FPGA stands for field-programmable gate array. It is like an ASIC that can reprogrammed after it is manufactured — a programmable logic device. Device manufacturers include Xilinx, Altera, Lattice Semiconductor, Actel, Cypress, Atmel and QuickLogic.

Many modern FPGAs have the ability to be reprogrammed at 'run time', and this is leading to the idea of reconfigurable computing or reconfigurable systems - CPUs that reconfigure themselves to suit the task at hand.

Applications of FPGAs include DSP, Software-defined radio, Aerospace and defence systems, ASIC Prototyping, Medical imaging and a growing range of other areas.

Basic Process Technology Types

  • SRAM - based on static memory technology. In-system programmable and re-programmable. Requires external boot devices. Usually CMOS.
  • Anti-fuse - One-time programmable. CMOS.
  • EPROM - Electrically Programmable Read-Only Memory technology. Usually one-time programmable in production because of plastic packaging. Windowed devices can be erased with ultraviolet (UV) light. CMOS.
  • EEPROM - Electrically Eraseable Programmable Read-Only Memory technology. Can be erased, even in plastic packages. Some, but not all, EEPROM devices can be in-system programmed. CMOS.
  • FLASH - Flash-erase EPROM technology. Can be erased, even in plastic packages. Some, but not all, FLASH devices can be in-system programmed. Usually, a FLASH cell is smaller than an equivalent EEPROM cell and is therefore less expensive to manufacture. CMOS.
  • Fuse - One-time programmable. Bipolar.


Note: FPGA's should not be confused with Flip Chip Pin Grid Array, a form of integrated circuit packaging.