Firm expands thermal design concept to analog

April 25, 2006 – Gradient Design Automation Inc., Santa Clara, CA, has released new software to provide detailed 3D temperature analysis for analog and mixed-signal chip designs, to help designers better find and fix temperature variations that can affect circuit performance and reliability.

The software, CircuitFire, builds on a similar tool announced last summer for temperature analysis in digital IC designs. Data is inputted from design layout and power dissipation, package model, and process technology description, in order to build a detailed thermal model and compute detailed temperatures throughout the die, tracking internal chip temperature distribution including ambient temperature and package characteristics. The data is then run through interfaces to circuit simulation and layout tools to estimate and view the effects of temperature gradients on chip functionality, and on electrical characteristics within a detailed sign-off flow.

Assuming a constant temperature throughout a chip does not account for potential functional failures in final silicon that may be caused by the sensitivity of devices such as matched circuitry and bandgap devices, the company explained. For complex designs used in high-power devices, even a few degrees of temperature variation can affect functionality and reliability, such as electromigration or material breakdown.

Rajit Chandra, president and CEO of Gradient. explained that as chips become more complex and with higher performance requirements, designers must increasingly take into account the variety of ambient conditions that the device will experience. “For example, the automotive environment can have ambient temperatures in the 180°C range,” he said, in a statement. Similarly, integrating power amplifiers with transceivers on a single die also creates challenges with predicting functionality and performance in an end-use environment, he said.

AMI Semiconductor is now using CircuitFire for predictive analysis of chips used in automotive applications. “Analyzing the temperature behavior of a design improves the quality, reliability and performance of final silicon,” stated Morgan Ercanbrack, senior staff CAD engineer at AMIS. “Without the use of CircuitFire, certain problems are virtually undetectable until the chip is built. Finding and fixing those problems can take months of debug and engineering time, not to mention the additional costs associated with an engineering change order.”


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