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The battle over BIST

Posted: 03 Feb 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:terminology? bist? atpg? prpg? synopsys?

Get ready for a marketing war over BIST that will include debates over what this term actually means. At issue is whether on-chip compression techniques present advantages over more traditional BIST architectures and whether they are really BIST or just another variety of ATPG.

In an October exclusive feature at our EEdesign site,"New approach moves logic BIST into mainstream," Synopsys authors argued for a new "deterministic" logic BIST methodology.

This approach uses the BIST architecture as a decompression/compression engine to apply deterministic test patterns. Traditional BIST, in contrast, uses a pseudo-random pattern generator (PRPG) to generate inputs to scan chains.

These authors said that, older BIST approaches suffer from high area overhead, inability to diagnose problems, and low coverage. The new approach reduces test data volume and test application time, they added.

But is this new approach even BIST? In a December EEdesign feature, LogicVision's Stephen Pateras noted that much has been written about "on-chip compression of ATPG." He said that these new techniques, "some oddly named--using the term BIST," improve on traditional ATPG solutions but still fall short in addressing "real testing needs."

Pateras showed how the new decompression/compression approaches differ from true BIST, which uses PRPG techniques. He said that BIST provides better coverage and true at-speed testing, while scaling with increasing chip sizes.

Behind these differing claims is a battle over market share. The latest Market Trends report from Gartner/Dataquest states that the BIST market grew by 78 percent in 2001 and will reach $63 million by 2005. ATPG shrank by 20 percent in 2001 and will hit $27 million by 2005.

LogicVision held 72 percent of the BIST market in 2001, Synopsys held 91 percent of scan and Mentor Graphics claimed 61 percent of ATPG, with Synopsys at 31 percent. Synopsys still leads in overall design for test (DFT), albeit with a shrinking share. LogicVision doubled its share in 2001, while Mentor and Fluence Technology also gained, the report states.

It certainly appears that DFT is extremely competitive and that BIST has become the place to be. Designers will need to sort through differing claims as the battle of BIST heats up.

- Richard Goering

EE Times

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