Arm’s “plastic” chip might energy your subsequent good gadget

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TL; DR

  • Arm built and detailed a flexible chip that was fabricated without the use of silicon.
  • PlasticArm could power wearable sensors, smart labels and other devices for the Internet of Things.
  • It’s not powerful enough to power your phone or watch – yet.

It’s easy to find flexible displays in foldable phones and other devices, but what if the processor itself was flexible? It can just happen. Arm described the first functional Arm processor based on a flexible, silicon-free design.

Arm flexible plastic chip

PlasticArm, as it is called, brings metal oxide thin film transistor technology to a flexible substrate. It’s not exactly a plastic chip, but it’s close. While it’s “just” a 32-bit Cortex-M0 chip with 128 bytes of RAM and 456 bytes of memory, Arm claims its hardware is twelve times more complex than previous flexible electronics – this is a powerhouse for flexible technology.

Arm first showed a flexible PlasticArm chip in 2015, but that was a non-functional design that was hampered by technical limitations at the time. A new manufacturing system and other tech upgrades resulted in Arm finishing the processor in October 2020 – you are now hearing about it thanks to research.

See also: Arm vs x86 explained

It can be a long time before you see phones or smartwatches based on the flexible arm chip. You would have to use more sophisticated 64-bit architectures first. However, there is still a real chance that you will see products that you can use. Arm envisions wearable health sensors, connected labels, and even smart packaging. Don’t be surprised if one day you buy a really pliable fitness tracker or smart smartwatch bracelets that will monitor your body in exceptional detail.

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