November 05, 2013, anysilicon
Maskset cost is becoming one of the major expenses to the overall NRE cost of ASIC projects, particularly with advanced technology nodes. For projects targeting low volume production the maskset cost is a financial barrier to a profitable and solid business.
Taping out using MLM instead of a full maskset lets you reduce the tapeout cost. This comes at the expense of a higher wafer price, but still opens up opportunities for companies operating in smaller markets.
The decision about the maskset type is strictly financial, since technical properties of the silicon are the same in both cases. The financial decision between MLM and a Full Maskset is not always clear when targeting small production quantities. Several factors such as volume, die size, and price offered by foundries may require evaluating both options.
To make life a bit easier we are offering a simple downloadable Excel calculator that helps calculate and compare the cost of MLM vs. full Maskset. Download free MLM cost calculator
If you need additional background take a look at our post about the difference between full maskset, MLM and MPW.