Tiny FPGAs Tackle Tough Tasks

March 26, 2013
Have you been playing with PLDs? Need something with a little more functionality? Looking to downsize an FPGA design? Then Lattice Semiconductor's iCE40 might be what you want.

Have you been playing with PLDs? Need something with a little more functionality? Looking to downsize an FPGA design? Then Lattice Semiconductor's iCE40 (Fig. 1) might be what you want.

Figure 1. Lattice Semiconductor's iCE40 LP384 has 384 LUTs and comes in a 2mm by 2mm package.

The iCE40 LP384 comes with 384 cells or look up tables (LUT) and there are less expensive versions with even fewer LUTs. They are available in compact, 2mm by 2mm packages and run up to 100 MHz. They are ideal as front ends for analog sensors and other applications requiring custom logic. They cost less than $0.50 in very large quantities.

Using as little as 25uW of static power allows them to be employed in battery operated mobile applications. The can complement or replace microcontrollers and ASSPs providing designers with a customizable platform that will not burst the space, power or price budget.

The 40nm FPGAs are flash based so the start up immediately. Simple SPI or I2C requires 100 to 200 cells so adding a communication link may require the larger platforms but there are plenty of applications that simply require logic.

The advantage of the small package FPGAs is the ability to scale to larger, more functional FPGAs if necessary. The family includes devices that fit in 2.5mm by 2.5mm and 3mm by 3mm packages.

Another advantage of smaller FPGAs is simpler designs that are easier to test and verify. They can also lead to simpler system designs overall by offloading microcontrollers.

About the Author

William G. Wong | Senior Content Director - Electronic Design and Microwaves & RF

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