Akida spiking processor works, production mask set needed

September 29, 2020 //By Peter Clarke
Akida spiking processor works, production mask set needed
BrainChip Holdings Ltd. has announced that it's Akida spiking neural network processor has been "validated" with functional silicon and that a production mask set is now required.

That production mask set is expected in 4Q20, making volume production unlikely before 2H21.

The Akida chip has been in development since 2017 and was first offered in FPGA accelerator format. It was reported in the Microprocessor Report of October 2019 where it was described as a mesh-connected array of 80 neural processor units (NPUs). The NPUs are digital logic that mimic the spiking behaviour of biological neurons, but the chip also integrates spike converters, which enable it to run convolutional neural networks.

The combination makes for an event-driven neuromorphic processor. Beside the neuron fabric it It includes multiple interfaces, data-to-event converters, a Cortex-M4 CPU and on-chip memory.

At the time Akida was expected to tape out in a TSMC 28nm process in 2019 and be sampling early in 2020.

BrainChip reports that it used a TSMC multi-project wafer (MPW) in April 2020 to access engineering samples and received packaged and tested devices for internal validation and testing in August 2020. These devices will support sampling to "early-access" customers

Louis DiNardo, CEO of BrainChip, commented: "We have validated the functionality of the Akida silicon and performed significant testing. The devices received from the MPW will provide engineering samples and evaluation boards for our early access customers. Now our focus is on continued development of software and firmware drivers. We expect to produce a production mask set in the fourth quarter of 2020 and then move forward with volume production wafer fabrication, assembly and test operations."

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