SANTA CRUZ, Calif. Seeking to make life easier for analog, mixed-signal and RF designers, the Fabless Semiconductor Association (FSA) has approved a standardized checklist that describes the content of process design kits (PDKs). The effort complements a new Accellera initiative to standardize data representations within PDKs.
PDKs provide the data files that are needed to design chips for a given process technology, using a supported set of EDA tools. PDKs include such things as schematic symbols, Spice models, parameterized cells, a layout technology file, and design rule check (DRC) and layout-versus-schematic (LVS) decks.
The amount of information in a PDK can be huge, and the presentation from one foundry to another is inconsistent. At a panel discussion at the International Symposium on the Quality of Electronic Design (ISQED) March 22, panelists outlined many shortcomings in the way that PDKs are developed and used today.
The FSA's mixed-signal/RF foundry committee's PDK working group has been working on a simple idea make it easy to understand what's in the PDK. Ken Brock, PDK working group chair and vice president of marketing at Silvaco, described the checklist as "a combination of an ingredients list and a nutrition facts panel."
As such, he said, the checklist provides a list of deliverables, and a "proxy" for their quality and maturity. For example, it will show how many variables parameterized cells accept, and what portions of the PDK have passed final quality tests.
The checklist itself is a two-page Word document that accompanies PDKs. It has three sections. The foundry document section describes the PDK's documents, revisions and dates. The EDA tool section describes the tools, vendors, and release dates supported by the PDK. The device section summarizes the symbols, Spice models, attributes, and parameterized cells, and reports the verification of each device.
Brock said that foundries supporting this effort include austriamicrosystems, PolarFab, 1st Silicon, Jazz Semiconductor, and TSMC. These foundries are on the PDK working group, along with Cadence Design Systems, HPL, Mindspeed Technologies, and Silvaco.
There's another member of the FSA's PDK working group Nick English, who is heading up the Open Kit initiative at the Accellera standards organization. Brock, in turn, is involved in the Open Kit effort. The two are complementary, both say.
The FSA effort is driven primarily by foundries, while the Accellera effort is driven primarily by EDA vendors, Brock said. "We're letting them drive EDA centric things, and we're driving foundry centric things," he said. "We're standing on each other's shoulders, and our objectives are basically the same."
"The [FSA] checklist is a good thing," English said. "It's a packing slip the foundry fills out and says, here's what I sent you."
The Open Kit initiative, in contrast, is looking at standardizing certain data representations within PDKs, English noted. For example, one working group is focusing on a standard symbol library. Another is coming up with naming conventions for physical design data, such as layers and distances. A third is defining standard formats and templates that all foundries can use.
The Open Kit effort has been underway since January and doesn't yet have any timetables for deliverables, English said. The effort will first focus on custom digital design and address analog and RF at a later time.
Meanwhile, the PDK checklist is available for downloading now.