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Experts At The Table: Design For Yield (DFY) moves closer to the foundry/manufacturing side

By Sara Verbruggen

SemiMD discussed the trend for design for yield (DFY) moving closer to the foundry/manufacturing side with Dr Bruce McGaughy, Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President of Engineering, ProPlus Design Solutions, Ya-Chieh Lai, Engineering Director, Silicon and Signoff Verification, Cadence and Michael Buehler, Senior Marketing Director, Calibre Design Solutions, Mentor Graphics, and Amiad Conley, Technical Marketing Manager, Process Diagnostics and Control, Applied Materials. What follows are excerpts of that conversation.

SemiMD: What are the main advantages for design for yield (DFY) moving closer to the manufacturing/foundry side, and is it a trend with further potential?

Forte: Mentor refers to this trend as ‘design-manufacturing co-optimization’ because in the best scenario it involves improving the design both to achieve higher yield and to increase the performance of the devices that can be achieved for a given process. Companies embrace this opportunity in different ways. At one end of the scale, some fabless IC companies do the minimum they have to do to pass the foundry sign-off requirements. However, some companies embrace co-optimization as a way to compete, both by decreasing their manufacturing cost (higher yield means lower wafer costs), and by increasing the performance of their products at a given process node compared to their competition. Having a strong DFY discipline also enables fabless companies to have more portability across foundries, giving them alternate sources and purchasing power.

Ya-Chieh: Broadly speaking there are three typical insertion points for design for manufacturability (DFM)/DFY techniques. The first is in the design flow as design is being done. The second is as part of design sign-off. The last is done by the foundry as part of chip finishing.

The obvious advantage of DFY/DFM moving closer to the manufacturing/foundry side is in terms of ‘access’ to real fab data. This information is closely guarded by the fab and access is still only in terms of either encrypted data or models that closely correlate to silicon data but that have been carefully scrubbed of too many details.

However, the complexity of modern designs requires that DFM/DFY techniques need to be as far upstream in the design flows as possible/practicable. Any DFM/DFY technique that requires a modification to the design must be comprehended by designers so that any design impact can be properly accounted for so as to prevent the possibility of design re-spins late in the design cycle.

What we are seeing is not that DFM/DFY is moving closer to the manufacturing, or foundry, side, but that different techniques have been needed over the years to address the need of the designer for information as early as possible. Initially much of DFM/DFY was in the form of complex rule-based extensions to DRC, but much of this has since moved to include model-based and, in many cases, pattern-based checks (or some combination thereof).  More recently, the trend has been towards deeper integration with design tools and more automated fixing or optimization. DFM/DFY techniques that merely highlight a “hotspot” is insufficient. Designers need to know how to fix the problem and in the event there is a large number of fixes designers need to know how to automatically fix the problem. In other words the trend is about progressing towards better techniques for providing this information upstream and in ways that can be actionable by designers.

Conley: The key benefit in DFY approach is the ability to provide tailored solutions to the relevant manufacturing steps in a way that optimize performance based on device specific characteristics. This trend will definitely evolve further. We definitely see the trend in the defect inspection and review loops in foundries, which are targeted to generate paretos of the representative killer defects at major process steps. Due to the defects becoming smaller and the optical limitation of the detection tools, design information is used today to enable smarter sampling and defect classification in the foundries. To accelerate yield ramp going forward, robust infrastructure development is needed as an enabler to extract relevant information from chip design to the defect inspection, defect review and metrology equipment.

McGaughy: The foundation information used by designers in DFY analysis comes from the fab/foundry. This information is encapsulated in the form of statistical device models provided to the design community as part of the process design kit (PDK). Statistical models and, more recently, layout-dependent effect information is used by designers to determine the margin their design has for a particular process. This allows the designers to optimize their design to achieve the desired yield versus power, performance, area (PPA) trade-off. Without visibility into process variability via the foundry-provided Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis (SPICE) models, DFY would not be viable. Hence, foundries are clearly at the epicenter of DFY. As process complexity increases and more detailed information of process variation effects are captured into SPICE models and made available to designers, it can be expected that the role of the foundry will continue to be more important in this respect over time.

SemiMD: So does this place a challenge on the EDA industry, or, how are EDA companies, such as ProPlus, helping to enable this trend?

McGaughy: The DFY challenge that designers face creates an opportunity for the EDA industry. As process complexity increases, there is less ‘margin’. Tighter physical geometries, lower single supply voltage (Vdd) and threshold voltage (Vth), new device structures, new process techniques and more complex designs all push margins. Margins refer to the slack that designers may have to ensure they can create a robust design. That not only works at nominal conditions, but under real-world variability.

Tighter margins mean a greater need to carefully asses the yield versus PPA trade-off that creates the need for DFY tools. This is where companies such as ProPlus come in. ProPlus helps designers use the foundry-provided process variation information effectively and designers can validate and even customize foundry models for specific application needs with the industry’s de-facto golden modeling tool from ProPlus.

SemiMD: Is this trend for DFY moving closer to the foundry/manufacturing side the only way to improve yields, as the industry continues to push towards further scaling, and all of the challenges that this entails?

Ya-Chieh: Actually we believe the trend is actually towards tighter integration with design, not less!

Conley: DFY solutions alone are not sufficient and they need to be developed in conjunction with wafer fabrication equipment enhancements. Looking at the wafer inspection and review (I&R) segment, the need to detect smaller defects and effectively separate yield killer defects from false and nuisance defects leads to an increased usage of SEM-based defect inspection tools that have higher sensitivity. At Applied Materials, we are very focused on improving core capabilities in imaging and classification. In our other technology segments there are also a lot of innovations on deposition and removal chamber architecture and process technologies that are focused on yield improvement. DPY schemes, as well as advancement in wafer fabrication equipment, are needed to improve yields as the industry advances scaling.

Forte: Strategies aside, the fact is that beyond about 40nm, IC designs must be optimized for the target manufacturing process. At each progressive node, the design rules become more complex and the yield becomes more specific to an individual design. For example, layouts now have to be checked to make sure they do not contain specific patterns that cannot be accurately fabricated by the process. This is mainly due to the fact that we are imaging features that are much smaller than the wavelength of the light currently used in production steppers. But there are many other complexities at advanced nodes associated with etch characteristics, via structures, fill patterns, electrical checks, chemical-mechanical polishing, double patterning, FinFET transistor nuances, and many others.

These issues are too numerous and too complex to deal with after tapeout. The foundries simply cannot remove all yield limiters by adjusting their process. For one thing, some of the issues are simply beyond the control of the process engineers. For example some layout patterns simply cannot be imaged by state-of-the-art steppers, so they must be eliminated from the design. Another problem, or challenge, is that foundries need to run designs from many customers. In most cases, very large consumer designs aside, foundries cannot afford to optimize their process flow for one customer’s design. Bottom line, design-manufacturing co-optimization issues must be taken into consideration during the physical design process.

McGaughy: More and more yield is a shared responsibility. At older nodes when defect density limits were responsible for optimal yields, the foundries took on most of the responsibility. At deep nanometer nodes, this is no longer the case. Now, the design yield must be optimized via trade-offs. Foundries are pushed to provide ever better performance at each new node and this means that they too have less process margin. Rather than guard band for process variation, foundries now provide the designer with detailed visibility into how the process variation will behave. Designers in turn can now make the choices they need to make, such as whether they need performance to be competitive or how best to achieve optimal performance with lowest yield risk. This shared responsibility for yield has pushed the DFY trend to the forefront. It serves to bridge the gap between design and manufacturing and will continue to do so as process technology scales.

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