ASIC development tools have often been inaccessible due to cost and complexity. Even as free, open-source tools have become available, the complexity of building and installing the tools has slowed their use by would-be designers.
A challenge in making ASIC development more accessible has been to provide free, easy-to-use development tools. Thankfully development of cloud-based tools using open-source software are making chip design easier than ever.
In June 2022, I had the chance to talk with @Proppy, a Tokyo-based Google engineer who’s enabling people to collaborative ASIC in the cloud with Jupyter and Colab notebooks.
In the interview we discussed:
- Example of researcher Teodor-Dumitru Ene using the tools to design optimized hardware adders
- Making ASIC design tools accessible
- Benefits of an online notebook approach
- Walking through a simple inverter design example
- How to host the notebooks on your own computer or virtual machine
- Package management using Anaconda
- Extracting design metrics
- More complicated RISC-V SoC example
- Optimizing designs for specific parameters
- Visualizing the optimization results
Proppy has further helped lower the bar to ASIC design with TinyUser Project, enabling quick and easy submissions to the Open MPW shuttles.
Other cloud tools exist as well that simplify the ASIC design flow. For the Zero to ASIC course, GitHub’s cloud-based Actions are an essential part of the flow. They help to continuously build the tools to verify their functionality, as well as to build the final GDS files and extract their key parameters.
You can read more about my experiences with GitHub actions here