Fractal Technologies: Stalwarts of IP Design Validation
Integrated circuit (IC) designs are becoming extremely challenging owing to the increasing complexity of new process nodes. Since new semiconductor manufacturing nodes does not support the existing IP or library characterization flows, circuit designers are obligated to include new formats and databases in the IP deliverables. Now, to ensure the quality and system reliability of the new process nodes, IP design validation becomes highly essential. As manually checking every cell in a library for its consistency among several data formats, functionalities, and labels is nearly impossible, circuit designers need a dynamic and powerful validation tool.
That’s precisely where Fractal Technologies comes in with their groundbreaking quality analysis (QA) tool—Crossfire. “Our QA tool can find and report inconsistencies in the design format and report it to the concerned parties to enable timely changes and prevent delays in the design cycle,” says Rene Donkers, co-founder and CEO of Fractal Technologies. With Fractal’s QA software, IP design teams can quickly bring new formats on-stream in their characterization flows, prevent discrepancies in the design format, and enable faster and more effective IC development.
Founded in 2010, Fractal Technologies is a privately-owned company that prides itself on achieving market leader status in the semiconductor IP validation arena without relying on venture capital. Today, the company has offices across the globe, including Austin, TX, San Jose, CA, and several others in France, Netherlands, among others with partner distributors in Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea. Fractal also has a state-of-the-art research and development establishment near Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
According to Donkers, his company’s success can be attributed to its customer-focused approach on operational expansion. By assessing the prevalent IP validation challenges, team Fractal narrowed the issue down to the use of disparate internal solutions for quality checks on IP blocks. Through Crossfire, the company allows IC developers and IP providers to compare their design formats with a framework of existing IP block designs. This core competency of Fractal’s solution has enabled the company to grow its clientele and become the preferred IP validation partner for multiple industry-leading semiconductor companies.
"Our QA tool can find and report inconsistencies in the design format and report it to the concerned parties to enable timely changes and prevent delays in the design cycle"
While discussing the capabilities of Crossfire, Donkers elaborates, “Our solution can be used in three ways: for quality sign-off, design development, or assessment of external IPs.” As a sign-off tool, Crossfire enables IC developers to check for undesirable variations in IP blocks and design formats, thereby ensuring that an IP block meets their specifications. At the same time, Crossfire can also be used in design development to assess design formats and the quality checks employed to prevent potential misalignments. Fractal has also incorporated specialized APIs into Crossfire to aid IC integrators in analyzing IP blocks developed by external vendors and guarantee 100 percent alignment with their specific design format.
With such unparalleled capabilities, Fractal has ignited several success stories in the realm of semiconductor IP validation. In one instance, the company assisted a client that had previously missed their release window to enhance the efficiency of their IP validation process. Initially, the customer’s internal IP validation solution overlooked a design error that caused a delay of seven months in the final release of the product. “And with Crossfire’s user-friendly implementation and intuitive features, the client was able to release all their future products without any hiccups in the release schedule,” adds Donkers. He also mentions another use case where Crossfire helped a customer unify their IP validation processes across multiple design teams located in different geographies.
Moving forward, Fractal aims to release a new solution—IPdelta—that can analyze two versions of an IP block and help IC integrators identify the IP core that is best-suited to their design format. Donkers continues to say that the release of IPdelta will mark a big change in Fractal, which has been a one-product company since its inception. Furthermore, he states his plan to further expand the functionalities of the Crossfire solution and ensure that it remains in lockstep with the ever-evolving technological advancements. To conclude, Donkers reiterated the importance of gathering a highly competent and passionate team, “We can guarantee an effective addition of value in our clients’ IP validation processes because all our offerings are backed by our team and its 100-year accumulated experience.”