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 EDACafe Editorial

Archive for September, 2019

Neuromorphic chip research around the world

Friday, September 27th, 2019

Carver Mead, the father of neuromorphic engineering, is a giant in the history of the semiconductor industry. He taught the world’s first VLSI design course; he designed the first gallium arsenide gate FET; he co-created the first silicon compiler; he played a key role in the fabrication of the first CMOS chip; he co-founded at least twenty companies; he is even credited with coining the expression “Moore’s law”. This is why his interest for mimicking biological brains – dating back to the late 80s – sounds even more significant: in other words, if Carver Mead took neural inspiration so seriously, it must be a serious thing indeed.

Carver Mead. Image credit: Norman Seeff

Today, thirty years later, neural networks are booming; however, most of the commercial AI/ML applications are only loosely inspired to biological brains. Most of them do not use spiking neural networks; most employ a training technique (backpropagation) that has no direct equivalent in nature. The approach pioneered by Carver Mead, more closely inspired by biological brains, is today embodied in the neuromorphic research, still mostly carried out in labs and universities – but holding the potential for more practical applications. Over the past few months, EDACafe has provided overviews of three neuromorphic chips: Loihi (Intel), TrueNorth (IBM) and SpiNNaker (University of Manchester). This week we will take an extremely quick look at other neuromorphic devices that have been developed – over the past few years, and recently – by universities around the world. Technical details about most of these chips can be found in a paper (main source for this article) co-authored by fifteen prominent researchers, including some of those mentioned below.


EDA Q2 figures; AI at the edge; advanced headlights; full-chip ILT; unmanned ships

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

The global EDA industry is in good shape: according to the report just released by the ESD Alliance, worldwide revenue increased 6.6 percent for Q2 2019 to $2472.1 million, compared to $2318.5 million in Q2 2018. Revenue breakdown by product category shows that the biggest growth was in semiconductor IP, with a 19.7 percent increase. Revenue breakdown by region indicates a 5.5 decrease in the Americas and a 23.7 percent increase in Asia/Pacific.

EDA expertise, a good match for machine learning

Among the many factors impacting EDA revenue, the booming AI/ML market may have a positive effect. As Cadence’s Anirudh Devgan said at the DAC’19 Troublemakers Panel, “The good thing about machine learning is it’s computational. So, if you look at the software industry in the last ten years, most of the activity is in social media, which is not really computational. (…) When it is actually computational, it’s lot of matrix multiplies and all kinds of numerical analysis — which is in the sweet spot of traditional EDA expertise. (…) The EDA companies are very well suited to do machine learning in a fundamental way. (…) Inherently our [Cadence’s] core strength matches very well with machine learning.” Transcripts from the panel have been recently posted on the moderator’s website, John Cooley.

Anirudh Devgan. Image credit: Cadence


Ansys to acquire LSTC; cloud-based EDA; voice recognition; copper vs fiber; carbon nanotube processors; and more weekly news

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Carbon nanotubes are now a step closer to practical applications, thanks to an MIT research that was announced a couple of weeks ago. But first, a few industry news from the last few days. Let’s start with Ansys, that on September 11th unveiled an agreement to acquire Livermore Software Technology Corporation. The acquired company – LSTC for short – is the creator of LS-Dyna, a multiphysics solver widely adopted by the automotive industry to accurately predict a vehicle’s behavior and the effects on occupants during a collision.

Verification in the cloud

Synopsys has announced a collaboration with Google Cloud to provide a full end-to-end solution to perform functional verification workloads – with Synopsys VCS – in the cloud. Flexible hardware scalability offered in the cloud helps design teams to address peak/burst simulation capacity requirements, enabling a higher quality verification on a predictable schedule. The solution leverages the native Google Cloud-NetApp integration to bridge the on-premises and cloud infrastructures, together with tight integration between VCS and the Preemptible VM feature in Google Cloud.

Nano-accelerometers; silicon thermoelectric generators; gallium oxide MOSFETs; solid electrolyte batteries; and more research news

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

Let’s focus on recent academic research achievements this week – but first, a quick look at some industry news. According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, worldwide sales of semiconductors were $33.4 billion in July 2019, 1.7 percent more than the June 2019 total of $32.8 billion, but 15.5 percent less than the July 2018 total of $39.5 billion. Globalfoundries has filed multiple lawsuits in the U.S. and Germany alleging that certain technologies used by TSMC infringe sixteen GF patents, and seeking orders that prevent semiconductors produced with those technologies from being imported into the U.S. and Germany. Rambus has completed the acquisition of Northwest Logic and announced the upcoming acquisition of security IP from Verimatrix, formerly Inside Secure. GigaDevice Semiconductor has launched its RISC-V based GD32V series of 32-bit general-purpose MCU products, fully compatible with existing GD32 ARM-based MCUs. Ansys is boosting its autonomous vehicles simulation solution with the integration of Hologram, a system developed by Edge Case Research.

Graphene-based world’s smallest accelerometer

A research team involving KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm, Sweden) and partners from Aachen, Germany, has developed the smallest accelerometer yet reported, using graphene ribbons with suspended masses. As detailed in this paper, the new NEMS (nano-electromechanical system) is based on a piezoresistive principle. It is dramatically smaller than any MEMS accelerometers available today, but retains the required sensitivity and is compatible with large-scale semiconductor manufacturing technologies.

The graphene-based accelerometer. Image credit: KTH Royal Institute of Technology


A closer look at Empyrean Software

Monday, September 2nd, 2019

Following our recent video interview to Jason Xing – President and CEO, North America, at Empyrean – let’s now take a closer look at Empyrean Software and its product offering. But first, a couple of words about this company headquartered in Beijing, with offices in San Jose, CA. Founded in 2009, Empyrean Software is the largest EDA software provider in China, and its R&D team has more than 30 years of experience in technology and product development. The company has comprehensive cooperation with many corporations, universities and research laboratories. As posted in the company’s website (, publicly disclosed Empyrean customers include Renesas, Diodes Incorporated, Monolithic Power Systems and Ricoh.


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