DARPA eyes faster design of military chips

A new project aims to produce cheaper, more powerful chips

The U.S. military's research division has kicked off a project to accelerate its design of custom chips, so the latest semiconductor technologies can be used more quickly in defense applications.

For specific tasks like processing and transmitting images from a surveillance system, a custom chip can often do the job faster and more efficiently than a general purpose microprocessor.

The custom chips are smaller and consume less power, but it can take more than two years and $100 million to design them for military applications, according to an estimate from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

As a result, the military often relies on commercial chips and uses software to boost performance, but that means compromises are made.

So DARPA is researching ways to fast-track its chip design, and on Tuesday it awarded the University of Southern California an $11.8 million grant for phase one of a project called Circuit Realization At Faster Timescales (CRAFT).

CRAFT aims to reduce the time it takes to design a custom chip by a factor of 10, to just a few months.

It will create design frameworks that can be reused and updated as manufacturing technologies evolve. And it will try to build a database of methods, documentation and intellectual property that can be used across many chips.

Through CRAFT, the military wants to take advantage of the latest chip production methods, which help cut power consumption. Current Department of Defense custom chips are developed on production lines several generations behind that used for commercial chips, DARPA said.

The CRAFT project is expected to take three years, with phase one competed by February 2016.

snapcropped DARPA

CRAFT aims to make it easier, faster and cheaper to design custom circuits akin to this one, which was specially designed to provide a range of voltages and currents for testing an infrared sensor device that had been a candidate for an orbiting telescope.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?