Gradient Launches CircuitFire, First 3D Temperature Analysis for Analog/mixed-signal IC Designs

SANTA CLARA, CALIF. - April 24, 2006 - Throughout the analog/mixed-signal integrated circuit (IC) design flow -- from early design exploration to final sign-off -- chip architects, circuit designers, and layout designers are feeling more pressure from the need for an accurate understanding of the temperature variations in their designs and how those temperature variations affect circuit performance and reliability. To meet that need, Gradient Design Automation Inc. today launched CircuitFire, the first software product to provide detailed 3D temperature analysis integrated directly into the design flow.

AMI Semiconductor (NASDAQ: AMIS), a designer and manufacturer of state-of-the-art integrated mixed-signal and structured digital products for the automotive, medical and industrial markets, used CircuitFire to perform in-depth predictive analysis of a chip for the automotive market. "CircuitFire has helped us better understand temperature gradients across our chip and how those gradients affected chip performance," said Morgan Ercanbrack, senior staff CAD engineer at AMI Semiconductor. "Analyzing the temperature behavior of a design improves the quality, reliability and performance of final silicon," Ercanbrack added. "By using CircuitFire to find and fix potential problems early, we can shorten the overall design cycle and get products to market quicker. Without the use of CircuitFire, certain problems are virtually undetectable until the chip is built. Finding and fixing those problems can take months of debug and engineering time, not to mention the additional costs associated with an engineering change order."

Inputs to CircuitFire are the design layout and power dissipation, the package model, and the process technology description. CircuitFire interfaces to circuit simulation and layout tools already in use in the design flow. With these inputs, CircuitFire automatically builds a detailed thermal model and computes the temperatures throughout the die, enabling designers to evaluate the internal chip temperature distribution taking into consideration the ambient temperature conditions and package characteristics. The temperatures of the devices and interconnect are then used in simulations run as part of the design process.

For early design evaluation, CircuitFire is ideal for estimating and viewing the effects of the temperature gradients on chip functionality. CircuitFire is also used within the design sign-off stage to evaluate temperature gradient effects on the electrical characteristics within a detailed sign-off flow. It enables designers to understand and evaluate the effects of temperature on electromigration and other material breakdown and the effect of temperature variation on circuit performance and functionality.

CircuitFire is the first product that combines multiple algorithms and disciplines to compute the detailed temperatures on the die. The combination of algorithms provides the capacity, throughput, and automation necessary to provide the detailed temperature analysis required for the IC design process. Previous methods of temperature analysis assumed a constant temperature throughout the chip, or a minimal amount of distributed temperature.

Unfortunately the constant temperature assumption does not provide enough detail to predict the potential functional failures in final silicon that may be caused by the sensitivity of devices such as matched circuitry and bandgap devices. For more highly integrated designs that integrate high power devices with sensitive circuitry, even a few degrees of variation in temperature over these sensitive devices can cause incorrect chip functionality. In addition to masking potential functionality problems, the use of constant temperature in reliability analysis may miss potential problems such as electromigration or material breakdown due to inaccurate assumptions about the temperature variation and maximum temperatures.

"The trend toward handheld and automotive applications has introduced higher levels of integration and a variety of ambient conditions that a system or device will experience," said Rajit Chandra, president and CEO of Gradient. "For example, the automotive environment can have ambient temperatures in the 180 degree Centigrade range. In handheld applications, the integration of power amplifiers with transceivers on a single die creates challenges predicting the functionality and performance in the end environment. These environmental conditions and integration challenges can significantly impact the performance and reliability of chips within the systems. Designers need to understand the impact of these conditions and how they affect the chip to ensure that it meets the design requirements. We're pleased to introduce CircuitFire, which adds thermal analysis into the analog/mixed-signal design environment at a price point and capacity that addresses the market need."

CircuitFire integrates the IC design, the chip and package characteristics, the ambient temperature conditions, and the process technology impact to predict the performance of an IC in its final environment. Understanding the detailed temperature on individual devices and wires enables designers to understand the true performance and reliability of a design throughout the design process. Because CircuitFire provides detailed information during the design stage, designers can discover and make the necessary changes to correct temperature gradients so they won't have a devastating impact on chip performance, reliability, cost, and project schedule.

Price and Availability
CircuitFire is available now on a time-based license. U.S. pricing starts at $75,000. For more information, contact Email Contact

About AMI Semiconductor
AMI Semiconductor (AMIS) is a leader in the design and manufacture of silicon solutions for the real world. As a widely recognized innovator in state-of-the-art integrated mixed-signal and structured digital products, AMIS is committed to providing customers with the optimal value, quickest time-to-market semiconductor solutions. Offering unparalleled manufacturing flexibility and dedication to customer service, AMI Semiconductor operates globally with headquarters in Pocatello, Idaho, European corporate offices in Oudenaarde, Belgium, and a network of sales and design centers located in the key markets of the North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region.

About Gradient
Gradient Design Automation Inc. provides electronic design automation (EDA) software tools that solve problems due to temperature and power for nanometer-scale digital, analog and mixed-signal IC designs. The company, founded in 2003, is privately held. For more information, see

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PR for Gradient - Cayenne Communication LLC
Linda Marchant, Email Contact, (919) 451-0776

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