One of the most popular blog posts on here recently was our report from DATE 2012 on ‘EDA for the rest of us‘. That looked at bringing the benefits of the most advanced process nodes back to already established ones. ViaDesigner from foundry Triad Semiconductor offers another spin on the theme: opening up the dark arts of analog and mixed-signal (AMS) design to the wider community.
Triad has taken the AMS part of its ViaASIC library of design blocks and married it to a tool suite built on the SystemVision ‘virtual lab’ design environment from Mentor Graphics. This is reductive, but it’s basically bringing ‘drag and drop’ to custom AMS on the configurable array’s Triad (and its partner austriamicrosystems) make.
Here’s Triad’s own in-a-nutshell (walnut-sized) take:
“ViaDesigner wizards guide the user through the realization of low-level IC elements (such as matched resistors, capacitors, switches, op-amps, etc), without forcing the user to be an expert in device physics or a particular foundry’s full-custom design rules.
“Triad’s own IC designers focus on the details of full-custom best practices and then make well-behaved IC resources available to their customers for easy selection and configuration of custom ICs through ViaDesigner wizards.
“In essence, Triad’s new ViaDesigner offering lets system engineers design their own custom ICs in a simplified process that is very much like designing a PCB circuit out of discrete components.”
A couple of points arise. There has always been a bit of a debate as to how much analog design will easily replicate within the context of an especially complex over all design. A second concerns how long this approach takes.
The first is hard to answer specifically but on the second, Triad is claiming that it can take development into a “two to six months” timeframe and enable respins in less than four weeks.
Certainly, Triad has historically put a lot of emphasis on what it calls ‘silicon proven’ designs, composed of elements on the die that are then assembled with a single via-only mask layer change. A bit ‘cookie cutter’ for some perhaps, but again not everybody needs the bleeding edge, custom solution.
NOTE: We have held back this story a bit as Triad’s home page is currently only announcing ViaDesigner as a beta and, given the formal announcement, that’s yet to change. That was still the case today (April 2), so if this sounds interesting, give them a tap.