Paint It DAC

2015 Design Automation Conference Preview

by Amelia Dalton

It's that time of year again. Ring the bells, sound the alarm, and roll out the red carpet - it's DAC time! In this week's Fish Fry, Anne Cirkel (General Chair - DAC 2015) gives us a special sneak peek into the biggest EDA conference of the year - The Design Automation Conference. Anne dishes the details of the conference: the super cool keynotes, the "I Love DAC" program, and the inside info on the best parties at this year's show. Also this week, we examine a unique Kickstarter campaign that marries nanotechnology with fashion to create this season's must have: The Unstainable™ White Shirt.

 

Intel and Altera – Eleven-Figure Chicken

Stakes are Raised and Tensions Build

by Kevin Morris

We’ve written a few times now about the rabidly rumored Intel bid to buy Altera. In fact, we actually predicted the whole thing almost a year ago: 

When Intel Buys Altera -- Will FPGAs Take Over the Data Center? 

Were we right? It’s still too early to tell. And all we really have to go on are: reports of leaked information, the rules of the game, technology trends, and our own speculation about the motivations and positions of the players involved. 

But one thing is for sure - this is one high-stakes game of chicken.

New information has emerged this week - in the form of a new Reuters report - which says that, according to “sources,” Intel signed a “standstill” agreement with Altera back in February. This means that Intel would be free to launch a hostile takeover bid for Altera as early as June 1.

 

Insights from the 3D Printing Conference and Expo

Technology and Art Attempt to Walk Hand-in-Hand Toward the Future

by Larra Morris

The exhibit floor at the Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo in New York City is packed. While other tech conferences (like DAC and whatever they’re calling the Embedded Systems Conference this year) have faced dwindling attendance each year, this one is so well attended that it can be difficult to make your way from booth to booth. The panelists and attendees are excited and enthusiastic. And they have every reason to be -- this is a technology that is exploding. Even since World Maker Faire in New York less than a year ago, the 3D printing capabilities on display appear to have improved by leaps and bounds: textures are less rough, sculptures are more intricate and detailed, colors are more varied and vivid, and projects are more interesting and ambitious.

At World Maker Faire, you could step into a scanning booth and get a 3D-printed action figure/figurine of yourself. Now, you can get that action figure in color (not just A color, but IN COLOR), and, at another booth, you can play around with a face-scanning tool that will put your action figure in a Star Trek uniform holding a tricorder - or make it a ghostbuster. The shelves of tchotchkes have been replaced by more inspired art pieces -- no one is displaying a Yoda head, even for kitsch or nostalgia purposes, and I managed to find only one example of the usually ubiquitous twisty vase design.

 

Choices On Top of Choices

Tensilica Fusion DSP Core Geared for Low-Power Devices

by Jim Turley

“Embedded” has a new spelling, and it’s written IoT.

Tensilica is a company that made its name as an early pioneer of tweak-it-yourself microprocessors. Actually, the name itself is a play on the words “tensile” (as in, stretchable) and “silicon,” which pretty well encapsulates the company’s unique selling proposition. Its microprocessor IP is just like any you’d get from ARM or MIPS or anyone else – except that it’s not. Instead of delivering you a prepackaged CPU core, Tensilica instead hands you a configuration tool. Pick your instruction set, pick your bus width, pick your execution resources, and the Tensilica tool will generate a custom CPU for you on the fly. It’s the whiteboard of processor product roadmaps.

 

Changing the PCB Axis

Mentor PADS Redefines the Board Genre

by Kevin Morris

Anybody who has ever bought professional PCB software has probably noticed a problem with the way PCB tools have always been packaged, priced, and marketed. Well, anybody except for the folks who actually sell PCB tools, that is. For some reason, PCB tools have always been sold with a built-in wrong assumption - that only big companies with large design teams are doing sophisticated designs. If you were a huge company with giant design teams that required all the “enterprise” features related to team design, collaboration, IP sharing, and library management, the PCB tool vendors gave you all the features needed for leading-edge, high-performance board design.

But, if you were a smaller company or team who didn’t require all the big collaboration features, you got the toy-like “desktop” PCB tools which didn’t include the stuff you needed for high-performance, high-density board design.

 

3D Silicon Measurements

They Require New Approaches

by Bryon Moyer

The 3D nature of aggressive silicon nodes continues to make life difficult for semiconductor equipment guys. Metrology is particularly troublesome, since seeing where edges lie isn’t always sufficient. I’m being somewhat liberal with the term “3D” since it involves more than just the usual 3D structures – FinFETs and 3D NAND stacks. I’m including the impact of multiple-patterning, which involves multiple overlay confirmations on stacks of masks that, in an earlier era, would have been a single mask. So they’re like a 3D decomposition of an erstwhile planar mask.

Let’s break the issues down. First is the fact that we’ve got new 3D dimensions to verify, and it’s hard to do with the old tools. As Applied Materials (AMAT) sees it, three specific structures are difficult: the two mentioned above (FinFETS, 3D NAND) plus vias placed at the bottoms of trenches for dual-damascene processes.

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