Apache Introduces PathFinder, the Industry’s First Full-chip ESD Physical Integrity Solution

San Jose, Calif. – May 10, 2010 – Apache Design Solutions, the technology leader in power integrity and noise closure for chip-package-systems (CPS) convergence, today announced PathFinder™, a full-chip electrostatic discharge (ESD) physical integrity solution to address the increasing reliability challenges faced by nanometer designs. It delivers innovative technologies in modeling, extraction, and simulation for ESD verification, targeting early prototyping, circuit optimization and full-chip signoff. PathFinder’s core technologies include:

  • native handling of clamp cell snap-back characteristic for dynamic SPICE like simulation
  • built-in extraction and handling of large scale power/ground RLC, substrate RC, and package parasitics
  • layout based full-chip analysis of ESD events such as Human Body Model (HBM), Machine Model (MM) and Charged Device Model (CDM)

ESD charging or discharging is a full-chip verification challenge. In addition, ESD clamp cell design and optimization for custom I/O and analog macro requires SPICE like accuracy. PathFinder is a high throughput solution with unique productivity advantages including:

  • 100 million+ instances with overnight turnaround time for static ESD verification
  • 100’s of thousands of transistors block including clamping devices for SPICE accurate dynamic ESD simulation
  • layout-based debugging GUI environment for cross probing and ‘what-if’ analysis

As the process technologies move towards 40nm and below, designers are facing reliability challenges introduced from the use of smaller wire geometries and thinner gate oxides with lower breakdown voltages. In addition, the use of multiple power and ground networks requires the inclusion of ESD protection circuitry inside the core of the chip. The cost associated with an ESD induced failure can be significant, whether from insufficient protection resulting in low product yield, or from excessive or ineffective protection resulting in wasted silicon real estate.

Today, ESD verification is performed manually based on engineering guidelines for layout, plot checking, or design rule (DRC) checks. But these approaches cannot ensure that the overall resistance and current density of the ESD paths is below the threshold limits. As a result, they cannot exhaustively identify devices or wires that may potentially fail during a specific ESD event before tape-out. In addition, it is important to include the discharging paths through the package for full-chip ESD signoff.

Circuit analysis of I/O, analog, and mixed-signal designs is also critical for ESD layout and design optimization. There is no transistor-level dynamic solution available today that can efficiently simulate large-scale macros including the impacts of clamp’s snap-back characteristics, P/G and substrate networks, and package parasitics with SPICE like accuracy and convergence property.

“All ESD effects now have to be addressed at the System-on-Chip-level rather than at the IO- or even block-level. As a consequence, addressing ESD holistically is an important opportunity for improvement in our Product design flow in leading-edge process technologies while protecting against ESD failures is increasingly critical in ST’s markets, such as Automotive, Computer Peripherals, Consumer, Wireless,” said Philippe Magarshack, Group Vice President, Technology R&D at STMicroelectronics. “The ability to analyze ESD design robustness at the full-chip and macro levels prior to tape-out is key to managing our overall system cost and time-to-market. Apache’s PathFinder now enables us to perform static ESD analysis and signoff in a reasonable amount of time. We are very pleased with our partnership with Apache for the past two years in this emerging area of ESD integrity.”

At the full-chip level, PathFinder verifies the placement and connectivity of ESD cells for HBM, MM, and CDM, based on layout information and design rules. It computes the impedance in the discharge path through the distributed power/ground and package mesh and the participating clamp cells. It verifies the effective resistance between a) pads/bumps to other pads/bumps; b) between pads/bumps to clamp circuits; c) between multiple clamp circuits; and d) between active devices and clamp circuits, for pass/fail check. Increasing current flow through the metal layers of the discharging path can also cause electromigration (EM) induced damages to interconnects. PathFinder provides current density check for all power/ground metals, I/O nets, and clamp devices, allowing the designers to verify that the current flow during discharge event is within the established limits.

PathFinder can also simulate transistor-level netlist such as I/Os, PLLs, and Serdes. It incorporates eSIM™, Apache’s proprietary simulator for ESD transient analysis with SPICE level transistor model. eSIM can handle negative resistance in snap-back devices, which typically causes non-convergence and slow down in classic SPICE simulators. In addition, eSIM with its dedicated matrix solver can handle large scale power/ground, substrate, and package mesh networks, including non-linear devices. PathFinder performs stress check across junction voltages of all transistors during the simulation to identify potential device failures due to ESD events such as CDM. To help with debugging and isolating circuit and layout issues resulting from an ESD event, PathFinder provides a GUI environment with overlay of the simulation results on the layout.

“Through close partnership between our R&D and leading customers, Apache continues to demonstrate the ability to deliver innovative solutions that addresses the next generation design challenges,” said Andrew Yang, CEO of Apache. “ESD integrity is clearly an emerging challenge for power and noise area which is Apache’s core competency.”

Pricing and Availability

PathFinder is available now and is an option to RedHawk and Totem platforms with a starting list price at $180,000 US.

About Apache Design Solutions

Apache delivers the industry’s leading global power and noise analyses platform solutions for Chip-Package-System convergence from RTL to sign-off. Apache's innovative platforms address the unique power and noise challenges associated with specific design domains such as SoC (digital), analog / custom IP, and System (IC package, SiP, PCB) while providing a co-analysis environment that integrates the SoC and system worlds. Apache’s products are adopted by 90% of the top 25 IDM, fabless semiconductor, and foundries for cost reduction, risk mitigation, and time-to-market improvements. Apache is a global company with over 200 employees and R&D centers and direct sales / support offices worldwide.


Apache Design Solutions, CMM, CPM, CoolTime, Columbus, NSPICE, RedHawk, PakSI-E, PsiWinder, PowerArtist, PowerTheater, Sahara, Sentinel, Totem, and Vectorless Dynamic are trademarks of Apache Design Solutions, Inc. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.



Apache Design Solutions 

Yukari Ohno, (408) 457-2000, Email Contact


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