Tela Innovations, an early-stage technology company focused on addressing the challenges of scaling semiconductor manufacturing to 45nm and beyond, unveiled its business strategy and technology vision for using on-grid, straight-line, one-dimensional layout structures to provide a more efficient and reliable way to design and manufacture next generation chips. Details of the solution were disclosed at the SPIE Advanced Lithography Conference in joint presentations from Tela and ASML/Brion and Applied Materials.
The company, founded by a team of experts in IP, design tools and process technology, plans to offer a design solution that uses pre-defined physical topologies, applicable for use in logic, embedded memory, analog and I/O functions. When synthesized and routed as part of the overall design, the solution enables a lithography-optimized layout. The resulting benefits for designers, equipment suppliers and manufacturers include improvements in variability, performance, leakage and area without significant impact on existing design methodologies, equipment sets or process technologies.
The solution, in development for the past three years, specifically addresses the limitations of current design and lithography approaches that stand in the way of continued scaling of semiconductor processes. As process technologies advance further into the ‘sub wavelength’ era (where process dimensions are shrinking faster than wavelengths), there is an increasing need for changes in design styles to improve manufacturability and reduce costs. Specifically, the industry is moving toward more restrictions on what layout interactions are permitted, and at 32nm and below, using technologies involving double exposure and double patterning as means to address these challenges. This requires a design approach that enables patterns on a single mask to be efficiently and predictably separated into two masks.
“The challenge of scaling of semiconductor processes comes down to some fundamental issues of physics. But to burden an already complex design flow with the additional complexity of process interactions is not the answer. The solution must hide the physics from the IC designer in order to achieve the design productivity required to tape out billion transistor chips. We have taken an approach that starts with an understanding of lithography capability, and optimized our layouts to effectively lower the k1 limit of designs in order to deal with the advent of some unprecedented physical effects,” said Scott Becker, CEO of Tela. “The solution is straightforward to implement and works within standard EDA flows, in mask preparation and with leading semiconductor manufacturing processes. We believe it represents the next generation design style necessary to continue scaling in an economically and technically efficient manner.”
The Tela solution consists of regular-patterned, pre-defined topologies consisting of straight lines with no bends, jogs or shoulders. The topologies can be used to create the usual array of ASIC/SoC IP (standard cell libraries, memory compilers, I/O cells, etc.). The approach provides the designer and manufacturer with a fixed set of interactions between shapes, reducing the unpredictable variation induced by more random layout methodologies. While related to and supportive of traditional design rules that manufacturers provide – which tell a designer what not to do – Tela’s topological-based approach pro-actively guides a designer on what to do with a series of structures that produce regular, predictable circuit layouts. The resulting logic blocks have a lower k1 lithography limit.
“The notion of a comprehensive design methodology that presents a finite set of well-defined interactions to our manufacturing partners is appealing to us in terms of reducing variability, as well as improving the efficiency of the design process,” said Nick Yu, VP of Engineering, Qualcomm. “Tela’s approach looks promising in its ability to provide a structured design style while meeting our design objectives. The evaluation results we are seeing for advanced process technologies are impressive.”
In early test cases, Tela’s solution has proven to reduce area, improve performance and limit leakage in designs targeting advanced processes. One customer test case resulted in a 15% area reduction and a 2.5x reduction in leakage using a 45nm process. In addition the cells and resulting blocks created using the Tela solution have been successfully implemented using existing production design flows and tools.
Implementing the Tela Solution
Layout and timing generation using the Tela solution is a streamlined process, as the elements of the solution ‘snap’ together, allowing complex logic structures to be quickly created. The designer need not touch circuit transistors to utilize the Tela architecture. These physical topologies can be optimized in conjunction with a manufacturer’s OPC algorithms and process technologies, resulting in smaller die area. An additional benefit of this approach is that this set of topologies can be pre-qualified as part of the process development, resulting in more rapid deployment of design enablement for new process technologies.
The Tela solution is delivered as a physical design representation (GDSII) of a customer’s design IP. Tela’s initial focus is on applying its solution to standard cell logic followed by embedded SRAM memories, analog and I/O. It is Tela’s strategy to partner with customers’ IP development teams to enable Tela’s proprietary solution to be adopted and deployed for production IC design.
The nature of Tela’s solution leads to increased levels of automation for IP development which will be delivered through an Authoring System tool. This tool will enable developers to proliferate IP that conforms to the Tela physical architecture.
About Tela Innovations
Tela was founded by Scott Becker (CEO), Dhrumil Gandhi (COO) and John Malecki (Chief Architect), all of whom have background that include work with IP pioneer Artisan Components (now part of ARM). Michael Smayling, whose background includes a CTO role at Applied Materials and a Fellow at Texas Instruments, is Tela’s Senior Vice President of Product Technology. Tela Innovations is a privately held company with funding from Sand Hill Finance Company and Teton Capital Company (both managed by Don Lucas, a Silicon Valley venture pioneer and initial investor in Oracle and Cadence Design Systems), Intel Capital, AsiaTech Investment and Western Technology Investment. Its board of directors includes Donald Lucas, Larry Yoshida, Ray Bingham (former CEO of Cadence), and noted EDA entrepreneur and investor Jim Hogan.