Google Companions With SkyWater to Drive Open-Supply Chip Design

SkyWater Know-how mentioned it would work with Alphabet’s Google to develop on an open-source chip design challenge with funding from the US Division of Protection.

SkyWater mentioned that it landed $15 million in funding from the DoD to develop a brand new open-source chip design platform powered by Google for its 90-nm course of know-how, which may give the U.S. navy a brand new method to procure U.S.-made chips sooner or later.

This isn’t the primary time SkyWater and Google have partnered on a challenge like this. The 2 firms beforehand partnered to allow the open supply design of customized application-specific built-in circuits (ASICs) on the previous’s 130-nm mixed-signal CMOS course of node.

The brand new open-source providing to be co-developed with Google, known as SKY90-FD, can be based mostly on SkyWater’s 90-nm totally depleted silicon on insulator (FDSOI) know-how developed at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory

Whereas the fabrication course of itself is not open supply, the method design package (PDK) is. A PDK is a set of recordsdata {that a} foundry shares with its clients to explain the constructing blocks of a particular manufacturing course of.

The PDK, which interfaces with electronic-design automation (EDA) software program, additionally covers the foundations chip engineers need to comply with throughout the design course of. Prospects use the PDK to design, simulate, and confirm a chip design earlier than sending the blueprint over to the foundry to construct prototypes or ramp up manufacturing.

Designing a chip is a really costly proposition. Excessive-end digital design automation (EDA) software program can also be costly to purchase. Having check chips manufactured by a foundry can price tens of 1000’s or thousands and thousands of {dollars}—an expense that open-source chip design instruments, together with PDKs, may assist ease. SkyWater was based again in 2017 and is presently the one pure-play chip foundry owned by U.S. traders.

The brand new partnership is meant to allow a brand new pipeline to create mental property (IP) and pace up innovation in chips whereas opening the door for extra inexpensive customized chip manufacturing, SkyWater mentioned.

Open-source software program is taking part in a rising function in mission-critical aerospace and protection programs designed by and for the Division of Protection. The DoD mentioned a significant benefit of open-source know-how is transparency, making it simpler to determine design flaws and malicious code, which isn’t all the time potential with proprietary software program.

However because the U.S. stares down its deteriorating means to make chips at house, the DoD hopes to carry the advantages of open supply to silicon. Matthew Kay, head of the brand new open-source silicon program on the DoD, mentioned public-private partnerships such because the one with Google and SkyWater are key to enhancing “our defensive posture for the long run” and locking in a dependable supply of US-made chips for navy use.

Google is investing in open silicon to drive down prices over time and cut back the numerous obstacles going through {hardware} startups and non-traditional chip designers that would change into property for Google sooner or later.

The open-source mannequin faucets right into a expertise pool of software program engineers to design chips in code and run design simulations that check, fine-tune, and validate chip designs. Consequently, chip engineers are in a position to iterate and innovate quicker and extra steadily tape-out check chips.

Will Grannis, CEO of Google’s newly created Public Sector division, mentioned the public-private partnership with the DoD and SkyWater represents a brand new period in accessible chip design pushed by an open-source method.

“Our collaboration will assist deal with the historic limitations of chip design and manufacturing for nationwide protection by enhancing accessibility for researchers and builders to innovate far quicker and at decrease prices,” Grannis mentioned.

The $15 million funding from the Pentagon is a part of a beforehand introduced $27 million bundle for U.S.-owned SkyWater, one of many upstarts within the fast-growing $100 billion foundry enterprise. A part of the funding may also be used to develop and deploy a 90-nm rad-hard course of. Referred to as RH90, the method is designed for radiation-hardened electronics that may deal with the tough situations in house and even in medical settings.

“It will develop our 90-nm foundry providing as a platform for innovation and productization right here within the U.S.,” mentioned SkyWater CEO Thomas Sonderman.