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Work Plan

Conceptually speaking, we plan to offer to the PE community a higher degree of design automation by building the set of tools and methodology to develop complex circuits and systems, which is a real requirement for a sustainable growth of the technology. 

This project addresses the idea of how to abstract the Printed Electronics (PE) technology process details and identify the basic knowledge, methods and tools needed to design circuits for those emerging technologies without having to bear the entire burden of technology details regarding equipment, inks and substrates. This idea was already developed in the 80’s for the microelectronics industry by developing their related Process Design Kits (PDK) containing all technology related information for low end full-custom design, and Design Kits (DK) including libraries for cell-based semi-custom design. Now we could consider a similar situation, but the maturity stage of PE technologies, their instability and variability and their expected low cost for short or large productions poses a lot of additional challenges that shall be specifically faced taking into account all the previous experience on silicon based micro- and nanoelectronics. Due to the nature and immaturity of such printed technologies we believe that PE design kits will incorporate, especially along its early development stage, a stronger and explicit link to technology information. That is why this project talks about "Technology and Design Kits, TDK" which ranges from basic technology information and files to the libraries of cells.

When providing the required information and facilities (“technology & design kit + CAD tools”) for circuit designers to allow designing without being experts on process details and enabling the concept of design reuse based on cell libraries, both design productivity and circuit reliability will be improved. This critical step happened for silicon based microelectronics around 1980, when the technology was 20 years old, with more than 15 years on production, and resulted in a stable and continuous evolution (accordingly to Moore’s law). Based on this experience the main milestones of this project to obtain a useful TDK are:

  • Formal collection and management of PE basic process technology information: physical and electrical parameters & models, geometric layout design rules and tolerances, fundamental design parameters considering its variability and their effects on performance.

  • Technology and Design Kits (TDK) including some basic abstraction levels like physical-electrical full-custom design and cell library based design to make transparent to application designers most of the details about the final electronic printing technology.

 

  • PE oriented design tools and flows customized with the previously developed TDK, covering the design flow from circuit descriptions (HDLs, schematics or parameterized cells) down to geometrical layout and fabrication related files. This includes device models and technology files for usual design processes like design entry (schematics and layout levels), simulations (functional, electrical and physical) and verification (LVS, E/DRC, XTR). 

 

  • Parameterized or specific backend tools to move the circuit geometries or layout (like GDS2) to specific printing system format (like general bit-map or specific printer language).
 
In order to reach such targets, we will define a methodology for technology definition and characterization, cell library development and TDK formalization. This methodology will be refined along the project under an open parameterizable scheme based on standards to assure its further reusability on other PE processes. This is one of the key points in this proposal reflected in a central work-package “WP2: TDK Development Methodology”.
 
 
PE technology processes evolution, due to its flexibility needs, is often tuned by changing e-printing system parameters, functional inks and potential substrates. This somehow restricts the widespread of PE technology. This also leads to the point that our strategy of building a TDK has not been previously published from a generic point of view. For its development, we plan to fix an application domain, and identify a suitable technological process (printing system + inks + substrate) that is able to cover that domain. From this point, we shall start to develop all the above mentioned points using a meet-in-the-middle methodology (see Figure) related to a platform-based design methodological approach that includes:
 
  • A top-down approach from the selected application to identify and specify the main functional blocks in advance and the basic devices to then build such blocks using synthesis tools when possible.

  • A bottom-up approach to fix and characterize the baseline technology and to develop the basic building blocks that at the end will compose the functional blocks needed for the application.
 
Based on this strategy, we are proposing a S/T methodology and related working plan with progressive deliverables, milestones and demonstrators which will provide measurements and guidance for the project evolution and follow-up and, in the end, will contribute to establishing the complete TDK4PE methodology. Once this strategy is materialized on a TDK customized over a concrete EDA environment, we will have a complete design flow useful for full-custom based design using basic information technology or semi-custom design based on cell libraries and functional blocks. This result will show the power of the methodology and will contribute to its spread among the industrial community.
 
 


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Dr. Radut Consulting