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 What Would Joe Do?
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

TetraMAX II: Synopsys renovates and innovates

August 11th, 2016 by Peggy Aycinena

It takes courage to re-launch an existing product rather than start from scratch
, to announce a refreshed and updated offering as if it were something brand new. That’s certainly the case with Synopsys‘ recent release of TetraMAX II. It took courage to build on a franchise that first arrived on the scene not just in the last century, but in the last millennium.

And it was with this sentiment that Synopsys’ Robert Ruiz and I started a recent phone call to discuss the July news that TetraMAX II has arrived on the scene.

Ruiz began: “This is TetraMax II. We wrote the key engines from scratch, an effort that took the R&D team a full two years to complete. The goal was to get 10x faster and 25-percent fewer patterns.”

Despite the new engines, however, he said, “The user experience remains the same, even as TetraMAX II offers faster ATPG and fewer patterns – something which correlates to cost.”

And that’s not all, he said: “We also achieved a test solution independently certified for ISO 26262 for auto safety.”

Having declared the success of the new release, Ruiz set the context. “Of course, we have been offering memory BIST for quite a while,” he said, “actually since our acquisition of Virage Logic [in 2010].

“Then we extended our offerings with the acquisition of Atrenta [in 2015] and expanded our solutions with testability of RTL. And now everyone is using compression on top of scan chains [to improve] times.”

Add to that, today’s latest technology challenge.

Per Ruiz: “Our customers are seeing some defects in the FinFET, so now there’s need for even more improved quality in test. [Test solutions] must also have the ability to capture [new] defects that arrive with each process node. Plus higher design complexity is putting additional pressure on test.

“That’s why the results that STMicro presented at our recent SNUG in India [are telling]. They ran hundreds of thousands of parts [through the tool] and added the state-of-the-art model that we created based on connections to PrimeTime. The success that STMicro reported is the type of thing we are definitely seeing with each new process node adoption [using TetraMAX II].”

And then there’s automotive.

Ruiz said, “We are also seeing high growth in the automotive markets, which demands less than one defect per million parts. These are definitely challenges that [motivate] improved quality in test.”

Slide 5 TetraMAX IIAt this point in our conversation, we turned to slide 5 in Ruiz’ slide show. I asked which metrics should be used in judging the efficacy of a test solution.

He answered, “Of course, the primary goal is not to ship any defective parts. and to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.

“But actually for those customers who are making tiny chips, consumer-oriented chips that will just be thrown away [as the device becomes obsolete], those manufactures are driven by cost, not quality.

“Yes they’re trying to find defective parts, but it’s not like in the medical, mil-aero, or automotive industries which cannot afford any defects at all.

“For those types of projects, when the part come back it, the company wants to test the early silicon sample right away, to be able to plug that [part] into the system and do system-level and software testing. It’s clear that ATPG is taking too long in these types of large designs.”

And hence, per Ruiz, the additional time savings introduced in TetraMAX II is critical. So in answer to my question, he said the varied metrics of time savings, cost containment – particularly as the design moves to smaller process nodes – and quality, with quality being the premier concern in mission-critical applications, all play a role in establishing the viability and success of a test solution.

And that’s before we get to multi-core, per Ruiz a huge issue in today’s reality of massive server-farms.

“Most machines today are between 8 and 16 cores,” he said. “The minimum for our own machines at Synopsys is 16, so we have established a 16-core [environment] for TetraMAX II, and are working towards 32. And it’s also multi-threaded so people can add more cores, meaning the outcome will always be the same.

“This kind of determinism is very important for our customers,” Ruiz emphasized.

Clearly determinism is important to Synopsys, as well. As the company successfully incorporates technologies such as that acquired from Virage Logic and Atrenta into TetraMAX II – and adds integrating innovation into the mix – they seem intent on proving that both determinism and determination are driving their internal development teams.

You would expect no less from the largest, most dominant company in the history of EDA.


Synopsys announces TetraMAX II …

“Higher design complexity is significantly increasing the time required to automatically generate high-quality manufacturing test patterns. This trend undermines designer productivity and usually delays first-silicon testing itself at a time when design schedules are steadily shrinking.

“And, because existing ATPG technologies demand an excessive amount of memory, simply utilizing more cores to improve run time is often not possible and only marginally effective.

“On July 12th, Synopsys introduced a next-generation ATPG and diagnostics solution that surpasses previous technologies.

“With new engines that are highly optimized for fine-grained multi-threading of processes across multiple cores, the new product overcomes memory bottlenecks to cut ATPG run time from days to hours while also reducing pattern count by 25% on average across different types of designs.

“These substantial improvements allow designers to meet their test quality goals faster and with lower cost.

“Furthermore, SGS-TÜV Saar, an independent accredited assessor, recently certified TetraMAX II for the ISO 26262 automotive functional safety standard. Certification provides designers the highest level of confidence for safety-critical automotive applications and accelerates functional safety qualification for automotive ICs, up to the stringent requirements for automotive safety integrity level ASIL D.”


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