It would be very wise to follow the advice of one David Tweed who suggested to you to get your product first prototyped and built using off the shelf chips and programmable FPGAs. This is how to cost effectively get all your specialized IP perfected and your software developed and field tested. Along the way as you do this also make sure that you develop concepts for testing and vetting the technology.
If the market likes your product and starts to suck up more than you can manufacture then the time may be right to start considering custom silicon. There are some pretty key numbers to consider however.
- One of these of these is the sales volume because it is rare that custom silicon can be justified unless you are manufacturing 100's of thousands or millions of units.
- Another number is the product price versus the cost of goods and labor. If the profit margin in your product is especially high you may be able to justify the custom silicon at the 10's of thousands build volumes.
- The third important number is product longevity. How long would the product sales volume hold up once you embark on the path to get custom silicon developed? You could find that after a huge investment that some other technology comes along and wipes out your market place almost over night.
If your product ideas are incredibly innovative and everything goes well for you, and I certainly hope that it does, then you do need to be prepared for taking silicon from a foundry and testing and validating that the chip works correctly. If you developed test and qualification strategies for your technology early on this will be a huge benefit to you at the time you get ready to turn out a spin of your product with the custom chip in it.
There are multiple ASIC design houses that would be more than happy to help you spend your money doing your custom chip design. However you may also want to look directly to chip foundries that also provide a design service. They are in the best position to most effectively leverage IP blocks that they have at their disposal for use in your design.