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EDA/IP  

Cadence, Agere tool would foster IC co-design

Posted: 01 May 2001     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:chip planning  interconnect  pcb design 

Seeking to develop a new type of EDA tool, Cadence Design Systems Inc. and Agere Systems—the former Lucent Microelectronics—partnered to develop chip I/O planning capability. Such a tool would promote the co-design of ICs and chip packages, which are now two disparate functions.

The partnership, announced at the Design, Automation and Test in Europe (DATE) conference last March, is expected to result in a tool that would be available in Q4. Part of Cadence's SuperChip initiative, the new chip I/O planning tool would make possible chip packaging that considers mechanical feasibility, electrical concerns and routability.

Right now, said Joel McGrath, marketing manager for Cadence's IC packaging products, there is a "discontinuity" between IC design and packaging. "Chip design takes place without consideration of the package," he said. "This alliance will develop methodologies and tools that address that gap."

Many chip design firms, said McGrath, are "working in the dark" when it comes to IC packaging. Agere is doing a little better, he said. The company has internal tools that make it possible to run some feasibility studies of packaging alternatives and to drive IC placement and routing with packaging constraints.

Electrical constraints

"Our tools take us part of the way to a complete solution, and we are looking to Cadence to add more features," said Donald Hawk, consulting member of Agere's technical staff. Specifically, Hawk said, Agere wants to bring electrical constraints and routability into its packaging solutions. Cadence already offers both IC design tools and packaging tools but not the chip I/O planning that the Agere partnership addresses.

"Chip tools typically end the design process at the I/O buffers," McGrath noted. "With chip I/O planning, you bring the package and the silicon together in the same environment."

Chip I/O planning will allow designers to consider packaging trade-offs. One desired capability of a chip I/O planning tool is the extraction of interconnect from the I/O buffers out to the package pins. Another is power distribution analysis. Designers may also be able to identify differential-pair opportunities, the companies said.

"The packaging tools we are aware of really take the die as a finished product," said Hawk. "We are dealing with a chicken-and-egg scenario—the IC designer is asking what the package looks like, and the packaging designer is asking what the chip looks like."

Hawk noted that chip designers need to know where pads are located on a chip, so they can start planning from a system-level perspective. Cadence will help, Hawk said, by bringing routing into the picture and showing how signals map to the package.

The partnership agreement includes a commitment by Agere to provide Cadence with internal software and engineering support for a two-year period. Agere will have first access to new software developed by a joint Cadence-Agere team. After that, the functionality will become available on a commercial basis. Cadence's PCB Systems Division will market the new product that results from the partnership.

"We get more capability and a commercial product we can share with customers, so we can look at complete system-level designs," said Hawk.

Richard Goering

EE Times





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