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EDA app shows variants of IC design

Posted: 01 Sep 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:design-for-manufacturing solutions? Halo-Quest? DFM? DFM view? Pyxis Technology's DFM router?

Among the challenges facing proposed design-for-manufacturing (DFM) solutions is designers' refusal to accept big changes to their current EDA tool flows. Both design and manufacturing want capabilities that will enable them to improve chip yields, but both sides seem unwilling to consider proposed DFM solutions that would cause disruption to current workflows.

DFM tool provider Aprio Technologies Inc.'s solution to this paradox is an application extension, Halo-Quest, designed to fit on top of EDA design and analysis tools, and to generate accurate silicon image representation of IC designs for use within design flows.

A key pillar of Aprio's strategy is what the company calls the DFM view, a collection of manufacturing-centric variants of the physical IC design, including the original layout, a version of the layout as printed in silicon, and a series of error vectors that identify potential lithographic "hot spots." According to Aprio, through the DFM view, Halo-Quest offers users the information needed to improve yield and predictability of performance using existing design tools.

Halo-Quest offers a series of error reports to describe the results, including a contour view for interactive visualization and analysis, a rectilinear view for interfacing with electrical characterization, and a hot-spot view for systematic and/or parametric yield and manufacturability analysis.

According to Aprio, Halo-Quest, which was introduced last July, is tuned for design teams, enabling them to map the level of lithography risk for any design block, zoom to major errors to review potential correction schemes, make both local and global repairs to eliminate lithography risk via design changes, and stitch the corrected solution into the design without creating new issues.

The tool does not require the insertion of optical proximity correction (OPC) features into the design, and users need not understand OPC recipes, according to Aprio. Halo-Quest is also billed as fast-running, completing in a matter of hours.

Aprio said it has already interfaced Halo-Quest to several EDA applications. Two of those integrationswith Pyxis Technology's DFM router and with the Laker suite of layout tools from Silicon Canvaswere announced recently. Integration with other EDA tools was announced at the Design Automation Conference (DAC), according to Mike Gianfagna, president and CEO of Aprio.

The company will also leverage DAC to demonstrate the results of its continuing work with chip equipment vendor KLA-Tencor Corp. An embedded application developed by Aprio enables users of KLA-Tencor's DesignScan full-chip process window inspection system to apply localized OPC repair to problem areas identified by DesignScan.

With its OPC implementation tool, Halo-OPC, as well as others, Aprio plays on both sides of the design and manufacturing divide. Its stated goal is to provide a unified approach to DFM by offering manufacturing-aware design tools and design-aware manufacturing tools.

According to Gianfagna, involvement on the manufacturing side gives Aprio special insight into the problems manufacturers face, fortifying its design tools and giving the company a leg up on the competition.

Gianfagna acknowledged that integrating Halo-Quest with other EDA tools involves effort and resources that, for a company of startup Aprio's size, must be allocated in a prioritized way, depending on customer needs. He touted the ease of integration with the Pyxis router, which is based on OpenAccess (OA).

While the major EDA vendors, viewing Aprio as a competitive threat, have resisted collaborating with the company, Gianfagna said the industry's move toward OA could eventually render that reluctance a moot point, since Aprio will be able to provide an interface between Halo-Quest and OA-based tools regardless.

"What is most important to me is addressing what the customer wants. From my point of view, OpenAccess is the key to that. It will allow customers to vote with their feet" on whether they want to use Halo-Quest, Gianfagna said.

Initial products using Halo-Quest are expected to be available in the fourth quarter. Pricing information has not yet been disclosed.

- Dylan McGrath
EE Times

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