A comparative Study of fpga and asic in the arena of Electronics and Computer

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A Comparative Study of FPGA and ASIC in the arena of Electronics and Computer



Assistant Professor

BPSMV Khanpur kalan,Sonepat
Preeti Sharma**

Assistant Professor

BPSMV Khanpur kalan,Sonepat



Assistant Professor

BPSMV Khanpur kalan,Sonepat


Abstract— In the field of electronics and computer technology growing day by day to the height. This would not have been possible without the basic arithmetic techniques, experimental hardware realization and tool building efforts. Only modules construction is not necessary. In the field of VLSI the basic building blocks are modules. Modules can be adder, multiplier, divider or an ALU which performs the operation on the operands. To make adder, multiplier, divider etc a designer requires a complete knowledge of arithmetic techniques, but without FPGA it is not possible to implement modules onto the system or a chip or onto ASIC. ASIC is basically application specific integrated circuit which is designed according to customer requirement but only once while FPGA can be reconfigured infinite number of times. Cost of ASIC is less if designed in bulk. So firstly the design is checked and implemented onto FPGA not on ASIC and then further dumped onto ASIC.

Keywords:- FPGA, ASIC, CLB, IOB

I Introduction

In this paper we have discussed basic review of FPGA and ASIC and their comparison. The role of FPGA and ASIC in the field of VLSI is also discussed in this paper.


Field Programmable Gate Arrays are specialized chips that are programmed to perform very specific functions in hardware. An FPGA is basically a piece of programmable logic. The first FPGA was invented in 1985. Rather than executing a function in software, the same function can be implemented in an FPGA and executed in hardware. One can think of an FPGA as “soft-hardware”, since it can be reprogrammed after manufacturing. It contain vast amounts of programming logic and millions of gates but there is some programming logic in an FPGA that is not used for the “customer facing” or "mission specific" application or function. In other words, not all the logic in an FPGA is designed to be directly used by the application the FPGA is providing for the customer. There are additional gates needed to connect all the internal logic that is needed to make it programmable; so an FPGA is not fully optimized in terms of “customer facing” logic.

The advantage of an FPGA is its flexibility. Due to this it has ability to rapidly implement or reprogram the logic in an FPGA for a specific feature or capability that a customer requires. FPGAs can also be used for developing a “snapshot” version of a final ASIC design. In this way, FPGAs can be re-programmed as needed until the final specification is done. The ASIC can then be manufactured based on the FPGA design. In simple words FPGA can be used to implement any hardware design. The use of the FPGA is the prototyping of a piece of hardware that will further be implemented later into an ASIC. It have been mostly used as the final product platforms. Their use depends, on the desired performances, development, and production costs.

Why FPGA???

Most of the typical logic circuit systems were implemented within a small variety of Standard large scale integrated (LSI) circuits: microprocessors, bus-I/O controllers, System timers, and so on. FPGA circuits can be implemented in a relatively short amount of time: no physical layout process, no mask making, no IC manufacturing, and short Time to Market. The basic FPGA architecture consists of a two-dimensional array of logic blocks and flip-flops for the user to configure the function of each logic blocks, the inputs/outputs, and the interconnection between blocks. Families of FPGAs differ from each other by the physical means for implementing user programmability, arrangement of interconnection wires, and basic functionality of the logic blocks. Basic Block diagram of FPGA is shown in Fig. 1

Fig.1:-- Basic Block diagram of FPGA

To program FPGA some programming methods are specified:-

a) SRAM based programming:--

FPGA connections are achieved using pass-transistors, transmission gates, or multiplexers that are controlled by SRAM cells as shown in Fig 17 . This technology allows fast in-circuit reconfiguration. The major disadvantages are the size of the chip, required by the RAM technology, and the needs of some external source to load the chip configuration. The biggest advantage of FPGA is that it can be programmed an unlimited number of times.

Fig. 2 :-- SRAM Basic cell and connections

b) Antifuse Technology:--

An antifuse remains in a high-impedance state until it is

programmed into a low-impedance or “fused” state as shown in Fig 18.. This technology can be used only once on one-time programmable (OTP) devices; it is less expensive than the RAM technology.

Fig. 3:-- Basic diagram of Antifuse

c) EPROM/EEPROM Technology:--

This method is same as that used in EPROM/EEPROM memories. The configuration is stored within the device, without external memory. In-circuit reprogramming is not possible.

A. FPGA internal Structure

All FPGAs contain the same basic resources as shown in (Fig4), Configurable logic blocks (CLBs), containing combinational logic and register resources. Input/output blocks (IOBs), interface between the FPGA and the outside world, Programmable interconnections (PIs),

RAM blocks. Other resources such as three-state buffers,

global clock buffers, boundary scan logic, and so on.

Some devices contain resources such as dedicated

multipliers and a digital clock manager (DCM). It also

includes embedded Power-PC processors and full-duplex

high-speed serial transceivers.

Fig.4:-- Example of distribution of CLBs , IOBs , PIs,

RAM Blocks, and multipliers

Configurable Logic Blocks:--

The basic building block of CLBs is the slice. It hold

two slices in one CLB. Each slice contains two 4-input function generators (F/G), carry logic, and two storage elements. Each function generator output drives both the CLB output and the D-input of a flip-flop.

Look Up Tables:--

Function generators are implemented as 4-input look-up tables. Each LUT can be programmed as a (16)-bit synchronous RAM. Furthermore, the two LUTs can be combined within a slice to create a (16)-bit or (32)-bit synchronous RAM, or a (16)-bit dual-port synchronous RAM. The LUT can also provide a 16-bit shift register, ideal for capturing high-speed data.

Storage Elements:--

The storage elements in a slice can be configured either as edge-triggered D-type flip-flops or as level-sensitive latches. The D-inputs can be driven either by the function generators within the slice or directly from the slice inputs, bypassing the function generators. As well as clock and clock enable signals, each slice has synchronous set and reset signals.

Input/Output Blocks (IOB’s):--

The IOB includes inputs and outputs that support a wide variety of I/O signaling standards. The IOB storage elements act either as D-type flip-flops or as latches. For each flip-flop, the set/reset (SR) signals can be independently configured as synchronous set, reset, asynchronous preset, or asynchronous clear. Pull-up and pull-down resistors and an optional weak-keeper circuit can be attached to each pad. IOBs are programmable.

B. FPGA Generic Design Flow

The successive process phases (blocks) of Fig5 are described as follows:--

a) Design Entry:-

Creation of design files using schematic editor or hardware description language.

Fig.5:-- FPGA Generic Design Flow

b) Design Synthesis:--

A process that starts from a high level of logic abstraction

(typically Verilog or VHDL) and automatically creates a lower level of logic abstraction using a library of primitives.

c) Partition or Mapping:--

A process assigning to each logic element a specific physical element that actually implements the logic function in a configurable device.

d) Placement of Blocks:--

Firstly floorplanning of circuit is done then it is decided that which module or block would placed where?? After that practically placement of blocks is done after simulation. In other words “Maps logic into specific locations in the target FPGA chip”.

e) Routing:--

Global routing and detailed routing is done by choosing least delay path. In other words “Connections of the Mapped Logic”.

f) Program Generation:--

A bit-stream file is generated to program the device.

g) Device Programming:--

before programming of FPGA simulation is done and then practically download of the bit-stream to the FPGA.

h) Design Verification:--

Simulation is used to check functionalities. The simulation can be done at different levels. The functional or behavioral simulation does not take into account component or interconnection delays. The timing simulation uses back-annotated delay information extracted from the circuit. Other reports are generated to verify other implementation results, such as maximum frequency and delay and resource utilization. The partition (or mapping), place, and route processes are commonly referred to as design implementation.

What is a chip?

Why IC development leaded to high-tech revolution?

Integrated in one chip circuit (IC) replaces large amount of discrete components on the board. Almost all traditional discrete elements like processors, digital discrete logic, memories, analog blocks can be integrated in one “piece of silicon” – chip.

Advantage of IC versus PCB design:-

Advantages of ICs comparing to discrete components:-

1) Area:- integrated circuits are much smaller- both transistors and wires are shrunk to micrometers. Small size leads to advantages in speed and power consumption, since smaller components have much smaller parasitic resistance, capacitance and inductance.

2) Timing:- Digital logic switching, analog effects and communication between blocks in the chip can occur hundreds of times faster than with the discrete components on the PCB.

3) Power Consumption:- Logic operation within a chip also take much less power and allow operating on very low voltage supply .

4) Reliability:- The probability for failure and impact of external environment are much less in integrated circuits compared to discrete components.

Chip Structure:-

Basic chip components:-

Each chip structure contains two regions. One is core area and the other one is Pads(I/O) area.

The picture shows the division of chip into these regions

Fig 6:- Block diagram of chip structure

Chip Architecture:-

1) Core area design:- It contain the following blocks:-

*Digital logic circuits

*Analog blocks(Voltage regulators, Oscillators, PLL)

* On chip Memory blocks (ROM, SRAM etc….)

All these blocks are placed in the core area. The connection between these blocks is implemented using metal wires. Voltage supply to these blocks is implemented with power (VDD and VSS rings)

Each chip may have one or more power segments. For example pads and core area have separate supply rings.

Fig 7:- Detailed Block diagram of chip architecture

Main components- Digital Blocks:-

1) Digital Logic is implemented on silicon using CMOS transistors and metal (wires) connection between these basic components.

2) Standard logic libraries are used for implementation of digital logic. These libraries include optimized implementation of basic elements like logic gates (NOR, NAND, NOT etc…), flip flops etc...

3) Sometimes when a digital block has a very special requirement it is implemented as a hard macro. This approach can improve the characteristics of this block, but has negative impact on chip placement.

Main components- Analog Blocks:-

Analog and mixed signal blocks are always designed in transistor level. So all these blocks are integrated as hard macros. Blocks which are implemented in silicon are:-

1) Voltage regulator – used for voltage supply of internal logic and pads from external power supply. The most popular regulator implemented on silicon is 0.18u process.

2) Power on reset (POR) and voltage detectors:- used to generate system reset for on chip logic during power up and when external supply is going down and cant provide sufficient voltage level for internal logic.

3) On chip oscillators and PLL:- used to create clock for the on chip logic and systems. Wide range of clock frequencies for the system clock can be generated.

4) Digital to Analog and Analog to digital converter:-

Provides interface between the on chip digital logic and the on chip or the external analog blocks. Wide range of application, like audio (MP3) and video, require implementation of these blocks on silicon.

What is ASIC???

Application Specific Integrated Circuits are specialized chips that perform specific functions, and which also operate at very high performance levels. As technology has improved over the years, the maximum complexity (and hence functionality) possible in an ASIC has grown from 5,000 gates to over 100 million. ASICs are often used for very dense applications; for example, where port density on high-end IP core routers is a critical requirement. ASICs have a higher R&D cost to design and implement, as compared to an FPGA. However, once an ASIC is fabricated, it is not reprogrammable like an FPGA is. The layout of the internal chip constructs are fixed and cannot be modified without a “re-spin” of the ASIC. This makes ASICs much less flexible than FPGAs.  ASICs are very dense chips, which typically translates to high scalability with less real-estate requirement on a line card. While ASICs typically have a higher R&D cost to design, in high volume applications the lower costs of manufacturing ASICs are attractive. While ASICs have very high density in terms of logic gates on the chip, the result of higher scalability in terms of the same power metric can give ASICs a competitive edge over an FPGA. One thing to note is that an ASIC is designed to be fully optimized in terms of gates and logic. All the internal structures are used for customer facing or mission specific applications or functions. So, while an ASIC may consume more power per unit die size than an FPGA, this power is amortized over a higher density solution; and hence, provides better power efficiency.

In simple words ASIC is a kind of integrated circuit that is specially built for a specific application or purpose. It can improve speed because it is specifically designed to do one thing and it does this one thing well. It can also be made smaller and use less electricity. The disadvantage of this circuit is that it can be more expensive to design and manufacture, particularly if only a few units are needed. An ASIC can be found in almost any electronic device and its uses can range from custom rendering of images to sound conversion. Because ASICs are all custom-made and thus only available to the company that designed them, they are considered to be proprietary technology. ASIC are used in a wide-range of applications, including auto emission control, environmental monitoring, and personal digital assistants (PDAs). An ASIC can be pre-manufactured for a special application or it can be custom manufactured (typically using components from a "building block" library of components) for a particular customer application.

There are three different categories of ASICS:

  • Full-Custom ASICS: These are custom-made from scratch for a specific application. Their ultimate purpose is decided by the designer. All the photolithographic layers of this integrated circuit are already fully defined, leaving no space for modification during manufacturing.

Fig 8:- Block diagram of Full custom ASIC

  • Semi-Custom ASICs: These are partly customized to perform different functions within the field of their general area of application. These ASICS are designed to allow some modification during manufacturing, although the masks for the diffused layers are already fully defined.

Fig 9:- Block diagram of Semi custom ASIC

  • Platform ASICs:- These are designed and produced from a defined set of methodologies, intellectual properties and a well-defined design of silicon that shortens the design cycle and minimizes development costs. Platform ASICs are made from predefined platform slices, where each slice is a premanufactured device, platform logic or entire system. The use of premanufactured materials reduces development costs for these circuits.

Detailed chip design flow:-

Main stages of the ASIC design project:-

1) Marketing requirements specification (MRS)

2) Project Project initialization Stage

3) Specification stage

4) Logic design stage

5) FPGA implementation and validation stage

6) ASIC implementation stage

7) Tape out- transfer to production

Chip manufacturing:-

  1. Mask generation

  2. Silicon wafer preparation

  3. Photolithography

  4. Poly silicon layers creation

  5. Metallization

  6. Wafer post processing

  7. Wafer test, sort and cut

  8. Packaging

  9. Final test+ silicon testing

Chip packaging:-

Different types of packages are:-

1) DIP :- Dual in line package

Fig 10:- DIP package diagram view

2) PLCC:- Plastic leaded chip carrier

Fig 11:- DIP package diagram view

3) PPGA:- Plastic pin grid array

Fig 12- PPGA package diagram view

FPGA vs. ASIC Design Advantages

FPGA Design



Faster time-to-market

No layout, masks or other manufacturing steps are needed

No upfront non-recurring expenses (NRE)

Costs typically associated with an ASIC design

Simpler design cycle

Due to software that handles much of the routing, placement, and timing

More predictable project cycle

Due to elimination of potential re-spins, wafer capacities, etc.

Field reprogramability

A new bitstream can be uploaded remotely

ASIC Design



Full custom capability

For design since device is manufactured to design specs

Lower unit costs

For very high volume designs

Smaller form factor

Since device is manufactured to design specs

FPGA Detailed Design Flow

ASIC Detailed Design Flow


We have studied the different basic technologies by which we dump a module onto a chip or a die. ASIC designing is more popular than FPGA in some ways. The costs of the modules dump onto ASIC are cheaper than FPGA only when many of the units are required. FPGA aare upcoming technology and used too much due to its ability to reconfigure infinite number of times. In this paper a comparative study is done between FPGA and ASIC. This paper told us that where FPGA is better and where ASIC are better, which are helpful in development of a digital design. A VLSI designer always think about area constraint first and then about power consumption and Speed. A designer always think about simulation and checking and verification of the circuit. Some tools are used during FPGA implementation and ASIC realization. Xilinx tools are one of them to implement any hardware module onto the FPGA for the development of an integrated circuit.
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