FPGA- Field Programmable Gate Array | ASIC- Application Specific Integrated Circuits
This has become the most prominent discussion in VLSI industries and amongst VLSI engineers that if FPGAs can overtake the ASICs or not. FPGA is considered as a substitute of the ASIC and various research and development teams are working on proving it, but certain parameters are kept into consideration before making such comparisons in the technology i.e. performance , flexibility , power consumption and cost of the device.
If we talk about an FPGA then there is no doubt that it’s a revolutionary product if it can be proved an alternate to the ASICs as it has faster time to market because it is independent of the manufacturing steps like masking and layout etc. One just needs to burn the codes on readymade FPGA kits and we are done.
Apart from that there are some more factors on which FPGA beats an ASIC viz. reusability, design cycle, logic density and field programmability. An FPGA can be reprogrammed at no cost basis and a second is more than enough to reprogram an FPGA but an ASIC can take thousands of dollars and a bunch of time to reprogram or it cannot be reprogrammed.
There are a number of facets where FPGA lags behind an ASIC such as power consumption, limited design size, not fit for the production in bulk and most importantly the cost of an FPGA kit is much higher than an ASIC which helps an ASIC to put behind an FPGA as cost is the most prior and vital factor for an electronic industry.
Now, when the discussion goes round about then if isolated the manufacturing steps and cost then an ASIC would be of great use and vitality for the VLSI industry and for whole electronic industry. ASICs can be produced in bulk and operates at very low power compared to FPGAs and due to design flexibility of an ASIC it gives an enormous speed than the FPGAs, but the tools required for the designing of ASICs are available at higher or mammoth cost.
The fact cannot be neglected that even if the FPGA replaces an ASIC then what really is an FPGA made up of?
It is only an ASIC which is comprised in an FPGA kit. So, without an ASIC we cannot even think of the FPGAs. Every technology has its own merits and demerits but the real technology is what meaningful we extract from that particular technology that can be used for the welfare of humans and others.
Author - Aman Jangra
(Research Associate at Silicon Mentor)