Imec and Cadence Design Systems, Inc. have announced new technology that delivers an automated test solution for design teams deploying 3D stacked ICs (3D-ICs). The technology addresses the test challenges involved as electronics companies increasingly turn to 3D-ICs as a way to increase circuit density and achieve better performance at lower power dissipation for mobile and other applications where space is at a premium.

This imec-Cadence collaboration provides the design-for-test (DFT) and automatic test pattern generation (ATPG) technology that will make it easier to test 3D-ICs with “through-silicon via” (TSV) functionality and help ensure that the stacked system will work as intended. Insights gained during its comprehensive research program on TSV-based 3D-IC design and technology enabled imec to extend the DFT architecture for conventional (2D) ICs with several novel (patent-pending since Q1 2010) features.

The 3D DFT architecture is based on the concept of die-level test wrappers, which enable testing of chips with TSVs and micro-bumps both before (“pre-bond test”), during (“mid-bond test”), and after (“post-bond test”) stacking, as well as after packaging. “This new DFT solution is the latest example of our commitment at Cadence® to the emerging area of 3D-IC,” said Brion Keller, senior architect at Cadence. “Over the past two years, we’ve introduced 3D-IC TSV and silicon interposer capabilities, and, just three months ago, the industry’s first wide I/O memory controller IP solution, with a robust 3D-IC integration environment. Collaboration is an essential element of effective Silicon Realization and the EDA360 vision we adhere to, and this initiative with imec demonstrates why.”

“Using 3D-IC and TSV technology, electronics companies look forward to creating a new generation of super chips,” said Erik Jan Marinissen, principal scientist at imec. “The imec-Cadence offering inserts DFT structures with minimal area overhead, and the ATPG method helps drive towards zero manufacturing defects on the TSVs. This unique offering reduces risk and promotes cost-effective fabrication of these chips.”

Cadence and imec created the design flow automation for adding 3D-enhanced IEEE 1500-based die wrappers to existing chip designs. This was done by enhancing the existing IEEE 1500 wrapper insertion support in the Cadence Encounter® RTL Compiler synthesis product. Initial results on customer designs showed that the 3D DFT structures can be implemented with negligible area costs—about 0.2%, which is far less than what some in the electronics industry have been speculating.

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