How to Cut Costs, Time and Pain during ASIC Manufacturing

June 25, 2018, anysilicon

Managing an end-to-end ASIC supply chain process is one of the biggest challenges of chip projects. The semiconductor value chain, which has always been complex, does not seem to get any simpler. A McKinsey report pointed out “there has been a 50 percent increase in test and verification time during the design process over the past few years.”


Even after chips enter the market, potential problems don’t stop. As the report mentions, “customers may encounter unexpected performance issues and ask semiconductor companies to help resolve them—a difficult task, since there’s no way to trace a chip from design through use.”


Find the Right Partner


Building an ASIC supply chain requires specific expertise. Throughout the process you’ll be confronted with hundreds of decisions that will require specific knowledge in order to be addressed correctly, avoid costly mistakes and lose time. Which foundries should be used? Which packaging technology will ensure the optimal performance? How should your ASIC be designed for testability?


Carefully consider the partner(s) you select based on expertise, proven track record, their ability to handle more than a single discipline, and your ability to monitor and control.



Plan for Problems


ASIC manufacturing is a complicated, long process. Things may go wrong, and in most cases, they do. A design can change midway through the ASIC development process; an RF wire bond issue may be discovered; and yield may drop due to an unknown reason.


Analyse in advance the risks associated with your specific ASIC development project and make sure that both you and your partners clearly understand the risks and have a corrective action plan. Consider issues like response time, service, and relationship between vendors.



Optimize Cash Flow


ASIC manufacturing is costly. Even if you’re taking an advanced-technology ASIC to market in relatively small quantities of tens of thousands of units, the total cost can easily reach a few million dollars.


Your goal should be to control your cash flow as much as possible. When working with ASIC partners, verify the timing of ASIC production charges.


Aim for Just-in-Time ASIC Manufacturing


ASIC manufacturing can present a dilemma for smaller companies. On the one hand, producing larger quantities allows reduced costs and improved quality. On the other hand, producing larger quantities requires handling ASIC stock with special conditions.


Start by analysing the longevity and cumulative volume expectations of your product. Then, assuming you don’t have the facilities, resources and conditions to store chips, try to plan for ‘just-in-time’ ASIC delivery.


Start with Quality, Then Price


At some point, every company that markets a product containing ASIC faces the manufacturing dilemma – how to go into production using the cheapest, most efficient and highest quality methods? Is it using an external full-turnkey partner (ASIC model) or taking full ownership and working directly with semiconductor suppliers (Customer Owned Tooling, or COT model).


Each model has pros and cons. As an earlier stage company, cutting production costs may be one of your priorities. Nevertheless, you still need to focus on your design core competencies rather than take the full burden of manufacturing. Best is if you can find a hybrid, ASIC to COT model, which offers the best of both worlds.


Learn More


Read the full e-book, 5 Best Practices for Successfully Managing an ASIC Supply Chain

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