SAN JOSE, Calif. Designing ICs with sufficient yields for the next stage of semiconductor technology requires the use of platform-based design and a greater emphasis on design for manufacturing, keynote speakers at the ISQED Conference here said Tuesday (March 25).
In separate keynote addresses, Bob Payne, Philips Semiconductor vice president and general manager along with Susumu Kohyama, Toshiba Semiconductor Co.'s executive vice president agreed platform-based design was the wave of the future.
Payne addressed the emerging era of streaming data and ambient intelligence, and how Philips is combining platform SoCs using numerous streaming embedded engines controlled by a smaller embedded processor. This approached is being used instead of using one large single processor-based SoC to make products for these emerging markets.
Payne said the semiconductor industry needs new solutions to handle growing design complexity, noting that the industry has largely been locked in a cycle where faster chips create faster computers that support more advanced tools to create faster chips.
"If you start having the problem of IC design growing in complexity faster than the solution, you use up the inherent advantage of the computer," said Payne. "We really have to begin to work smarter as an industry to solve the productivity shortfall."
Payne noted that in large processor-based SoC designs running at 1 GHz, only a small portion of the processor runs at full speed. The rest runs significantly slower. Hence the push for platform-based design.
Philips advocates, via the Nexperia platform, the use of multiple smaller streaming embedded processors controlled by another embedded processor to ensure the speed and reliability of a given design while saving silicon costs. Payne said using such an approach based on nine streaming engines and a smaller processor each running at 100 MHz often produces a higher- performance chip than a single-processor solution.
Toshiba's Kohyama said IC miniaturization and especially the use of new metals like copper in the IC manufacturing process present the semiconductor industry with a number of new challenges. These include unstable SPICE parameters, unpredictable interconnect, signal integrity and optical proximity control issues.
Toshiba is trying to create a standard methodology from design through manufacturing to ensure yields are predictable and designs are implemented correctly on the first pass.
Kohyama said that volume production of electronics has increased exponentially, with the Sony Playstation2 taking all of one weekend to reach 1 million units sold. "Sales of Playstation3 will be much more aggressive," Kohyama said. This will require a "greater understanding of design and process interaction."
Traditionally, the move to a new process and wafer size means design flows and chip pricing have scaled accordingly. However, Kohyama s aid, that won't necessarily happen with 300-mm and 90- nm design. The reason is that design and process complexity are growing.
Toshiba is proceeding with new processes. To realize the benefits of these new processes, the company is establishing a standardized design-through-manufacturing methodology starting with rigorous applications processes. Then it would use platform-based design processes tightly linked to manufacturing.
Kohyama said the company uses Monte Carlo methods to determine critical paths and then uses that information for subsequent platform-based designs. Toshiba also performs exhaustive yield analysis to ensure predictable manufacturing.