PORTLAND, Ore. — A free process design kit (PDK) for optical lithography at the 15 nm node has been released by North Carolina State University. NC State had previously released a 45 nm PDK that has been used for seven years by thousands of universities and startups around the world, but the new kit includes a more complete set of tools that anyone can download to design state-of-the-art chips and tools.
"Our goal was to provide a process design kit that mimics the complexity of a PDK you would get from any technology vendor, which includes the customization you need to create a design from start to finish in the toolset from any vendor," Professor Rhett Davis, a project leader and electrical and computer engineering researcher at NC State, told EE Times.
The transistors for a NAND gate are formed by 15-nanometer vertical bars (red), with the entire circuit (dotted lined) is about 1 micron (or 1000 nm).
(Source: Rhett Davis)
Thousands of designs and specialized tools were created using the previous PDK, which is especially easy to use since it is compatible for free to both universities and NanGate's 15nm Open Cell Library
members of the Silicon Integration Initiative Si2. FreePDK15 can be used with any electronic design automation (EDA) tool, but has been specifically adapted for turn-key operation the top three.
"We support the toolsets from a small number of vendors, Cadence Virtuoso, Synopsis PyCell, Mentor Graphics Calibre, but we have tried to make it generic so it could be reimplemented on any set of tools and we encourage people to do that," Davis told EE Times.
The main motivation for bringing FreePDK up to date were three new methods universities want to teach their students. Davis cited FinFETS, middle-of-the-line layers, and double patterning as common methods available in the new 15 nm PDK.
The FreePDK15 tool can handle back-end-of-line, middle-of-line, and front-end-of-line structures.
There are no confidentiality agreements that have to be signed to download FreePDK15, which is a major impediment to universities just wanting to learn how to design chips and startups wanting to design tools.
Davis was assisted in the creation of FreePDK15 by a team of students, private sector volunteers and fellow NC State professor Paul Franzon. Get the scoop and all the details from NC State.
— R. Colin Johnson, Advanced Technology Editor, EE Times