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Analog/ Mixed-signal ASIC Case Study

Why Tanner EDA remained the tool of choice for a fabless IC design house as they increased chip size and complexity significantly while shrinking technology nodes

AnSem is a fabless IC design house founded in 1998 as a spin-off from the ESAT-MICAS research group of the K.U.Leuven. AnSem develops advanced analog and mixed-signal (A/MS) integrated circuits for RF CMOS, high-speed data communication, data acquisition and ultra low-power and low-voltage applications. The company is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium. AnSem aims to be the first choice IC design house for its customers worldwide, consistently developing and supplying analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits for advanced applications.

Scalability & roadmap

13 years ago, when AnSem was started, the company was designing only small IP building blocks in trailing technology nodes. Tanner EDA tools were chosen for their cost-efficiency.

Today AnSem is designing complex A/MS ASICs, even down to the 40nm technology node, and is still using Tanner EDA tools. Even though chip size increased significantly, complexity went up, and the technology node shrank, Tanner EDA tools are still meeting requirements.

The soon-to-be-released v16 of Tanner EDA’s HiPer Silicon suite, based on OpenAccess, shows their commitment to following the trends in the EDA industry.

Focus on analog/ mixed-signal design

Tanner EDA’s main focus is on A/MS design, which gives them an edge at being able to fulfill the requirements of design teams focusing on A/MS. As an example, the node highlighting in L-edit, first offered in 2004, was a unique feature, widely used in analog full-custom layout. Following Tanner EDA’s lead, node highlighting was later copied by all vendors.

Intuitive

The user interface (Windows-based, in our case) is very intuitive and thus easy to learn. This applies also to the scripting language. We have been able to add a lot of scripts; for instance, one to automatically review the quality of a layout and another to add additional DRC rules. And we accomplished this without the need of have a specialist in scripting language.

Support

Support of PDKs provided by foundries is a strong point. [Mentor Graphics’] Calibre rules files can ported into Tanner EDA. The company also provides fast and to-the-point support where needed. Tanner EDA engineering has always been open to adding features to the tools based upon user feedback.

Integration with other tools / easy to customize

Integration and easy customizability are important for two reasons:

Internal: In addition to the traditional A/MS design flow, we have also our own internal tools, which are geared towards making a design more portable to other technologies. We also compile documentation automatically from the output of the tools.

External: We need to interface with the platforms used by our customers.

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