Custom chip designers are reluctant to adopt automation, largely because they have been traditionally better able to design by hand. While hand crafting may still suffice for designs of relatively few transistors, it is no longer sufficient for the new, highly complex devices that are becoming the norm.
At advanced nodes, process rules make full hand layout almost impossible. For example, instead of simple space rules, “space” now depends on the width of metal and the length of parallel lines, and there are complex via and contact density rules and end-of-line rules that can’t readily be dealt with by hand crafting. An automatic custom design routing tool that can deal with the new custom world will improve productivity and achieve on-time, efficient design delivery.
The thought of automation raises the specter, with some designers, that they, or the majority of their functions, will be replaced. However, increased custom design automation will increase the productivity of designers, not replace them, as we have seen in the digital design world. Given that extremely complex projects now need to be completed in the same time and with the same number of people as older, simpler designs, automating the custom design process to increase the productivity of designers is the only way to manage multi-thousand-gate designs.