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February 7, 2022

Behold the Dawning of the Era of Bespoke Silicon

The great chip shortage of 2021, which accounted for billions of dollars in revenue loss, hit the auto industry especially hard. What caused the shortage is clear: auto companies miscalculated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While automakers were canceling their chip orders, strong electronics sales continued, leaving automakers at the back of the line for chips when demand for cars rebounded. The solution remains unclear, though one aspect of the solution is clear: balanced, foundry capacity is needed. This need is being filled by developments such as Intel’s Intel Foundry Services (IFS), making its innovative process technology available to auto companies and others who design their own bespoke chips.

Bespoke silicon

Bespoke chips are one of the great trends of 2022 that will have a lasting impact. In 2021, bespoke chips were designed by a wide range of forward looking, innovative systems companies, such as Apple, Meta, Amazon, Google, and Tesla. These companies view made-to-order, optimized silicon as critical to maintaining their competitive advantage, especially in the areas of big-data and machine learning (ML). The implications will forever change the semiconductor industry. The main impacts include:

  • Bespoke chips are now designed by systems companies with system design experience. The semiconductor and electronic design automation (EDA) companies will need to adjust their offerings to accommodate this new line of thinking.
  • Great demands are being placed on silicon technology. To meet the advanced integrated system demands required of the bespoke chips, great silicon and design technology will need to be developed and deployed. Companies like Intel are rising to the challenge as they continue to drive Moore’s Law and More-than-Moore techniques such as 2.5 and 3D-IC.
  • A greater demand for, and challenges of, multiphysics simulations. As bespoke chips take on more and more characteristics of systems, the multiphysics that systems companies are drawn into IC design. Physics such as electromagnetics, thermal, and stress will not only become required of design tools, but they must be solved concurrently, as these physics will impact each other.
  • The need for open multiphysics platforms will proliferate. No single EDA company will meet all the demands of bespoke silicon design. EDA companies should work together to provide solutions as any single vendor solution will be insufficient. 

Solving the Challenges of the Bespoke Silicon Era

The semiconductor shortage challenge will be resolved. The bespoke silicon era and the challenges that it brings with it are just beginning. The future is bright as more and more systems companies realize that they can design chips that are optimal for their specific product, rather than relying on generic chips designed and defined by traditional chip companies. Enabling this future will require a concerted industry effort.

IFS is taking a leading role in establishing this community ecosystem and launching the Intel Foundry Services Accelerator, a comprehensive alliance designed to help foundry customers bring their silicon products all the way from idea to implementation. The alliance brings together best-in-class EDA, intellectual property (IP), and design services providers with the broadest capabilities to deliver a seamless interface with Intel’s process technologies. Ansys is looking forward to playing a key role in the emerging ecosystem. For many years, we have been a trusted partner to the systems companies as they rely on us for their multiphysics simulations. As they bring their multiphysics requirements into the bespoke chip domain, Ansys is a familiar solution for them, and they are comforted to find our gold-standard multiphysics tools like Anys HFSS at the system level and Ansys RedHawk-SC at the chip level. Ansys provides them with a broader offering of golden multiphysics simulators than all other EDA providers combined:

Golden multiphysics simulators

“We are excited to announce the IFS Accelerator – EDA Alliance as a major step forward for Intel's foundry ambitions,” said Rahul Goyal, VP and GM of Intel Product & Design Ecosystem Enablement in a recent press release. “Together with Ansys and other partners, this alliance will create advanced flows and methodologies, and accelerate productivity by combining our knowledge, resources, and shared passion to drive electronic design.”

Our open multiphysics platforms make these tools available to bespoke silicon designers regardless of the EDA flow they choose. A prime example of this is the integration of RedHawk-SC into Synopsys’ flow and further integration into 3D-IC Compiler. Cadence customers also rely strongly on Ansys for their multiphysics needs. 

Multiphysics solutions for electronic design

Under the guidance of Intel, Ansys is committed to work with the three other inaugural EDA vendors in the IFS Accelerator - EDA Alliance to meet the needs of IFS customers. We will continue our integration efforts and will work closely with Intel to ensure that Ansys multiphysics tools are certified for Intel silicon technologies offered through IFS. A great amount of Intel silicon has already been fabricated with Ansys multiphysics.

Welcome to the era of bespoke silicon. We look forward to doing our part to bring it to you as an inaugural member of the IFS Accelerator - EDA Alliance.

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