03/18/2021 | Reading, UK

Sondrel designs its first Radiation-Hard chip

Sondrel is designing its first radiation-hard (Rad-Hard) chip for a customer which is due to tape out shortly. The satellite modem will be used in communication satellites and therefore has to be able to withstand the challenges of the high levels of ionising radiation found in orbit that can cause glitches.

Neither the process nor the cells and IP are specially designed to be radiation hardened. The key is to build in redundant logic in case of damage or to take over while an affected part is rebooted. In the case of the ARM 853 processor at the heart of the chip, the design has to ensure that the processor reboots correctly if a hard reset is needed due to a radiation event. Incorporating these Rad-Hard requirements into Chip-Implementation and signoff flows is quite interesting as we get to see the impact of Rad-Hard cells in cell placement and also its effect in overall chip performance.

The design is for the 22nm GlobalFoundries process which is less susceptible to radiation than smaller nodes. It has an area of 200 mm2 with 15 IP blocks with over 46 million instances.


Sondrel Invests Heavily in its own R&D Program

03/29/2021 | Reading, UK

One of the things that sets Sondrel apart from other ASIC design companies is its heavy investment in R&D. The company invests a significant part of its annual budget on R&D programs to create new and better ways to manage the process of chip design.

Founder and CEO, Graham Curren, said, “The success of our business is built on our reputation for quality and delivering projects on time. Our specialization is large complex digital chips but every year these are bigger and more complex which means that the processes of effectively managing the design flow becomes more challenging. We solve this by having an R&D program that finds ways in which we can improve the design process.”

A recently completed example is an R&D project called Helium ICC2 Checks. Manually processing masses of reports to spot quality issues takes up valuable engineer time and, being human, issues could be missed so a project was started to automate quality control checks.