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CEO Interview: Pengwei Qian of SkillCAD

CEO Interview: Pengwei Qian of SkillCAD
by Daniel Nenni on 09-14-2020 at 6:00 am

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Pengwei Qian is the founder and CEO of SkillCAD, a grassroots EDA company that has amassed the most impressive customer list (60+ companies) I have experienced for a company of this size, absolutely.

Pengwei has a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and a Masters in Material Science from Fudan University and a Masters in Electronic Engineering from National University of Singapore. He started as an IC designer and now has more than 20 years of experience in EDA. Pengwei is also the co-founder of MiniSilicon and founder of YAMMI Inc.

 Why did you start SkillCAD?
When I was a CAD engineer for Elantec (acquired by Intersil) I saw that layout design required many repetitive mouse clicks, even for simple tasks.  As IC design became more complex so did the use of highly repetitive commands which significantly reduced layout team productivity while increasing the number of design errors and tape-out delays.  I felt that if tedious, repetitive, layout tasks could be simplified and automated it would reduce design time and increase the layout quality of results.

But the automation could not come at the expense of loss of control by the layout designer.  The type of custom layout design required by sophisticated Radio Frequency (RF), Power Management (PM), and many other complicated Mixed-Signal applications requires that the experienced layout designer maintain complete control of the design outcome.  The focus of SkillCAD has always been to create commands to automate complex layout tasks so that the designer can focus on the critical thought processes needed to create high quality layout.

How does SkillCAD integrate with the Cadence Virtuoso Layout Suite?
As the name implies, SkillCAD is a collection of layout commands written in the SKILL programming language. The SkillCAD IC Layout Automation Suite (IC LAS) seamlessly integrates into the Cadence Virtuoso layout design environment, using the layout and rule files supplied by the Cadence system. Since the tools were developed to support the native Cadence library objects they can be used in compliment to the Cadence tools. The levels of simplification and automation afforded by the SkillCAD commands can improve layout productivity by more than 50%. Cadence Virtuoso plus SkillCAD IC LAS have become the preferred layout environment for analog, RF and mixed signal designs.

What are the benefits of using SKILLCAD?
In the past internal CAD groups have independently written SKILL based tools for layout teams but rarely do they have the number of proven commands that are found  in IC LAS.  SkillCAD works closely with the top semiconductor companies and foundries integrating the latest design practices and process technologies. It really is a collaborative software product with many years of experience embedded into it.

Can you provide more detail on that?
Sure, SkillCAD commands have been used in production IC design for more than 12 years and have been developed in response to requests by layout designers around the world who are experts in the field and know what they need to increase their productivity and accuracy.

The commands are inspired by dedicated semiconductor professionals and implemented in innovative ways. SkillCAD’s proprietary “correct and optimized by construction” commands eliminate design rule violations, automates complex error prone layout implementation, and significantly improves a layout team’s productivity.

SkillCAD tools are maintained and supported by our SKILL programming experts, who are also knowledgeable on the needs of layout designers. This relieves CAD teams, often under-manned and over-tasked, of the burdens of trying to develop and maintain tools specific to layout teams or semiconductor manufacturing technologies.  The initial setup required for SkillCAD IC LAS is minimal and can be done for each manufacturing process. Today SkillCAD IC LAS works with Cadence Virtuoso Platforms: IC5, IC6, IC12 and IC18.

Who is the typical customer of SkillCAD IC LAS?
SkillCAD commands are designed to support all levels of the layout design flow and adapt to the design methodologies of most layout teams and individuals. Today our 120+ commands target custom mixed signal, RF and analog designs for process nodes at 12nm and above. We do have customers using IC LAS for advanced FinFET processes down to 3nm which will be fully supported in the upcoming release.

What are some of the issues associated with advanced process nodes as it relates to Layout design?
What makes designing at 10nm and below difficult is the increased complexity that comes from the additional physical design rules and constraints required for the additional metal layers and EUV technology.  Advanced nodes also require that Layout teams must now incorporate sophisticated color-aware custom routing and color aware physical design layout.

To better understand the upcoming layout challenges SkillCAD works very closely with advanced node customers and foundries to develop new commands and features to provide the automation needed to insure their layout teams can handle the increased complexity and shorten time to tape-out.

Where are you located and can you tell me a little more about your company?
We are located at 1580 Old Oakland Road, San Jose CA. We have been a Cadence connection partner since 2008.  We have distributors in Japan, China, Erupoe, Taiwan and Korea.  Feel free to visit our website to learn more: www.SkillCAD.com.   Should you want to view our 120 commands with tutorials and videos just click on the link below.  www.SkillCAD.com/reference-guide.   If you would like a demo or download an eval license please contact us at support@SkillCAD.com.


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