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Fabbrix weaves 'fabric' for IC design

Posted: 13 Dec 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IC? IC design? fabric? 65nm? 45nm?

Fabbrix Inc., a startup that aims to reshape IC design through the use of regular design patterns or "fabrics," announced a collaboration with PDF Solutions Inc. Through a joint development project with PDF, the company hopes to further refine the technology that it claims can substantially boost yields at 65nm and below.

According to the company, the technology employs small libraries of "logic bricks" that contain regular structures built from lithography-friendly shapes. The approach avoids the area and performance penalties of restricted design rules while providing many of the same benefits. The new technology can improve yields, simplify design flows, reduce transistor variability, and make resolution enhancement technology more effective, Fabbrix claims.

"We recognized that the world was moving towards more regular design structures by necessity, and we had been doing research at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) for 5 or 6 years," said Larry Pileggi, founder and CTO of Fabbrix. "We were looking at the changes in design methodology that would be needed if things went to very regular structures."

The company today is running on a "fairly low budget," Pileggi said, with offices in Pittsburgh, Pa. and Los Altos, Calif. He said Fabbrix is currently working with several IDMs, has designed an embedded processor, and taped out several other blocks to test its technology against traditional standard cell implementations. The initial work has been at 65nm and 45nm, he said, although the company has done some early experimentation with 32nm.

There aren't any negative tradeoffs, according to Pileggi. "We found that at 65nm, we can easily meet or exceed area and performance versus standard cells. Power can be substantially better in terms of leakage, and regular structures provide much better control over line width variations."

Fabbrix solutions start by defining regular design "fabrics," or 3D seas-of-shapes that define possible circuit patterns for each mask layer. The design fabric definition minimizes variations in electrical parameters, including transistor leakage.

Logic blocks, which can be thought of as extremely large standard cells, are the building blocks of Fabbrix-based chips. Pileggi said they range from 5 to 12 input functions and might have 10 to 30 transistors. They have fixed layouts. However, Pileggi said, "it's very easy to adjust the patterns."

Fabbrix will provide design tools to derive and build the logic blocks. Otherwise, Pileggi said, everything can be implemented with commercial design flows. He noted, however, that foundries will have to define the underlying fabrics, and work with Fabbrix to collaboratively develop blocks that work in the foundry's technology for different types of applications.

PDF Solutions provides tools and services for yield optimization and learning. "They've really been characterizing people's designs for a long time," said Pileggi. "They have all the silicon data and the technology infrastructure to understand what the patterning of a design should be. When we take the PDF technology infrastructure and add on Fabbrix methodology, I believe we can really produce designs that are superior to anything with a non-regular pattern."

- Richard Goering
EE Times




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