3 Key Advantages of Ferroelectric RAM (FRAM) in Product Design

May 21, 2014
 
I often find myself engaged in nostalgic discussions with design engineers about the glory days of the memory market. The conversation generally goes straight to dynamic random-access memory (DRAM), synchronous dynamic random-access memory (SDRAM), static random-access memory (SRAM), and NAND Flash and the truly astounding price volatility that these parts all experienced in the late 80’s and well into the 90’s. I recall my first memory sale of a 1Mb (256k x 4 ZIP) DRAM when the market price was $28.50 each. I suppose you could find this part today in a museum somewhere. We usually laugh, sigh and then realize we all have jobs to do and get on with our discussion.
   
Of course, the discussion seems to always come back around to memory.
   

Pricing in the Memory Market Has Remained Stable

   
Now the volatile memory market of the 1980’s and 1990’s seems long gone. Pricing today is much more stable. Of course, pricing will depend on the size or density of the component, but the use of memory is still critical for any hardware design. For more complex designs, what size of microcontroller unit (MCU) that engineers can use is generally dictated by the amount of extra flash on the board. For example, the amount or density of flash utilized in a design can help dictate the MCU size that an engineer may choose.
   
These days there are a multitude of different memory components for design engineers to choose from for use on a printed circuit board (PCB). At Symmetry Electronics there are a host of memory products to suit almost any need, from memory modules, single in-line memory modules (SIMMs), dual in-line memory modules (DIMMs), double data rate (DDR) modules, solid state drives (SSDs), and FerriSSD to Low Power SRAM, SDRAM, NOR, and serial flash.
   

FRAM – Ferroelectric Random-Access Memory – Is It the Best Long-term Solution?

   
However, today I want to focus on another type of memory not mentioned above – Ferroelectric random-access memory, or FRAM. FRAM has been described several ways, but most simply put it is a non-volatile memory component that offers very high speed writing, low power consumption, and longer rewrite endurance. FRAM was first understood at MIT in the early 1950’s but some of its pioneering work was accomplished at JPL in California in the 80’s and 90’s. Fujitsu Semiconductor has been mass producing FRAM since 1999, and operates what is probably the largest semiconductor foundry production line that we know of.
   
FRAM’s use has spread to many application types and it is becoming widely recognized as a better long term solution than memory components such as Low Power SRAM and EEPROM (electrically erasable programmable read-only memory). In a growing number of instances it is being chosen over NAND Flash, as engineers want to maximize performance and longevity within their design.
   
FRAM is gaining traction for its overall value proposition in metering, data logging, medical and industrial applications, RFID tags, and more. There are some cost considerations since FRAM is usually more expensive than EEPROMs, for example, but more and more often, engineers see the performance difference FRAM brings to their design.
   

3 Key Advantages of FRAM

   
Fujitsu FRAM has been shown to win out in applications that demand any combination of non-volatile storage, high speed, low power, high security, vast durability, and tolerance. This is especially true in designs where quality is paramount. The key advantages of FRAM today are speed, low power, and data reliability.
   
Because it is known to be very robust, FRAM performs very well at high temperature ranges. More and more applications call for extended or industrial temperature components, and FRAM fits well into this space. It has been shown to retain its data for more than 10 years at 85 degrees C.
   
So much goes into the design of a successful product, and many considerations must be made. Memory serves as a building block to what a design can accomplish. It may not be at the top of the list initially, but it comes into play early and often throughout the design process.
   
If you’d like to understand more about how FRAM can boost your design and outperform other component considerations, feel free to call Symmetry at (310) 536-6190, or contact us online.
   


Written By: Tim Beaver

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