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Group wants to standardize process design kits

Posted: 10 Jun 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:process design kits? pdk? ic design? design automation conference?

A small group of long-time EDA industry insiders is quietly pulling together a study group to discuss standardization of foundry Process Design Kits (PDKs.) The group, working under the name Open Kit Initiative, is soliciting interested parties, inputs and relationships with foundries, tool vendors, and chip designers.

PDKs are the packages of information the foundries provide to design teams at the beginning of a design. In theory, the kit contains all the technical data about the process that the chip designers will need to have a successful tape-out. This information includes design rule files for design rule checking software, simulation models for devices and interconnect and information on how they were established, information necessary to create the polygon geometry that will be written into GDSII files and much else.

Today, not only the exact content of the kits but the formats, symbol conventions and data types remain quite variable, depending on the foundry, the particular process and the tool chain the chip designers are using. This clearly creates enormous amounts of work for all parties: foundries who must create multiple versions of the kit, tool vendors who must maintain compatibility with the data formats and chip designers who must take apart and use the data.

"We would like to help establish some fundamentals, like naming conventions and delivery mechanisms," explained group spokesman Nick English, an industry consultant and a veteran analog semiconductor designer. "We aren't trying to revolutionize anything, just to get the grief out of the process."

The group, which started as a conversation within a small circle of senior industry figures, has spread quickly. Twenty-five people have been identified who would like to work on the project, English said. In addition, a not widely publicized presentation at the Design Automation Conference turned up another 70 people who expressed interest. On June 4, the Accelera board had voted to empower a group as well as to study the initiative and report back to the board in the Fall.

But English cautioned that the aims were still very modest. "We are trying to start with the simplest PDK we can, the one for digital custom design," he said. "Really, we've done nothing but say that we think we have a good idea and to invite people to work on it. We want to be inclusive, to invite people in and to work with existing groups like Accellera and the Virtual Socket Initiative, and perhaps the Fabless Semiconductor Association. We certainly don't need to be forming another standards organization for this."

- Ron Wilson

EE Times

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