What are Chiplets and how they Assemble Into the Most Advanced SoCs

Written by

If you are interested in the latest trends and innovations in the semiconductor industry, you may have heard of chiplets. But what are chiplets, and how do they enable the creation of the most advanced SoCs? 

In this blog post, w will explain the concept of chiplet technology, its benefits and challenges, and some of the current and future applications of chiplets in various domains.

What Are Chiplets?

Chiplets are small, modular chips that can be combined to form a complete system-on-chip (SoC). They are designed to be used in a chiplet-based architecture, in which multiple chiplets are connected together to create a single, complex integrated circuit.

Chiplet technology is relatively new and is being actively developed by a number of companies in the semiconductor industry. The idea of chiplets originated from the project of DARPA CHIPS (Common Heterogeneous Integration and IP Reuse), which aimed to improve the overall system flexibility and performance by enabling the reuse of existing IP blocks in different configurations.

The concept of chiplets is also related to Moore's law, which is a prediction made by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, in 1965 that the number of transistors on a microchip would double approximately every two years, leading to exponential increases in computing power and decreases in cost. However, as the size of transistors approached the physical limits of silicon, Moore's law started to slow down, making it harder and more expensive to produce larger and more complex chips.

Chiplet technology can be seen as a way to extend Moore's law and continue the trend of improving performance and reducing costs in the semiconductor industry. One way in which chiplet technology can help extend Moore's law is by allowing for the creation of more complex and powerful SoCs without having to fit all of the necessary components onto a single, monolithic chip.

One of the pioneers of chiplet technology is AMD, which launched its first chiplet-based SoC in 2015. The AMD Fiji GPU was composed of four high-bandwidth memory (HBM) chiplets stacked on top of a GPU die using through-silicon vias (TSVs). This design enabled AMD to achieve higher memory bandwidth and lower power consumption than its competitors. Since then, AMD has expanded its use of chiplets to its CPU products, such as Ryzen and EPYC, which integrate multiple CPU chiplets and a memory controller chiplet in a single package.

Unlike traditional monolithic SoCs, which integrate all of the necessary components onto a single piece of silicon, chiplets allow for the separation of different functions into specialized chips. For example, a chiplet-based SoC could consist of a processor chiplet, a memory chiplet, a graphics chiplet, an AI accelerator chiplet, and an I/O chiplet, each optimized for its specific task.

By using chiplets, engineers can design complex chips rapidly and cost-effectively by essentially assembling different types of third-party IPs into a single package. These third-party IPs can be I/O drivers, memory ICs, processor cores, or any other functional blocks that can be encapsulated into a chiplet.

What Are the Benefits of Chiplets?

Chiplet technology offers several benefits over traditional monolithic SoCs, including:

  1. Improved performance: Specialized chiplets can optimize performance for specific tasks, such as computing, graphics, AI, or networking. By reducing data movement between different components, chiplets can also conserve energy and improve latency.
  2. Reduced power consumption: Chiplet integration allows downsizing processors, which reduces power requirements and heat generation. Chiplets can also enable dynamic power management, in which only the active chiplets consume power while the idle ones are turned off.
  3. Increased design flexibility: Chiplets enable easy customization and upgrades by allowing engineers to mix and match different chiplets according to their needs. Chiplets can also support heterogeneous integration, in which chiplets with different process technologies, materials, or architectures can be combined within a single package.
  4. Higher yields in manufacturing: Chiplet production offers higher yields compared to larger, monolithic chip architectures. Chiplets can also undergo known good die testing before assembly, which enhances final device yield and reliability.
  5. Reusable intellectual property: Integrating chiplets in various devices can reduce development costs and increase flexibility. Chiplets can also leverage existing IP blocks without having to redesign them for each new application.

What Are the Challenges of Chiplets?

Despite its advantages, chiplet technology also faces some challenges that need to be addressed before it can become widely adopted. Some of these challenges are:

  • Interconnects: One of the main challenges of chiplet technology is how to connect multiple chiplets together within a single package. The interconnects between chiplets need to be fast, reliable, scalable, and power-efficient. Some of the possible solutions for interconnects include 2D or 3D packaging techniques, such as flip-chip bonding or through-silicon vias (TSVs), or wireless communication methods, such as radio frequency (RF) or optical links.
  • Standards: Another challenge of chiplet technology is the lack of common standards for chiplet design, testing, and integration. Without standards, it would be difficult for different vendors to produce compatible and interoperable chiplets. Some of the initiatives that aim to develop standards for chiplet technology include UCIe (Universal Chip-to-Chip Interface), Open Domain-Specific Architecture (ODSA), Open Heterogeneous Integration Platform (OHIP), and Advanced Interface Bus (AIB).
  • Security: A third challenge of chiplet technology is how to ensure the security and trustworthiness of chiplets from different sources. Since chiplets may come from third-party vendors or untrusted environments, they may pose risks of tampering, counterfeiting, or malicious attacks. Some of the possible solutions for security include encryption, authentication, verification, or isolation mechanisms for chiplets.

What Are the Applications of Chiplets?

Chiplet technology has many potential applications in various domains that require high-performance, low-power, and flexible SoCs. Some of these domains include:

  • Cloud computing: Chiplet technology can enable cloud service providers to customize their servers according to their workloads and optimize their performance and efficiency. For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has developed its own chiplet-based SoCs, called Graviton and Inferentia, for general-purpose and machine learning applications, respectively.
  • Edge computing: Chiplet technology can also enable edge devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, or IoT sensors, to perform complex tasks locally and reduce their dependence on the cloud. For example, Apple has used chiplet technology in its M1 SoC, which integrates a CPU, a GPU, a neural engine, and a memory chiplet in a single package.
  • High-performance computing: Chiplet technology can also enable high-performance computing systems, such as supercomputers or data centers, to achieve higher levels of performance and scalability. For example, Intel has used chiplet technology in its Xeon Scalable processors, which integrate up to eight CPU chiplets and a memory controller chiplet in a single package.


Post a Comment


Your comments will be moderated before it can appear here. Win prizes for being an engaged reader.

Post a Comment (0)

#buttons=(Ok, Go it!) #days=(20)

Our website uses cookies to enhance your experience. Learn more
Ok, Go it!