Will community engineering work for semiconductors? Will anyone show up? Well, the efabless design challenge is complete and the results are both interesting and encouraging, absolutely!
Efabless completed its low power voltage reference IP design challenge on Monday, March 13. This was a very interesting event that we followed closely here at SemiWiki. It’s community-style development and challenge methodology was a first of its kind for the semiconductor IP industry.
Designers from all over the world were invited to compete for cash prizes, recognition and the ability to earn revenues by licensing through efabless’ clever community-style marketplace. Our good friends at X-FAB sponsored the challenge to test out what they see as an innovative on-demand design enablement solution for their customers. I was intrigued and added to the cash prizes for winners that are SemiWiki members.
So what happened? According to the results posted on the efabless website, 88 designers from 26 countries signed up for the challenge. They were broadly distributed geographically. Six designs passed customer requirements and ultimately the top three completed layout and were awarded cash prizes based on their relative standing in power consumption. First place went to Rishi Raghav (SemiWiki member). Second place went to Arsalan Jawed and third place went to Ibrahim Muhammed.
According to Mohamed Kassem, CTO and co-founder of eFabless, there were a number of interesting takeaways. First all, these were serious professionals. Two of the competitors represented small and, as shown by their designs in the challenge, very capable design firms. One, the eventual winner, Rishi, is an independent. Second, Mohamed was extremely impressed with the creativity and diversity of the designs and their architectures. All three winners took different approaches and delivered clean and interesting designs. The design of Arsalan employed a CMOS-only architecture, an unusual approach for a bandgap. There were also a number of designs that were not quite completed on time or were submitted outside the customer spec but with attributes that are intriguing. Mohamed said that we should expect to see one or more of these enter the marketplace in the coming weeks. I understand that winning designs will be processed on an MPW for silicon characterization and efabless will provide evaluation boards that community members can offer to their customers. This would be a real plus.
I have taken a look at the newly released “gen 2” marketplace for efabless. It is a very interesting enabler for what Mike Wishart, CEO, sees as a new market for “on-demand” IP delivered by efabless community. The marketplace looks great, is easy to search and navigate, and provides very interesting information on both the IP and also the designer. The designer section has various designer supplied information as well as quantifiable certification based on designer’s success on the platform. I can see why independent designers and small firms would be very attracted to this. In Mike’s view of the world, a customer can come to the marketplace, find an IP design that closely matches his or her needs and simulate it at no cost in their design. If they like what they see but need some customization, they can check out the designer’s qualifications and history, and then engage the designer for final work.
efabless says we should stay tuned for future design challenges and additional design capability for the efabless community. I am impressed with the community turnout on the project and excitement for the platform. Apparently, community is at over 1000 members, up from 600 or so in November. Next step will be to see the depth of customer demand.
efabless is the first online marketplace for community-developed, customized integrated circuits (ICs) that lets hardware system innovators turn product visions into market reality. The company applies the concepts of crowdsourcing and open community innovation to key aspects of IC development and commercialization. Specializing in the design of analog/mixed signal ICs, power management ICs MEMS and agile ASICs, the company gives designers all the means needed to define, develop and monetize their work. It has built up a community of over 700 members from 30 countries around the world. For information visit: www.efabless.com