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ST's ARM-based configurable SoC ICs boost time-to-market

Posted: 22 Jul 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:stmicroelectronics? st? system-on-chip? soc? spear?

STMicroelectronics new family of configurable System-on-Chip ICs target a variety of applications, including digital engines for printers, scanners and other embedded control applications. Samples are now available.

Based upon ST's Structured Processor Enhanced Architecture (SPEAr), the devices integrate an ARM core with a full set of IP (intellectual property) blocks and a configurable logic block that allows very fast customization of critical functions in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost required by a full custom design approach, but with a comparable level of flexibility and performance, according to the company.

The architecture includes a number of proven IPs for connectivity, memory interfaces, and a high-performance internal bus system. Finally a customizable embedded-logic block allows quick development of optimized solutions for specific markets by allowing customers to add their own proprietary IP to an ASSP (application-specific standard product) without embarking on a full ASIC design.

"SPEAr is a new concept in the market. It reduces design cycle times to a few weeks and turnaround times that can be as short as few days, using e-beam prototyping, with a very low NRE. Full mass production can ramp up in six to eight weeks time from the final RTL availability. The SPEAr technology allows unprecedented time to market, which has been impossible so far for this level of complexity and performance," said Vittorio Peduto, GM of ST's Computer Systems Division.

The new device includes an ARM946ES running at 192MHz with 8KB of data cache, instruction cache, data-TCM (Tightly Coupled Memory) and instruction-TCM, respectively; three USB2.0 ports (including both host and device ports); an Ethernet 10/100 MAC; a 16-channel 8-bit A/D converter; an I?C interface; three UARTs; memory interfaces; and 400-kgate equivalent programmable logic. The industry-standard ARM cores maximize the reuse of existing hardware and software blocks.

Samples of this first member of the family are already available, with pricing in the range of $13 in volume quantities. Full evaluation boards will be shipping in September.

A special dual-mode development environment has been implemented to allow ST customers to develop their solution with an external FPGA, and then verify the solution and map it into the configurable logic inside the chip, both quickly and easily. Additionally, to provide more flexibility in the development ST will also provide a simplified version with the programmable logic completely removed for any device in the family.

- Marty Gold


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