Sep 30, 2013

Triple Patterning Explosion

posted by Bryon Moyer

The type of patterning to be used at a given technology node is determined layer-by-layer. At 10 nm, SADP is planned for metals, but contacts are looking like they’ll require triple patterning, according to Mentor’s David Abercrombie.

We’ve talked about LELE coloring before, and algorithms exist to automatically color a circuit with linear scaling – twice as big a circuit takes twice as long to color. But when you go to LELELE, it’s no longer linear: it’s np-complete. Beyond 30 features to be colored, the algorithm isn’t going to finish in a lifetime.

So coloring algorithms are instead being approached using heuristics and constraints. For instance, it’s generally considered better to balance the colors so that there are roughly the same number of features on each color. That eliminates all of the gazillion possible decompositions that don’t meet that criterion.

There is also some concern that different decompositions might have different litho effects. It’s not known yet whether this will be an issue, but that would certainly complicate matters, since the algorithm would now have to take lithographic distortions into effect – as if it didn’t already have enough to think about.

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Sep 25, 2013

Isn’t Sensor Fusion CPU-Agnostic?

posted by Bryon Moyer

Sensor fusion is algorithms. And these algorithms are typically executed as software. So that should be simple, right?

Just get your sensor fusion libraries from whomever you prefer (could be the sensor vendor, could be one of the sensor-agnostic folks), and then run it in the processor of your choice.

That processor could be the AP in a phone, although more and more that’s deprecated in favor of sensor hubs and other local, less power-hungry resources. Largely microcontrollers. And there shouldn’t really be any dependence on the specific computing platform chosen – as long as it has the resources to handle the algorithms. Right?

So I was a bit surprised when I saw that Movea and ST had collaborated to make Movea’s sensor fusion available on a very specific ST microcontroller: the STM32F401. Wouldn’t Movea’s stuff work on any ST microcontroller? Or anyone else’s, for that matter?

The answer is yes. Turns out that the collaboration alluded to in the announcement reflected work that Movea did to optimize their algorithms for that particular microcontroller. So the implication would be that, although you could run the algorithms on other ST microcontrollers, for example, they would run most efficiently on this particular one. Says ST’s Michael Markowitz, “This is precisely the result of a custom optimization by Movea to perfectly map the F401, which has an architecture that is well suited to performing sensor fusion at very low power.”

And, as such, ST would appear to be positioning that particular microcontroller as its preferred sensor hub platform. But there’s nothing that says you can’t use a different one.

You can find out more about this particular combination in the ST/Movea release.

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Sep 24, 2013

What is a Maker?

posted by Bryon Moyer

They call themselves “Makers.” As far as I can tell, up until a few years ago, the verb “to make” was an everyday garden-variety word used for a million different innocuous things. Like “to get” or “to do.” But somehow the verb – and in particular, those agents of the activity it denotes, got elevated to capitalized status. They’re not “makers”; they’re “Makers.”

What does that mean?

Well, the first thing you notice about it is a certain self-satisfaction. As in, “We aren’t simply sheep that use things; we Make things, and that makes us Superior Beings.” Could that be a response to a world increasingly dominated by huge corporate consumer entities? An attempt to take back control of the items in our lives? Perhaps. Not a bad goal…

But who qualifies as a Maker? If you’ve ever been to the original Maker Faire on the Peninsula in the Bay Area, you’d pretty much decide that Makers create high tech gadgets with sharp teeth or chain saws that can destroy the products of other Makers, or breathe fire, or be all steam punk and cool and sh… stuff. And it has to be brimming, nay, overflowing with giant gobs of Mad Max Burning Man DPW testosterone RAGE.

And it has to be robots.

Or at least that’s the impression I was left with a few years ago. Not that I’m complaining; it was cool stuff. But only a subset of things that could be Made.

This year I became aware of a mini-Maker Faire in Portland. Apparently the Faire has procreated, adding a new “Flagship Faire” in New York and a bevy of mini-faires. So I decided to check out our local mini version and get a sense of what constitutes a “maker.” After all, it’s possible to make all kinds of things, and they don’t all have to be high-tech. Your grandma might make you a sweater; question is, does that make her a Maker?

So I toured around the Portland edition, and the ambience was distinctly more subdued. Specifically missing was anything steam punk or Mad Max. There was only one Fire thing, away from the rest of the booths. In my wanderings, I found booths with:

  • Legos
  • Wire sculpture
  • Leather
  • “Minions” (a toy marketing thing)
  • Making stuff with everyday items (“tinkering”; presumably a subset of “making”)
  • Model trains
  • Sand art
  • Robots (of course)
  • Tech services
  • Using natural materials (but created using CAD/CNC)
  • Metal casting
  • Fencing (I asked where the “making” connection was; apparently they made many of their weapons)
  • Rockets
  • Material re-use
  • Brewing beer (the neighboring both featured the LagerBot, which tracks the status of your keg… that’s so Portland…)
  • Paper lanterns
  • Socks
  • Chocolate
  • Recycled wool stuff
  • Jewelry
  • Cheese
  • Metalwork
  • Moviemaking (diorama setup)
  • Recycled book journals
  • Cards
  • Bicycles
  • Welding
  • Costumes
  • Lights
  • Arduino/Raspberry Pi stuff
  • Soap
  • Recycled skateboards
  • Stuff from bottles
  • Bees
  • High-altitude glider
  • Wilderness survival
  • Steam (not punk)
  • Using DMX-512 (a theater protocol) as a simple bicycle “CANbus”
  • Yard-covered car

Most of these things actually don’t involve high tech at all. It was clear that some of the items were a bit of a stretch, but for the most part, they all involved making something.

It seems to me, however, that at the core of being a Maker is creativity and innovation. My guess would be that crocheting a hat out of a pattern book might not pass muster: you’re executing someone else’s vision.

Maker status appears to be accorded to those that forego the consumer paths being laid down for us and go down other less-traveled roads – or blaze entirely new ones. It might take technology to do that – and often does, since it’s new and opens up whole new possibilities. But it can also mean finding new ways to use old materials or high-tech spins on traditional crafts.

So… are you a Maker?

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