Four years ago, we wrote about PragmatIC's ultrathin and flexible plastic electronics circuit, with news that an ultra-cheap ARM Cortex M0 MCU made of plastic materials was coming soon.
In this case, "soon" means about four years, but Arm has now finally announced PlasticArm, an ultra-minimalist, fully functional Cortex-M0-based SoC, with 128 bytes of RAM and 456 bytes of ROM that, with 18,000 gates, is twelve times more complex than previous state-of-the-art flexible electronics.
[...] There are two main advantages of PlasticArm. First, It's flexible and integrated into paper, plastic, or metal foil substrates. It's also much cheaper to mass-produce with Arm saying it would cost less than 1/10th the cost of silicon in 2017. That means ultra-low-cost PlasticArm microcontrollers would become commercially viable in new use cases include flexible smart sensors, smart labels, and intelligent packaging. Arm especially sees great potential in the healthcare sector and for the reduction of food waste.
[...] It's also really slow at this time, as the paper reads PlasticARM is fully functional up to 29 kHz at 3V and 40 kHz at 4.5V.
We probably still have a few years before flexible Arm microcontrollers become available as more research is needed to lower power consumption and improve the solution as a whole.
Coming soon to a stamp near you?
John Biggs, James Myers, Jedrzej Kufel, et al. A natively flexible 32-bit Arm microprocessor [open], Nature (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03625-w)