Calfornian startup goes multi-die to customize MCUs

September 24, 2015 // By Peter Clarke
A startup company from Southern California has made use of the increased availability and lower cost of multi-die packaging to offer custom microcontrollers. The company reckons this approach and the advent of IoT could make the world its oyster.

The company, which trades as Indie Semiconductor, was founded as AyDeeKay LLC (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) by four engineers in 2007 although work really began in 2009.

The problem the team chose to address is the well-known one that achieving the right mix of peripherals on a microcontroller for any given application, and thereby saving power and cost, is almost impossible. Indeed most microcontroller families, which can include 100s of stock-keeping units (SKUs), are often created by laying down the superset of peripherals and memory and then disabling different parts of the design to create particular family members.

Having previously founded and worked at Axiom Micro Devices, a manufacturer of CMOS power amplifiers for cell phones, Indie's founders were aware that multi-die packaging was reducing in cost as volumes increased for smartphones.

Paul Hollingworth, vice president of sales & marketing at Indie Semi.

The company's approach to the market has been to split the design of its Cortex-M0 based microcontroller between the processor part and the peripheral die. The first is made in a digital CMOS manufacturing process with embedded flash while the second is made in mixed-signal, mixed-signal with RF or mixed-signal with power processes, as necessary.

Paul Hollingworth, who joined the company in 2013, as vice president of sales and marketing, said the approach allowed the company to bring the custom performance advantages of ASIC design while maintaining much of the low-cost and easy design advantages of a microcontroller.

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