Original Design Manufacturers (ODM) are under tremendous pressure by their clients to reduce BOM and overall costs while maintaining consistent quality control. In consumer electronics, ODMs have increasingly looked to reduce their electronic component costs by moving from standalone chips to a system-on-a-chip (SoC) approach.
SoCs offer opportunities to decrease power consumption and decrease the PCB (printed-circuit-board) or module size. However, integrating standalone chips to SoCs also come with risks – to be successful, all of the different SoC components must work together, generally with less power and area space. The reputations of ODMs and SoC designers rely heavily on new SoCs working properly and reliably for end users. Therefore, extensive testing is critical.
Kapik was engaged by an Asian SoC designer to contribute a custom application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) for a project they had with an ODM. The ODM developed imaging products and was seeking to reduce the overall costs of a range of digital cameras they were producing on behalf of major multinational brands. The ASIC we needed to contribute to the SoC was a switch that could multiplex USB or audio/visual signals based on a shared pair of wires.
Our client had significant expertise in system-level product design but didn't have specialized expertise in IC design. Kapik was selected based on its credible analog expertise. We worked with the client on two generations of the ASIC, which had the following requirements:
- SoC integration: The design of the switch was targeted for a 180nm CMOS SoC, where all other necessary analog/mixed-signal functions were integrated. Kapik was subsequently retained to do a subsequent redesign in a 55nm CMOS technology, in which the customer further integrated all digital processing and logic circuits with all the analog/mixed-signal functions into a single SoC.
- Designed for customized loading conditions and applications: At the time, all standalone USB/AV switch ICs in the marketplace utilized general-purpose technology, optimized for a broad array of loading conditions and applications. Such an approach to this switch would have exceeded the area budget. As a result, we needed to customize the design so it was tailored to the actual specifications of the client and provided an optimum solution.
- Meet area constraints: As part of a larger SoC, it was critical that our design met tight area constraints. Partway through the lower power redesign, the client needed to further reduce the space for the switch without compromising its performance.
Kapik was entrusted with significant autonomy in design decision-making and was able to deliver on the client’s design requirements. However, we went beyond this. Recognizing that our client’s reputation was on the line, we sent staff to our client’s factory to work with their engineers to get the system up and running, tested and shippable, leveraging our knowledge of the design and experience with such projects. Together, we achieved first silicon success and the design was shipped in millions of units.
When our client needed a redesign with new requirements, they called on us again and we delivered. This time, we needed to balance shifting business needs with overall requirements. So we took a slightly different approach, working collaboratively with our client through the design process to determine which specifications could be relaxed and which could not. Kapik was able to deliver designs that met the tight constraints set by the client by working collaboratively with them and performing the necessary redesigns and verifications when required. We were able to deliver a reliable, robust product that met the client’s high expectations.
Interested in finding out more about our expertise in mixed signal and smart analog design can help you? Contact us today.
Tags: consumer, customer service, power