Navigating Chiplet-Based Automotive Electronics Design With Advanced Tools And Flows

New complexities include partitioning trade-offs, signal integrity across multiple substrates, and thermal behavior of stacked dies.


In the rapidly evolving landscape of automotive electronics, traditional monolithic design approaches are giving way to something more flexible and powerful—chiplets. These modular microchips, which are themselves parts of a whole silicon system, offer unparalleled potential for improving system performance, reducing manufacturing costs, and accelerating time-to-market in the automotive sector. However, the transition to working with chiplets in automotive electronics is not without its challenges.

Designers must now grapple with a new set of considerations, such as die-to-die interconnect standards, complex processes, and the integration of diverse IPs. Advanced toolsets and standardized design approaches are required to meet these challenges head-on and elevate the potential of chiplets in automotive innovation. In the following discourse, we will explore in detail the significance of chiplets in the context of automotive electronics, the obstacles designers face when working with this paradigm, and solutions to streamline the chiplet design process.

Unveiling chiplets in automotive electronics

For automotive electronics, chiplets offer a methodology to modularize complex functionalities, integrate different chiplets into a package, and significantly enhance scalability and manufacturability. By breaking down semiconductor designs into a collection of chiplets, each fulfilling specific functions, automotive manufacturers can mix and match chiplets to rapidly prototype new designs, update existing ones, and specialize for the myriad of use cases found in vehicles today.

The increasing significance of chiplets in automotive electronics comes as a response to several industry-impacting phenomena. The most obvious among these is the physical restriction of Moore’s Law, as large die sizes lead to poor yields and escalating production costs. Chiplets with localized process specialization can offer superior functionality at a more digestible cost, maintaining a growth trajectory where monolithic designs cannot. Furthermore, chiplets support the assembly of disparate technologies onto a single subsystem, providing a comprehensive yet adaptive solution to the diverse demands present in modern vehicles, such as central computing units, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), infotainment units, and in-vehicle networks. This chiplet-based approach to functional integration in automotive electronics necessitates intricate design, optimization, and validation strategies across multiple domains.

The complexity within chiplets

Yet, with the promise of chiplets comes a series of intricate design challenges. Chiplets necessitate working across multiple substrates and technologies, rendering the once-familiar 2-dimensional design space into the complex reality of multi-layered, sometimes even three-dimensional domains. The intricacies embedded within this design modality mandate devoting considerable attention to partitioning trade-offs, signal integrity across multiple substrates, thermal behavior of stacked dies, and the emergence of new assembly design kits to complement process design kits (PDKs).

To effectively address these complexities, designers must wield sophisticated tools that facilitate co-design, co-analysis, and the creation of a robust virtual platform for architectural exploration. Standardizations like the Universal Chip Interconnect Express (UCIe) have been influential, providing a die-to-die interconnect foundation for chiplets that is both standardized and automotive-ready. The availability of UCIe PHY and controller IP from Cadence and other leading developers further eases the integration of chiplets in automotive designs.

The role of foundries and packaging in chiplets

Foundries have also pivoted their services to become a vital part of the chiplet process, providing specialized design kits that cater to the unique requirements of chiplets. In tandem, packaging has morphed from being a mere logistical afterthought to a value-added aspect of chiplets. Organizations now look to packaging to deliver enhanced performance, reduced power consumption, and the integrity required by the diverse range of technologies encompassed in a single chip or package. This shift requires advanced multiscale design and analysis strategies that resonate across a spectrum of design domains.

Tooling up for chiplets

Comprehensive tooling and workflows are needed to facilitate chiplet-based automotive electronics design. Cadence integrations address the challenges that chiplet-based SoCs present, ensuring a seamless design process from the initial concept to production. The Cadence suite of tools is tailored to work across design domains, ensuring coherence and efficiency at every step of the chiplet integration process.

For instance, Cadence Virtuoso RF subflows have become critical in navigating radio frequency (RF) challenges within the chiplets, while tools such as the Integrity 3D-IC Platform and the Allegro Advanced Multi-Die Package Design Solution have surfaced to enable comprehensive multi-die package designs. The Integrity Signal Planner extends its capabilities into the chiplet ecosystem, providing a centralized platform where system-wide signal integrity can be proactively managed. Sigrity and Celsius, on the other hand, offer universally applicable solutions that take on the challenges of chiplets in signal integrity and thermal considerations, irrespective of the design domain. Each of these integrated analysis solutions underscores the intricate symphony between technology, design, and packaging essential in unlocking the potential of chiplets for automotive electronics.

The Cadence portfolio includes solutions for system analysis, optimization, and signoff to complement these domain-specific tools, ensuring that the challenges of chiplet designs don’t halt progress toward innovative automotive electronics. Cadence enables designers to engage in power- and thermal-aware design practices through their toolset, a necessity as automotive systems become increasingly sophisticated and power-efficient.

A standardized approach to success with chiplets

Cadence’s support for UCIe underscores the criticality of standardized approaches for heterogeneous integration by conforming to UCIe standards, which numerous industry stakeholders back. By co-chairing the UCIe Automotive working group, Cadence ensures that automotive designs have a universal and standardized Die-to-Die (D2D) high-speed interface through which chiplets can intercommunicate, unleashing the true potential of modular design.

Furthermore, Cadence champions the utilization of virtual platforms by providing transaction-level models (TLMs) for their UCIe D2D IP to simulate the interaction between chiplets at a higher level of abstraction. Moreover, individual chiplets can be simulated within a chiplet-based SoC context leveraging virtual platforms. Utilizing UVM or SCE-MI methodologies, TLMs, and virtual platforms serve as first lines of defense in identifying and addressing issues early in the design process before physical silicon even enters the picture.

Navigating with the right tools

The road to chiplet-driven automotive electronics is one paved with complexity, but with a commitment to standards, it is a path that promises significant rewards. With challenges ranging from die-to-die interconnect to standardization, heterogeneous integration, and advanced packaging, the need for a seamless integrated flow and highly automated design approaches has never been more apparent. Companies like Cadence are tackling these challenges, providing the key technology for automotive designers seeking to utilize chiplets for the next-generation E/E architecture of vehicular technology.

In summary, chiplets have the potential to revolutionize the automotive electronics industry, breathing new life into the way vehicles are designed, manufactured, and operated. By understanding the significance of chiplets and addressing the challenges they present, automotive electronics is poised for a paradigm shift—one that combines the art of human ingenuity with the power of modular and scalable microchips to shape a future that is not only efficient but truly intelligent.

Leave a Reply

(Note: This name will be displayed publicly)