Munich, Germany - Suppliers of semiconductor intellectual property (IP) cores will be able to get free access to one of ARM Holdings' processor cores so that they can demonstrate their designs in silicon through a deal cut by gate-array vendor Chip Express and ARM.
IP vendors will be able to get up to 140 gate arrays with an ARM7 core on-chip through Chip Express to act as prototyping and test platforms.
Doug Bailey, vice-president of marketing for Chip Express, said: "ARM is donating the microprocessor and Amba [on-chip system] bus for free to allow low-cost verification of IP and prove that it works with Amba.
"The benefit for ARM is that it will mean more people using the Amba bus. It helps establish Amba as a de facto standard. At the same time, we get to grow our relationship with the IP companies. Plus, better tested IP will help the IP industry."Over the last year, IP companies have said they need to demonstrate working IP in silicon to encourage customers to sign licences, which adds to the expense of developing commercial IP.
Bailey said that, although programmes such as TSMC's Silicon Shuttle can provide comparatively cheap access to small volumes of test chips, it means they have to employ customer-owned tooling design methods or use third-party standard-cell layout service providers.
"Most IP guys don't want to do layout," said Bailey.
Chip Express will take the design at the gate-level netlist stage and produce the wafer needed to provide the 140 chips for a flat fee of $50 000.
"There are some restrictions. This is only available when we have the resources available. If we have a million dollar project going through, that will take precedence. There are restrictions on the package options and you cannot sell the chips for profit.
And if you want 141 chips, you will need to buy an ARM licence," said Bailey.
So far, the only core that can be used in these IP test-chip projects is the synthesisable version of the ARM7TDMI.
"We have access to the ARM9 [as a licensee] but not in this programme. We are still talking to ARM about that," said Bailey.