Thursday, October 05, 2017
Silego Technology Inc.’s commercialization of configurable mixed-signal ICs brought designers a new paradigm for achieving highly integrated solutions. CMICs combine analog, digital, and nonvolatile-memory functionality with software tools in a flexible, cost-effective design and prototyping platform. On the heels of Silego’s August announcement that it had shipped its 3 billionth CMIC, EE Times sat down with John Teegen, the fabless semiconductor company’s CEO, to talk about the industry’s affinity for functionality convergence and Silego’s plans for capitalizing on that trend in new markets.
CMIC integration lets engineers eliminate many legacy linear, passive, and discrete components from their designs. Since the product category’s introduction about three years ago, there have been five generations of CMIC silicon and design tools, each adding functionality and enhancing the design experience.
Silego recently announced the SLG46580 GreenPAK CMICs, targeted to support power systems in wearable and handheld devices. Both highly integrated and highly flexible, the SLG46580 provides a rich set of features, including voltage monitoring, power sequencing, reset functionality, and configurable low-dropout voltage regulators (LDOs).
Programmability has been around for some time. But Silego theorized that if it could make its platform software-programmable so that it would be cost-effective enough to sell into the high-volume consumer space, other markets would open up as well. The team created a silicon architecture with in-house software to achieve an ASP in the low teens, which would let the company generate a profit while giving customers the flexibility to devise the circuits they needed to get their products to market cost-effectively.
CMICs are one-time-programmable, metal-mask-configurable devices that work under a programmable software-generated environment. The Silego team called the new category configurable mixed-signal ICs because the platform wasn’t limited to programmable analog; it included power and digital functionality, and sometimes the resulting solution could be all-digital. The old terminology no longer applied.
“It’s a little confusing because we do a number of things,” Teegen said. “We tried to figure out, how do we categorize it in a way that makes sense?”
Today, Teegen said, “close to 75 percent of our business is still in the notebook and tablet space. … when the company made the pivot back in 2010 from a PC clock chip company into creating this new category, our customers were computer guys, so that was the place for us to start. That’s where we have more socket opportunity. That’s where there’s more value add, higher currencies for further integrations.
“Over time we began to evolve away from that, and we have gotten into many other market segments as well, but … the core of our business, core of our revenue, core of our volume, still comes out at a 400 million-units-plus kind of notebook and tablet market.”
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