Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSS
Welcome Sammy Cheung, CEO of Efinix!
- Efinix makes FPGAs in a fabless model.
- They started in 2012, but really got started with their first product in 2017
- Co-founder is Tony Ngai (CTO), both he and Sammy used to work at Altera
- At first they were trying to make a higher growth company, to possibly get aquired quickly. In 2015, when Intel acquired Altera, there was a pause to all acquisition talks.
- Interestingly, Xilinx is an investor, as well as Samsung
- Building the first chip (the Trion) required Architecture, Software, IC design. All things have to work together.
- Licensing IP
- They ended up selling 1M units
- Does first chip have to be niche?
- Trion is big in Computer Vision (CV) and sensing. It has hardware interfaces for Cameras / MIPI interface
- Chip architecture also matters
- Many CV users wanted to put inferencing functions on board, especially because it’s fast and flexible.
- In traditional FPGAs, the routing switch is separate from the logic element. In the Efinix “Fine grain architecture”, it’s more closely coupled. See the image in this IEEE Spectrum article.
- Logic elements are more “equivalent” logic elements
- Trion on 40 nm Low Power (LP) process
- The soon-to-be released Titanium is different. It has an upgraded architecture (though it’s still XLR).
- Early users have seen a 4x improvement
- Sammy says these chips are meant as much more than a Bridge device (like a CPLD)
- Not doing a ton of IP internally, OK with pulling in other companies’ IP
- Other vendors are integrating Efinix FPGA silicon into SIPs, using Chiplet form factors.
- Simplified power bringup
- Because doing specific FPGAs to integrate with others
- Reconfigurable accelerator
- 4 mask sets for Trion, 3 for Titanium
- Titanium is on a 16 nm process node.
- These chips are not meant for server farms, but they’re also not chasing the low end.
- Features in the Titanium
- DSP is more complex than just a MAC block
- Targeting DSP blocks
- Soft IP offerings
- RISC V
- Next 5 years they expect more processor offerings
- Can run processor at 400-500 MHz
- “Domain Specific SOC”
- The Efinix RISCV offering is based off of the Vex RISC-V design, which won the 2018 Softcore contest, designed by Charles Papon
- Efinix hopes these chips will enable AI engineers
- Will Efinix use the open toolchain discussed on The Amp Hour regularly? No plans currently. Sammy contends that super competitve devices require vertical integration.
- Efinix has a tool called the Interface Designer
- Separate core from peripherals
- Sammy is excited about interesting future applications like automotive vision. The car is a “moving supercomputer”
- Q2 events showing Titanium and Dev kits are on the way. There will be parts out in the Summer, including the first released the TI60 out in Q3.
- What are their challenges looking forward? Not money or tech, but how the company will change as they grow
Bill Stacey says
This episode is a great example of a guest and topic I have an interest in but have not heard of before.
I did a lot of work over the years with designs integrating an FPGA to glue resources together and perform hard real time tasks. Recently I have seen AI using FPGAs but there is a larger barrier to getting into the technology domain.
The Efinix devices and tools seem resolved for specific uses (that real customers are using) and if thats what I want to do its a great starting point to get something basic working. I have long understood the tradeoff between a generic technology and one configured to solve the problem of the day. The latter keeps your business operating long enough to move to and target the opportunities of the next era.
As usual your podcast has taught me things in areas I dont know about but would like to.
Vendors try to promote their offerings and I am open but sceptical about my time/benefit.
Your podcast tries to tease out the story in depth the way someone attending a trade show would tease out the details from a vendor to quickly see what the offering can do for them in terms of technology, business opportunities and implementation challenges.
Chris Gammell says
Thanks for the kind words! It would be great to replicate the best of the “trade show” feeling, when you get to discover new companies and technologies to take to a new product. I always think about it like building up a mental library of possible solutions, to be investigated more or deployed on future projects.