Accent Srl, one of Europe's leading and largest electronics design factory networks, has announced "Highway to Silicon", a virtual IDM (Independent Device Manufacturer) approach that provides a complete, one-stop shop for all aspects of complex IC design through to manufacturing services and volume silicon delivery for COT (customer owned tooling) designs.
With a traditional IDM route to silicon, customers benefit from dealing with a single supplier. The drawback is that IDMs effectively provide a closed, "black box" approach, taking the netlist and providing working silicon.
Customers have no insight into, or ownership over, the development processes and intermediate results. Although an ASIC via pure-play foundry route is more open, even this has its drawbacks. Customers have to manage the interface with the foundry and all the complexity of detail that this involves.
Highway to Silicon combines all the advantages of dealing with a single supplier that a traditional IDM route to silicon offers with all the benefits of openness, commercial control and cost-efficiency associated with a COT and pure-play foundry route. Highway to Silicon is a completely open methodology, giving customers total control over the whole development cycle as well as full ownership of the development results without having to get involved in dealing with foundries, test houses or process services. It provides customers with all the same services traditionally associated with using an IDM including SoC back-end design, implementation and prototypes through to supply chain management and production (manufacturing, validation and assembly). Additionally, however, it provides customers with a comprehensive design architecture and SoC front-end design capability supporting customers with its silicon-aware design expertise on top of cost, performance and time-to-market trade-offs and product specification.
"Highway to Silicon takes advantage of the continuing disaggregation of the electronics industry and reflects the constantly changing market dynamics," said Massimo Vanzi, General Manager of Accent. "This is characterised by several factors and issues including the worldwide electronics industry downturn, rise of the fabless/chipless business model, the shift to VDSM (very deep sub-micron) geometries, emergence of pure-play foundries as manufacturing and process leaders and the increasing use of third party IP."
Highway to Silicon has been structured to relieve customers of the burden of dealing with the supply chain disaggregation and changing market dynamics. The worldwide electronics industry downturn of the past few years has renewed interest in outsourcing strategies and also brought the fabless/chipless model into sharp focus with the emergence of a variety of innovative start-ups with novel ideas and concepts. Coupled with the arrival of the nanometer era are aggressive learning and cost curves associated with VDSM design. Designing for nanometer geometries is extremely challenging and engineers need the expertise to deal with the new effects that it introduces. They also need new design flows and tools to deal with the nanometer challenge which can easily cost in excess of $1 million and access to fab facilities that cost in excess of $3 billion.
With Highway to Silicon, Accent is principally targeting OEM, fabless and chipless small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as start-ups undertaking new design projects " companies who will benefit commercially from an IC/ foundry approach but may feel it is beyond them. These are companies that would not normally be of direct interest to IDMs (or pure-play foundries for that matter) because they only have low-to-medium volume requirements. Highway to Silicon can be used for production commitments as low as 100 devices. They are also companies who might have insufficient resources or experience to deal with VDSM design or confidently manage the interface to a pure-play foundry and other third parties such as test houses and qualification and characterization services. Highway to Silicon is also targeting customers with existing designs currently implemented as FPGAs or PCBs.
Highway to Silicon is delivered using Accent's established design factory network and close industry partnerships with the world's leading foundries and other specialist providers of test and assembly services. Accent's design factory network draws on the skills of over 120 electronic engineers whose specialist expertise spans multiprocessor SoC, VDSM and AMS design and matches the complexity, sub-micron geometry and power challenges of today's semiconductor designs. It provides access to the world's leading pure-play foundries including TSMC, Chartered and SMIC, as well as the only third-party access to STMicroelectronics foundry resources, to provide a vast choice of silicon technology covering a wide range of design requirements. Highway to Silicon also draws on Accent's extensive investment in leading edge hardware infrastructure and design tools from the likes of Cadence, Synopsys, Mentor, Coware and Mathworks. IP relationships cover the leading third party IP providers including invaluable access to ARM's TLA licensing model. Test and assembly partners include ASE, Nptest, and Atlantic Technology.
With Highway to Silicon, Accent co-ordinates all the activities of its partners and takes responsibility for the quality and overall result of their work. Customers can contract Highway to Silicon as a whole or in part without restrictions on business or volume size.
"Highway to Silicon is all about providing companies, regardless of size or structure, with the simplicity of working with an IDM but without all the commercial and technical restrictions that it traditionally implies. Unlike a traditional IDM approach, it also provides a full blown range of services that cover the typical needs of SMEs such as fast prototyping and embedded software development," concludes Massimo Vanzi. "Highway to Silicon gives the peace of mind of a one-stop shop for the entire supply chain from design through manufacture by accessing the best in COT design, taking full responsibility for managing the complexities of the interface to the world's leading pure-play foundries and, importantly, providing access small-to-medium volume manufacturing."