June 2009


First Down On The 40nm Line


The race to 40nm is over. Some chipmakers are already there, taping out designs and implementing IP that has already been qualified at the 40nm process. When exactly volume production begins and when yields improve is a matter of conjecture. TSMC so far is the only major foundry actively using the 40nm process, which is a half-node beyond 45nm. But the Common Platform already has briefed a... » read more

ESL…Is It What You Want Or What You Need?


Last week I was sitting in a meeting having an extended discussion on what information and benefits could be derived from an ESL transaction model of a system.  It reminded me of the words of those immortal philosophers, The Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need”.  I believe this is a philosophy that ne... » read more

Making Quality A Top Priority in Next-Generation Designs


By Cheryl Ajluni With system design such a complicated task these days, it is increasingly likely that designers will inadvertently overlook some details of the design process, or worse yet, simply not have the time to address them adequately. Time is readily spent focusing on things like performance, area, timing, and power, but what about something a bit more esoteric in nature—namely, qu... » read more

Custom IC Design: They Call This Progress?


By Ed Sperling For decades, analog and digital engineers have lived in completely separate worlds. The lines are blurring between those worlds, though, in complex SoCs. So far, the transition has been difficult, and most engineers predict it will get worse at future process nodes. The basic problem is that each world has functioned independently of the other from the start. They use different... » read more

Where The Jobs Are


The job market for design and verification engineers seems to be exploding. In the past week, listings have been flooding onto jobs boards for LinkedIn semiconductor design groups. The only trouble is engineers may have to move to get the jobs—sometimes halfway around the globe. There have been a bunch of job postings for semiconductor expertise in India, the United Kingdom, as well as pla... » read more

The Impact of 3D Packaging


With semiconductor packaging becoming a more crucial piece of the Moore’s Law roadmap, the industry is still sorting out the impact of a 3D design and packaging approach on design time, cost and power. 3D is now commonly used for high volume applications such as cell phones and SD cards, and is accomplished at the packaging step either through chip stacking or package-on-package (PoP) stac... » read more

Not A Household Name—Yet


By Alma Wang Spring and summer are typically the bustling seasons for China’s semiconductor industry. Each day, invitations arrive for members of the media to attend events, contests, and road shows. This year is different, though. It has been eerily quiet. And perhaps even stranger, a local IC design company that rarely makes media appearances announced a top-prize application design com... » read more

New Low-Power Memory Technology Under Development


By Pallab Chatterjee Unity Semiconductor, which was formed in 2002 and has been in stealth mode until May of 2009, is progressing on the development of a very dense and low power non-volatile solid state memory technology. Unlike traditional semiconductor memory, which uses an active device and electron transport as the primary storage element, the Unity Semiconductor CMOx technology uses... » read more

FPGA Vendors Throw Kitchen Sink at Power-Consumption Issues


By Brian Fuller In the storied history of semiconductors, each era finds vendors generally attaching their strategy to a trendy application segment to differentiate themselves. For years, IC vendors were “computer companies.” Then they were in the “communications” business and more recently they were all about “consumer.” But the evolution of technology has forced a re-assessm... » read more

Software Becomes The Main Differentiating Factor


By Ed Sperling Software has always been critical in determining what makes one chip different from another, but for the next couple of process nodes it will take on new significance. Rather than just defining function, it also will be one of the key determinants in performance and function. Behind this change is a bottleneck in lithography, which generally is not something most design eng... » read more

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