Chip Design Is Becoming a New Outlet for Semiconductors

Semiconductor manufacturing is traditionally divided into four processes: design, manufacturing, packaging and testing. From the perspective of technical content and cost, the proportion of design and manufacturing of front-end process is the highest, and the proportion of packaging and testing of back-end process is relatively low.

Semiconductor device suppliers began outsourcing packaging and testing to a third party in the 1990s. Later, with the improvement of integration, the capital expenditure of manufacturing equipment increased sharply. Semiconductor device suppliers also outsourced or offshored the wafer manufacturing of the front-end process, leaving only the design process in hand, so as to reduce the production cost and grasp the core technology.

Design outsourcing conforms to the laws of physics

After entering 2000, the semiconductor market first rose and then fell, and R & D investment decreased with the decline of sales revenue. The design process at the forefront of the semiconductor production chain has been entrusted to outsourcing. It can be expressed in the words of a senior person in the industry, "design outsourcing conforms to the law as the laws of physics". Here we quote the survey results of design outsourcing published by the most famous electronic media in the United States in August 2016. The respondents are semiconductor suppliers in North America. Their average annual sales reach US $2 billion, of which about 1 / 4 are large households of US $5 billion and about 1 / 4 are small households of US $11 billion. Their answers to the survey on design outsourcing are summarized as follows: Recently, 64% of IC designs have been outsourced to third-party companies, 18% do not have them, and about 18% have plans to use them in the future.

For the work of design outsourcing to third parties, the back-end chip level design accounts for 45%, followed by 40% of software design, 35% of front-end chip level design and 26% of system level design (statistical overlap).

About 33% of the design teams owned by design outsourcers have less than 5 people, and about 16% have more than 30 people, which is obviously understaffed. The average time requirement of project design is shortened from 18 months ten years ago to about 12 months at present, and the time for products to be put on the market is more urgent.

From the above statistics, it is not difficult to see that more than half of semiconductor suppliers in the United States adopt chip design outsourcing, of which 45% are back-end chip level design, and 46% of contractors are design consulting companies. The reasons for chip design outsourcing are the reduction of R & D funds, insufficient manpower and the shortening of market time.

The latest trend of global chip design outsourcing has attracted more attention in the industry.

There are two ways of outsourcing, one is entrusted outsourcing, the other is offshore outsourcing. The two kinds of outsourcing have both similarities and differences. As we all know, outsourcing completely entrusts the chip design to a third party. Offshore outsourcing usually designs and manufactures in China and in-house. However, the company can send design teams to various design companies.

The most popular locations for chip outsourcing are the US, the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, and India.

Moore chip design service division, formerly known as core Blx Ic Design Corp, was founded in 2012 and is a professional chip design service company in Chinese mainland. In early 2017, it was wholly acquired by Moore elite. Relying on the broad industrial resources of Moore elite, Xinhai will become the largest and most professional chip design service company in China within 2 years, with more than 1000 employees in 5 years. At present, the average working experience of the team is more than 5 years, and employees are stationed in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Nanjing, Hefei and other places.

There are two key aspects of design outsourcing. First, when entering a new field, if the design organization lacks experience, it must find a contractor with the ability to deal with the design in the new field. Second, for the design that requires a large number of variables but lacks the ability to develop all variables, it is best to outsource these variable designs to powerful contractors. There must be a gap between the requirements of outsourcers and contractors. Both parties should run in to minimize the gap.

Usually, the reason for outsourcing is to reduce costs. The biggest problem encountered by outsourcing is that it can not achieve the expected objectives. You really don't know who can undertake your design outsourcing and how capable the contractor is. There are often different answers to the same chip, both companies that think they are only 30% sure, and companies that say they have reached 70% capacity, but the actual situation is not consistent. It needs to be evaluated, discussed deeply by both sides, and finally made a conclusion by the finished chip. In fact, outsourcing should not only pay attention to cost, you may have to consider more aspects.

Chip design outsourcing is an inevitable trend, because entering some new technologies and processes will encounter high cost barriers. Physical chip design is an example.

IC suppliers can become "no design company" and "no manufacturing company". The design and manufacturing of the front end of the chip production chain are completed by the design contractor and the pure wafer processing plant respectively. This method can be adopted regardless of design outsourcing or offshore outsourcing.

Small and medium-sized companies are most suitable to use chip design outsourcing. If a company has only 3-4 kinds of chips per year, it certainly cannot be compared with the experience of contracting companies that design 30-40 kinds of chips per year. However, large companies produce more chips every year and can have their own design team. In short, the resource utilization rate should be maintained at more than 75%. When it is reduced to less than 50%, half of the people have nothing to do, and the company has to close down.

Moore chip design has design experience in the complete process from design specification to chip streaming, including design implementation, function verification, synthesis and DFT, physical implementation, timing and physical inspection, and streaming. In the past few years, the company has successfully completed the design and flow of more than a dozen SOC chips in 65nm / 40nm / 28nm / 14nm process for customers, so as to help customers realize productization at low cost and high efficiency.

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