That’s Fantastic, A Bendable PlasticARM Chip
Thin Film Transistors On A Flexible Plastic Substrate
PlasticARM is not the first flexible chip that has been designed, however their 32-bit microprocessor has almost 12 times more logic gates than the closest competition. The chip is an ARM Cortex-M0+ core on a flexible substrate designed by PragmatIC under the name FlexLogIC, but there are more than a few differences between the rigid M0+ and this new pliable version.
The original version was fabbed at 40nm, while PlasticARM is on a 800nm process we haven’t seen since the x386 and x486 of the early ’90s. The frequency is also a wee bit slower, running at 20kHz as compared to 133MHz for the unfloppable M0+. Finally the only program it can run is a test program burned into its read-only memory. In theory it could run most programs which could fit in it’s ROM, as long as it was burnt in during fabrication. This it not as deal breaking as it might sound, these chips would likely be designed for a single purpose, not as a general computational device.
In the future, ARM suggests it could be possible to replace the ROM with some flavour of EPROM to make their flexible chips … more so. The frequency could also be increased to 40kHz if the power draw was increased to 4.5V from the current 3V being employed on PlasticARM. That is inline with the plans ARM has for their bendable silicon, they want to increase the flexibility of the chips usage, as opposed to making the chip more powerful.
The Register had a brief interview with ARM’s James Myers that you can dive into here.
Researchers at chip designer Arm have shown off a prototype microprocessor - dubbed PlasticARM - built on flexible plastic, letting it curve around surfaces and even flex backwards and forwards.