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Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-04212011-101428

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
Platform-based design, test and fast verification flow for mixed-signal systems on chip
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Prof. Fanucci, Luca
tutor Prof. Saletti, Roberto
  • automotive
  • digital design
  • platform-based
  • sensors
  • system on chip
  • test
Graduation session start date
This research is providing methodologies to enhance the design phase from architectural space exploration and system study to verification of the whole mixed-signal system. At the beginning of the work, some innovative digital IPs have been designed to develop efficient signal conditioning for sensor systems on-chip that has been included in commercial products. After this phase, the main focus has been addressed to the creation of a re-usable and versatile test of the device after the tape-out which is close to become one of the major cost factor for ICs companies, strongly linking it to model’s test-benches to avoid re-design phases and multi-environment scenarios, producing a very effective approach to a single, fast and reliable multi-level verification environment. All these works generated different publications in scientific literature.
The compound scenario concerning the development of sensor systems is presented in Chapter 1, together with an overview of the related market with a particular focus on the latest MEMS and MOEMS technology devices, and their applications in various segments.
Chapter 2 introduces the state of the art for sensor interfaces: the generic sensor interface concept (based on sharing the same electronics among similar applications achieving cost saving at the expense of area and performance loss) versus the Platform Based Design methodology, which overcomes the drawbacks of the classic solution by keeping the generality at the highest design layers and customizing the platform for a target sensor achieving optimized performances. An evolution of Platform Based Design achieved by implementation into silicon of the ISIF (Intelligent Sensor InterFace) platform is therefore presented. ISIF is a highly configurable mixed-signal chip which allows designers to perform an effective design space exploration and to evaluate directly on silicon the system performances avoiding the critical and time consuming analysis required by standard platform based approach.
In chapter 3 we describe the design of a smart sensor interface for conditioning next generation MOEMS. The adoption of a new, high performance and high integrated technology allow us to integrate not only a versatile platform but also a powerful ARM processor and various IPs providing the possibility to use the platform not only as a conditioning platform but also as a processing unit for the application. In this chapter a description of the various blocks is given, with a particular emphasis on the IP developed in order to grant the highest grade of flexibility with the minimum area occupation.
The architectural space evaluation and the application prototyping with ISIF has enabled an effective, rapid and low risk development of a new high performance platform achieving a flexible sensor system for MEMS and MOEMS monitoring and conditioning. The platform has been design to cover very challenging test-benches, like a laser-based projector device. In this way the platform will not only be able to effectively handle the sensor but also all the system that can be built around it, reducing the needed for further electronics and resulting in an efficient test bench for the algorithm developed to drive the system.
The high costs in ASIC development are mainly related to re-design phases because of missing complete top-level tests. Analog and digital parts design flows are separately verified. Starting from these considerations, in the last chapter a complete test environment for complex mixed-signal chips is presented. A semi-automatic VHDL-AMS flow to provide totally matching top-level is described and then, an evolution for fast self-checking test development for both model and real chip verification is proposed. By the introduction of a Python interface, the designer can easily perform interactive tests to cover all the features verification (e.g. calibration and trimming) into the design phase and check them all with the same environment on the real chip after the tape-out. This strategy has been tested on a consumer 3D-gyro for consumer application, in collaboration with SensorDynamics AG.