The Advent Of EDA Tools in VLSI Designing

January 18, 2017 9:50 am Published by 6 Comments


Dear Readers,

Try imagining an Intel based micro processor with 1.5 million transistors. How can we design such complex systems with the help of truth tables and Karnaugh maps alone? Gives you cold feet, doesn’t it?

Pragmatically, next to impossible! [ Read Impossible 🙂 ]

Basically, Electronic design automation (better known as, EDA or ECAD) can be understood to be a collection of software tools and techniques that are used for designing electronic systems such as integrated circuits and PCBs. These tools work in tandem with any design flow used by designers and programmers to analyze the entire semiconductor chip. This writeup is specifically attributed to the gradual discovery of EDA tools and its contribution to integrated circuits fabrication and designing.

EDA tools at work

Before EDA evolved into being so indispensable, integrated circuits were usually designed by hand, and laid out manually. Obviously, this was a long and tedious process. The subsequent procedures used geometric software to develop tapes for the Gerber Photoplotter. The process was fundamentally graphical, being translated from electronics to graphics, that too manually. By the mid-1970s along with initial design drafting, automation of design along with drafting had also begun. Next came the first routing and placement tools. Henceforth, the earlier versions of EDA tools went into production academically.

The EDA took off like a prominent industry in the year 1981 to be very precise. For quite a long time, technology bigwigs like HP, Intel, Tektronix and so on, pursued EDA internally. However, in 1981, many of the developers and managers moved out of these companies to solely concentrate on growing EDA as a business. Thus, came the likes of Mentor graphics, Daisy Systems and Valid Logic Systems  and their collaborative name was given as the “DMV”. With the advent of DMV, many companies specializing in EDA, choosing a different and dedicated focus area, started making a mark on the the industry. Then came the first ever exhibition show for EDA which was convened at the Design Automation Conference in the year 1984.

The most frequently used digital flows used in the fabrication and design are customizable these days, and help analyze the semiconductor chip better, corresponding to its design closure, design flow and integrated circuit design. With the help of front-end tools, standardized design descriptions are produced which can be organized into citation of the cells, with no regard to the cell assembly.  Libraries of these components are often provided by fabricators during the production processes, so that simulation models may fit in standardized simulation tools. Generally, analog EDA tools are much less modular and the components used are less ideal .

Less modular but better optimized EDA tools

The fairly prominent result of the usage of EDA and verification tools using logic simulation in a full-fledged manner was, a considerable hike in the complexity of the integrated chips that could be designed practically. Since the design could be simulated thoroughly prior to its implementation on chip, it became easy to lay out the chip that would function correctly. Since its discovery, the languages supported and tools used have undergone many evolutions, but the approach of segregating the design behavior in a textual programming language still makes most of the basis for advanced design procedures.

With the continuous scaling of electronics and semiconductor domain, the importance of EDA has increased manifolds and that too rapidly. EDA tools are also used by programmers to imbibe design functionality into Field Programmable Gate Arrays and fabrication facilities, better known as “FABs”. This assures you a highly interesting career to pursue if you are an electronics and VLSI enthusiast. The opportunities have just started building on. So people, take a cue and mould your career with appropriate training in VLSI designing and allied domains.

Tune into this space for more! Till then happy training .

Harsha Thakur
Technical Content Writer

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