Electronic Design

Hacking by sound not that simple

A recent story from Reuters kicked up a bit of a stir by claiming that hackers could use sound to steal data from a computer or network. While the story was true it turns out that it isn't the whole story and is less of a problem than the report inferred, according to cybersecurity expert Jack Wolosewicz. Here's the interview.  


OpenText offers secure collaboration environment

At the 52nd Design Automation Conference in San Francisco, we talked to Rod Simon of OpenText about their collaboration platform, Exceed VA Turbo X that was introduced to the EDA industry at the conference.  With a web-based interface, Exceed VA TurboX is a hybrid solution intended to improve users productivity by enhancing collaboration from any location, securely. Exceed VA TurboX is designed for the enterprise data center so administrators to easily manage and monitor access to sensitive applications and data. Here's the interview:

Gary Smith considers the quest for the $10K chip

At the Design Automation Conference in June 2012, tech blogger JL Gray posed a question: Can you build a chip to prototype, that would interest a potential investor to take it all the way to production, for $10,000?  The question launched a 6-month investigation by New Tech Press to get an answer.  Dozens of entrepreneurs, analysts, investors and engineers accepted invitations to discuss the subject.  While most wished to remain anonymous a few agreed to go as far as to be captured on video. We will be rolling out the series for the next few weeks with links to several articles in other publications.  The video platform we are using is from meBox! Media that will allow viewers to interact with and share the content on a broad level.  We encourage your input in comments on this site, however if you wish to remain anonymous, you can send private comments directly to us by clicking on the email button on each video.  Hover your cursor over the screen to expose the engagement buttons. The series we start today is the best of those meetings, anchored with a three-part interview with Gary Smith, chief analyst for GarySmithEDA.  Gary starts with the basics of the question, starting from the use of low-cost FPGAs and free tools, through the actual costs of manufacturing and ways to keep tool costs low.

Gary Smith on the Cost of IC design

KLA-Tencor 450mm-Capable Surfscan® SP3 Systems

At Semicon West 2012 KLA-Tencor Corporation (NASDAQ: KLAC) talked with New Tech Press about new installations of the Surfscan® SP3 450, the first process control systems capable of handling and inspecting 450mm wafers.  Marketing division head Amir Azordegan siad the system is a precursor for the industry wide acceptance of 450mm process development. He claimed the Surfscan SP3 450 delivers critical capability for manufacturers of 450mm process equipment, such as wet clean tools, CMP pads, slurries and polishers, film deposition tools and annealing systems.  KLA-Tencor has received multiple orders for the tool and shipped six.

The move to 450nm: if, why and when

By Lou CoveyEditorial Director, New Tech Press

A successful trade show is one where industry news seems to point to a positive future.  As such Semicon West 2012 was successful.  The conference was abuzz with announcements supporting the transition to 450mm wafer production and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) methodologies. Intel announced a 10 percent equity investment to speed up ASML 450mm tool development, KLA Tencor announced QA technology for 450mm and Cymer announced that companies were buying their EUV source tech already.  Several analysts claimed that in a couple of years, the foundation will be established for a complete transition by 2020 at the latest.

But out of all the positive vibes there were some questions.  In the chicken-and-egg category was whether EUV will be production ready before 450mm tools. In the is-this-trip-necessary category, whether 450mm is even necessary if EUV is productive at 300mm.

KLA-Tencor is firmly in the “450mm is necessary” camp. The company launched the the Surfscan SP3 for 300mm defect and surface quality characterization requirements just last year and followed up with an announcement of the version for 450mm at Semicon this year.

Amir Azordegan, the head of marketing for surface scan systems at KLA-Tencor, said the company has booked seven orders for the new product and is in negotiation with several other customers.  He identifies the interest in the product as a harbinger of the wide acceptance of 450mm.  "Deep UV blanket wafer inspection systems enable the process to create better wafers. " he said. "Without clean process tools we won't get to 450mm." (See complete interview at New Tech Press)

At Cymer, however, they are not as optimistic about the rapid acceptance of 450mm within the decade.  Nigel Farrar, vice president for marketing and lithography at Cymer, said dealing with light sources, particularly EUV, will precede acceptance of 450mm.   "The industry is risk adverse and is reluctant to make two major changes at the same time.  Once EUV is mature and stable we'll see the migration to 450mm." Farrar sees the migration to 450mm beginning as late as 2018. (See complete interview at New Tech Press)

Cymer is working concurrently on EUV technology as well as 193nm immersion technology (they announced a focus drilling tool for that process at Semicon) for 300mm wafer production, both of which will migrate relatively easily to 450mm.

But all of that is based on everything going as planned.  EUV technology was anticipated as being an industry standard by 2007.  Here in 2012 we are seeing EUV technology rolling out only in "pre-preproduction" levels, according to Chris Mack, a recognized and award winning authority on microlithography. (See complete interview at New Tech Press)

Mack said that Cymer has provided the light sources for five of the 6 tools ASML has shipped to customers, but those tools are producing wafers at the rate of 5 per hour.  The original spec was that the pre-production tool would produce 60 wafers an hour.  So today we are at only pre-preproduction levels.  Cymer has promised to upgrade the tools to reach that pre-production number by the end of the year to achieve the level of 60 wafers, which is probably enough to allow these customer to develop a process for 14nm, he estimated.

Mack said, however, there was no reason to link the success of EUV to 450mm  acceptance since there were several alternatives to EUV that are further along, including 193nm immersion lithography. "Frankly, I'm a little surprised at the interest in 450mm recently.  To me it represents a feeling of desperation on the part of the fabs looking at the 10nm node and beyond.  The number of companies considering that node is practically zero. No one can figure out how to make chips at that level profitably. In the past, increasing the wafer size lowers the cost of equipment but I'm not sure that will work this time."

Mack posited that moving to 450mm before 2020 may not be necessary if the new techniques are adopted at 300mm.  "If everything goes flawlessly to plan, it would be possible to imagine these technologies in use by 2015.  History shows, however, it rarely goes according to plan."

Tyndall Institute provides crucial services for EDA

By Lou CoveyEditorial Director, Footwasher Media

When most people think of countries with robust technology industries, they consider China, Japan, Korea, the US, Germany and India. Ireland does not leap to mind. However, Ireland is producing more fast-growing technology startups than any other country in the European Union. The top five and 4 of the top 5 semiconductor firms have a significant presence in Ireland and technology products are 25 percent of the country's exports. Out of all that only 233 of Ireland's 5,500 technology companies are based outside of the country, according to ICT Ireland.

ICT Ireland reported in 2011 that the country has significant skills shortages in a variety of technology areas including manufacturing, engineering, IT project management, and business management skills, meaning the doors are wide open to skilled immigrants.

That reality has created a significant infrastructure, supported by the government and academia, into making native technology companies successful and attracting foreign technology companies to set up shop in the Emerald Isle. One of those organizations is the Tyndall Institute, based in University College Cork.

Tyndall uses its facilities and expertise to support industry and academia internationally to the development of Ireland’s national economy. More than 200 industry partners, customers and several Irish start-up companies have products based on technology originating at Tyndall. In just the area of semiconductor research and design, Tyndall has services related to wafer fabrication, assembly and packaging, re-engineering and failure analysis, IC test and measurement and thermal characterization. Recently, Tyndall sent representatives to the Design Automation Conference in San Francisco to meet with the Electronic Design Automation industry and introduce its services. New Tech Press' editorial director Lou Covey met with Ted O'Shea, the head of Tyndall's Design Technology Evaluation Group to discuss his division's involvement in IP investigation.

Esencia Technologies tool boosts programmable logic design

This year, as almost every year Gary Smith of Gary Smith EDA states that electronic system level (ESL) design is now here. Reality has not always agreed but there are often many signs that say Gary might be on to something. One of them was a tiny startup on the DAC floor called Esencia technologies with an interesting tool kit called Escala. Among their claims was that Escala could make it possible to replace ASICs with low-end FPGAs in low-volume production systems. Lou Covey from Footwasher Media checked them out in this video interview.


Univa filling Sun gap in EDA industry

Sun Microsystems had been an active partner and participant in the EDA world until Oracle completed its acquisition in 2010.  Suddenly the Sun logo disappeared quite conspicuously from the EDA exhibitions in 2010 and 2011 where Sun had previously been prominent and ubiquitous. A little of that came back in 2012 with Univa taking their first active presence at the Design Automation Conference. In 2007 Univa helped Sun create the Sun Grid Engine, a job resource and management tool, developed the software to meet Sun’s HPC go-to-market requirements and became a reseller of the engine.  In 2010, however, Oracle decided the grid engine division was not as profitable as they would like and dropped it altogether, giving Univa an instant gift of thousands of dedicated users and a rapidly growing service business. Nearly 30% of the company’s customers are in the EDA / Semiconductor space.

In January 2011, Univa hired the Sun Grid Engine team and redesigned their business model to continue to support and update the Grid Engine. over the following year Univa delivered more code to their new community than any third party, patching holes and adding new functionality, something that had not been done for close to 2 years.

In March of this year, Univa released the results of a Technical Computing User Survey, that showed 70 percent of the respondents expected an increase in use of high performance computing this year and 75 percent expected an increase in 2013.  No one indicated a decline in use.

The information of the survey was instrumental in Univa's decision to begin making their presence in the EDA industry obvious and the plan, according to Gary Tyreman, President and CEO is to grow that presence steadily.  New Tech Press's Lou Covey sat down with Tyreman to talk about Univa and where the EDA industry is headed.


ProFPGA unveils FPGA prototype boards

ProFPGA came out of stealth at the Design Automation Conference (DAC 2012) in San Francisco with a technology agnostic hardware system for developing FPGA prototype. ProFPGA is a spinoff from ProDesign Europe (http://www.prodesigncad.de), located in Germany. The system that can be used with Xilinx or Altera FPGAs and can be implemented with any commercially available development tool, including those from Synopsys, Xilinx or Altera.

Flexras debuts Wasga Compiler

Flexras Technologies hit the 2012 Design Automation Conference (DAC) with the Wasga Compiler, an FPGA prototype partitioning tool, with some big claims. Turns out the claims were true... sort of. Their partner, Xilinx, confirmed the tool did provide good results quickly. So the hyperbole in their press release can be forgiven. New Tech Press editorial director Lou Covey interviewed the CEO, Hayder Mrabet.