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Cadence’s PDK for SkyWater 130nm Open-Source Semiconductor Process Empowers Students and Helps Bridge the Growing Employment Gap
As electronics technology continues to advance at an unprecedented pace, the demand for skilled professionals in the semiconductor industry has reached new heights. However, the availability of qualified individuals to fill these positions has not kept pace with the industry's growth. Add to that the re-shoring of fabs, and other links in the electronics supply chain, and the industry is in a real bind. This employment gap poses a significant challenge for both companies and aspiring professionals. To bridge this gap, one crucial step is to provide students with the necessary tools and resources to gain hands-on experience and develop the skills required to excel in this field. Cadence has taken a remarkable step toward addressing this issue by creating a process design kit (PDK) for the SkyWater Technology 130nm open-source semiconductor process aiming to increase access to advanced technology for students and empower them to join the semiconductor industry. SKY130 will be available in the VLSI Fundamentals Education Kit soon.
Open-source initiatives have revolutionized various industries, and the semiconductor industry is no exception. Open-source hardware and software provide a collaborative platform for innovation, enabling individuals and organizations to freely access, modify, and distribute designs and technologies. By embracing open source, Cadence has not only democratized access to advanced technology but has also fostered a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing within the semiconductor community. Unlike current academic PDKs, SKY130 allows users to download without signing an NDA, create an academic design, and send to SkyWater Technology Foundry for manufacturing, allowing for innovative designs to be turned into reality.
SkyWater Technology, a leading semiconductor manufacturer, plays a pivotal role in this endeavor. SkyWater's 130nm open-source semiconductor process offers a unique opportunity for students and researchers to experiment, learn, and innovate. By providing a cost-effective and accessible platform, SkyWater empowers students to gain practical experience in designing and fabricating integrated circuits. This hands-on exposure to real-world semiconductor processes equips students with invaluable skills and prepares them for the challenges of the industry.
Cadence has long been at the forefront of innovation in electronic design automation. Recognizing the need to nurture talent and increase access to advanced technology, Cadence has developed a PDK specifically tailored for the SkyWater 130nm open-source semiconductor process. This PDK serves as a comprehensive set of design rules, models, and guidelines that enable students to design and fabricate integrated circuits using the SkyWater process.
“We are extremely pleased that Cadence chose to create a PDK based on SKY130. It will soon be available to all Cadence licensees which extends our reach to thousands of designers. It’s a vast expansion for SkyWater’s serviceable available market for SKY130 and speaks to the power of the open-source model,” said SkyWater CTO Steve Kosier. “Access for students to the open source PDK will support curricula in semiconductor degree programs, helping to build the workforce critically needed for reshoring the semiconductor ecosystem.”
The availability of Cadence's PDK for the SkyWater 130nm process brings numerous benefits to students aspiring to enter the semiconductor industry. First, it provides them with a realistic and industry-standard environment to learn and practice their skills. By working with a professional-grade PDK, students gain exposure to the same tools and methodologies used by industry experts. This familiarity enhances their employability and ensures a smooth transition into the workforce. Furthermore, the open-source nature of the SkyWater process encourages collaboration and knowledge sharing among students and researchers. This collaborative environment fosters innovation and enables students to learn from each other's experiences, ultimately accelerating their growth and development.
As more students gain access to advanced technology and hands-on learning opportunities, the employment gap gradually diminishes, ensuring a steady supply of qualified professionals to meet the industry's growing demands.
In addition to addressing the employment gap, the importance of semiconductors in fueling today's artificial intelligence (AI) and electronics boom cannot be overstated. Semiconductors serve as the backbone of modern technology, powering everything from smartphones and laptops to self-driving cars and advanced AI systems. The exponential growth of AI and the increasing demand for high-performance computing have placed immense pressure on the semiconductor industry to develop more powerful and efficient chips. These chips, built using advanced processes like the SkyWater 130nm open-source semiconductor process, enable the processing and storage of vast amounts of data, making AI algorithms and applications possible. Without the continuous advancements in semiconductor technology, the remarkable progress we have witnessed in AI and electronics would not have been achievable. Semiconductors are the driving force behind the digital revolution, and their importance in shaping the future cannot be underestimated.
Cadence’s PDK for the SkyWater 130nm open-source semiconductor process marks a significant step toward empowering students and bridging the employment gap in the semiconductor industry. Additionally, Cadence and SkyWater are both DMEA-accredited Trusted Suppliers, ensuring a secure supply chain, while providing easy accessibility to leading technology. By increasing access to advanced technology and fostering a collaborative environment, Cadence and SkyWater are nurturing the next generation of semiconductor professionals. As technology demand continues to explode, initiatives like these are crucial in ensuring a skilled workforce that can drive innovation and shape the future of the semiconductor industry. Moreover, semiconductors play a vital role in fueling today's AI and electronics boom, enabling the development of advanced technologies that are contributing to the ongoing digital revolution.