Everspin targets transportation with nonvolatile MRAM

Image: VARep_Everspin_BMW_hires.jpg

Everspin's magnetic RAM helps BMW's racing bike respond to track changes.

Everspin Technologies, a fledgling supplier of a new type of memory chips, has begun shipping automotive-grade devices as part of a move to make automotive one of its mainstay markets. The magnetic memory supplier highlighted its market entrance by spotlighting usage on a BMW racing team motorcycle.

Everspin, which spun out from Freescale Semiconductor in 2006 to market magnetic RAM (random access memory) devices, is entering the auto market with a 4-Mbit chip that meets the Automotive Electronics Council's AEC-Q100 qualifications. MRAM devices offer the speed of static RAM and the nonvolatility of flash memory, giving engineers the ability to use one memory type for speed and permanent storage.

To show that the memory chips can survive in demanding applications, Everspin highlighted its usage on the BMW S 1000 RR Motorrad Motorsport Super Bike. The MRAM chip stores adjustable engine parameters such as data related to a racing bike’s fuel injection, ignition, braking, and acceleration.

“BMW needed to reprogram often to meet changing track requirements, changing code quickly between races,” said Phill LoPresti, CEO and president of Everspin. “BMW needs high-temperature capabilities; this [chip] sits right on top of the engine.”

Now that Everspin has developed rugged parts for automotive, the company expects to see rapid growth. “We expect that automotive will be our third biggest market,” LoPresti said.

He noted that an MRAM’s traits make it suitable for a range of automotive applications. “We’re talking with two North American designers of high-output diesel engines that we expect to go into production,” LoPresti said. “We’re also talking to people about using this for data logging in airbag systems.”

Currently, Everspin’s largest market is enterprise storage, followed by industrial applications. In industrial, which also has demanding requirements, Siemens and Emerson Electric are using the devices.

Everspin has also gained some traction in another segment within the transportation industry. Airbus plans to use 4-Mb and 16-Mb MRAM products for the flight control computer on the A350 XWB civil aircraft.

LoPresti also noted that MRAM has unlimited read/write endurance and a 20-year data retention lifetime. The new devices are specified to operate at temperatures from -40º to +125ºC (-40º to +257ºF).

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