Following is an excerpt of an interview of Andy Kelly from Cactus Semiconductor conducted by Anne Fisher of EECatalog. Read the full post here.
By Anne Fisher, Managing Editor
What will it take for ultra-low-power designs to become more prevalent—that’s one of the questions fielded here (think commitment to sub-threshhold design) but far from the only one.
Our thanks to Andy Kelly, Systems/IC Architect, Cactus Semiconductor, Inc., for his insights and observations on topics including accomplishing device miniaturization, prioritizing requirements and top-down design and simulation tools, among other subjects.
EECatalog: In what areas are you finding designers struggling most as they strive to optimize and simplify the design process, particularly when working on ultra-low power designs?
Andy Kelly, Cactus Semiconductor: The biggest challenge I see with our full-custom IC design projects is on the requirements definition—more so than in the design execution. Since our devices are fully customized, customers often start off under the assumption that they can have the highest performance AND the lowest power consumption AND the smallest circuit area. In practice, these requirements all need to be prioritized, and compromises must be made in order to reach a set of requirements that can be met on a reasonable budget and schedule.
EECatalog: What is being done within the semiconductor industry in general to address the challenges named in Question (1) and what role more specifically is Cactus playing?
Kelly, Cactus Semiconductor: The industry as a whole has made great progress in the development of “top-down” IC design and simulation tools. These tools allow the system and IC design teams to build up a virtual circuit based on behavioral models. These models can be integrated into higher-level system simulations. Then tradeoffs can be modeled and assessed with significantly less effort than with detailed circuit design. Once the behavioral modeling is complete and the requirements are finalized, the detailed circuit design can proceed with significantly better efficiency. At Cactus Semiconductor, we recognize the requirements definition as the key to success, and we include a “Definition & Specification” phase at the beginning of every project to ensure we have a good set of requirements before starting the detailed IC design phase.