What Is Electronic Design Automation? Understanding the Benefits and Evolution of EDA Tools
Since semiconductor design comes with complex challenges and high stakes – including strict regulations, tight time-to-market timelines, and an immense cost of error – teams need strong, trusted design tools. These teams turn to electronic design automation (EDA) software to streamline and automate chip design, predict certain elements of the design process, and test their technology as they develop it. EDA tools take semiconductor chips through their full lifecycle, helping organizations plan, design, build, and validate.
A recent Business Wire report anticipated that as the semiconductor industry grows more competitive and as new chip technology emerges, the market for EDA tools will skyrocket. By 2030, the market will reach an anticipated $22 billion value.
This blog will define electronic design automation software and discuss how it can help solve common industry pain points. From there, it will identify how IP and data management solutions like Helix IPLM (formerly Methodics IPLM) and Helix Core can support popular EDA tools to further streamline, scale, and secure semiconductor design workflows.
Read on to explore the overall electronic design automation landscape, or jump to the section that interests you most:
Table of Contents
What Is Electronic Design Automation?
Electronic design automation is a technology category that brings together software, hardware, and services to help plan, design, and verify semiconductor devices and integrated circuits. These solutions and services ultimately ensure a design meets all requirements and is ready to be turned over to a fab for manufacturing.
Modern semiconductor technology would be impossible without a high level of electronic design automation. In fact, EDA tools now power an increasingly wide array of industries, from automotive and consumer electronics to aerospace technology and telecommunications.
What Are EDA Tools?
Electronic design automation (EDA) tools are software solutions used to design electronic systems in three key steps: simulation, design, and verification. EDA tools allow teams to predict circuit behavior, assemble circuit elements, and anticipate chip performance.
Companies like Synopsys, Cadence, and Siemens are at the forefront of the electronic design automation marketplace and its continued innovation. These leaders have defined the core functions of EDA tools since their emergence in the 1960s. Here’s a look at the three essential roles that electronic design automation plays in the semiconductor design process:
Simulation EDA Tools
Simulation EDA tools work to predict a circuit’s behavior before it is developed, effectively modeling how a real version of this circuit would perform. Examples of simulation electronic design automation technology include sophisticated, high-speed prototyping. Simulation EDA tools remove the trial and error of semiconductor design, which can have catastrophic costs.
Design EDA Tools
Design EDA tools take a proposed circuit function and assemble the elements needed to build it. These solutions provide both physical and logical direction. Design EDA tools help teams create the right geometric shapes and give insight into how to connect these integral components. Often overseen by a designer, this process is also referred to as “place and route” or a custom layout.
Verification EDA Tools
As their name suggests, verification EDA tools verify whether a chip meets expectations and performs desired behavior. Each semiconductor fab has its own requirements, with most requiring teams to meet more than a thousand rules and specifications. Verification electronic design automation technology ensures compliance, as well as compares actual function to predicted function. These tests also confirm that the interconnected parts of a circuit work in tandem.
Speed Up Time to Market with EDA Tools + IP-Centric Design
Along with using electronic design automation software, using an IP-centric approach can empower your team to work more efficiently. Our Transformation Model for IP-Centric Design white paper details how placing IP at the center of your design process can help you get to market faster than the competition and reduce costly re-spins. Plus, it breaks down the five-step process to follow to achieve this transformation.
Why Do Teams Need EDA Tools?
Semiconductor professionals know that developing chips is complex and expensive. It is crucial to know they'll function as intended, especially since most chip code cannot be "patched." Instead, teams must respond to errors by revising completely.
Electronic design automation is a response to these high stakes and lets semiconductor teams test designs before they are manufactured. EDA software empowers teams to predict how chips will perform over time, letting semiconductor professionals measure chip reliability even before production.
In addition to ensuring chip reliability, electronic design automation also allows teams to work faster, saving them time and helping them meet ambitious deadlines.
Challenges of Electronic Design Automation
While electronic design automation is necessary in the semiconductor industry, the increasing complexity of semiconductor design – along with global distribution of design centers and proliferation of tools used – pose new challenges. Once teams are aware of these potential hurdles, they can prepare and respond.
As the semiconductor industry consolidates and design teams collaborate across multiple geographies, securing all the IP blocks that go into a design becomes a challenge. This is especially true as teams incorporate more technology into their global workflows. Teams can proactively defend their organization from IP leakage with geofencing capability from tools like Helix IPLM. Geofencing is a security measure that restricts IP availability by geography, regardless of a user’s access permissions – acting as a virtual perimeter around a given location.
Additionally, Helix IPLM can help semiconductor organizations ensure that they meet fab security requirements by providing a single source of truth that teams can use to establish a versioned, hierarchical bill of materials.
📕Related Content: IP Geofencing With Helix IPLM
When using EDA tools to create circuit and semiconductor technology, it is vital to keep track of every change to your team’s designs and to work with the correct version of files and IPs across your tool suite. Another essential aspect of maintaining traceability is tracking who made each change and when these changes occurred, particularly as teams become more distributed. An IP lifecycle management solution like Helix IPLM records every change to your files, plus integrates with your existing electronic design automation infrastructure.
With traceability in mind, every aspect of the IP lifecycle is visible in Helix IPLM in easy-to-understand, configurable dashboards. Designers can see the projects the IP has been used in, any outstanding bugs, derivative designs, regression status, and much more.
📕Related Content: Why Is Traceability Important?
Working at Scale
When creating chips and using electronic design automation, semiconductor teams will likely generate and work with millions of files. In order to meet this challenge, teams will need a data management tool with unlimited storage capacity and scalability, like Helix Core. As the foundational tool from Perforce, Helix Core is deeply integrated with Helix IPLM. Leading semiconductor companies like Samsung, NVIDIA, and Texas Instruments rely on Perforce’s award-winning solutions to maximize scale.
What Is the Future of Electronic Design Automation and How Are EDA Tools Adapting?
Electronic design automation tools and processes have been a part of the semiconductor industry for more than 60 years. Many semiconductor professionals wonder how EDA tools and the companies that create and support them will adapt to geopolitical events, the rise of new technology, and other changes.
In a recent Semiconductor Engineering interview with a board of experts that included Joseph Sawicki, executive vice president for EDA at Siemens, John Lee, vice president of Ansys’ Semiconductor Business Unit, and other industry leaders, several trends and changes for EDA tools emerged.
- Impact of AI: Going forward, experts predict that generative AI will play a role in more EDA tool suites. Additionally, AI will make it easier and faster to iterate and build chip designs, resulting in more files and IPs. This makes IP lifecycle management even more crucial for teams as they evaluate the role of AI in their workflows.
- More seamless integration with cloud-based tools: One EDA executive said almost all of his organization’s customers use cloud tools within their design process. While EDA tools work with cloud-based infrastructures, they may perform less efficiently. Electronic design automation organizations will prioritize their tools’ performance in the cloud as the shift to cloud-based data management continues.
Learn About Cloud-Based Data Management for Small Teams
Perforce recently introduced Helix Core Cloud, a new cloud-based data management solution that works best for semiconductor startups and teams of under 50 people. Our recent webinar, The Fastest Path to Scalable Version Control: Introducing Helix Core Cloud, is a deep dive into how Helix Core Cloud works. It details how to get started and add users, plus showcases why the tool is important for teams needing to scale quickly or those working in real-time environments.
Enhance Your Electronic Design Automation Approach with Integrated IP and Data Management
IP management software, like Helix IPLM, supports and enhances electronic design automation. While EDA infrastructure addresses common prototyping and testing challenges, IP management provides a unified data model that serves as a foundation and single source of truth for electronic design automation. For a typical workflow in semiconductor design to be successful, certain foundational elements must be considered:
- IP reuse is key to maintaining margins in today’s commoditized semiconductor business.
- Implementation tools create and modify design files, which must be versioned, configured, and delivered to user workspaces.
- Projects need requirements and resource planning to qualify and plan market opportunities.
- Increasingly, designs are required to follow standards and committed levels of quality.
- Today’s designs are component-based. These components need a release methodology and lifecycle management as the project moves through the various levels of maturity.
- Chiplet-based architectures are becoming more common and were the focus of the recent federal CHIPS and Science Act. These advanced architectures require dependable security and high traceability.
Unified IP and data management from Perforce can help semiconductor organizations address these challenges and complexities.
Learn More About Tools Needed for Developing Chiplet-Based SoCs
In our recent IP Lifecycle Management for Chiplet-Based SoCs webinar, Helix IPLM founder Simon Butler walks through best practices for managing IPs from inception through SoC integration. Learn how to manage security concerns and enforce IP provenance.
How Helix Core and Helix IPLM Support and Work with EDA Tools
The best way to solve semiconductor design challenges is with a comprehensive tool suite that includes electronic design automation plus integrated IP and data management solutions from Perforce. That’s why 9 of the top 10 semiconductor companies, including NVIDIA, Samsung, Qualcomm, and others, rely on Perforce.
Perforce semiconductor solutions provide a foundation that supports designers today and that is also scalable to support future needs. With Helix IPLM by Perforce, you can qualify an IP core for inclusion in a project knowing that it has been properly vetted and verified. Create a centralized IP catalog for your teams to improve IP discovery and reuse. And automate the release process to streamline IP integration and improve collaboration.
Helix IPLM is even more effective when paired with Helix Core, the industry-standard data management system with unlimited storage. Helix Core easily handles the millions of files that are common in EDA tools, including large binary files, and manages the complex file relationships found in semiconductor designs. Plus, it controls access down to the file level for enterprise-class security.
Want to learn how Helix Core and Helix IPLM can support your EDA tools and enhance your semiconductor planning and design process? Connect with one of our experts today to ask questions, schedule a demo, and learn more about getting started with these solutions.