TSMC Says IC Industry Success Starts with Design Collaboration

The semiconductor industry roadmap is still intact. In fact, at its Technology Symposium today, TSMC said it has produced the industry’s first fully functional 65nm SRAM modules, along with the industry roadmap for this development. At the same time, TSMC executives cited collaboration in the design environment as key to successfully delivering new semiconductor products.

“The escalating complexity of semiconductor design, combined with its increasing interdependence with manufacturing, packaging and test processes, makes collaboration in the design environment – not just with the foundry – imperative to marketplace success,” said Dr. FC Tseng, deputy chief executive officer of TSMC.

“The emergence of the foundry business model over the last two decades prompted many companies to concentrate on their core competencies and build all these virtually integrated services around them,” continued Dr. Tseng. “Today, these capabilities must be in place before an engineer starts a new design. It must be implicit in the design tools.”

Dr. Tseng’s comments were echoed by Technology Symposium keynote speaker Dr. Aart de Geus, chairman and CEO of Synopsys, Inc. Dr. de Geus’ appearance, while marking the first time that a TSMC Alliance Partner keynoted its Technology Symposium, also emphasized the importance of the collaboration model.

“Today, TSMC proves its technology using Synopsys design tools and IP, and Synopsys proves its design tools and IP using TSMC technology,” said Synopsys chairman and CEO Aart de Geus. “More to the point, Synopsys tools in TSMC's Reference Flow 4.0 include scripts and guidelines that provide a level of manufacturing readiness that simply is no longer possible using design rules alone. And that is the key message here: Manufacturing readiness happens just as much in the design environment as it does on the factory floor.”

Since the creation of the pure-play foundry industry by TSMC in 1987, designers in start-ups and established semiconductor companies alike have been free to explore innovative new applications for semiconductor technology. Integrated circuits built under the foundry model are now found in an unprecedented array of wireless and wire line communications devices, portable and handheld computers, and embedded technology for medical, sports, automotive, games and industrial uses.

The rapid expansion of innovation enabled by foundry companies has been matched only by the explosive acceleration in competition, as new IC companies battle for market share all over the globe. Today, a typical market window is measured in months, not years. Success is often made or missed in a matter of days. To be successful, IC companies must operate as smoothly as the devices they sell.

“Our goal is to help our partners bring products to market quickly, and in the volumes necessary to ensure success,” said Dr. Tseng. “To make this collaboration effective, we work closely with leading developers of EDA tools, intellectual property cores and libraries. It’s a rich interaction that’s as deep as it is broad, spanning both mainstream technologies and leading edge, advanced semiconductor manufacturing processes.”

Using this new collaboration approach, TSMC and its partners are able to develop new products and services for the designer using a concurrent, proactive and global approach. For instance, developers of intellectual property cores and libraries become advanced technology customers, proving their library and IP offerings in the first wafers developed for each new process node. EDA tools vendors help overcome design barriers by proving TSMC technology using these IP and library designs, as well as actual devices from early TSMC customers. In return, they are able to embed scripts and design guidelines into their toolsets, improving the yields of leading edge semiconductor designs. As a result, early adopters of TSMC advanced technology are able to derive far more benefit from third-party alliance members’ services than ever before.

This new collaboration model replaces an older supply chain model whereby activities within each segment of the supply chain were sequential, reactive and independent. Optimizations were not shared, so benefits were slow to develop. With the emergence of the deep-submicron IC era, the older model no longer provides sufficient advantage to designers.