back to article Will it bend? That is the question: Arm boffins boast of first flexible 32-bit chip

Researchers at chip designer Arm have shown off a prototype microprocessor - dubbed PlasticARM - built on flexible plastic, letting it curve around surfaces and even flex backwards and forwards. Fabricated using a combination of metal-oxide, thin-film transistors (TFTs) and a flexible plastic substrate, offered commercially by …

  1. DJV Silver badge

    More to the point...

    Will it blend?

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    That's probably doable at home with the current technology?

    It is frustrating that we are still not at the stage where you could just etch your own chips at home.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 800nm

      Speak for yourself I have an air fryer. Added bonus is that the chips do assembly into a chip butty.

      1. Jan 0 Silver badge

        Re: 800nm

        Air Fryer? Repent Heretic! Real chips are deep fried in beef fat!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 800nm

      Playing around with HF & AsH₃ at home? Not a great idea.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        HF, mmm tasty

        but it leaves you feeling hollow inside.

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: 800nm

        Playing around with HF & AsH₃ at home? Not a great idea.

        Yes, let's not have any arsine about.

  3. vtcodger Silver badge

    Not that I know anything about chips

    .. But wouldn't footprint tend to vary with the area of each feature rather than linearly with the feature size? That is to say that the difference in feature count/footprint between 800nm and 40 nm would be closer to 20**2 = 400x than to 20x?

  4. very angry man

    For the love of god WHY!

    "We envisage that PlasticARM will pioneer the development of low-cost, fully flexible smart integrated systems to enable an 'internet of everything' consisting of the integration of more than a trillion inanimate objects over the next decade into the digital world.

  5. Red Ted

    Oh I feel old

    The first silicon design I worked in was fabbed at 330nm, and I remember being awed when the Z80 chips I was buying some years before that were in processes measured in microns.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh I feel old

      Ha, I started on 0.8μm. 2 layers of metal. Then 0.5μm, 0.35μm, 0.25μm/250nm, 0.18μm/180nm, 90nm, 65nm, 32nm, 14nm and so on. 330nm sounds like a strange node.

      1. Red Ted

        Re: Oh I feel old

        Ah yes, perhaps it was 0.35μm, ho hum, it was a while ago now!

        The second design was on 0.18μm and then the company stopped doing silicon.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    While "smart paper" never really when anywhere and eInk ended up as a cheap shitty low res display for tablets, adding low speed compute and transister layers to thin films has some obvious applications.

    Low yield flexible solar membranes are one. Currently one of the issues hampering them is that the panel's yield crashes if they are partially shadowed, and a backing layer could implement a per sub-cell charge controller. Imagine a patio umbrella or the rain fly of a tent that was made of flexible plastic solar solar cells, with some LEDs on the underside, and possibly a switchable polarization layer.

    You can make stuff like this currently but the performance isn't stellar in the best of conditions, and crashes hard if there is any shadowing. So small cells and a on the roll controller could switch and balance the loads on the cells to brace up the output, and might be suitable for reel to reel production.

    Switchable window tint might be another.

  7. sebacoustic
    Black Helicopters

    Mind Control

    ...ideal to be deployed intravenously with the covid19 vaccine so you can remote-control people with 5G masts... Bill Gates has bought the company i read this on FB

    1. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: Mind Control

      Ah, it all makes sense now, all this talk about wanting us to be jabbed in the arm was just someone misreading the instructions - what they *really* said was wanting us to have an ARM in the jabs...

  8. steelpillow Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    Of course, ARM have a track record in read-only OS. Upgrading an Acorn meant pulling the old ROM from its socket and stuffing in the new one. A simple reset was guaranteed to clear any malware attack. Just what the IOT needs.

  9. Cuddles


    "One of the great advantages of PragmatIC's technology is the cost, both upfront and per unit. In terms of upfront cost the NRE (non-recurring engineering) cost is orders of magnitude lower than conventional silicon. "The simplicity of the process, with only 13 material layers, means that the turnaround time is on the order of days rather than months."

    Is this really true in any meaningful sense? From the previous part of the article, it sounds as though it's simple only because it's not possible to make it more complicated. If you made a conventional silicon chip on an 800nm process with only 13 layers and 10,000 transistors, would this new process still be simpler? The complexity of modern chip manufacturing isn't an inherent part of the process, it's just a consequence of trying to squish ever more, and more complicated, parts into an ever small space.

  10. adam 40 Silver badge


    If it's an 800nm process then it's > 20x the size in each direction. So it HAS to flex, with 20x more 'bend' for a given curvature.

    You're better off with the non-flexi chip which is much smaller, stick it on something rigid, and surround it with something flexible.

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