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The Future of Chiplets

[University of Michigan Law School]


- Overview

Chiplets can be the size of a grain of sand or larger than a thumbnail, and are brought together through a process called advanced packaging. The global chip industry has increasingly embraced the technology as the cost of making chips has soared in recent years and transistors have gotten smaller and smaller, now measured in atomic numbers. Gluing small chips together could help make more powerful systems without shrinking transistors, because multiple chips can work like a single brain. 

Chiplet technology is a different way of integrating multiple dies in a package or system. There are several approaches to chiplets. The basic idea is that you have a menu of modular chips, or chiplets, in a library. Then, you assemble chiplets in a package and connect them using a die-to-die interconnect scheme. In theory, the chiplet approach is a fast and less expensive way to assemble various types of third-party chips, such as I/Os, memory and processor cores, in a package. 

With an SoC, a chip might incorporate a CPU, plus an additional 100 IP blocks on the same chip. That design is then scaled by moving to the next node, which is an expensive process. With a chiplet model, those 100 IP blocks are hardened into smaller dies or chiplets. In theory, you would have a large catalog of chiplets from various IC vendors. Then, you can mix-and-match them to build a system. Chiplets could be made at different process nodes and re-used in different designs.


- A Brief History of Chiplets

For more than 50 years, designers of computer chips have primarily used one strategy to increase performance: They shrink the size of electronic components so that more power can be packed onto each silicon chip.

More than a decade ago, engineers at chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices began considering a radical idea. Instead of designing a large microprocessor with lots of tiny transistors, they envisioned creating a microprocessor out of smaller chips that would be tightly packed together to work like an electronic brain.

The concept has taken off, with products from AMD, Apple, Amazon, Tesla, IBM, and Intel. Chiplets are quickly gaining traction because smaller chips are cheaper to manufacture, and they can be bundled to exceed the performance of any single piece of silicon.

The strategy is based on advanced packaging technology, which has become an important tool for driving semiconductor progress. It's one of the biggest shifts in years for an industry driving innovation in areas like artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and military hardware.


[Paris, France - jpryes]

- Chiplets Technology

Chiplets are small IC chips with specialized functions. These designs are intended to be combined to form larger integrated circuits, following the trend towards heterogeneous integration in the semiconductor industry. 

The ability to choose from a range of small, highly specialized chips and then mix and match them to produce the desired overall functionality is a major step forward from the traditional system-on-chip (SoC) approach to semiconductor packaging. 

Computer processors produced by major suppliers combine a select number of chiplets rather than along the traditional route of monolithic semiconductor manufacturing, in which devices are built on a single piece of silicon. 

Although the idea of chiplets has been around for decades, chiplet-based packages are enabling the development of new types of components, products and systems for specialized applications.

These components are tailored for specific applications, and more and more companies are getting into chip design, focusing on chiplets as their core processors. Based on the number of research papers, patent applications, and technical articles you can find online, it's clear that chiplet-based components are here to stay. 


- The Future of Chiplets

It is difficult to predict the exact future of chiplet technology, as it will depend on many factors, including technological progress, market demand, and individual company strategies. 

However, chiplet technology has the potential to revolutionize the way processors and other electronic components are designed and manufactured. Chiplet technology could lead to more efficient and cost-effective manufacturing processes by allowing companies to mix and match different chiplets to create custom products. 

It could also allow for the creation of more specialized and customized products, as companies can choose specific chiplets that best meet their performance and power requirements. 

Overall, chiplet technology appears set to continue to be an important area of innovation for the electronics industry in the coming years.


[More to come ...]

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