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IC Design Methodology

Idea
Our staff members have extensive industry experience and have been exposed to a vast spectrum of designs, markets and customers. We strive to keep ourselves up-to-date by meticulously following relevant industry publications and by participating in meetings and conventions. The payoff is that we are aware of the needs of the semiconductor market and the direction it is taking. Our customers take advantage of this aspect of our capabilities by involving Decicon early in the product definition phase and capitalize on the valuable industry and semiconductor market experience that Decicon possesses.
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System Specification and System Design
With any new product idea, the design of the system and the definition of its specifications is a crucial step, and in general terms can be broken down to system partitioning and defining performance specifications. The definition of the performance specifications is handled concurrently with the partitioning of the system. In the process, the system designer has to ensure that the system is partitioned into components with feasible performance specifications which, when put together, will achieve the desired overall system performance. Unrealistically defined specifications can stop a development project dead in its tracks, whereas an accurate and carefully targeted set of specifications can give a critical advantage to a product in the marketplace by achieving shorter time-to-market and superior performance.

The correct definition of the system specifications necessitates both competency in system design and through understanding of the target field of application. Decicon's engineers, with their impressive background and experience in a variety of related fields, constitute a major resource that our customers utilize in the course of the definition of the system.

If needed, Decicon's engineering team can fully handle this step and can develop a system design with a set of target specifications directly from an idea.
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Electrical Design
Decicon gathers under its roof engineers with backgrounds in a variety of design disciplines and methodologies. These engineers have worked together on many projects, complementing each other and building the foundation for efficient teamwork. Our in-house team can handle a diversity of projects within one single organization.
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Transistor-level analog
The analog circuit blocks of our projects are developed at transistor level and our engineers are competent in Bipolar, CMOS and BiCMOS design techniques. We follow a well established worst case design methodology in our transistor-level analog designs which guarantees the manufacturability of our designs under all normal conditions with favorable yields.
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Top-down digital
The digital sections of most of our projects are developed in Verilog HDL. We can optionally use VHDL in the development, if necessary. The functionality of the blocks is proven in behavioral HDL simulations, and the design is then targeted to a specific process technology through synthesis. The synthesized gate level block is resimulated through process, power supply and temperature corners to verify the timing.
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Gate-level digital
We use gate-level digital design approach for asynchronous digital blocks and for blocks where the final gate count is of utmost importance. We may choose to use this approach also when a synthesis library in the target process technology is unavailable. Typically, both the functionality and the timing of the blocks developed in gate level are verified within the same set of simulations through process, power supply and temperature corners.

As the digital and and the analog sections of the IC are finalized, we bring them together to achieve a seamless integration, taking full advantage of our expertise in both digital and analog worlds. We use mixed-mode simulations to guarantee the functionalty of the overall system.

Test development is conducted alongside the electrical design effort to avoid any problems which may have serious time impact if the test strategy is defined after design completion. We make sure in our design that all critical points of the internal circuitry are observable and all performance specifications can be measured during the testing of the IC. If necessary, we design in a dedicated test mode for the system. The methods and the parameters to be characterized in the preproduction characterization are also defined and documented.
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Design Review
In addition to ongoing consultations and mini-reviews between Decicon's staff members, towards the end of electrical design phase, we hold an internal design review where we discuss the design in detail and get valuable feedback from our staff. Following this, we hold a full design review with our customer.
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Physical Layout Design
Layout design is handled by our engineers, and typically by the same engineers who performed the electrical design of the project. This approach yields shorter design turnaround times while guaranteeing high fidelty to the electrical design, and is one of the major contributors to our first silicon success.

Device Level Analog Layout
Our process and device backgound is a big plus in our device-level analog layout design work. We have extensive experience in high-performance analog layout design and are aware of the possible impact that the physical layout may have on the circuit performance. We use standard device library components proven for the target process whenever possible, and avoid any unproven structures. We are die-size conscious and have a very good track record of meeting the die size budgets without sacrificing the performance. After we complete the layout, we backannotate the layout parasitics which were unaccounted for during the electrical design and rerun the critical simulations to verify the post-layout operation of the circuit.

Place & Route Digital Layout
We utilize automatic place and route tools to design the physical layout of larger digital circuit blocks. After we complete the layout, we backannotate the layout parasitics which were unaccounted for during the electrical design and rerun the critical simulations to verify the post-layout operation of the circuit.

During the physical layout design, we regularly run Design Rule Check (DRC), Electrical Rule Check (ERC) and Layout Versus Schematic (LVS) check on the finished blocks. This ensures that the effort is not hindered at a later stage of the layout design, where finding and debugging even minor violations costs extended periods of time. In cases where the IC is to be manufactured by the customer, we deliver a GDSII or CIF format database to the customer and assist in the project release to mask vendor.
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Wafer Fabrication
Decicon is a fabless company. The prototype wafers are fabricated at customer's own facilities or at a commercial wafer foundry.

Optionally, we can arrange for the prototyping and manufacturing of the IC in a commercial wafer foundry and handle all the foundry related aspects of the project by acting as customer's interface. We have worked with many world-class wafer foundries and are very experienced in handling foundry relations.
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Prototype Evaluation
Our projects normally include the bench evaluation of a limited number of prototypes for guaranteeing spec compliance. Our facility posseses all types of laboratory equipment required for the evalution of the types of ICs we design.

Generally, the initial prototypes come from a matrix run, to represent the expected variations of the IC manufacturing process. The prototype evaluation comprises of testing each item of design specification over the specified temperature and voltage ranges and preparing a detailed record of each individual part tested.

The prototypes tested and documented as such are generally used as correlation parts by the test engineers, to develop and debug the automated manufacturing test routine.
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Preproduction Characterization
Detailed characterization of a statistically significant number of ICs is required before the the project can be released to full production. This ensures that there are no inexplicable yield losses and the product will have a stable life once it is in full production. Preproduction characterization is generally conducted on automated test equipment (ATE), usually concurrently with the development of the production test. The methods and the critical aspects of the preproduction characterization are documented by our engineers during the electrical design phase and we provide the level of support necessary to the test engineers for test development.
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Full Production
Decicon is a fabless company. The production wafers are fabricated at customer's own facilities or at a commercial wafer foundry.

In design contracts, we do not get involved in the full-production related aspects of the IC.

In finished product contracts, we handle all production related aspects and deliver packaged and tested custom ICs to the customer. In this approach, wafer manufacturing, die sorting, packaging and final test are contracted by Decicon to world-class providers and in most cases they can all be handled by one single foundry.
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