Accelerate the Semiconductor Workflow with a Standardized Measurement Framework

Accelerate the Semiconductor Workflow with a Standardized Measurement Framework

Across the semiconductor industry we continue to see increased device complexity, new measurement requirementsand pressure to get to market quicker - and with reduced average selling prices (ASPs) too. New applications, such as 5G and WiFi-7, are introducing new measurement requirements, while mission critical applications, such as autonomous vehicles, are driving the need for higher levels of product quality, requiring more test coverage and more performance data. Simply put, validation and test organizations are being pulled in many directions at once – they need to get to market faster, while addressing new measurement requirements and improving overall product quality. It is quite a challenging environment, but it is not without itssolutions.

Post-silicon validation is a crucial phase of the semiconductor lifecycle and can also represent significant cost and schedule risk if not managed effectively. Unfortunately, the time allocated for validation and characterization is often compressed because of design delays. And in the end, chipmakers that get to market first gain market share and the ones that get to market late get stuck playing catch-up. But speed cannot come at the sake of quality, because missing a bug could lead to severe ramifications, such as increased product returns, lost sockets, or even damage to brand reputation.

Semiconductor companies are faced with the challenge of striking a precarious balance between releasing products quickly and ensuring product quality. The solution starts with evolving lab practices to improve efficiency and speed. “Using traditional approaches, significant time and effort is wasted when engineers across different teams re-create software that they could have reused had it been standardized”

Given these requirements, engineering teams responsible for product validation and characterization often express the need to be more agile and more efficient. Unfortunately, the often fragmentedstate of both hardware and software in many organizations makes this difficult.  The nature of large companies having grown through mergers &acquisitions - or the historical nature of product validation being a function of the design team- often leads to duplication of effort and inconsistency across world-wide lab teams.

As a result,a key strategy for reducing cost and minimizing time to market is adopting a standardized software framework that facilitates IP reuse and often enables “zero-code” measurement solutions for the end user.  This technique maximizes efficiency across a lab workflow – a workflow that includes both interactive and automated tasks, from interactive bring-up and debug, to fully automated functional validation and characterization.

Figure 1. As the last step before manufacturing, lab validation schedules are often compressed.

Using traditional approaches, significant time and effort is wasted when engineers across different teams re-create software that they could have reused had it been standardized. Standardizationhelps engineers not only overcome the continuous schedule challenges in post-silicon validation, but also increase test coverage and ensure the quality of the final product. Given the right software infrastructure for lab validation, engineers can focus on critical validation tasks instead of developing and debugging software.

We know a standardized software frameworksolution works. In fact, effective standardization solutions can automate more than 80 percent of repetitive tasks to save valuable time for the engineers in the lab. Moreover, standardization solutions built on open platforms are future proof because they provide multivendor hardware support and, where possible, multilanguage software support.

Although it’s clear that while advances in the complexity of modern semiconductor ICs make product validation and characterization more challenging, it’s often difficult for organizations to adopt industry best practices such as software standardization.  Software standardization efforts are often coupled with organizational change and can require critical infrastructure development.  But in the long run, investing in standardized software frameworks helps organizations get products to market quickly – and without sacrificing product quality.



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