Google, SkyWater, Efabless Announce a New Open-Silicon PDK on a 90nm Process Node

Building on the success of the open source SKY130 Production Development Kit (PDF), the SKY90-FD brings the program to a new tech level.

Gareth Halfacree
19 days agoHW101

The OpenMPW program, which uses the Efabless platform to allow open source silicon projects to build their designs at a SkyWater Technology fab with Google funding, has officially been extended — and will now offer the chance to build on a 90nm process node, down from the original 130nm node, thanks to $15 million in funding from the US Department of Defense (DOD).

"Through this important investment from the DOD and collaboration with Google, we will enable open source design for our commercial SKY90-FD process technology, creating an IP [Intellectual Property] pipeline and pathway to commercial volume manufacturing," says SkyWater president and chief executive Thomas Sonderman of the deal. "This will expand our 90nm foundry offering as a platform for innovation and productization here in the U.S."

Google and SkyWater announced the release of an open-source production development kit (PDK) for silicon chips two years ago, partnering with Efabless to use the company's accessible design platform as a springboard for open source silicon projects to have their designs realised as physical silicon at zero cost. A year later, the first 40 designs had gone to manufacturing on SkyWater's 130nm mixed-signal CMOS process — and at the time of writing an impressive 364 designs had been submitted with 240 having been manufactured.

The new PDK, however, kicks things up a notch, dropping to an implementation of MIT Lincoln Lab's 90nm fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator (FDSOI) process node — equivalent in feature scale to the process node used to build Intel's Pentium 4 "Prescott" chips, AMD's Athlon 64 Winchester through Orleans chips, and the processors powering Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 consoles.

"Our public-private partnership with the DOD and SkyWater enables a new era in accessible, collaborative chip design that will be driven by an open source ecosystem," claims Will Grannis, Google Public Sector chief executive. "Our collaboration will help address the historical limitations of chip design and production for national defense by improving accessibility for researchers and developers to innovate faster and at lower costs.

"Google provides the compute, engineering know-how and platform that accelerates chip design; SkyWater provides the next-gen chip design system and fabrication in a secure commercial environment; and the DOD investment makes this all scalable and accessible."

Google's Johan Euphrosine and Ethan Mahintorabi have confirmed that in addition to commercial projects, the SKY90-FD process will have an open source PDK just as with its 130nm predecessor — licensed under the permissive Apache 2.0 license. Additionally, open-silicon projects will once again be allowed to submit designs through the Efabless platform for production with Google funding the creation of physical chips.

More information is available on the Google Open Source Blog.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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