|A Newsletter for the Semiconductor Industry|
Welcome to Tekmos Talks April 2017 and our 20th Year Anniversary Celebration. We want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all of our customers, distributors, sales and staff for a great 20 years. We will share some stories of our success, talk about quality, and feature a product.
|From the Desk of the President, Lynn Reed|
20 Years of Solutions
April marks the 20th anniversary of Tekmos' founding. Twenty years ago, James Betts and Lynn Reed left their jobs in California, moved to Austin, and started Tekmos. One of the more difficult things to do in a new company is to choose a name. We liked Tekmos, and when we googled it, there were no other hits, and we claimed it for ourselves.
Starting as a design center, we made the transition into a fabless semiconductor supplier two years later. We started by making digital ASICs, branched into Mixed Signal ASICs, and from there into standard products such as microprocessors, specialty memories, and peripherals. We also expanded from our original telecom emphasis into industrial, military, medical, and high temperature oil markets.
We just started work on our 830th chip. Looking back, it seems that our more interesting projects have all been related to either man-made or natural disasters.
In 2005, hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. This included the loss of the neighborhood phone switches. These switches relied on a custom chip that had been made at VLSI Technology, which had been acquired by Phillips, and whose fab had since been shut down. There was intense pressure to make 60,000 new chips, which were necessary for the full restoration of phone service in New Orleans. We got the job, since it had a mixed signal component, and so other companies declined to bid. The chip was a complicated one, with a lot of dual port RAM, and an embedded phase locked loop. We undertook a rush program to re-implement the design, and get it fabricated. Everything was expedited. This included working over the Christmas holidays, and putting in some very long days. In one event that stands out, we completed testing the first prototypes at about 2 AM on a Sunday morning. The customer purchasing agent was with us, and he arranged for a UPS pickup at that time, and the part to be flown directly to Mexico for assembly later on that day. We were surprised that such a thing could even be done. We delivered, and phone service was restored.
In 2011, the Tohoku earthquake occurred, which devastated the Japanese city of Sendai. Freescale had a fab in Sendai that was destroyed. The loss of that fab meant that they were unable to deliver what was to be a last time buy on microcontrollers to many customers. We set up an agreement with Freescale where we provided replacements for about 20 different microcontrollers. To do so, we designed a special gate array that contained ROM, EEPROM, and an ADC. This reduced our development time, and allowed us to switch devices part way through the manufacturing cycle if necessary in order to meet a particular demand.
One of the more difficult challenges was to recreate the 68020 microprocessor. The yield of this part was very sensitive to variations in poly sheet resistance, and the Sendai fab was the only Freescale fab capable of holding the required poly tolerances. And to complicate things, the original design documents had been lost. The only documentation available was the GDS data base and the production test vectors. All 51 of them. The chip had been designed using a combination of NMOS dynamic logic and CMOS static logic. Our design approach was to use our layout verification tool to extract the spice netlist from the layout. We then post processed the netlist to extract individual gates, and then to combine gates into higher order functions such as flops. We converted all dynamic logic into static logic, and re-implemented complex gates into collections of simple gates. And some of the complex logic gates were quite complex. Many of them had over 100 inputs. Then we began an iterative process, converting the production test into Verilog test bench vectors, and using them to check the design. Errors were corrected, and the simulations rerun to find the next error. When all of the errors were fixed. We made silicon.
We had many problems doing the 68020. The most difficult one was a case where the original design had transferred data onto a data bus, and left it there for a clock cycle. In essence, it was using the data bus as a dynamic 32-bit register. The circuit was not working, and we had a very hard time finding something that wasn't there. Once we realized what was going on, we had to add the register to make it work.
Not all disasters are caused by nature. Some are caused by men. One of our customers approached us with an obsolete FPGA that needed replacing. However, the original design files had been misplaced, and because of layoffs, the original engineers we gone as well. All that the customer had was the bitstream. In order to replace the design, we had to reverse engineer the bitstream. We would not do this if it were a case of someone trying to copy another design. But we will do it for the original owner. This was not an easy task. After deciphering the bitstream, we created a Verilog model of the FPGA, and loaded it with the bitstream. Then we used Synopsys to reduce the FPGA model to gates, which we then placed and routed.
This has been just a few of our stories. We have similar ones for each of the areas we operate in. Military stories, medical device stories, implantable stories, oil stories. Twenty years of stories. It has been fun and we look forward to the next twenty years.
Or fill out the FPGA questionnaire form here.
Or to Request a Quote.
|Quality Control, From the Desk of Director of Operations|
I Agree With Deming, By Jon Gehm
As a young boy, I can still hear my grandfather patiently encouraging my efforts to improve my skill with an ax. He had an interest in that, as much of his pasture land was covered in small mesquite trees. He had cattle, and more grass land and less mesquite was a good thing in his mind. It also gave me a way to make money during the summer between school years. Unfortunately, my early system for cutting trees was random and frantic hacking all up and down the tree trunk. When I did manage to chop a small tree down, it was a minor miracle.
"Yes sir, I sure do see a lot of activity. Now, if we can just work a little bit more on the achievement."
Wait. Was that a compliment? Maybe not. My Paw Paw had a funny way of saying one thing, but when you thought about it, it sure sounded like he meant something else. I learned to listen for those bits of wisdom, from him as well as in the writings and words of others.
Another person I found worth learning from is Dr. W. Edwards Deming. He lived from 1900 - 1993, and was considered by many to be the founder of the third wave of the industrial revolution. He was definitely a leading speaker for Quality on a global scale, and is still considered something of a folk hero in Japan. He could also make a point with very few words.
Deming said that, "Every system is perfectly designed to get the result that it does." And that "a bad system will beat a good person every time."
Well, that does sound a little bit like my early ax handling skills on those trees. Maybe Paw Paw was on to something.
But Dr. Deming didn't stop there. He also said, "We should work on our process, not the outcome of our process." Further making the point that "managing by results is like looking in the rear view mirror."
To my credit, I did adjust my approach to chopping mesquite trees. I found that a certain angle and specific placement of the blade resulted in a lot less work, with many more trees lying on the ground. I learned that when I focused on changing my process, the goal came much easier.
I believe that Dr. Deming is saying the same thing. That it is actually influencing the processes within a system that will have the most effect on the results. At Tekmos we understand what Dr. Deming was saying. That it doesn't matter if you are discussing Quality, Production, or Engineering. It is the process and the system focus that will lead to the goals that we want, for ourselves, our products, and for the needs of our customers.
Dr. Deming also said, "It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory."
Yes, I believe that Dr. Deming could make a profound point with sense of humor. Much as my Paw Paw did that day many years ago.
For more information on Tekmos Quality Control...
|Product Feature Corner|
Product Feature: TK68HC705C9A Microcontroller
Tekmos' expanded line of microcontrollers includes the replacements for the NXP (Freescale) MC68HC705C8A and MC68HC705C9A microcontrollers.
The TK68HC705C9A is an 8-bit microcontroller. The Tekmos TK68HC705C9A also has a configuration register that allows the part to be re-configured to replace both the MC68HC705C8A and the MC68HC705C12A. An interesting feature of the configuration register is that it changes the physical pinout of the TK68HC705C9A to match the pinout of the MC68HC705C8A.
The TK68HC705C9A uses Flash to replace the original EPROM program storage. This means that while the original parts were OTP (One Time Programmable), the Tekmos version is fully re-programmable. The TK68HC05C9A is a ROM version of the part that provides a low cost solution for high volume production.
Both the TK68HC705C8A and TK68HC705C9A are available in the 44-pin PLCC (FN), 40-pin PDIP (P) and space saving 44-pin PQFP (FB) packages.
|Blast From the Past: Tekmos Talks from March 2012|
New Product Breakthrough: High Temperature ASIC's
A worldwide shale gas and oil revolution has given Tekmos the opportunity to demonstrate its innovative High Temperature ASICs 225ºC and 125ºC to meet the oil and gas markets needs for drilling.
Oil wells are measured downhole for a variety of parameters important for oil production. Temperature, pressure, and nuclear logging techniques where things like hydrocarbon % in the rock, porosity, lithology (composition of the rock) and water salinity all incorporate devices using high temperature ASIC's.
As we all continue to work toward improved forms of clean energy Tekmos high temperature ASIC's will be useful in that pursuit including drilling for geothermal energy. Learn about Sandia National Laboratories' work about the technical challenges of high temperature well logging and the benefits of geothermal energy and drilling.
|Thank You for Reading Tekmos Talks|
Thank you for reading Tekmos Talks and helping us celebrate 20 years. Call (512) 342-9871 or email Sales for more information.
Tekmos, 20 years of solutions.
Lynn Reed, President
7901 E. Riverside Dr. Building 2, Suite 150