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Autom8 - Software engineers offering consultancy, bespoke
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The Electronics Manufacturing Page - A guide to industry resources
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Electronics Workbench - Industry standard design/simulation
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Find out more...specifically for electronics, and concentrates
on EDA used for designing integrated circuits. The segment
of the industry that must use EDA are chip designers at semiconductor
companies. Large chips are too complex to design by hand.
 Growth of EDA
EDA for electronics has rapidly increased in importance with
the continuous scaling of semiconductor technology. (See Moore's
Law.) Some users are foundry operators, who operate the semiconductor
fabrication facilities, or "fabs", and design-service
companies who use EDA software to evaluate an incoming design
for manufacturing readiness. EDA tools are also used for programming
design functionality into FPGAs.
Before EDA, integrated circuits were designed by hand, and
manually laid out. Some advanced shops used geometric software
to generate the tapes for the Gerber photoplotter, but even
those copied digital recordings of mechanically-drawn components.
The process was fundamentally graphic, with the translation
from electronics to graphics done manually. The best known
company from this era was Calma, whose GDSII format survives.
By the mid-70s, developers were starting to automate the
design, and not just the drafting. The first placement and
routing (Place and route) tools were developed. The proceedings
of the Design Automation Conference cover much of this era.
The next era began more or less with the publication of "Introduction
to VLSI Systems" by Carver Mead and Lynn Conway in 1980.
This groundbreaking text advocated chip design with programming
languages that compiled to silicon. The immediate result was
a hundredfold increase in the complexity of the chips that
could be designed, with improved access to design verification
tools that used logic simulation. Often the chips were not
just easier to lay out, but more correct as well, because
their designs could be simulated more thoroughly before construction.
The earliest EDA tools were produced academically, and were
in the public domain. One of the most famous was the "Berkeley
VLSI Tools Tarball", a set of UNIX utilities used to
design early VLSI systems. Still widely used is the Espresso
heuristic logic minimizer and Magic.
Another crucial development was the formation of MOSIS, a
consortium of universities and fabricators that developed
an inexpensive way to train student chip designers by producing
real integrated circuits. The basic idea was to use reliable,
low-cost, relatively low-technology IC processes, and pack
a large number of projects per wafer, with just a few copies
of each projects' chips. Cooperating fabricators either donated
the processed wafers, or sold them at cost, seeing the program
as helpful to their own long-term growth.
1981 marks the beginning of EDA as an industry. For many
years, the larger electronic companies, such as Hewlett Packard,
Tektronix, and Intel, had pursued EDA internally. In 1981,
managers and developers spun out of these companies to concentrate
on EDA as a business. Daisy Systems, Mentor Graphics, and
Valid Logic Systems were all founded around this time, and
collectively referred to as DMV. Within a few years there
were many companies specializing in EDA, each with a slightly
In 1986, Verilog, a popular high-level design language, was
first introduced as a hardware description language by Gateway.
In 1987, the U.S. Department of Defense funded creation of
VHDL as a specification language. Simulators quickly followed
these introductions, permitting direct simulation of chip
designs: executable specifications. In a few more years, back-ends
were developed to perform logic synthesis.
Many of the EDA companies acquire small companies with software
or other technology that can be adapted to their core business.
Most of the market leaders are rather incestuous amalgamations
of many smaller companies. This trend is helped by the tendency
of software companies to design tools as accessories that
fit naturally into a larger vendor's suite of programs (the
While early EDA focused on digital circuitry, many new tools
incorporate analog design, and mixed systems. This is happening
because there is now a trend to place entire electronic systems
on a single chip.
Current digital flows are extremely modular (see Integrated
circuit design, Design closure, and Design flow (EDA)). The
front ends produce standardized design descriptions that compile
into invocations of "cells,", without regard to
the cell technology. Cells implement logic or other electronic
functions using a particular integrated circuit technology.
Fabricators generally provide libraries of components for
their production processes, with simulation models that fit
standard simulation tools. Analog EDA tools are much less
modular, since many more functions are required, they interact
more strongly, and the components are (in general) less ideal.
 Product areas
EDA is divided into many (sometimes overlapping) sub-areas.
They mostly align with the path of manufacturing from design
to mask generation. The following applies to chip/ASIC/FPGA
construction but is very similar in character to the areas
of printed circuit board design:
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Design and Architecture: design the chip's schematics, output
in Verilog, VHDL, SPICE and other formats.
Floorplanning: The preparation step of creating a basic die-map
showing the expected locations for logic gates, power &
ground planes, I/O pads, and hard macros. (This is analogous
to a city-planner's activity in creating residential, commercial,
and industrial zones within a city block.)
Logic synthesis: translation of a chip's abstract, logical
RTL-description (often specified via a hardware description
language, or "HDL", such as Verilog or VHDL) into
a discrete netlist of logic-gate (boolean-logic) primitives.
Behavioral Synthesis, High Level Synthesis or Algorithmic
Synthesis: This takes the level of abstraction higher and
allows automation of the architecture exploration process.
It involves the process of translating an abstract behavioral
description of a design to synthesizeable RTL. The input specification
is in languages like behavioral VHDL, algorithmic SystemC,
C++ etc and the RTL description in VHDL/Verilog is produced
as the result of synthesis.
IP cores: provide pre-programmed design elements.
EDA databases: databases specialized for EDA applications.
Needed since historically general purpose DBs did not provide
Simulation: simulate a circuit's operation so as to verify
correctness and performance.
Transistor Simulation – low-level transistor-simulation of
a schematic/layout's behavior, accurate at device-level.
Logic simulation – digital-simulation of an RTL or gate-netlist's
digital (boolean 0/1) behavior, accurate at boolean-level.
Behavioral Simulation – high-level simulation of a design's
architectural operation, accurate at cycle-level or interface-level.
Hardware emulation – Use of special purpose hardware to emulate
the logic of a proposed design. Can sometimes be plugged into
a system in place of a yet-to-be-built chip; this is called
Clock Domain Crossing Verification (CDC check): Similar to
linting, but these checks/tools specialize in detecting and
reporting potential issues like data loss, meta-stability
due to use of multiple clock domains in the design.
Formal verification, also model checking: Attempts to prove,
by mathematical methods, that the system has certain desired
properties, and that certain undesired effects (such as deadlock)
Equivalence checking: algorithmic comparison between a chip's
RTL-description and synthesized gate-netlist, to ensure functional
equivalency at the logical level.
Power analysis and optimization: optimizes the circuit to
reduce the power required for operation, without affecting
Place and route, PAR: (for digital devices) tool-automated
placement of logic-gates and other technology-mapped components
of the synthesized gate-netlist, then subsequent routing of
the design, which adds wires to connect the components' signal
and power terminals.
Static timing analysis: Analysis of the timing of a circuit
in an input-independent manner, hence finding a worst case
over all possible inputs.
Transistor layout: (for analog/mixed-signal devices), sometimes
called polygon pushing – a prepared-schematic is converted
into a layout-map showing all layers of the device.
Design for Manufacturability: tools to help optimize a design
to make it as easy and cheap as possible to manufacture.
Design closure: IC design has many constraints, and fixing
one problem often makes another worse. Design closure is the
process of converging to a design that satisfies all constraints
Analysis of substrate coupling.
Power network design and analysis
The Pro-Router adds high performance routing as an option
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Find out more...
Supplementing the standard library for Easy-PC, the NEW Micro-Library
provides you with over 1500 microcontroller and microprocessor
devices from a range of manufacturers.
Find out more...
Offering high-performance mixed-mode Spice simulation, Easy-Spice
adds fully integrated simulation power to your Easy-PC software.
Find out more...
GraphiCode, Inc. - Creators of GC- Series CAM software for
PCB manufacturers. Range includes GC-Powerplace, GC Powerstation.
GC-CAMEdit and GC-Prevue, a free gerber viewer.
HyperLynx - Pre- and Post-layout signal integrity, crosstalk
and EMC software for high speed PCB design.
Illuminated Software - Developer of Draftcad Deluxe, schematic
capture and printed circuit board layout software for Linux,
DOS and Windows.
KGS Technology Ltd - Distributor of various third party CAD
software products, and PCB engineering service provider.
Microcad - Makers of Qcad, a complete schematic through PCB
design software package together with an autorouter and a
post routing optimizer.
Mindlink Technologies - Providing PCB Design and related CAD
services including custom VB programming, for linking CAD
systems to other OLE applications.
OrCAD - EDA software and services for component information
management, designing field-programmable gate arrays, programmable
logic devices, analog or mixed analog-digital circuits and
printed circuit boards.
Pad2Pad... - Custom printed circuit boards with components,
user specifies design completely via the Internet. Service
includes free software for PCB design and online quote generation.
PADS - Design software including schematic capture, board
layout and signal integrity packages.
· PCB Design
· Fast turnaround bare board manufacture
· Component Procurement
· BGA Inspection and Rework
· Final Assembly – Box Build