LOS ANGELES Momentum is building behind a common method of describing ICs and retrieving CAD-ready data over the Internet. Lucent Technologies and other major system vendors are asking their component suppliers to adhere to the QuickData standard, and the RosettaNet organization which includes nearly all of the major electronics manufacturers worldwide is rallying around the format as well.
On the EDA side of the fence, the Silicon Integration Initiative announced at the Design Automation Conference here this week that Mentor Graphics Corp. will abandon its proprietary EDA symbol and footprint formats and convert to QuickData. Cadence Design Systems Inc. also is expected to climb aboard by providing ways of importing QuickData EDA symbols and footprint information to its tools.
Developed by the Silicon Integration Initiative (Si2), an EDA industry group, and the Electronic Component Interchange (ECIX) group of system and chip vendors, the QuickData format is designed to give system designers a way to quickly retrieve parts information that has been stored in a standardized format. CAD-ready data can be searched over the Internet and pulled directly into schematics.
Besides Lucent, companies like Agilent Technologies, IBM and Hewlett-Packard are reportedly developing their own carrots and sticks to make sure their suppliers start QuickData library programs. And companies such as ChipData, a startup based in Dallas, and Saqqara Systems Inc. (San Jose, Calif.) are creating services to help component suppliers do just that.
At DAC this past week, ChipData demonstrated technology called iData Miner that's intended to convert PDF-format data sheets to the XML format that QuickData is based on. Meanwhile, Saqqara is working with Lucent on a customized internal browser that would let board designers search for QuickData parts that match selected criteria.
"If there are enough system customers spending enough dollars [demanding QuickData], then the component suppliers will quickly get on board," said John Teets, the QuickData program manager at Si2.
Ed Hutson, a supply line engineering manager at Lucent Technologies, said Lucent recently sent out letters to its IC suppliers asking them to develop component databases that adhere to the QuickData format. Lucent has also held workshops on the format attended by 83 suppliers. The company will grade its suppliers on a scale of 1 to 5 on how well they comply.
By creating a list of "cooperative vendors," Lucent expects to link its design engineers with component databases in the QuickData format. The intent is to streamline what is now a cumbersome process, said Jerry Bradfield, a Lucent system engineer. System designers now call or e-mail suppliers 30 to 50 times over the course of a board design project, asking for information.
"We want that information to flow to the designers over the Internet," Bradfield said. "And it will save time for the suppliers. Their representatives spend 50 percent of their time servicing information requests looking within their organization for the person who has the right information rather than selling."
By the end of October Lucent expects 10 of its suppliers to be ready to provide information in an automated manner that design engineers can capture at their workstations. Eventually, that will end the time-wasting practice of phoning component suppliers to get access to information that's needed to create a schematic, and then retyping data sheets.
No manual entry
Also, Lucent is working with its CAD suppliers so that EDA symbols and footprints can be downloaded from component suppliers right into tools at the workstation, with no manual entry, Hutson said. For example, a designer could get QuickData-compliant information about a Motorola part, for example, and plug key parameters directly into a Mentor Graphics board design tool.
Meanwhile, Saqqara Systems founder Sherif Danish said the purpose of the browser project at Lucent is to make computer searches for parts as painless as possible. The browser will link Lucent engineers with suppliers that participate in Saqqara's Who Makes It? database.
A Lucent board designer searching for a particular type of SRAM, for example, would be told how Lucent's internal supply procurement organization rates that supplier. If a Lucent designer finds a part from a supplier that has yet to develop a QuickData representation, Saqqara will convert that part's key data to the QuickData format automatically.
"Most companies do not have QuickData libraries," Danish said. "If a Lucent board designer wants to get information about a part from Cypress Semiconductor, for example, an e-mail will be generated to Cypress that says, 'If you are interested in this business, we need the information that will give us an ECIX-compliant, QuickData-compliant [description].' A form will pop up on the Web browser that will be filled out and, with a click, be submitted to Lucent."
Ideally, component suppliers will convert their entire parts catalogs to the QuickData standard. The tool ChipData demoed at DAC this past week aims to help in that endeavor. The iData Miner uses optical character recognition and other technologies to convert the Adobe-format quads to XML descriptors.
Kevin McDonough, president of ChipData, said the company also will work with contract manufacturers such as Solectron and Flextronix to make sure that component vendors' EDA and footprint symbols comply with formats used by contract manufacturers.
Later this month, ChipData plans to describe results from several pilot programs with component and systems companies that have used the QuickData format.
For its part, the RosettaNet board of directors recently decided to adopt QuickData as its method of representing electronic components. Version 2 of the QuickData format supports a list of text descriptions of the part, as well as simulation models, Si2-compliant EDA symbols and footprint data, thermal characteristics and so on.