Contribution and Impact of the EU Programs on Development of the VLSI Design Activities at STU FEI Bratislava

Bedrich Weber, Marian Vesely, Daniel Donoval, Marian Balaz

Microelectronics Department, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, Ilkovicova 3, SK-812 19 Bratislava, Slovakia

tel: (+ 421 7) 791 363 or 124 or 358 or 163, fax: (+ 421 7) 723 480
e-mail: bweber@elf.stuba.sk, vesely@elf,stuba.sk, donoval@elf.stuba.sk, mbalaz@elf.stuba.sk

Keywords: VLSI design, international co-operation, education, training, research

Abstract: VLSI design lab facilities have been developed at the FEI STU in Bratislava with the help of the EU programs. The aim is to establish a real competence centre. The state of the art and the activities with an emphasis on international co-operation are described in this paper.


Introduction

The Department of Microelectronics, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology of the Slovak University of Technology (FEI STU) in Bratislava has intercepted the new advanced trends in the area of microelectronics mainly due to an active participation in the international co-operation within the 4th Framework Program of the European Commission.

New knowledge and experience obtained this way are implemented in our education, training and research work. Recently the team also increased an effort to support the advanced knowledge and technology transfer towards Slovak industry.

The main attention of our Department is focused mainly on:

This paper is focused on electronic circuits and systems design with emphasis on VLSI design. VLSI design facilities had been developed and the team involved is permanently co-operating within a few international projects as described bellow.

Achievements in the area of VLSI design

The Department of Microelectronics was formerly oriented mainly at physics and technology of semiconductor devices. The integrated circuit design education started at the beginning of 80's. Though the theoretical level of the education was quite good, the training and research activities were limited by the level of the tools available in that time.

A significant improvement of the VLSI design activities from all points of view had been started in the year 1991 when we succeeded in becoming a partner of the Tempus project JEP No. 1565. Though the project objectives covered the education and training in the whole area of microelectronics, the emphasis was put on VLSI design. Especially due to a big effort of the project co-ordinator, KHBO Oostende, Belgium a core of the future VLSI lab was set up.

In addition to acquisition of basic design tools (both hardware and software), the Tempus project initiated our membership in EUROCHIP action in March 1993.

The impact of the Tempus project was twofold:

These facts enabled the team to take part in several European joint research projects. Participation in these projects, especially in the transformation phase of the society and the related economical problems, was an important mean to maintain and develop further the experience and infrastructure.

While the membership in EUROCHIP action provided all essential condition to perform real VLSI design education, training and research work, the participation in the EUROEAST project CP94-9093 enabled us to realise the goals:

The period of the EUROEAST project was very successful from the point of view of the progress in the VLSI design area. A lab for practical VLSI design training was equipped with professional design tools, including SOLO 1400, HSpice and Cameleon (symbolic layout tool, courtesy of IMEC, Leuven). As a result, 18 ASIC's have been designed by the undergraduate students during this period. Out of this number 11 were submitted for prototyping and successfully fabricated. These results could in no case be reached without the funds of the EUROEAST project. The project enabled us to gain the first experience with the whole procedure of IC design - design, fabrication and testing. The fact that students working hard enough on their final projects could verify their own ability by testing the fabricated chips was a strong stimulating factor.

Other 3 chips have been designed in the frame of other European projects by PhD students. Even a fatal error in a design which required an atypical approach has become a valuable though very expensive experience for the future work.

The team participated in several project proposals. Some of the project proposals were accepted. We of course continue our VLSI design activities within EUROPRACTICE action. We highly appreciate support from the EUROPRACTICE action. A brief overview of the projects oriented on the area of ASIC design is in the next chapter.

An active international co-operation allowed to establish and still helps to improve the VLSI design lab for educational end research purposes. At present the advanced tools such as Cadence and Synopsys are also used in education and training. Though the number of the hardware tools is still very low, the software tools enable the staff to perform most of the research tasks in the area.

The involvement of the staff of the Department in the international projects is an important mean to maintain or even extend the facilities and to keep pace with the current state of the art. Unfortunately, the Slovak industrial sector is still not ready for neither utilising fully the qualification and skills of the engineers educated at present, nor implementing the research results and experience of the staff. Therefore an additional activity towards Slovak industrial enterprises have started within SYTIC INCO-COPERNICUS project and especially within BENEFIT project by running BENEFIT Contact Point. This activity is described in a separate paper [1].

A brief overview of the projects in the field

The Department of Microelectronics of STU FEI was and still is involved in several projects within the EU initiative. In this part only those related to VLSI or electronic systems design in general are briefly introduced. They are categorised in groups related to their main objectives.

Projects focused on developing, maintaining and improving of the VLSI design facilities and on helping the industry with a technology transfer.

EUROEAST, CP93-9093 (April 1, 1994 - March 31, 1997)

Extension of EUROCHIP Services to Central and Eastern European Countries

Co-ordinated by: GMD, St. Augustin, Germany

BENEFIT, CP94-0536, additional contract CP96/SK-FEI (December 20, 1996 to December 31, 1997)

Stimulation and Support of East - West Collaboration in the Areas of Microelectronics and Signal Processing, Additional contract to set up and run BENEFIT Contact Point (see separate contribution [1])

Co-ordinated by: DLR, Cologne, Germany

SYTIC, CP96-0170 (April 1, 1997 to March 31, 1999)

Promotion of System Design Training and Information Centres in CCE/NIS

Co-ordinated by: GMD, St. Augustin, Germany

Research projects in the area of design for test

ATSEC, as a subcontractor of this ESPRIT project No. 6575 (November 1, 1992 to October 31, 1995)

Advanced Test Generation and Testable Design Methodology for Sequential Circuits

Co-ordinated by: GMD, St. Augustin, Germany, subcontract co-ordinator: TU Duisburg, Germany

UBISTA, CP94-0391 (March 1, 1995 to February 28, 1998)

A Unified Built In Self Test Approach for Full Defect Testing In Mixed Signal (Analogue - Digital Mixed) Devices

Co-ordinated by: KHBO, Oostende, Belgium

Research projects in the area of signal processing

DARTS, CP93-7399 (January 1, 1994 to June 30, 1996)

Design Automation for Real-Time Signal Processing

Co-ordinated by: IMEC, Leuven, Belgium

SISPAS, CP94-0223 (September 1, 1995 to August 31, 1998)

Synthesis of Image and Speech Processing Algorithms On Silicon

Co-ordinated by: IMEC, Leuven, Belgium

The staff recently took part in a preparation of the new INCO-COPERNICUS proposals.


Future plans and other activities

The Department of Microelectronics wishes to continue active co-operation in order to contribute to the common development in the field. The results of the Department reached so far and plans for the future were presented at the following events:

- EMPC Lausanne '95

- EMPC Vienna '96

- EMAC Barcelona '97

- ESPRIT Information Day Brussels September 29th, 1997

We organised a conference named Electronic Circuits and Systems (ECS '97) on September 4-5th, 1997. We intend to organise this conference bi-annually. Although we organised the conference for the first time we attracted almost 90 participants from 25 countries world-wide.

Acknowledgement: The work was supported by the EC within all projects mentioned above and partially also by the Slovak Grant Agency within projects 1/4294/97 and 2/3041/96.

References

[1] WEBER, B. - GRAMATOVA, E.: The BENEFIT Contact Point in Slovakia - Goals, Results and Experience. In: this Proceedings.


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