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DFM tool implements yield improvement at design stage

Posted: 21 Sep 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Nannor? Acuma? yield optimization? yield analysis? Predictions?

DFM-focused vendor Nannor Technologies Inc. has announced the availability of the third generation of its Acuma yield optimization tool, featuring integrated yield analysis technology from Predictions Software.

According to Nannor, Acuma reduces semiconductor design iterations and manufacturing costs by revealing yield-sensitive areas of the design and implementing yield improvement at the design stage.

Acuma is used following place-and-route. The company claims the tool does not impact timing or signal integrity. And, importantly, according to Dan Nenni, Nannor VP of marketing, Acuma is used within the LEF/DEF environment, as opposed to other yield optimization tools that are implemented post design.

Nannor and Predictions have worked closely together for the past year. In January, the companies announced integration between their tools, claiming a joint solution that would serve as a DFM signoff tool in much the same way as Synopsys Inc.'s PrimeRail provides signoff for timing.

With Acuma version 3, Nannor has taken a step further, Nenni said, seamlessly integrating Predictions' Eyes yield analysis software within.

"It's completely within the tool," Nenni said. "You would not even know that it was Predictions' software unless you asked."

Some yield analysis tools are designed to be implemented immediately before tapeout. While identifying potential yield problems at that stage can prevent wasted expenseparticulary given the increasing costs of photomasksit still requires weeks of effort to go back in and correct.

Increases in design and process complexities are fueling demand for yield optimization technologies used upstream in design. Major EDA vendors Synopsys and Magma Design Automation Inc. recently announced tools that push DFM optimization all the way upstream into place-and-route.

Though he has not seen the Synopsys and Magma tools, Nenni expressed skepticism about whether DFM optimization could be performed accurately within place-and-route. Tests that Nannor has performed have indicated that implementing yield optimization within place-and-route is less successful and takes two to three times longer than with Acuma, he said.

Still, he acknowledged, customers are putting off some DFM tool buys until the verdict is in on Synopsys PrimeYield and Magma's Blast Yield TX.

"The big question with DFM now is not what you need to do," Nenni said, adding that there is general agreement that DFM needs to address lithography process "hot spots," chemical mechanical polishing (CMP) variability and critical area analysis. "The question is, where is the proper place for it to be done?"

Nenni acknowledged that DFM has not achieved the revenue that people expected to this point. He said he expects 2007 to be the first year that smaller companies log significant DFM revenue.

"DFM is a big deal," Nenni said. "People are running evaluations of tools. People are actually purchasing tools."

Dennis Wassung, an analyst with Canaccord Adams, said in June that the market for DFM technology is currently worth between $350 million and $400 million and poised for significant growth.

- Dylan McGrath
EE Times

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