By Danny Lam, The Fairview GroupEE Times (11/17/2008 12:01 AM EST)
In theory, digital chips can be moved around from one manufacturing facility to another. For example, a chipset can be built at IBM, TSMC or even SMIC.
Because you can clone a "mask set'' from the chip, the industry made that practice illegal via the Semiconductor Protection Act (SPA) in 1984. So, even though someone can steal your design, selling it in quantity on the open market is a dead end.
But analog and mixed-signal parts are specific to individual production lines. Generally, they cannot be moved from one line to another without recalibrating the process from scratch.
The reason is simple. Analog devices do not come off the line in a "binary'' state. Analog parts are discrete, and come off the line in a range of values. The manufacturer then bins and sorts them for different markets.
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