BENGALURU, India Board designers here are anything but bored.
Indian board design services are expected to grow to $458 million this year, driven by OEMs handling multiple designs here for both the local market and overseas customers. Indian design services companies said they have more overseas clients while the number of reference designs for captive design centers operated by foreign chip makers is also rising.
According to the India Semiconductor Association (ISA), of the 1,794 board designs completed in 2007, only 628 were new designs. The remainder were modifications to existing designs. Of the estimated 2,274 designs expected here in 2008, 805 will be new, said ISA president Poornima Shenoy.
Most big Indian services companies such as Wipro offer board designs ranging from system architecture development to product upgrades. Services include digital, analog and RF designs for consumer electronics, computing, medical, industrial, storage and telecommunications.
"Most of the industrial control, medical electronics and automotive designs are in the sub-100-MHz range," said Anuj Sharma, strategic marketing manager at Wipro Technologies. "It is consumer and computing products that tend to push the limits of processing, and these designs account for most of our 500-MHz-plus designs."
About 70 percent of design services provider Tata Elxsi Ltd.'s work is in consumer electronics, with much of it in the sub-1-GHz range. "We are working to offer customers integrated product development for hardware and software, rather than point services," said Nitin Pai, general manager for marketing.
According to the ISA, telecom and networking designs make up about 30 percent of all board designs here, followed by consumer electronics (22 percent), portable and wireless segments (20 percent). Most companies here expect to tackle more complex designs in 2008.
"We are seeing a shift in trends with even consumer designs [and] a few semiconductor reference designs increasingly having more than 10 layers. This has mainly been due to increasing semiconductor content in the overall system," Wipro's Sharma said.
Over the next 18 months, Wipro said it expects to see increasing demand for consumer designs using high-frequency processors along with high reliability for medical and avionics applications.
Firmware already consumes a significant part of board development time for Tata Elxsi. "The advent of smaller electronic devices will also bring more design work to India, and high-complexity designs, especially for telecom infrastructure, are another trend," Pai said.
Indian designers still face stiff competition from China and Taiwan for high-volume production, pricing and quality. The lack of adequate product certification and pre-compliance testing here adds to the challenges, said Abdullah Khan, director of engineering for board designer iWave Systems Technologies. ISA's Shenoy added that India also needs to improve board manufacturing capabilities in order to compete with China and Taiwan.
Said Shenoy: "The trend [toward] VLSI design houses transforming into one-stop design houses has increased the activity in the board design area. The key challenge [India] faces is in generating design engineers who can handle complexity of interconnection between higher-speed devices."