Design Effort vs. Process Complexity Tradeoffs
From a process standpoint, analog technology must cover a larger range of issues than digital. The digital world is primarily concerned with process technology, with design support and IP taken care of by third parties. In contrast, analog foundries focus on multiple process technologies, process characterization and design support issues, as well as solutions for the use of analog IP.
Analog/mixed-signal process technology encompasses digital, analog, HV, RF and NVM elements – in many instances, all on the same piece of silicon.
Depending on the application and end market, analog processes are application-specific to serve high-volume applications cost effectively. However, the lengthy and cost-intensive development of a new, dedicated process often cannot be cost-justified because volumes are too low.
The best strategy for reconciling these demands is a modular technology approach. The increased flexibility of the modular platform allows product designers to select only those front- and back-end modules they really need, guaranteeing the best possible tradeoff between design effort and performance. Developing lean process architectures that address all these sometimes conflicting requirements is difficult, especially when integrating low on-state resistance (RDSon) HV transistors with dense, low mask count NVM is the main challenge.
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