FPGA companies design mil-temp plastic FPGAs

Experts at QuickLogic Corp. and Xilinx in San Jose, Calif., have designed plastic field programmable gate arrays that meet military temperature requirements. These devices provide the same performance and reliability as comparable ceramic devices at half the cost, company officials say.

By John McHale

Experts at QuickLogic Corp. and Xilinx in San Jose, Calif., have designed plastic field programmable gate arrays that meet military temperature requirements. These devices provide the same performance and reliability as comparable ceramic devices at half the cost, company officials say.

QuickLogic`s experts use low power dissipation to enable their plastic-packaged FPGAs to operate over the military temperature range -55 degree Celsius to 125 C.

Although the technology for plastic FPGAs has existed for years, a growing demand is emerging because of the military`s push towards commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment, says Rick Padovani, director of the Xilinx military and high-reliability business.

Officials at FPGA maker Actel Corp. of Sunnyvale, Calif., a big competitor of Xilinx, claim they have made plastic-packaged FPGAs in the past upon customer request, and will offer them out of their catalog this fall.

"If we see a need, we`ll offer the product," says Mike Sarpa, product marketing manager for Actel`s HiRel strategic business unit.

It was not hard to convince an industry looking for an inexpensive solution that the plastic parts worked under extreme temperature, says Chuck Tralka director of product marketing at QuickLogic. "We had a strong reputation in the industry and put the devices through extensive environmental testing," he says.

QuickLogic`s pASIC 3 components, for example, feature standby current consumption as low as 500 micro amps that result in standby power consumption of just 1.65 milliwatts. Low power results in very little heat.

The extreme cold temperatures are not a factor, Tralka says, because semiconductor devices run faster in the cold.

However, the use of plastic in space still does not work well because the product is still susceptible to outgassing, explains Rick Wong, director of reliability and quality at QuickLogic.

In addition to their cost savings, plastic packaging also offers a better time-to-market than ceramic devices, says Robert Lucero, military programs manager at QuickLogic. The standard lead time of plastic FPGAs is three to four weeks, while ceramic packages are eight to 10 weeks.

"As the defense industry has moved aggressively toward lower-cost solutions, we have found plastic-packaged devices to be a reliable and economical alternative to ceramic-packaged devices," says Mark Edwards, corporate development projects manager at VME single-board-computer maker DY-4 Systems in Kanata Ontario.

"Because QuickLogic`s plastic-packaged devices offer the design security, low power consumption, and high performance we require, they have proven useful in many of our most advanced programs," Edwards says. "Now that they meet even more stringent military temperature requirements, we can use them for a wider range of applications."

Despite their extended temperature ranges, some military systems designers refuse to use plastic parts, explains QuickLogic`s Lucero. Military customers who want only mil-standard parts in their designs will stick with the ceramic- packaged products, he predicts.

Members of QuickLogic`s pASIC 1 and pASIC 3 families of plastic-packaged devices are the industry`s first FPGA devices to test and qualify over the military temperature range, QuickLogic officials claim.

QuickLogic`s FPGAs appeal to military systems designers with features such as non-volatility, maximum design security, high in-system reliability, low power consumption, and high performance, Lucero says. QuickLogic`s ceramic-packaged devices are also available in full MIL-STD-883 versions.

The Xilinx plastic-packaged FPGAs are part of the company`s XQ4000X family with densities of as many as 130,000 gates. Packaging options include thermally enhanced plastic quad packs and ball grid arrays, hermetic pin grid arrays, and top brazed ceramic quad flat packs. Xilinx FPGAs combine on-chip select-RAM memory with edge-triggered and dual-port modes, increased speed, abundant routing resources, and software tools.

Applications for the Xilinx plastic devices include commercial and military avionics, communications systems, fire-control systems, guidance systems, and display systems, company officials say.

Programs that have used or are currently using QuickLogic military devices include the M1A2 Abrams main battle tank upgrade, electronics for the Armored Amphibious Assault Vehicle, and the F/A-18 fighter avionics upgrade.

The first military-temperature-grade plastic device, the QuickLogic QL24x32B from the pASIC 1 family, is available and shipping in production quantities. The first mil-temp plastic pASIC 3 device, the QL3025, will begin shipping in June.

For more information on the Quick-Logic plastic FPGA devices contact Michael Samaulian by phone at 408-990-4000, by fax at 408-990-4040, by post at QuickLogic, 1277 Orleans Dr., Sunnyvale, Calif., by e-mail at samaulian@Quick-Logic.com, or on the World Wide Web http://www.QuickLogic.com.

For more information on the Xilinx XQ4000X plastic-packaged FPGAs contact Mike Seither by phone at 408-879-6557, by fax at 408-559-7114, by post at Xilinx, Inc., 2100 Logic Drive, San Jose, Calif., 95124-3400, by e-mail at mike.seither@xilinx. com, or on the World Wide Web at http://www.zilinx.com.

More in Home