As the modern technological landscape continues to evolve, one aspect has maintained consistency for decades – the phenomenal expansion of Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) technology. It’s commonly known to technocrats as the craft of squeezing millions or billions of transistors onto one microchip compartment. VLSI technology has initialised a faster growth and development of unprecedented revolution in technology.
Are you a professional dealing with this line of technology? Planning a major product development that involves using powerful microchip processors? Then you’ve made the right decision to explore this far to discover what VLSI technology is all about. So, read on to discover more and gain an in-depth understanding of this magnificent technology.
A Sneak Peek At The Earliest VLSI Technology
As we kickstart our journey into what is VLSI technology, it is important to acknowledge the magnitude of its impact by understanding how far it has come. The entire computing domain underwent a massive transformation with the ascension of electronic miniaturisation that started with semiconductor transistor discovery in 1947-48 by John Bardeen.
This discovery was a one of its kind and it took Bardeen and other scientists at Bell Labs ages to get its working version. Years went by and more advancements were achieved, particularly by Morris Tanenbaum in 1954. These advancements further saw more growth in the world of transistors.
Intel released its 4004 microprocessors in 1971, which was the first commercially available microprocessor worldwide. It housed only 2,300 transistors back then and was considered the earliest advancement of VLS technology.
Fast forward to 2020, and the world witnessed the beginning of cutting-edge microprocessors, the likes of Apple M1, capable of holding 16 billion transistors. This chip and many modern ones, are over 7 million times more powerful than Intel’s 1971 processor. This massive growth in the number of transistors and subsequent computational capability is an obvious testament to VLSI technology’s relentless march.
VLSI technology and design are rapidly evolving while transforming the world in ways that were previously inconceivable. As a modern-day computing technology professional, it’s crucial to understand this concept better than what online VLSI technology notes can provide. By enrolling in a practical-oriented learning and certification program, you’ll have ample opportunity to professionally enhance your VLSI technology understanding.
Understanding VLSI Technology and How it Works?
What is meant by VLSI technology? The most basic way of describing it is that it’s a process that entails integrating thousands, millions, or billions of transistors to form one microchip. This magnificent level of miniaturization is what has led to the rapid ascension of the powerful, smart, energy-convenient electronic gadgets and devices we see today. Right from smartphones, to the powerful servers powering the web, are all attributed to the VLSI technology.
The advent of this remarkable technology dates back to 1947 when the transistor was invented. The miniature device could switch and amplify electronic signals, making it a perfect replacement for bulky vacuum tubes used then. It also opened the door to further advancements in modern electronics technology.
Despite an early kick-off, VLSI technology didn’t take off until the 1970s, which enabled multiple transistors integration into one chip to make integrated circuits (IC). This massive invention was the birth of what is today known as a microprocessor, which transformed the world of computing, forever. Later ICs and VLSI physical design flow have steered the growth of many different sectors, such as telecommunications, control applications, high-power computing, consumer electronics, and more.
As years passed by, microprocessors have advanced to accommodate an even larger number of transistors, especially after Moore’s Law. Intel co-founder, Gordon Moore, revealed in a prediction in 1985, that chips would advance to hold two times more transistors every two years. This forecast has held and has been the core driving factor behind the fast development of VLSI technology.
Uses of VLSI Technology in Modern Industries
There’s no doubt that the world has more VLSI technology uses today than it did years ago, thanks to the advancement of intricate VLSI designs. VLSI technology applications span a myriad of industries, showcasing its adaptability and versatility. Take a look at a few of these applications:
1. VLSI Technology in Consumer Electronics
The world today is full of technically advanced consumer electronics that have tremendously made our lives easier. All the electronics surrounding us today are driven by powerful chips made using VLSI technology. Any smart consumer electronic you can ever think of, from smartphones, laptops, and tablets, to smart TVs, all depend on VLSI microprocessors to control memory, communication and processing.
The microchips handle every aspect of these devices’ operations such as the responsive touchscreen, speedy performance, seamless graphics, and more. Take your smartphone for instance, it’s a VLSI technology marvel. Its microprocessor, memory chips, and Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) work together to provide you with a seamless user experience.
2. Uses of VLSI Technology in Automotive Industry
The automotive industry has also evolved quite a lot through its embrace of VLSI technology. Take any electric vehicle (EV) or advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) you could ever think of; it’s entirely reliant on this microchip technology.
ADAS heavily depends on VLSI technology to process data and make decisions in real-time. Radar sensors, lidar systems, and cameras collect data about the surroundings of the vehicle. VLSI chips then process the data gathered to identify objects, detect lane boundaries, and make decisions such as steering to prevent collision or applying brakes.
An excellent implementation of all this is evident in Tesla which has highly advanced autonomous driving capabilities. Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) and Autopilot features highly depend on VLSI technology.
3. Usage of VLSI Technology in Healthcare
The healthcare industry is yet another area that has massively benefited from the VLSI technology uses. Take for instance medical imaging devices like ultrasound machines, CT scanners, and MRI machines. All these equipment employ highly advanced microprocessors powered by VLSI technology. The chips make it possible to conduct high-resolution imaging and data processing in real-time, enabling professionals to examine patients with great accuracy.
Other than these devices, wearable health monitoring devices also implement VLSI technology. Devices such as heart monitors, sleep pattern trackers, and blood sugar level monitors do an efficient job of helping patients keep these conditions in check all the time. The VLSI chips make the wearables compact, and energy-efficient, able to process and transmit data to healthcare facilities wirelessly.
4. VLSI Technology in Advancing Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
We are living in the age of artificial intelligence. Every hot topic about technology today revolves around AI and machine learning. Take for instance the rapid development of ChatGPT technology adopted by Open AI to build an intelligent chat platform. All this has been made possible through highly powerful VLSI-powered microprocessors capable of intelligently processing thousands of complex codes.
The fields of AI and ML are heavily dependent on the massive computational power of microprocessors to train advanced algorithms and learning networks. VLSI chips make all this possible by offering the processing capability and efficiency required by ML and AI applications.
That’s not all; data centres that handle AI and ML operations employ specialised VLSI chips called Tensor Processing Units (TPUs) to hasten the training of machine learning models. The chips enable rapid progress in sectors such as autonomous robotics, image recognition, and natural language processing.
5. Usage of VLSI Technology in Aerospace
VLSI technology also has a wide application in the aerospace sector where it has uses ranging from spacecraft navigation, communication, systems control, and data processing. The exploration of space particularly benefits a lot from VLSI technological advancements. Spacecraft orbiting Earth and exploring space rely on the efficiency of VLSI microchips to gather and transmit data.
There are many more VLSI technology uses than we can exhaustively discuss. But the overall view is that anything equipped with intelligent decision-making capabilities has a microprocessor chip, which subsequently has a VLSI technology.
The Trends in VLSI Technology
So, now that we’ve seen some of the uses of VLSI technology, how is the technology changing? What are some of the common trends in VLSI technology that every professional needs to be aware of? The area of VLSI technology is highly dynamic and is evolving constantly. To stay alert in this industry, you need to be up to date with the latest developments. Here are a few that you should be aware of:
Artificial intelligence acceleration through VLSI
AI is quickly growing with the advancement of VLSI to create endless possibilities in many industries. As the demand for AI and machine learning grows, specialised accelerators on VLSI chips are also arising. These accelerators in turn optimise AI and ML algorithms, therefore enhancing energy efficiency and performance. This is evident in autonomous vehicles, smart homes, robotics, healthcare and more.
Edge computing, which involves processing data closer to the source (IoT devices), is quickly gaining prominence, thanks to VLSI technology. The latter is adapting to edge computing demands to support the needs of edge devices, which include real-time processing and lower power consumption.
Through the processing of data at the source, the VLSI chips are significantly cutting down response times and delays, making them ideal for applications that need real-time results.
Miniaturisation, for a long time, has been among the essential trends in VLSI technology. This trend goes hand in hand with Moore’s Law, which predicts that transistors on a microchip double after about 2 years. For a long time, this law has continued to stand, driving the advancement of smaller and more powerful VLSI chips.
VLSI technology is the most crucial discovery in the world of computing that has been the driving force of the miniaturisation of computers. Through VLSI technology, the world has witnessed some of the most advanced developments that were once unimaginable, such as the reduction of bulky vacuum tube processors to advanced microchips like Apple M1.
The future of VLSI technology holds exhilarating possibilities. As Moore’s Law continues to promote miniaturisation, advanced process technologies such as 5nm and lower will give rise to greater transistor density and efficiency.
Professionals in this area of technology need to be up to date with the advancements in the industry. Other than that, you need to prove your understanding of how VLSI technology works if you’re to come out as an authoritarian in the industry. There’s no better way than arming yourself with a VLSI technology certification from Aiit Institute.