|A Newsletter for the Semiconductor Industry|
Welcome to Tekmos Talks June 2017 and 20 Years of Solutions. In this issue of Tekmos Talks, we are going to talk about some of the Services Tekmos offers. We are primarily a provider of ASICs and microprocessors, but the capabilities we use for these circuits are also available individually. Overall, our services can be broken down into the three areas of Design and Verification, Test and Characterization, and Burn-in and Reliability.
|Design and Verification Services|
Design and Verification Services
Sometimes, a project needs additional engineering resources. When that happens, Tekmos design engineers are available to help.
Digital ASIC Design
Working from your specifications, Tekmos can create digital designs and layouts in your preferred process technology. We can also assist with IP selection and interfacing.
Mixed Signal ASIC Design
Not all designs are digital. Tekmos can design the analog portions, and provide the design in either schematic form or a GDS layout in the process technology of your choice.
Our designs are not just for ASICs. We can also develop FPGA based designs, in any of the FPGA families. Internally, it is our standard practice to implement our processors in an FPGA before we commit to silicon. This has given us a great deal of experience in working within the FPGA environment.
Sometimes a design needs an IP block. These are usually a specific peripheral to a processor, or a communications interface. IP locks serve as an efficient way of partitioning a design so that multiple designers can work on the same project. Many IP blocks can be purchased, while others need to be designed to meet a customer's specific requirements.
Tekmos' designers can create IP to your specifications. The IP can be supported with simulations and design documentation.
The best way to insure a robust and working design is to divide the design effort into two teams. The design team creates the design, and the verification team writes simulations to check the work based on the original specifications. It is desirable for the verification team to be separate from the design team, to avoid their effort being influenced by the design team. This type of activity is detailed in such specifications as the FAA DO-254.
Tekmos can serve as the independent design or verification team for your FPGA or ASIC.
When a new part is released, the first question is does it work? To answer this question, it takes more than plugging it into a board and seeing if it powers up. To prove that it works, a sample needs to be functionally tested and have its AC and DC parameters measured over the temperature and voltage extremes. Tekmos offers a wide variety of services to support the customer's program requirements for device characterization.
|Test and Characterization Services|
Test and Characterization Services
Tekmos offers test and characterization services. As a fabless semiconductor company, Tekmos has an internal test facility, with testers ranging up to 320 pins in size. We offer access to these facilities and the engineers that run them.
Verification and Debug of ASICs
Some customers have developed an ASIC, but lack the facilities to completely test it, or to debug it if there is a problem. Our testers provide the means to verify the ASIC, and to debug it. Also, our testers can be remotely accessed, allowing the customer engineer to exercise their part from the comfort of their own office.
Verification of Brokered Parts
Brokers have become very efficient in obtaining mature parts. But there is always the question of if the parts are correctly marked, and will they perform to specification. Re-testing the parts is the best way to resolve those questions.
Test Program Creation
Customers do not always have a test program for their parts. In those cases, we can create one from scratch. Starting from either design files or a data sheet, our engineers can write patterns that functionally exercise the parts.
The question for all new parts is does the part meet all specifications over the temperature and voltage limits? And the only way to find out is to measure it. Tekmos can take your part, and measure the functionality, DC specifications, and AC specifications over the desired temperature range. Then we consolidate the data into a report, that shows how well the new part works as compared to the specifications. This service is useful for both new designs and to evaluate existing designs.
Up-screening is the checking of a parts performance when it is operated beyond the manufacturers specification. Why up-screen? Customers do it because the parts they really want are unavailable. Another reason is that since specifications such as voltage, speed, and temperature are frequently interrelated, you can guarantee improved performance on one spec by limiting the others. For example, improved speed can be obtained by limiting the voltage and temperature ranges. Or a battery powered device maker obtain a lower the minimum operating voltage by reducing the operating speed.
Tekmos up-screens parts by running an electrical test on the parts using the new specifications. These specifications may represent changes to the temperature, voltage, or speed of the part.
|Burn-In and Reliability|
Burn-In and Reliability Testing
Tekmos also offers Burn-In and Reliability Testing services. The requirements can vary from part to part, and Tekmos can customize these services to meet your exact needs.
The failure rate of integrated circuits over time follows what is called the "bathtub" curve. There is a high rate of infant mortality initial failures. Then the failure rate drops, only to increase at the end of life due to wear out failures. The reliability of a part can be enhanced by providing a burn-in at elevated temperatures prior to usage. This burn-in is typically somewhere from 40 to 160 hours in length, and is done at a temperature of between 70ºC and 125ºC. It is important that the parts be exercised during this burn-in. It is also good to monitor the part performance during burning, so that the time point of failures can be detected. That data can be used to set the optimum burn-in length.
One of the major costs of a burn-in is the boards used for the burn-in. This is a tradeoff between the cost of the sockets on the boards, the number of boards needed, and the total number of parts to be burned in. Major manufacturers with very high volumes will invest in high quality sockets that will cost from $50 to $100 per chip. This socket cost adds up quickly.
In addition to the oven capacity, Tekmos also has in-house design and layout capability for both the burn-in boards and driver boards (if needed).
There are several over-lapping reliability testing specifications. Specifically, these are the JESD47I, the AEC-Q100, and the military Mil Spec 883. These require subjecting several lots to stresses, and then looking for failures. Some tests are for the die, and other tests check the packages. Because of the standardization of the packages, the die tests are the most important. And the main die test is the HTOL, or High Temperature Operating Life. In this test, the parts are typically operated at 125ºC for 1000 hours. If the parts cannot be tested in the oven, the parts will be periodically pulled from the oven, tested, and re-inserted back into the oven. Common read points are at 48, 96, 168, 250, 500, and 1000 hours.
Parts that fail are subjected to a failure analysis. The type of failure analysis depends on the nature of the failure. Some failures are obvious, such as a pin breaking off. Other failures may need to be decapsulated, and analyzed optically. Failure analysis is engineering intensive, and Tekmos can provide that support.
Give us a call and find out how we can meet your burn-in and reliability testing needs.
|Inside Tekmos Visit to Drone Show|
AUVSI Xponetial Drone Show
We visited the AUVSI Xponential Drone Show to research prospective chip offerings. We are looking into offering radar processing chip sets, and it was a good opportunity to meet with sensor manufacturers and discuss their needs. It appears that there is a market opportunity for a radar chipset. But whether it is a correct choice for us will require further research.
Drones are an exciting area, and it was a real challenge to remain focused on our research. Because everywhere we looked, there were really interesting drones and applications.
There were over 600 manufacturers exhibiting at the show. There were land, sea, and air drones. There were people selling applications using drones. And there were companies selling components to build drones. This included airframes, engines, propellers, hardware, sensors, and batteries. And for a person interested in drones, it was heaven.
|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