Tuesday 20 October 2015

Spare cells

These are just that. They are extra cells placed in your layout in anticipation of a future ECO. When I say future, I mean after you taped out and got your silicon back. After silicon tests complete, it might become necessary to have some changes to the design. There might be a bug, or a very easy feature that will make the chip more valuable. This is where you try to use the existing “spare” cells in your design to incorporate the design change. For example, if you need a logic change that requires addition of an AND cell, you can use an existing spare AND to make this change. This way, you are ensuring that the base layer masks need no regeneration. The metal connections have changed, and hence only metal masks are regenerated for the next fabrication.
Kinds of spare cells: There are many variants of spare cells in the design. Designs are full of spare inverters, buffers, nand, nor and specially designed configurable spare cells.
Inserting Spare Cells
Spare cells need to added while the initial implementation. There are two ways to do this.
The designer adds separate modules with the required cells. You start your PnR with spare cells included, and must make sure that the tool hasn't optimized them away. There can be more than one such spare modules, and they will be typically named spare* or some such combination. The inputs are tied to power or ground nets, as floating gates shouldn't be allowed in the layout. The outputs are left unconnected.
Spare cells can also be added to design by including cells in Netlist itself.

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