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Basic Terminology in Physical Design ~ VLSI Basics And Interview Questions

VLSI Basics And Interview Questions


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Basic Terminology in Physical Design

Design: A circuit that performs one or more logical functions.

Cell: An instance of a design or library primitive within a design.

Port: The input or output of a design.

Pin: The input or output of a cell.

Net: A wire that connects ports to ports or ports to pins.

Clock: A timing reference object to describe a waveform for timing analysis.

Logical Libraries: Logical libraries are libraries which provide

Timing and functionality information for all standard cells (like AND, OR, Flipflops)
Get this

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Basic Terminology in Physical Design ~ VLSI Basics And Interview Questions

Timing information for Hard Macros (IP, ROM, RAM)


Define drive/load design rules ( Max Transition, Max Fanout, Max/Min Capacitance)
Physical Libraries: Physical libraries are libraries which contain
Physical Information of Standard cells and Macro cells necessary for placement
Define placement unit tile
Standard Cell: A standard cell is a group of transistors and interconnect structures that provides a boolean
logic function (e.g., AND , OR, XOR , XNOR, inverters) or a storage function (flipflop or latch).

Macro:
Macros are intellectual properties that can be directly used in the design.
These are need not to be design. For example memories, processor core, PLL etc. A
macro can be hard or Soft macro.

Target Library: A technology library that Design Compiler maps to during


optimization. Along with the link_library and search_path variables, you need to
specify the logical library that will be used for mapping/optimization.

Link Library : The technology library that contains the definition of the cells used in
the mapped
design. In principle should be the same as target_library unless a technology
translation is being performed.

Search Path: If the library variables only specify file names, search_path is used to
locate libraries. By default points to current working directory. By default, you must
specify the unix-path for all files (relative or absolute). It specifies where to look for
files.

Constraints: Constraints are the instructions that the designer can apply during
various steps in the VLSI chip implementation, such as logic synthesis, Clock Tree
synthesis (CTS), Place & Route, and Static Timing Analysis (STA).
Constraints are 2 types
1. Design Rule Constraints
2. Optimization Constraints

Design Rule Constraints:


These are implicit constraints.

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Basic Terminology in Physical Design ~ VLSI Basics And Interview Questions

The technology library (.lib) defines them.


These constraints are requirements for a design to them.
These constraints are requirements for a design to function correctly, and they apply
to any design using the library.
You can make these constraints more restrictive than optimization constraints.
Different types of Design Rule Constraints are
1. Maximum Transition time
2. Maximum Fanout
3. Maximum/Minimum Capacitance
4. Cell Degradation

Optimization Constraints:
These are explicit constraints;
Designer define them.
Optimization constraints apply to the design on which you are working for the duration
of the dc_shell session and represent the design’s goals.
They must be realistic.
Optimization Constraints describe the design goals (Area, Timing etc)
Maximum Transition time:
The maximum transition time for a net is the longest time required for its driving pin to
change logic values. Typically fixed by buffering the output of driving gate.

Maximum Fanout:
The maximum fanout of an output measures it's load driving capability. Most
technology libraries (.lib) place fanout restrictions on driving pins, creating an implicit
fanout constraint for every driving pin in designs using that library. Design Compiler
models fanout restrictions by associating a fanout_load attribute with each input pin
and a max_fanout attribute with each output (driving) pin on a cell.

Maximum Capacitance:
The maximum total capacitance that an output pin can drive. The maximum
capacitance design rule constraint allows you to control the capacitance of nets
directly. (The design rule constraints max_fanout and max_transition limit the actual
capacitance of nets indirectly.)

Minimum Capacitance:

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Basic Terminology in Physical Design ~ VLSI Basics And Interview Questions

The min_capacitance design rule specifies the minimum load a cell can drive. It
specifies the lower bound of the range of loads with which a cell has been
characterized to operate.

Optimization Constraints:

Timing Constraints:
Timing Constraints are required to communicate the design’s timing intentions to IC
Compiler. They should be the same ones used for synthesis with Design Compiler
(preferably SDC).

Synopsys Design Constraints (SDC):


A format used to specify the design intent including the timing, power and area
constraints of a design. SDC is tool based. SDC contains 4 types of information.
1. SDC Version
2. SDC units
3. Design Constraints
4. comments

SDC version:
It sets the the version. Default version is 1.9

SDC units:
It specifies the units for capacitance, resistance, time, voltage, current and power.

Design Constraints:
The following are the design constraints are specified in SDC
1. system clock definition
2. clock delays
3. Multi Cycle Paths
4. Input & output delays
5. Minimum & Maximum path delays
6. Input transition and output load capacitance
7. False paths

Clock Tree Synthesis (CTS):

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Basic Terminology in Physical Design ~ VLSI Basics And Interview Questions

CTS is the process of inserting buffers/inverters along the clock paths of the design in
order to balance the skew and to minimize insertion delay.
Skew: Skew is the difference in arrival of clock at two consecutive pins of a
sequential element.

Positive skew- If capture clock comes late than launch clock then it is called
positive skew.

Negative skew-If capture clock comes early than launch clock it is called –ve
skew.
Local skew- It is the difference in arrival of clock at two consecutive pins of a
sequential element.
Global skew- It is Defined as the difference between max insertion delay and the
min insertion delay of any flops .
Boundary skew-It is defined as the difference between max insertion delay and
the min insertion delay of boundary flops.
Useful skew-If clock is skewed intentionally to resolve violations, it is called useful
skew.
Latency- Latency is the delay of the clock source and clock network delay.
Source latency- The delay from the clock origin point to the clock definition point
in the design.
Network latency- The delay from the clock definition point to the clock pin of the
register.
Uncertainity- Clock uncertainty is the time difference between the arrivals of clock
signals at registers in one clock domain or between domains.
Jitter- Jitter is the short-term variations of a signal with respect to its ideal position in
time. It is the variation of the clock period from edge to edge.

Setting Operating conditions:

1. Process Variation:
Variations in the process parameters, such as impurity concentration densities, oxide
thicknesses, and diffusion depths. These are caused by non-uniform conditions
during the deposition and/or the diffusion of the impurities. This introduces variations
in the sheet resistances and transistor parameters such as the threshold voltage

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Basic Terminology in Physical Design ~ VLSI Basics And Interview Questions

Variations in the dimensions of the devices, mainly resulting from the limited
resolution of the photo lithographic process. This causes (W/L) variations in MOS
transistors and mismatches in the emitter areas of bipolar devices.
2. Supply Voltage Variation
3. Ambient temperature Variations
4. It is important to analyze the design for best case and worst case
scenarios. Best case to find issues with hold time violations and worst
case to find issues with setup violations.

Timing Analysis:
Timing analysis is a method of validating the timing performance of a design by
checking the timing paths for timing violations.

Net Delay: Interconnect relationships between a driver pin and its fanout
In the absence of physical design information, the timing analyser in Synopsys uses
statistically generated wire load models to estimate wire lengths in a design. Two
important concepts behind wire load models are
1. Wire load models provide a fanout to length relationship. So by knowing fanout,
one can estimate the length.
2. capacitance and resistance per unit length are given and the estimated length is
then translated into estimated R and C values to give an estimated delays.
Wire load models are area dependent. Larger the area, greater the R and C value per
unit length.

Cell Delay:
Timing relationships between an input pin and an output pin, or between an output
pin and another output pin of the same gate.
Cell delay is calculated using non-linear delay models, which are stored in the ‘LM’
view of each cell.
NLDM is highly accurate as it is derived from SPICE characterizations.
The delay is a function of the input transition time of the cell (TInput) [also called
slew], the driving strength of the cell (RCell), the wire capacitance (CNet) and the pin
capacitance of the receivers (CPin).
A slow input transition time will slow the rate at which the cell’s transistors can
change state (from “on” to “off”), as well as a large output load (Cnet + Cpin), thereby
increasing the “delay” of the logic gate.

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Basic Terminology in Physical Design ~ VLSI Basics And Interview Questions

There is another NLDM table in the library to calculate output transition. Output
transition of a cell becomes the input transition of the next cell down the chain.

CMOS Delay Model:


Transition Time = Drive R * Load C
Cell Delay = f(Input Transition Time, Cnet + Cpin)
Net Delay = f(Rnet, Cnet + Cpin)

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