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Overall, the 2010 Anaheim DAC was
livelier than the years before. Customer and vendor faces were not long and
serious, but more purposeful and forward-looking. The recent M&A activity
also brought in some rays of sunshine. The EDA360 vision for the entire industry
resonated with a wide gamut of system companies, IDM's, ASIC/IP vendors and
foundries. And, the hottest topic this year definitely was 3D-IC (Stacked Die).
Most folks talk about the Denali party, but DAC
#47 was indeed a "coming out" party for 3D-IC design, and three events stood
The first one was "Hogan's Heroes: What Nightmares will
22nm Bring?" This panel had participants from Qualcomm, Xilinx and D2S,
and was chaired by Jim Hogan, Vista Ventures. They discussed and debated how
the limits of lithography will impose new rules for designers, and discussed
the industry impact. They agreed that the biggest factor they would lose sleep
over at 22/20nm is "cost"...not performance, power, time-to-market
but "cost." They also pointed out that costs of double-patterning
(which is a must at 22/20nm) are orders of magnitude higher than traditional
methodologies up until 32/28nm. And, that makes alternative solutions like
3D-IC viable alternatives to achieve the next scale of SoC
integration, without having to weather the risks of migrating to advanced
The second event was a GSA (Global Semiconductor
Association) Birds-of-a-Feather event on 3D/TSV (through-silicon via) with an
overwhelming 125+ attendees. Herb Reiter and his team brought together
representativies from major foundries, IDMs, EDA/IP vendors, design services
and other industry organizations to accelerate 3D design. The open forum
and discussion were definitely a right step in that direction to not only
ensure good tools for cost-effective 3D designs, but also to minimize risk and
shorten time-to-profit for the companies that design and manufacture 3D ICs.
The importance of extending today's 2D tools to handle 3D design was realized,
given widespread market acceptance and usageof 3D ICs. Only then will IC
and system designers be able to cost-effectively and efficiently integrate
multiple 2D SoCs into 3D systems. In addition, in the GSA market survey of
semiconductor companies that asked about EDA vendors with 3D/TSV
support, it was satisfying to see Cadence (38%) leading the pack (Mentor is
25%, Synopsys is 18%).
The third event was a panel entitled "3D Stacked Die:
Now or the Future?" with speakers from TSMC, Samsung, IMEC and Qualcomm.
The good news is that all the panelist companies have already moved beyond
traditional 2D design techniques and are utilizing key advantages of the third
dimension. These companies might be in different stages of the
adoption/deployment curve, but all of them consistently and clearly see a path
to fully take advantage of 3D IC design.
Also, the speakers highlighted that
the first wave of 3D devices would be hitting the market this year. Actual
production designs with real silicon, and in real consumer products! This first
batch would primarily have memory on one die and the rest of the SoC on another
die. This makes sense since embedded memory takes a large portion of the
design, thus growing die-size and decreasing yield. Embedded memory
also consumes more power and limits bandwidth, as compared to stacking memory
on top of the logic dies.
All in all, the refeshing take-away was that the industry
has clearly answered for itself the question: "Is 3D design now or the future?"
The answer is an emphatic "Now." 3D design is
certainly happening now and at a rapid pace. And, companies not
considering 3D IC design face the risk of missing the boat and being left