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PlasticARM, a CPU made of plastic instead of silicon

ARM has surprised us with PlasticARM, a processor that is not made of silicon, but with plastic. Yes, I know what you are thinking, that it seems impossible, but I already anticipate that it is not, and that this processor is not only fully functional, but also it is cheaper to manufacture than a traditional silicon-based processor.

And there is no trick? Well no, strictly speaking there is no trick, PlasticARM is a processor manufactured, natively, with plastic, and it is also totally flexible, which means it can be seamlessly integrated into compact and foldable devices. This opens up a whole world of possibilities, especially now that we are in full swing of “The Internet of Things”.

However, if we get picky, the truth is that there is an important “but”, and that is that the PlasticARM processor is a solution very modest, that is to say, very little powerful if we compare it with any processor not already current, but with any chip launched in the last three decades. To understand it, we just have to take a look at its keys.

Silicon-based processor

PlasticARM processor specifications

This solution uses a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0 (processor in SoC format) design, based on the ARMv6-M architecture, it works at a working frequency of 20 kHz, although it can reach 29 kHz with 3 volts or 40 kHz if we go up to 4.5 volts. It has 128 bytes of RAM, 456 bytes of ROM and is manufactured in a 0.8-μm process.

Have you gotten lost among all that data? Relax, for comparative purposes I remind you that a first generation Pentium, launched in the mid-nineties, could reach 200 MHz, and that one MHz equals one million Hz, while one kHz equals only one thousand Hz. Awesome, right?

However, the important thing is not, as you may have imagined, the raw power of PlasticARM, but its capabilities and the important turning point that it marks. This processor has a very low consumption, and can be integrated into a wide variety of materials, including paper, metal, cloth, or other plastics. For example, it could be embedded in new clothing gadgets, bandages and food packages.

PlasticARM specifications

The first fully functional processor made of plastic

That is what ARM wanted to highlight above all. This processor uses the FlexLogIC manufacturing process from PragmatI firmC, which includes all the process and the necessary tools to carry out the production of this CPU, without its peculiarities representing any type of problem.

The attached image, which you will find just above these lines, contains a detailed explanation of all the specifications that we have given you previously, and allows us to see the distribution of the main elements of the PlasticARM, as well as its distribution on the plastic material with which it has been manufactured. On the right side is the Cortex-M processor, and on the left we have, at the bottom, the 128 bytes of RAM, while just above this are the 456 bytes of ROM.

There is no doubt, we are facing a very important advance that could fill a huge gap in the technology sector, and that, contrary to popular belief, not only do we need more powerful processors, but it is also important to shape customized solutions that adapt to the growing needs arising from sectors such as “The Internet of Things”, flexible devices and the technification of materials and products that, with current silicon-based chips, would be impossible. New advances, new technologies, new challenges and, curiously, plastic in response. We will see how far the British firm goes with PlasticARM.

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