The Business of DFM

For example, we have recently seen a surge -- starting now -- from digital user interest at the 90-nanometer level who definitely see a need for us at the 65-nanometer node and below. Earlier, our focus was only on analog/mixed-signal, RF and then added memory design. But as designs keep going to new IC technology nodes, there will be more new issues to sort out. Some will be solved by existing tools, others need new tools and as always some will be solved by methods other than just EDA tools.

David Thon, Cadence Design Systems -- Some types of design will migrate to reconfigurable or programmable platforms, but the trend doesn't seem as strong as it did a year ago. Conversely, the trend to integrate manufacturing awareness into established design flows seems to be gaining strength.

Dwayne Burek, Magma Design Automation - Restrictive design rules and processes are one way of countering some of the effects of variability, but this will likely result in leaving something on the table. By improving the analysis accuracy we will be able to provide flexibility but still adequately manage risk. By addressing cost, turn-around time, and risk, designers will still have the option to follow the optimum path knowing that DFM issues addressed.

Mike Gianfagna, Aprio Technologies -- For those that go the platform route, DFM will be the issue of the supplier and not the user. I believe there will always be a competitive need for silicon-level customization, however. Those users will worry about DFM.

Naeem Zafar, Pyxis Technology -- Not true! The leading-edge designers will always be working to optimize a design -- for space, timing, and now for yield and manufacturability, as well. It is a natural progression. The platforms you mentioned will have a place, but will never replace an SOC.

Nitin Deo, Ponte Solutions -- At 90 nanometers and below, DFM is all about design-specific issues. We have observed this in the past - when there are two different designs in the same technology, both fully DRC clean, the yield of those designs is completely different. Why does this happen? Because the way the process reacts to physical structures is highly structure dependent at these nodes. And that dependence is increasing. So, no matter what the underlying fabric is, as long as there are different designs, DFM issues will keep on increasing as the technology goes below 90 nanometers. Even companies like Xilinx are dealing with issues of catastrophic failure.

Riko Radojcic, Qualcomm -- Sooner or later, someone has to worry about polygons, and designers will have to worry about making sure that their designs are translated correctly into polygons. As DFM technology matures, many "DFM transformations" that we talk about today, will be absorbed into the physical design tools. But just like there is someone today worrying about simple design rules and DRCs, we will need to have someone tomorrow worrying about DFM models and simulators.

Rob Aitken, ARM -- Standard cell based design approaches will continue to have an area and speed advantage over reconfigurable and programmable platforms through at least 32 nanometers. DFx methods allow designers to improve upon this inherent advantage, through faster time to market, better performance/power/area, increased yield, or some combination.

Thomas Blaesi, SIGMA-C -- The lithography gap will continue to widen, moving down the process technology nodes and, therefore, DFM requirements will continue to be essential to make reconfigurable platforms work for future silicon technologies. There is also an increased demand for designers who understand DFM and can make designs work in the smaller process technologies.

Won-Young Jung, Nanno SOLUTIONS -- NO, DFM has to connect DFY. DFM/DFY is not new. They have existed since the semiconductor industry started.

Yervant Zorian, Virage Logic -- I think the answer here is yes. Not only because the designers will be working with reconfigurable platforms, but also because they will need to integrate these technologies with the rest of the chip. Without DFM tools, this will not be possible. Of course, they should never be buying IP without DFM.

9) I noticed at DesignCon, that the Business of DFM panel was almost more technical than the Technology of DFM panel. Is it an insurmountable problem to try to explain the context within which DFM tools are being developed and marketed? How many people really understand the problems being solved and the solutions being offered? How many VCs in the world really understand well enough to provide funding? (A complicated set of questions that have linked answers, I believe.)

Jacob Jacobsson, Blaze DFM -- We don't believe that a business discussion about DFM needs to be overly technical. The decision to adopt an electrical DFM solution that is architected according to the following three precepts becomes very compelling: 1) drive design (power and timing) requirements into manufacturing; 2) bring manufacturing awareness upstream into design; and 3) do not require major disruptive changes to the design flow, manufacturing handoff, or to the fab equipment line.

We have seen actual customer results where parametric yield was improved by double-digit percentages. On a high-volume design, this translates to tens of millions of dollars in cost savings and accelerates time to volume production by six months, all at a very low cost of adoption.

As far as VCs, the onus is on the DFM companies to explain their value propositions in a way that makes economic sense. It's difficult for DFM and DFY companies who are offering yield improvements of perhaps 1% -- 2%. At those levels, it's advantageous to get the VC bogged down in a technical discussion because the economic value just isn't there.

Atul Sharan, Clear Shape -- In the investment community, those who need to understand do. With regard to the designer community, as 65 nanometer is coming on line they are clearly seeing the issues and have made themselves heard - as was evidenced by TSMC's major announcement of a comprehensive DFM initiative that will release additional models and information to select DFM vendors in their qualification program. UMC and the IBM-Samsung-Chartered Common-Platforms also have similar DFM initiatives. Even a year ago some pundits were predicting that the major foundries would never release any of these additional models or information and they would be forced to become ASIC vendors - not only are they releasing it, they are leading the charge to accelerate adoption of true DFM on the design side.

Articles like these will go a long way in raising awareness -- DFM is indeed the case of "where there is smoke there is fire" and those who only see the smoke, and not the fire, will get burnt!

Dale Pollek, ChipMD -- Agreed, even some end-users who I've worked with -- people who had recent, failed first silicon to the point of writing off a lot of NRE, lost all customers and cancelled the design project -- even some of those are refusing to admit a new design tool could have averted the loss.

Unfortunately, some semiconductor companies are still too interested in cutting budgets and protecting one's job instead of acknowledging a new tool can enable them better success and profits in the future. There always has been a designer fear of “automation” tools replacing them, but this is the biggest fallacy that designers need to realize how to adjust and deal with the next design and improve competitiveness.

In part, I write this sort of attitude off to our currently overly conservative industry management who make only extra cautious moves and are worrying too much only about the daily stock P/E ratios than really looking ahead. Fortunately, there are many who are still smart enough to look ahead and understand that new small companies can provide a significant competitive edge. As I said from the start, it is nice to look ahead at 2006 as it does not look at all like any of the last four years!

David Thon, Cadence Design Systems -- There are many people who understand a broad spectrum of design technology, and many who understand a broad spectrum of manufacturing technology, but finding people who understand both and the interactions between them, to any significant depth is not common.

Dwayne Burek, Magma Design Automation -- One difficulty might be that the definition of DFM is not precise. Design for Manufacturing can cover anything associated with making a design that is manufacturable. So thinking of DFM as a stand-alone technology or business will lead to problems since DFM needs to be considered in the context of design and of manufacturing. But there are always opportunities to come up with better ways of doing things. And if you can show how this can lead to quantifiable yield improvement or accelerated yield ramp, then these are benefits that everyone is interested in.

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Review Article
  • October 09, 2008
    Reviewed by 'Ronald'
    I've been following Peggy's article for more than three years. It is always fresh and informative. This article gives you a quick history (see NTI section) and future vision (see OPC/RET section).

      Was this review helpful to you?   (Report this review as inappropriate)

  • October 09, 2008
    Reviewed by 'Ronald'
    I've been following Peggy's article for more than three years. It is always fresh and informative. This article gives you a quick history (see NTI section) and future vision (see OPC/RET section).

      Was this review helpful to you?   (Report this review as inappropriate)

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