DARPA leading electronics revolution to go beyond printed circuit boards with modular chiplets

DARPA has kicked off the Common Heterogeneous Integration and Intellectual Property (IP) Reuse Strategies program. “The CHIPS program is part of DARPA’s much larger effort, the Electronics Resurgence Initiative, in which we are striving to build an electronics community that mixes the best of the commercial and defense capabilities for national defense,” Chappell said.

“If the CHIPS program is successful, we will gain access to a wider variety of specialized blocks that we will be able to integrate into our systems more easily and with lower costs,” said Green. “This should be a win for both the commercial and defense sectors.”

Among the specific technologies that could emerge from this newly formed research community are compact replacements for entire circuit boards, ultrawideband radio frequency (RF) systems, which require tight integration of fast data converters with powerful processing functions, and, by combining chiplets that provide different accelerator and processor functions, fast-learning systems for teasing out interesting and actionable data from much larger volumes of mundane data. “By bringing the best design capabilities, reconfigurable circuit fabrics, and accelerators from the commercial domain, we should be able to create defense systems just by adding smaller specialized chiplets,” said Bill Chappell, director of DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office.

The vision of CHIPS is an ecosystem of discrete modular, reusable IP blocks, which can be assembled into a system using existing and emerging integration technologies. Modularity and reusability of IP blocks will require electrical and physical interface standards to be widely adopted by the community supporting the CHIPS ecosystem. Therefore, the CHIPS program will develop the design tools and integration standards required to demonstrate modular integrated circuit (IC) designs that leverage the best of DoD and commercial designs and technologies.

The CHIPS program partitions the problem into three main challenge areas:
(1) digital interfaces and systems;
(2) analog interfaces and systems; and
(3) supporting technologies.

If successful, the CHIPS program will:

Establish and demonstrate common interface standards
Enable the assembly of systems from modular IP blocks compliant with established standards
Demonstrate reusability of the modular IP blocks via rapid design iteration