The renowned UK-based processor architect ARM has created the first flexible, silicon-free functional processor designed by ARM Research in collaboration with PragmatIC on the PlasticArm project. A study published in the journal Nature, briefly about him, is told in the press release on the company’s website.
The project started back in 2013. In 2015 the team managed to get the prototype, but then, when trying to create a fully working copy, they faced technological and production limitations. The first functional plasticArm chip, which is ready for mass use, was created at the end of last year – October 27, 2020. The PragmatIC FlexLogIC production system played a significant role in its success.
In its current form, PlasticArm is the simplest SoC based on the 32-bit RISC core Cortex-M0 with 128 bytes of RAM and 456 bytes of ROM. The processor frequency is 29 kHz, and the power consumption is about 20 mW. But the creators point out that the design of the new chip is twelve times more complicated than the previous analogs, and in production, it costs even less than the silicon counterparts.
PlasticArm uses metal oxide thin-film transistors (TFTs) deposited over a flexible substrate. This is what gives the chip the desired elastic properties. Actually, the technology as a whole is not new – it is used to create LCDs and flexible solar panels.
The capabilities of PlasticArm are not enough to even for smartwatches, but the development may find application in medical sensors, devices of the Internet of Things, and the future may lead to the emergence of a completely new class of consumer products such as smart labels, bottles, bags, clothing, adhesives, etc.