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Definition: ASIC


(Application Specific Integrated Circuit) Pronounced "A sik," an ASIC is a chip that is custom designed for a specific purpose. Although CPUs and microcontrollers (MCUs) are also custom designed, they fall under the "general purpose" processor category. See CPU and microcontroller.

An ASIC if often used by the company that created it to provide the electronics for its own products. However, an ASIC may be designed for sale, in which case it is generally known as an "application specific standard part" (see ASSP).

Full Custom ASIC
A full custom ASIC means the designers have total control over every transistor and can fine tune the logic to perform operations as fast as possible. Today, this is rarely done for a complex chip because it can cost millions to develop. However, as part of a large chip, a single circuit or small number of circuits can be custom designed.

Standard Cells
Most ASICs are designed by selecting and connecting standard cells from libraries that contain predefined elements such as registers, logic gates, flip-flops and latches. Standard cells may also include larger functions (see standard cell). See gate array, structured ASIC, FPGA, PLD, adaptive computing and CSIC.




Types of Chips
ASICs are made in a semiconductor fab and are contrasted here with the programmable logic market. (Diagram courtesy of Clive "Max" Maxfield, www.clivemaxfield.com)