed off, the bit-stream information is used to create a single custom-mask metal layer that will replace the SRAM programming layer, resulting in a cost-reduced TierASIC device for high-volume production.
View a larger diagram.
- Low NRE cost: <$50K
- Low unit cost: Up to 75 percent less than typical FPGA pricing
- Easy conversion from TierFPGA devices: no engineering effort and identical, timing-exact performance
- Fast time-to-volume: Four weeks to first delivery
- High reliability: Single-event upset (SEU) immune
Tier Logic was founded by FPGA process-technology pioneer Raminda Madurawe and is led by Doug Laird, formerly CEO of Cswitch and a founder of Transmeta. Matrix Partners and Walden International provided Tier Logic’s Series A funding and it is extremely unusual for a semiconductor startup to come to market and take initial orders while still on a first round of financing. “FPGA startups, and semiconductor companies in general, tend to burn through a lot of cash. Tier Logic has been very cost-effective and careful with its funding,” commented Doug Laird, President and CEO of Tier Logic. “Not only have we developed silicon and tools, but unlike most semiconductor startups, we also developed a process technology first. And we’ve already been granted over 50 patents on fundamental 3D concepts and architectures. All this has been achieved for less than $20 million.”
Tier Logic Early Access Program
Tier Logic is making a special offer to customers wishing to get early access to its technology. TierFPGA devices will be sampling in Q2 of this year, with production qualified in Q4. However, TierASIC devices are available immediately and will be in volume production in Q2. Until the sample TierFPGA devices are shipping, Tier Logic is offering customers with existing FPGAs who wish to take advantage of immediate conversion to TierASIC devices a free NRE if they place an order for $50k or more of production. In addition, for an order of $100k or more, Tier Logic will also create a custom pin-compatible package to avoid customers having to alter existing PCBs. More information on this offer is available at www.tierlogic.com/launch.
About Tier Logic
Tier Logic is a semiconductor company designing FPGA and ASIC products and associated tools. Our primary innovation is IC structures. We build FPGAs using a three-dimensional (3D) approach—3D-FPGA technology—that not only delivers significant reductions in FPGA cost, but also makes it extremely easy, low cost, and risk free to move from the FPGA to an ASIC for additional significant cost reductions.
We have already amassed a significant patent portfolio of over 50 issued patents in the area of 3D circuit design and implementation. Although our technology is novel, from the customer’s perspective it is very easy to use, requiring no new skills in the area of logic design or tools usage.
Tier Logic's team comprises seasoned professionals from the FPGA, ASIC, and EDA industries who have a deep understanding of the challenges faced by today’s systems designers – both commercial and technical – and who are committed to delivering solutions to these challenges.