NSF Sponsored Workshop on Structured Design Methods for MEMS

A Case for Involving EDA Companies in

Peter T. Parrish
Tanner Research, Inc.
180 North Vinedo Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91107

The most important contribution that an EDA company can make in the area of MEMS CAD and Modeling is to productize the algorithm and technology development of universities in a form that gains industry acceptance for its commercial quality, completeness, and on-going support and development. In doing so, EDA companies seed the growth of an emerging technology in a number of areas that universities are not prepared to address. Tanner Research is uniquely positioned EDA supplier with a track record of successfully commercializing university research.

(1) Leverage Existing Software Tools

A new technology is typically supported by a rough adaptation of pre-existing CAD tools. These adapted tools lack integration and features that ease transition to and adoption of a new technology. Developing these needed additional features in a widely-available, industry-tested tool, with a "bottom-up" analysis of the technology-specific issues and design flow is a much more cost-effective approach. By working with EDA companies, universities can devote their resources to algorithm development instead of duplication of existing software features. Work can be coordinated via EDA industry standard file formats and interface standards. Established EDA vendors can provide "hooks" into their programs that provide universities the opportunity create custom capabilities that build on the existing tool features. A good example of this type of hook is the User Programmable Interface~(UPI), that Tanner Research provides with L-EditTM, for algorithmic creation of designs.

(2) Ease-of-Use and Technical Support

Commercial tools consist of and imply much more than point tool features. Most tools have developed a graphical user interface, an established engineering design flow, and other added features that make it easy for users to enter, document and maintain designs; perform analysis; and visualize results. These tools also have extensive on-line help and documentation. Trained technical support staff are available by phone, fax and email. Support can also include application notes, tutorials, short courses, and other training materials.

(3) Maintenance and Platform Support

Without clear technology-specific documentation, the barrier to the use of new technology is raised. As technology evolves, the process of updating and verifying the related software components, such as libraries and DRC/ERC rule sets, can become a major burden. EDA firms are prepared to track and respond to these changes. In order to reach the maximum market, EDA vendors support multiple platforms (e.g., PC-DOS, Windows, Macintosh and UNIX) and track platform and operating system changes. Multiple platform support is usually not a cost effective option for universities.

(4) Functionality and Quality

In addition to "new features" there are "improved features". Commercial tools are continually "fine-tuned" to increase solution speed, improve convergence, and decrease memory requirements. Commercial code is also subjected to a level of testing, QA and customer feedback that far exceeds what a university effort can justify, but which in the long term assures a high level of quality in the user's hands.

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