Top Ten: Full-custom layout tools

So, this is my first top ten list and I would like to get down to the silicon level at-once. There are several different layout tools and I have tried quite a few of them. I would like to somehow order them according to my liking. Once again, these are my personal views and I am quite happy to receive some feedback.

Most likely I will also use the wrong official names on the tools from the different vendors, but I will instead use the “common name” for it… I will also not put any links to other sources in these posts as you have to do further searches on the internet for yourself.

  • #10: Lasi

    For the same reason as bullet 9, I am picking a more or less random opensource tool in order to illustrate that there are quite a few different tools out there to explore for the interested. Lasi ends up on number 10 since it is only available on Windows.

  • #9: Toped

    As said, I am picking a couple of random softwares for bullets 10 and 9 on the list. Number 9 goes to Toped which I think ends up quite high among the free tools. It is also multi-platform (at least windows and linux).

  • #8: PyCell

    I am probably not doing Ciranova justice by putting them at the “end” of the list, but the reason here is that I am yet to try it. They have a tool called pyCells offering layout assistance. On-the-fly changes of the layout is promised as you change the design parameters in your schematics. The pyCells also target the “new” OpenAccess database format and will therefore be compatible with quite a few, different EDA vendors. I hope to be able to try it soon and I think they will accelerate upwards on this kind of this list.

  • #7: Magic

    Magic is a free-ware tool developed during the 80’s (yeah, 1980’s) by Berkeley researchers. Magic lets designers that are used to extensive scripting all-free. Available on multiple platforms. In addition, there is a commercial implementation of Magic (Micromagic) that will (kind of) guarantee the continued development of the software.

  • #6: Synopsys

    Synopsys has released a kind of clone to the Cadence virtuoso suite. It looks rather potent, although I have not done any larger designs using it. I am putting it “high” up on the list, as Synopsys is one of the big EDA vendors.

  • #5: Electric

    Electric is one of those tools where you do not really place polygons. Wires, objects, etc., are attached to eachother, and by moving one object the wires will maintain their connections. Quite similar look-and-feel as the LED editor, look further on this list. It’s quite potent and has good support from Steven Rubin and Jake Baker and all the others.

  • #4: Tanner

    Tanner EDA is one of the larger players with a more competitive price than the even bigger players. Tanner should have credit for that and ends up high on the list. My experience with their tool suite is however rather limited … Their layout editor is called Ledit.

  • #3: IC Station

    Mentor Graphics’ layout tool, IC Station, requires some work to get over the hurdle, but is quite pleasant to work with. Especially when you get adjusted with the do files. Also, if you once done the “mental” journey from LED to Virtuoso, you do understand that there is quite some difference between the different tools.

  • #2: LED

    Sweet memories from my master’s studies… LED is the first tool I worked with and it had the nice feature with auto-snapping and wire-attaching that also Electric has. Moving one object would auto-route the wires to it. I like the LED for its brutal interface and rather childish/educational spirit.
    A nice idea with LED was that you did not really have a schematic editor (well, you did) but in some sense the actual layout was your schematic/circuit. The layout was netlisted and simulated and hence the design is LVS clean from the start … (kind of). Electric is using the same concepts as the LED tool.

    Unfortunately, LED is more or less discontinued since several years.

  • #1: Virtuoso

    The de-facto standard layout editor is the Cadence Virtuoso layout editor. In its simplest (read cheapest) form it is kind of “dumb” and is a true polygon-pushing exercise. Of course the pcells help you with respect to the subcomponents. Add-ons enables you to add more “intelligence” to the editor. The SKILL programming interface to the tool obviously adds a lot of value to the tool. I have done countless layout scripts to aid the design and quite a few of them are also available in my local daisy flow. I would here also like to thank Mr. Andrew Beckett at Cadence as he has inspired me a lot.

So, any comments? What is your list? Please post your idea on the correct list.

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4 thoughts on “Top Ten: Full-custom layout tools

    • Yes, it is “very” free – written in Java and you can access the whole code. The jar is only 8 MB or so (if I remember correctly).
      Probably you want to look at the staticfreesoft homepage for the most recent releases. They are moving onwards quite swiftly actually.

      And of course it is available for Mac too 😉 I’ve seen a few posts on some glitches on Mac, but the support on the google group is very good: electricvlsi@googlegroups.com and issues have been solved quickly.
      https://mixedsignal.wordpress.com/wp-admin/profile.php
      Support from foundries as such is quite poor (or maybe even nonexistent – that’s my impression at least), but it does indeed support some of the processes available through the MOSIS program. These kits come with the original java jar.

      From a couple of e-mails I sent off to the electric-list I know that Steven Rubin has flagged for that (1) writing scripts and setting up (2) new PDKs could be a bit troublesome for a beginner. (I

  1. So, in the unlikely event that I’m getting bored and have nothing to do, I could install it and dry-run layout design just to not forget the craft … 😉

    Odd enough, I’m still slightly tempted …

  2. Pingback: Top Ten:Circuit simulators « Mixed-Signal Electronics

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