September 18, 2012 -- Kilopass Technology, Inc. today unveiled its new embedded NVM IP bit-cell. The new VCM bit cell quadruples the density of today's anti-fuse NVM IP bit-cell. The VCM bit-cell will make possible program storage where today's embedded non-volatile memory (eNVM) technology is cost-prohibitive or unavailable at capacities of 4Mbits to 32Mbits. It will also enable a higher level of performance more similar to SRAM compared to existing slower eNVM technologies or external Flash or EEPROM chips.
The integration of eNVM helps to reduce cost, footprint, and power of the chip. However, until now eNVM has been limited to a 4-Mbit upper limit of capacity and limited erase cycles (endurance). With the VCM bit-cell technology, Kilopass will dramatically scale this limit to 32Mbits with capability to scale beyond.
"The VCM bit-cell is an entirely new memory bit-cell giving us an unprecedented memory density in standard logic processes from 180nm to the leading edge 20nm and beyond," said Harry Luan, Chief Technology Officer at Kilopass. "Our R&D team fabricated the patent-pending VCM bit-cell technology, which reduces the silicon area of the bit-cell four fold, while contributing to improved performance, reduced dynamic power requirements, and greater endurance. Developed after more than four years from the inception of the concept in 2008 to today's announcement, the new VCM bit-cell will enable NVM IP to replace Serial Flash/ EEPROM in applications that require execute-in-place and that must harvest power or run for extended periods between battery charges."
About VCM bit cell technology
The VCM bit-cell technology differs from that of the current Kilopass NVM IP which requires a lateral selection transistor in planar (X-Y) directions to form memory bits. The VCM bit-cell technology uses one single P-MOS transistor to both store and control the memory content. This compaction method reduces the footprint of the single bit-cell from about 75F2 for Kilopass' current XPM memory to 12F2 for VCM memory, where each F describes a manufacturable feature. By comparison, a typical embedded Flash memory has an area of about 50F2, and the state-of-the-art NAND Flash bit-cell with a fully customized memory-process technology and extra cost can only achieve 6F2, about half of the area of the VCM bit-cell. The VCM bit- cell is the densest eNVM that exists in standard logic process.
VCM bit-cell technology adds a simple processing step/ mask that needs no new materials, equipment, or additional thermal cycles. An additional relatively coarse grade mask is used, which is inexpensive and easy to manufacture. Indeed, the VCM bit-cell memory technology has been designed into a 11-nm analog/ mixed-signal process in three different test shuttles with successful results. VCM bit-cell technology is currently ready to be integrated into the upcoming Numera product in early 2013.
The VCM bit-cell memory technology fills an eNVM void not addressed by external components such as serial-Flash/ EEPROM, read-only memory (ROM), and embedded Flash (eFlash).
Today's external serial EEPROM or serial Flash with an on-chip shadow SRAM is untenable because of power and cost constraints. The embedded Flash alternative is not available at process nodes below 65nm and, even when available, may add too much cost to a predominantly logic SOC. The read-only memory (mask-ROM) alternative comes with the drawback of having to be configured during design and any program change requiring an expensive and lengthy design re-spin. The VCM bit-cell provides an attractive alternative to all three of these solutions that overcomes their shortcomings. It reduces the bill-of-materials cost and logistics requirement of an external EEPROM and replaces the associated embedded shadow-SRAM function in an equivalent silicon area. The memory is a small fraction of the cost of embedded EEPROM or Flash and is built on Kilopass' proven, scalable, anti-fuse technology foundation. It adds the flexibility not possible with ROM of being programmable at final test and reprogrammable in the field if program changes are required.
Kilopass will initially target the ultra-low power, high-integration wireless devices built in 55-nm to 40-nm technologies, where the MCU-like SOC requires extended battery life, small form factor, and execute-in-place performance, all ideal for the VCM bit-cell technology. In addition, these devices often require different software versions and updates, which make the VCM memory technology superior to mask-based memory like ROM.
Kilopass has completed the process technology/ recipe development for the VMC memory technology and is currently undergoing foundry enablement. Once completed, it will be incorporated into the new Numera few-time programmable offering from Kilopass.
Posted by: John Miklosz
Go to the Kilopass Technology, Inc. website to find additional information.