Flexible heart monitor in a plastic chip process

July 26, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Flexible heart monitor in a plastic chip process
ARM is designing a low cost, flexible heart monitor in the plastic chip process developed by PragmatIC potentially using multiple devices on a paper substrate.

ARM is looking to develop a wearable heart monitor using plastic chip technology rather than silicon alongside a CMOS process and different memory techniques being developed by its process partner PragmatIC.

ARM has demonstrated an M0+ microcontroller on the current NMOS plastic chip process to demonstrate how the technology can be used and is now working on an ultra low cost plastic heart monitor chip mounted on a flexible battery. The plastic chips cost a few cents to produce.

The PlasticARM microcontroller demonstrator chip uses a limited amount of program storage at 465 bytes used to show the chip was operating correctly. Rather than developing an equivalent of EEPROM or flash memory on the plastic process, ROM memory could be provided by simply printing memory patterns as dots onto the chip. This could be easily updated and would also help to reduce power.

“The follow on project is a skin wearable heart monitor and this has interesting things around power,” said James Myers, distinguished engineer ARM leading circuit design who lead the PlasticARM development. “We need 48 hour battery life but that’s a challenge for us working with flexible batteries. We have power design to do and monitoring algorithms to do as we can’t just take existing algorithms and port them over.” However having a programmable engine and low cost memory technique would allow partners to use their own proprietary IP on the device.  

“What’s interesting is a print programmable ROM where you leave a hole in the passivation and print dots on top,” he said.

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