ASIC Design Services, founded in 1989 as a design house for application specific integrated circuits (ASICs), is today one of the leading distributors for complex electronic components and electronic design automation (EDA) software in South Africa.
The company is primarily focused on the programmable logic market, where it represents Actel, renowned for its flash-based field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and Mentor Graphics, a market leader for programmable logic simulation and associated software solutions. ASIC Design Services supports its distribution business by offering design, training and technical support services. By leveraging its technical know-how and design expertise, the company serves as a solutions partner to its customers, rather than being limited to the sales fulfilment role of the classical distributor.
ASIC Design Services designs custom integrated circuits and has developed telecommunications (E1 framer), computer bus interface (PCI), encryption (AES) and DSP (digital down converter) solutions based on Actel FPGA devices. In recent years, the company has adopted the core-based design methodology to offer 1553B, ARINC and PCI solutions. The company is renowned for its PCILite solution, a simple and very cost effective PCI target interface solution, which has been adopted by several companies in South Africa and abroad (visit www.PCIlite.com).
Today, Actel's FPGAs offer all the advantages of ASICs, enabling ASIC Design Services to offer its traditional custom integrated circuit solutions on a programmable device. As with ASICs, the Actel FPGAs offer a customisable single-chip, non-volatile, live-at-power solution. However, unlike ASICs which require custom engineering and manufacture (with its inherent NRE costs and lengthy engineering cycles), FPGAs are user programmable, providing the benefits of design flexibility, reduced time-to-market and reduced development cost.
The Actel Flash-based FPGAs offer a single chip solution, exhibit low power consumption, are live at power-up, immune to single event upsets and design secure. Actel devices find application in the consumer, battery powered/portable, high reliability, avionics, encryption and IP protection markets. The IGLOO technology provides an extremely low power consumption solution (as low as 5 μW) which is low cost and available in a small form factor, making it ideal for portable consumer products. The Fusion technology is the industry's first mixed-signal FPGA solution integrating programmable logic, configurable analog, large Flash memory blocks, embedded processor (ARM7 or 8051) and clock source, integrated into a programmable 'system on a chip'.
VHDL (VHSIC Hardware Description Language) training is an important part of the programmable logic business model. ASIC Design Services offers VHDL training courses from Esperan, a UK-based company that specialises in training. The VHDL training courses have proved very popular and more than 200 engineers have completed the training courses in South Africa in the past three years. Specialised VHDL training benefits the industry and helps to develop the programmable logic market.
While ASIC Design Services has increasingly adopted programmable logic technology, it remains active in the traditional ASIC market. Earlier this year the company entered into a distribution agreement with austriamicrosystems, which will enable it to pursue mixed signal ASIC opportunities while also distributing the standard product range of mixed-signal solutions available.
ASIC Design Services is also the South African distributor for HALO Electronics (magnetics for networking and telecoms) and Exar (telecoms and datacoms components). By combining HALO magnetics with Exar LIUs (LAN interface units) and custom framers implemented on Actel FPGAs, ASIC Design Services is able to offer the local market highly integrated telecoms solutions.
EDA is a key and synergistic part of the company's business. ASIC Design Services is the South African distributor for Mentor Graphics and DownStream Technologies.
Mentor Graphics is a world market leader in HDL (hardware description language) simulation, PCB design and signal integrity and analysis. ASIC Design Services represents Mentor Graphics for its HDL (including the renowned ModelSim technology), PADS (PCB), Expedition (PCB) and Cable Harness product lines. Since ASIC Design Services uses Mentor Graphics EDA tools to design FPGAs and PCBs, it has the necessary expertise to provide Mentor Graphics customers with technical support. Mentor Graphics offers a highly integrated programmable logic-PCB-signal integrity and analysis solution based on the 'best-of-breed' point tools available in the industry today. The ModelSim simulator and associated solutions, such as ModelSim Designer which includes graphical HDL, is the 'standard' simulation tool of the programmable logic industry. Expedition offers advanced PCB routing technology, while the PADS PCB solutions are well suited to the performance/price requirements of the local market. The HyperLynx signal integrity and analysis technology is renowned for its ease of use and can be used in virtually any PCB design flow to help eliminate signal integrity, crosstalk, and EMC problems early, enabling 'right first time' design.
The cable harness technologies from Mentor Graphics find application in the automotive and avionics markets. Mentor Graphics offers two technologies, Capital-H and Vesys. Capital-H is well suited to the extensive data-centric requirements of companies that are in the business of designing and manufacturing cable harnesses, while VeSys finds application with companies that need to design a cable harness as part of their overall system.
DownStream Technologies offers software solutions for computer aided manufacture (CAM) and PCB documentation. CAM350 provides a complete PCB flow, from design through fabrication, which streamlines the transition of engineering data into successful, physical PCBs. BluePrint is a new document authoring tool that quickly creates electronic PCB drawings to drive successful PCB fabrication, assembly and inspection.
ASIC Design Services today is still very much in the business of custom integrated circuit design, enhanced by select distribution of complementary electronic components and EDA solutions.
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