Friday, April 19, 2024

“We Refer To The 28-Nanometre Node As The ‘Goldilocks’ Node”

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Incubated at IIT Madras, the fabless semiconductor startup, Mindgrove Technologies, has developed a microcontroller chip operating on a 28-nanometre technology node with a SHAKTI core, at a speed of 700MHz for IoT applications, signal processing, machine learning, and characterisation in signal processing and vision domains. The chip leverages built-in security features and enhanced performance for tasks like fingerprint scanning and high-speed motor control, facilitating feedback and control on a single chip. In an exclusive chat with EFY’s Yashasvini Razdan, co-founders Shashwath T.R. and Sharan Srinivas J. dished out interesting details about technology nodes in chip design

Sharan Srinivas J. (L), and Shashwath T.R. (R) Co-founders, Mindgrove Technologies

Q. Why did you choose to work with a 28-nanometre technology node?

A. Sharan: Internally, we refer to the 28-nanometre process node as the ‘Goldilocks node’ because it offers sufficient speed, incorporates power-saving features in the node’s design, and is relatively cost-effective. It is the last process node where traditional planar transistors are used before transitioning to FinFET transistors, which are more complex and expensive, particularly in the case of 16-nanometre and lower nodes. Developing for FinFET nodes presents greater challenges and costs, making 28 nanometres an ideal choice that provides the desired performance, power efficiency, and manageability of process technology without breaking the bank. Hence, the fitting nickname ‘Goldilocks.’

Shashwath: Though it was not a primary factor in our decision-making, the 28-nanometre process node does not pose export control issues from the US. Access to this node is freely granted. In contrast, for the latest process nodes, a separate licence is required, and the associated paperwork could have caused significant delays, possibly extending to around six months or even longer. So, beyond its technical advantages, the 28-nanometre node also offers streamlined access, aligning perfectly with our needs for the first year of development.

Q. Can you give me an example of where 28-nanometre nodes are used in real life?

A. Sharan: Xilinx FPGAs, such as Artix 100 and DS 200, are typically fabricated at 28 nanometres. The first-generation Vertex 7 series was produced at 28 nanometres. The very first version of the Apple Watch was manufactured using a 28-nanometre process. Many automotive chips are manufactured using the 28-nanometre process.

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Q. How does one choose a process node for a particular chip?


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