One of the challenges in bringing a design into production is getting a quote that includes all the various stages of the process. The quote cycle typically takes a couple of weeks. It is also pretty wasteful. A typical design might be quoted by 3 manufacturers and so 2 out of 3 quotes are wasted expense because the design is lost to a competitor (and, of course, ultimately ends up as a cost on the designs that are won). When the quote is done manually there are high risks of errors: options that get forgotten, or options that are incompatible being ordered together.
eSilicon has had the goal of automating as much of the process of handling the fab operations and customers with designs in their manufacturing flow can access the complete status online. Internally they had an automated tool for handling quotes that made the process faster and less error prone. They started making this available to their customers, initially just for multi-project wafer (MPW) prototype shuttle runs. Then earlier this summer they made the entire quote system for prototypes and production available. At DAC they had a demonstration of the system in action which I blogged about then, but there was no video of the demonstration so there were probably lots of things that were not entirely clear.
Today, eSilicon ran a webinar in which “live on stage” they actually quoted a part. As in the DAC demo, the specification of the chip was not canned numbers but were being provided by a customer of eSilicon. To make it even clearer that this was live and not staged, a couple of times the audience were polled for a choice. It took about 10 minutes to enter all the data and then perhaps 30 seconds from completing it to have the quote.
There are several sections that you need to complete: the process, the die size, the package and so on.
Here is specifying the package. The quote system automatically only gives you choices that are compatible with the choices you have made so far. In the webinar the chip was bumped and so no wire-bond packaging options are offered since that is incompatible, for example.
Then finally, get the quote. It is actually a multi-page document with a fair bit of detail, but the cost of prototypes and the cost in volume production are probably the most important. Here is a bit of the quote. Using the system is almost as simple as shopping on Amazon except you are buying things that cost in the $millions.
Changing a few test options to get the price down a little was even quicker. For now, you have to enter the whole design a second time but later this year that obvious inconvenience will be fixed and you will be able to start one quote by starting from another and just making incremental changes.
For now the quote system covers only TSMC processes from 28nm up to 0.35um. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the quote system is that there is a complete TSMC cost-model under the hood, along with similar (but much simpler) cost models for wafer sort, final sort, packaging, assembly.
One thing to emphasize is that the quote is a legally binding document (well, once signed of course). It is not an “estimate” of what eSilicon will charge you. It is a price that eSilicon will stand behind, and indirectly TSMC and the other people in the supply chain too.
This is a game anyone can play. Go to the eSilicon website here. In the middle at the top of the screen it says “GDSII Quotes”. Sign up if you are not already a user, then you too can play with the system or, if you are at just the right point in your design process, use it for real.
UPDATE: the link to the webinar is here (registration)