integrated circuits - RF ASICs

Quality Performance Aspects to Look For In RF ASICs

There are a set of challenges in the development of RF ASICs, which could be beyond those encountered in baseband IC design. One of the most basic challenges is the demand it puts on the process technology.




High-Performance Passives


Aside from the fast transistors needed, high-performance passives are among those that have minimal factors that would minimize crosstalk and bandwidth reduction. For this reason, high Q inductors are needed in the process.



Performance specifications of the RF ASIC will typically drive the implementation into deep submicron processes which are optimized for RF performance. At the same time, development time will be longer due to the fact that there are extensive simulations necessary for the consideration of the impact of parasitics.



Moreover, some design iteration be it electrical or physical is necessary to account for these layout parasitics. In this case, RF ASICs would require larger non-recurring engineering budget for the process constraints and amount of the engineering resources needed.




Testing RF ASICs


The wafer-level testing process for RF ASICs should also be a factor in performance. Basically, they are sold in die form as they are part of the chip-on-board packaging technology. Therefore, wafer testing is necessary for RF frequencies.



Thus, special probe cards and prober hardware are necessary, including the knowledge of the test team having RF background. So a carefully designed tester interface hardware must be used. They must be fabricated to have a minimal impact of stray parasitics and mismatch on measurements.




Design Architecture Parameters


The design team must also choose the appropriate architecture and come up with a reasonable set of requirements to match the target budget and schedule aside from the product requirements. Therefore, it is required to conduct an investigation phase in RF ASICs around 2-6 weeks based on the customer to come up with a more satisfactory project plan.




Design Parameters to Be Considered In Investigation Phase


  • Available power or DC power supply
  • Full or half-duplex operation
  • Receiving and transmitting frequencies and IBW or instantaneous bandwidth
  • Receiver input and transmitter output dynamic range
  • On and off-chip filtering
  • Frequency planning for receiver and transmitter
  • Number of channels
  • Channel to channel isolation
  • DC power dissipation
  • Transmitter power, receiver sensitivity, peak to average ratio, and efficiency
  • Attenuation or automatic gain control
  • ESD impact



The architectural approach of RF ASIC and the integrated circuit process choice are greatly influenced by these parameters. These are required to create a link budget for the development of specifications in individual ASIC circuit blocks.



The RF circuitry is often part of the larger system-on-a-chip wherein there is importance in noise immunity and crosstalk. Therefore, it should be well considered to have an overall physical layout of the chip. At the same time, great care must be given to the power supply routing scheme, including the location and number of power and grounds.



Thus, it is always important to pay attention to the design considerations and the process and testing requirements offered by ASIC companies having extensive expertise in RF.




Linear MicroSystems, Inc. is proud to offer its services worldwide as well as the surrounding areas and cities around our Headquarters in Irvine, CA: Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Fountain Valley, Anaheim, Orange County, Fullerton, and Los Angeles.

analog ASIC - integrated circuit

Understanding the Importance of the Analog ASIC

For those who are interested in integrated circuits (ICs), there is another type of chip designed for specific tasks. This chip is called Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC).


Basically, an integrated circuit (IC) is a combination of an analog circuit like an amplifier and de-noising circuit, and digital blocks like arithmetic logic units, multiplexers, and registers. ICs were mostly comprised of a couple of matched transistors and then expanded to comparators, Op-amps, timers, and voltage regulators, among others.


The analog ASIC plays an essential role in life because it is responsible for the existence of portable electronic devices. Building mobile phones, MP3 players, or navigation systems without analog ASICs can make them impossible to carry around or in your pockets.


As a matter of fact, dozens of ASIC chips are inside an automobile, as they are in climate control or airbag deployment, suspension control to entertainment systems. Moreover, these chips have important roles in in-hospital medical equipment applications, home appliances, and many other personal and industrial systems.


Thus, the market for analog ASIC is so big, which can be seen from 2010 sales figures amounting to 60% of almost $37 billion sold in that year alone. Here are some of the important functions of these chips in the modern world.


Lower Assembly Cost

The integration of the components into the ASIC often comes for free and has a dramatic impact to lower the total assembly cost of the end product. Justifying the development of analog ASIC can be possible because of the potential total system cost savings.


Design Experience

True analog ASIC companies only employ experienced designers who are masters of their own field. Many of them have spent years at huge analog companies as they learned from industry pioneers. But mixing digital and analog circuitry into one chip might not be ideal. This is because the analog application needs designs that are application-specific, which assures 100% specification coverage.


Large Customer Base

Many semiconductor companies focus on huge customers, which might only include the privileged few. Full-service ASIC houses have their own criteria on annual volume, tooling, and minimum non-recurring engineering.


Moreover, analog generally has shown to be less susceptible to the violent supply-demand trends inherent to the semiconductor industry in general. In addition, analog chips often remain in production for more than 10 years in which analog ASIC companies spend decades to nurture these relationships for the benefit of the customers.


An advantage for the Designer

Handcrafting analog functions would allow the designer to accomplish many things. In fact, in mixed-signal design, analog circuits are designed to fill the void created using standard digital cells. This, in turn, will make better optimization of the overall silicon area utilization. Moreover, it will allow the designer to precisely determine the performance parameters of the circuit.


Competitive Advantage

The analog ASIC design should be able to rise above the competition. This is due to the fact that in a cell library, the designer is limited to choose from dozens of amplifiers, converters, and voltage references in which compromise in performance is needed to accommodate the limited choices. If you are going to base your designs around the mixed-signal cell libraries, you will have the same performance specs, like those found in the library cells.



Linear MicroSystems, Inc. is proud to offer its services worldwide as well as the surrounding areas and cities around our Headquarters in Irvine, CA: Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Fountain Valley, Anaheim, Orange County, Fullerton, and Los Angeles.

mixed signal asic design

Differences and Similarities of Analog and Mixed Signal ASIC Design

It is important to know more about the applicability and the role of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) through their historical origins. This can also be used to differentiate analog and mixed-signal ASIC design.


Integrated circuits first came into the limelight in the early 1960s. Basically, these items contained just a number of transistors with limited digital logic functions.


Here is a list that describes the evolution of integrated circuits over the decades.

  • Small scale integration (a few transistors)
  • Medium scale integration (10-100 transistors)
  • Large scale integration (100-1,000 transistors)
  • Very large scale integration (up to 100,000 transistors)
  • Integrated circuits


ASIC Beginnings

The first digital ASICs were developed with the use of a standard cell library that consists of fixed height, variable-width tiles that contain the digital logic functions. It is the ability of these blocks over and over that enabled to save time and money in designing a custom logic IC.


Since analog applications would typically involve higher voltages, such ICs would require their own unique set of manufacturing processes. In fact, a merger between analog and digital functionality onto a single silicon chip has increased market demands for a smaller size, lower power consumption, and higher speeds.


Combining Analog and Digital

The significance of mixed-signal integrated circuits is that it has both analog and digital circuits on just the same chip. Mixed-signal ASIC design offers engineers the potential to reduce complex, multiple-integrated circuit designs to a single IC.


Mixed-signal ASICs also have become widely available and commercially viable. Some of the benefits of analog and mixed-signal ASIC are

  • Cost reduction
  • Improved reliability
  • Intellectual property protection
  • Low power
  • Miniaturization
  • Performance improvement


Analog and mixed-signal ASIC design are both found in products used by millions of consumers the different segments of the market

  • Healthcare to cosmetics
  • Industrial sensors to flight control
  • Instrumentation
  • Mobile devices to credit card scanners


When building a mixed-signal ASIC design, you are combining the competences of the analog and digital circuit designs, which include

  • Analog-to-digital conversion via all methods, such as sigma-delta modulation
  • Circuit design with linear circuits as well as switched capacitor circuit techniques
  • Design of low power circuits
  • Development of test procedures, test patterns, and test structures or ASICs
  • Mixed-signal ASIC design and modeling



On the other hand, analog ASICs have played an important role in the lives of people. In fact, the absence of such technology, no portable electronic devices that you use in day-to-day life would seem to exist.


You can just imagine a world without mobile phones, MP3 players, or navigation systems. Nevertheless, building these ICs on standard products would be expensive, as it is also impossible to bring them along with your pockets or purses.


Each automobile of today contains dozens of ASIC chips that enable the mechanism for climate control, deployment of the airbag, and suspension control to entertainment systems. At the same time, it can help many establishments, such as hospital/medical equipment, suspension control, and entertainment systems.


LMI ASIC Design House

ASICs requiring high analog content must be directed to those who design houses specializing in analog circuit design as opposed to those who just pick analog IP blocks from the library. Contact Linear MicroSystems today for a free proposal today!




Linear MicroSystems, Inc. is proud to offer its services worldwide as well as the surrounding areas and cities around our Headquarters in Irvine, CA: Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Fountain Valley, Anaheim, Orange County, Fullerton, and Los Angeles.

LIDAR ASIC and Systems

What Is A LIDAR System?

New technology has been used by geologists these days, particularly the light detection and ranging (LIDAR) mechanism, a remote sensing method to examine the surface of the Earth.



The process used by LIDAR employs light in the form of a pulsed laser that is able to measure ranges or variable distances to the Earth. The combination of light pulses and other recorded data through an airborne system will be able to generate three-dimensional information of the Earth’s surface and its characteristics.



A LIDAR instrument includes:

  • Laser
  • Scanner
  • Specialized GPS receiver



Two Types of LIDAR:

  • Bathymetric – This type of LIDAR uses water-penetrating green light to measure the riverbed and seafloor elevations.
  • Topographic – This typically maps the land by using a near-infrared laser.



Mapping professionals and scientists are able to examine both manmade and natural environments via LIDAR systems to achieve accurate, flexible, and precise results. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists use LIDAR so that they can produce more accurate shoreline maps, assist in emergency response operations, make digital elevation models for geographic information systems, and many other relevant applications.



But LIDAR is not only limited in geography since scientists were able to use this technology to detect angle, distance, and velocity with high precision. Basically, LIDAR is able to classify objects, detect lane markings, and may also be utilized to position an autonomous vehicle more accurately.



Sensing Mechanism

LIDAR is a critical sensing mechanism that would enable autonomous vehicles. Automotive manufacturers have now developed and commercialized the next generation of LIDAR systems for automotive application.



There are a number of technologies coming and going, but the question is which one would be appropriate for the future? The most probable option is the use of computer chips to be able to handle higher resolution images. Thus, it would provide more accuracy, particularly the creation of machine vision systems for driving.



This could be made possible with the creation of a custom ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit), a processor optimized for doing machine vision. In fact, an Israeli company has already made four generations of this chip to make it perform better.




Generally, ASICs are widely used in many applications, including auto emission control, environmental monitoring, and other mobile gadgets. In fact, an ASIC can be custom-made for a particular customer application or a special application.



Nowadays, the next generation of LIDAR ASIC and systems have been developed and commercialized for automotive applications. This can be done using a scalable auto-grade LIDAR sensor, core 3D software technology, and proprietary LIDAR ASIC engine.



According to experts, the first application will be the so-called RoboTaxi segment, which will use commercial and technical interface to customers. However, this has been the focus of controversy due to its cost.



Custom ASICs

The development of custom ASICs is key in its breakthrough on performance and cost. That is why it has been predicted that this technology may not be released until 2020. The good thing though is that this technology has been developed and tested repeatedly to achieve feasible results. Who knows, in a few years from now, LIDAR ASIC will be a technology used in automobiles and other vehicles that people can hardly live without.




Linear MicroSystems, Inc. is proud to offer its services worldwide as well as the surrounding areas and cities around our Headquarters in Irvine, CA: Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Fountain Valley, Anaheim, Orange County, Fullerton, and Los Angeles.

3d imaging asic - tablets

Everything You Need to Know About a 3D Imaging ASIC

An Application-Specific Integrated Circuit or ASIC is a customized integrated circuit designed specifically for a particular application. This means that a chip is created with a specific use or application in mind and may not be used for general purposes. Over the years, different types of ASICs have been developed for a wide range of industries—from telecommunications to photography.


A 3D imaging ASIC is designed specifically for use in 3D vision applications including those used for consumer devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops and personal computers. Let’s take a closer look at how 3D imaging works and the role of a 3D imaging ASIC in the process:



Technology Behind a 3D Imaging ASIC is Inspired by the Human Eye


Each of a human’s two eyes sees the world from different angles but they are perceived into one image through the brain combining these images into a whole, a process called parallax. This is pretty much the same with 2D imaging. But with 3D imaging, two lenses are used in every shot with each capturing an image that’s different from the other. This means that 3D images contain double the amount of information provided by 2D images.



3D imaging ASIC is Used in a Variety of Applications


3D imaging devices containing a 3D imaging ASIC can be used for a wide range of applications. This includes measuring, analyzing and positioning parts for different industrial uses. Each 3D imaging ASIC is designed to fit a specific industry or environment and 3D imaging systems use either active or passive methods. Active systems use methods like structured light or time of flight while passive methods utilize light field and depth from focus.



Active Snapshot and Laser Triangulation are also Used to Produce 3d shape Data


Snapshot-based methods and laser triangulation are both used to produce 3D shape data. In snapshot-based methods, the distance to objects is calculated by using the difference between two snapshots captured at the same time. This process is called passive stereo imaging.


One camera may be used for capturing these images but using two cameras make the process more efficient. Laser triangulation, on the other hand, uses one camera to derive height variations from laser patterns that are projected onto an object’s surface. Then, it observes how patterns moved when they are viewed from an angle using a camera.



Time is one of the Biggest Challenges in 3D Imaging


It is a known fact that creating 3D images is intensive and extremely time-consuming. This is why devices like a 3D imaging ASIC that can handle the complexity of calculations required especially in product lines to make the entire imaging process faster and more efficient.


The debate on whether 2D or 3D is better may still be up, but both technologies have proven beneficial to a wide range of industrial applications. At the end of the day, it’s all about how technology is used for a specific purpose, whether it’s using a 2d or 3D imaging ASIC.




Linear MicroSystems, Inc. is proud to offer its services worldwide as well as the surrounding areas and cities around our Headquarters in Irvine, CA: Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Fountain Valley, Anaheim, Orange County, Fullerton, and Los Angeles.

time of flight asic

5 Things You Need to Know About a Time of Flight ASIC

If you’re in the industrial sector, you’ve probably heard of a time of flight ASIC, which is used in a variety of applications. Here, we take a closer look at the definition of time of flight and the five things you need to know about a time of flight ASIC:



First, what is Time of Flight?


Time of flight is the property of a particle, object or another wave. The time-of-flight principle is used in the measurement of the distance between a sensor and an object. This is based on the time difference between a signal’s emission and its return to the sensor after it is reflected by an object. The time of flight principle uses different types of signals, the most common of which are sound and light.



Five Things you need to know about a Time of Flight ASIC


  • A time of flight ASIC is commonly found in a ToF camera, which is a range imaging system that is used to resolve distance based on a known speed of light. It measures the time of flight that a light signal travels between the camera and a subject at each point of the image.


  • Time of flight cameras containing a time of flight ASIC covers ranges starting from a few centimeters up to several kilometers and has lower spatial resolution compared to 2d cameras. These products have been used since 2000 and have since evolved together with the improvement of semiconductor processes. ToF cameras offer up to 160 images per second, which is a lot faster than other 3D capturing images.


  • A time of flight camera consists of an image sensor, which measures the time it takes for light to travel from the illumination unit, the optics that gathers the light and projects it into the image sensor, the illumination unit that provides illumination to the scene, the driver electronics, and the computation or interface.


  • Time of flight circuitry is used for different applications including the areas of 3D imaging and LIDAR. These types of time of flight ASIC typically includes a detecting and driving sensor that is usually in the form of an infrared detector diode. The signal this device release is typically very fast, which also requires high-speed processes.


  • Over the years, several devices were developed for the time of flight cameras. Range gated imagers, for instance, have a built-in shutter that opens and closes the same time as light pulses are sent out. Direct time of flight imagers, on the other hand, are also known as trigger mode where 3D images produced complete both temporal and spatial data.


Looking Forward

There is definitely so much to learn about the world of time of flight ASICs and other types of Application-Specific Integrated Circuits that continue to revolutionize the semiconductor industry.


As more and more technological developments are being made, we can only look forward to better processes that produce excellent results in different industrial applications, especially those that are created to help make production faster and more efficient.




Linear MicroSystems, Inc. is proud to offer its services worldwide as well as the surrounding areas and cities around our Headquarters in Irvine, CA: Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Fountain Valley, Anaheim, Orange County, Fullerton, and Los Angeles.

analog ASIC design and development

Common Pitfalls in Developing and Designing an Analog ASIC

If you are in the business of technology, you’ve probably come across the term analog ASIC at some point. In fact, you may have had one created for your company. But there is so much more to developing an analog ASIC than just putting a chip together that there have been countless failed attempts at developing one. And the problem all boils down to one thing: incompetence. Here are the things that you should look out for when having your analog ASIC developed:




Lack of Proper Industry Knowledge


It’s a cold, hard fact: there are so many companies out there that would easily pretend to know about creating analog ASICs, but in reality, they don’t have a clue. So, many companies have experienced problems with their ASIC and no one seems to know what’s wrong.



Worse, no one knows how to deal with the problem because those who designed the ASIC has relied on an analog cell library from a third party vendor, which means they don’t have any idea about how the system works.



Lack of proper industry knowledge is one of the most common challenges for companies looking to have their analog ASIC developed and the problem may lie from three parties: the cell library designers, the silicon producers, and the IC design company.



This is why it’s very important to check on every detail of a project before implementing it to make sure that everyone on your team really has the expertise that you need.




Lack of Technical Skills


Developing an analog ASIC for your product is crucial because any delay in its production could mean a delay for your launch or worse, failure for your entire project. Creating an ASIC requires a good knowledge of the semiconductor fabrication process and the right computational involvement to make sure that the design is strong.



Going through the fabrication process requires technical skills to ensure that the chip produced will do its job. A lot of designers claim to have the mixed signal design skills needed to complete your product, but that doesn’t guarantee that they actually have what it takes to get your chip right. This is when credibility really counts. Go for companies that already have successful projects in the past and those whose clients can vouch for their quality of service.




Final Words


If you want to have your own analog ASIC developed, make sure to pick up a lesson or two from the horror stories of failed attempts going around the semiconductor industry. Before signing the papers for the services of an analog ASIC design company, do your research first. Don’t settle for the first company you see or the lowest offer given to you.



Instead, make sure that you tick all the boxes in terms of a semiconductor company’s integrity, quality of service and commitment to giving you the best value. Get to know the team leader who will work on your project to know if they are capable of handling the development team and if they have the skills to get things done right and address issues as they come.




Linear MicroSystems, Inc. is proud to offer its services worldwide as well as the surrounding areas and cities around our Headquarters in Irvine, CA: Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Fountain Valley, Anaheim, Orange County, Fullerton, and Los Angeles.

system on chip

Everything You Need to Know About a System-On-A-Chip

Technology covers a vast spectrum of things, most of which are only familiar to the tech geeks who really dig deep into what every smartphone, computer, and other gadgets are made up of. So, if you’re not one of those who has a strong passion for technology, you might wonder what a system-on-a-chip or SoC is.



Here’s everything you need to know about this all-in-one microchip:



What is a System-On-A-Chip Anyway?


A system-on-a-chip or more commonly known as SoC is an integrated circuit containing a vast number of electronic components designed to function together. In simple terms, an SoC has most necessary electronics to make complex devices or systems. Typically, an SoC has complex computing power, memory, analog or sensing circuitry, power management functions, and interfaces to the outside world.


In fact, you can compare it to a computer that’s fitted into one microchip. This is why your smartphone and tablet can function almost as well as your computer, only much smaller and more compact.




What makes up a System-On-A-Chip?


Like a regular computer, an SoC is made up of different components. It has a Central Processing Unit mostly using ARM technology. It also has a Graphics Processing Unit to let you enjoy those 3D games on your smartphone or tablet. Of course, an SoC should have a memory to enable you to perform different tasks on your device.


Other SoC components could include a cellular radio for 4G LTE connectivity like what you find in Snapdragon S4-powered gadgets, a Northbridge that facilitates communication between the CPU and the rest of the SoC and other circuitry that help power your device.




Where can you find a System-On-A-Chip?


You will find SoCs in a lot of applications these days, most of which are aimed at creating devices that perform various tasks in a compact body. SoCs power smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, wearables, routers and a lot of other products. From the first SoCs that was developed a few years back, the system-on-a-chip that you will find on your phone today is much more complex and somehow smaller than ever!




What are the Benefits of using a System-On-A-Chip?


There are numerous advantages to using an SoC. For one, a system-on-a-chip is integration at its best. Companies that create devices small enough to fit in your hand know how important integration is in powering them, and that’s where SoCs come in.


An SoC is also very small and compact, which means that it doesn’t require much power and can fit perfectly inside an electronic device while leaving space for batteries and other components.


And since SoCs are a lot smaller, their manufacturing costs are also a lot lower, but they will not disappoint when it comes to functionality and power. They are, of course, more efficient when compared to their traditional counterparts.




There is still so much to learn about systems on chips and how they help power the devices that we’ve come to love today. Contact Linear MicroSystems today for a free SoC consultation!




Linear MicroSystems, Inc. is proud to offer its services worldwide as well as the surrounding areas and cities around our Headquarters in Irvine, CA: Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Fountain Valley, Anaheim, Orange County, Fullerton, and Los Angeles.