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Zero-Degrees of Freedom at 45nm

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend Cadence’s Annual Design Chain Partners’ Event, which was held at the Corinthian Event Center – San Jose Athletic Club. I came away with the following observations:

I. Keynote by Ed Wan, senior director, Design Services Marketing at TSMC:

Ed’s talk introduced the need for close collaboration at the smaller process technologies. He used the phrase “zero degrees of freedom? between chip design and fabrication, implying a similar zero-point separation between Cadence and TSMC. I understood the marketing implication of this phrase—namely, that Cadence and TSMC are in close alignment for DFM technology. Still, I’m not sure that the phrase makes logical sense. Systems that have zero degrees of freedom yield no useful information. The system has no freedom to vary. Statistically, it would be scatter plot in which there was only one data point. Won’t there always be variations between the design and manufacturing processes? In fact, isn’t that the genesis for a DFM-DFY approach? Yes, I know I’m being pedantic. But doesn’t the term “zero degrees of freedom? imply a certain level of mathematical rigor? Chalk up these semantic differences to the inherent differences between marketing and engineering.

Ed went on to talk about the limiting factors for 45-nm design manufacturing: EDA-tool efficiency, model accuracy, and IP collaboration. He also covered some critical design-manufacturing challenges including radio frequency (RF) on chip at 65 nm. I can only imagine the parasitic problems that such a design might face. It’s a worthy topic for future editorials.

One of the fab-specific topics that Ed mentioned was the benefit—from TSMC’s perspective—of its new $10 billion “Giga Fab,? which really is three fabs in one. (Maybe it should be called a “Tri Fab??) Each Giga Fab is purported to save about half a billion dollars in building costs. The benefit of such a fab is the ability to qualify three fabs at once for volume production. Still, Ed was quick to add that TSMC will continue to reinforce its smaller and older 8-in. process fabs.

II. Breakout Sessions:

Each breakout session focused on the roadmap for a specific tool area (e.g., digital, custom ICs, and verification). These sessions were informative. For example, I learned that Cadence will never again be offering design-management tools (see Figure 1 – Photographer was Dan Peak. Thx, Dan!). Instead, the company encouraged its customers to use such tools from its Connection Members like ICmanage, Clio Soft, or Enovia (formerly Matrixone?).

Cadence Partners - Breakout

Figure 1: Steve Lewis, product marketing director for Custom IC at Cadence, discusses the roadmap during a breakout session.

III. Panel hosted by Richard Goering: “45 nm – Collaborating for Success?

Cadence Partners - Panel

Figure 2: Panel members include Ken MacWilliams, Applied Materials; Richard Brashears, Cadence; Douglas. V. Reid, Freescale; and Aiden Kelly, IBM

Richard Goering moderated a well-attended panel that looked at the need for collaboration at 45-nm chip design and manufacturing. That panel included a chip designer from Freescale, a Cadence executive representing the EDA perspective, a foundry representative from IBM, and an equipment-supplier representative from Applied Materials. In this setting, Freescale and IBM are working together under a variety of umbrella organizations—most noticeably the Common Platform Alliance. As an EDA vendor, Cadence sits comfortably in the middle—not in direct competition with IBM or Freescale (setting aside the issue of the internal EDA tools that each of these manufacturing vendors’ possess).

Cadence panel-member Richard Brashears made several observations about the changing design-manufacturing processes required at the new technology nodes. For example, he noted that there was less time to “polish up? foundry data in Cadence’s manufacturing and yield models before passing the models to the designer community. This was just one of the reasons that an open relationship with the foundries is essential.

Ken MacWilliams, the panelist from Applied Materials, talked about “double-patterning lithography? as a way of mitigating the high cost of lithography tools—some costing more than $50 million by 2009. The cool aspect of double-patterning lithography is that it allows manufacturers to use a less expensive 65-nm lithography process to print “very crisp? 32-nm lines and spaces. Very neat!

When asked about retooling EDA software for advanced manufacturing techniques, such as double patterning, Richard Brashears said that topological controls for planning and routing would probably be needed. Such controls, he noted, would adhere to traditional design rules but in a different way. And there would need to be investment in that technology as well as modeling tools.

The panelists’ predominant message was that collaboration was essential for designs at 45 nm and below. Several questions from the audience questioned the level and likely longevity of such collaboration among former competitors. Predictably, these questions received only superficial answers. But maybe I’m being too harsh in my perceptions. After all, what else would former competitors say? That while it’s painful to collaborate, there is no other path forward—especially in light of global competition and the rising cost of basic research and design? That it’s really collaborate or perish?

The event ended with closing remarks and Partner awards by Mike Fister, Cadence president and CEO, and Kevin Bushby, executive VP of Worldwide Field Operations.

All in all, a good half-day event. — JB

One Response to “Zero-Degrees of Freedom at 45nm”

  1. Michael Sanie Says:

    Hi John,

    I just wanted to personally thank you for the nice write up. It was well written, but most importantly I like the second to last paragraph conclusion that you drew from the event (collaborate or parish – even between competitors). That’s why we invest and focus so much in our strategic partnership programs.

    THANK YOU!

    Michael Sanie
    Group Director, Industry Alliances, Cadence design Systems

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