Full SystemVerilog support with Sigasi Studio 3.5

semiconductor industry

Most SystemVerilog users have a love/hate relationship with SystemVerilog. This hardware description and verification language is really powerful, but also really complex. And it does not protect you at all from making mistakes. Therefor SystemVerilog users will benefit even more from the assistance that Sigasi Studio offers, than their VHDL colleagues. Sigasi Studio helps you focus on what is really important, the design, and makes the compiler understand your intentions.

By Sigasi

Based on Sigasi’s experience with providing excellent VHDL support, the Sigasi development team knows how to tackle most challenges in providing a good development environment for SystemVerilog: immediate feedback about syntax errors, autocomplete, open declaration, and so on. Because Sigasi Studio understands what SystemVerilog means, you get very accurate feedback.

Immediate and accurate feedback

The biggest technical challenge was providing good support for SystemVerilog’s Preprocessor. The preprocessor does a textual transformation of SystemVerilog source files. So it can completely rewrite the code that goes into the actual compiler. This preprocessor is stateful and depends on the compilation order. That makes it difficult to keep track of what exactly is going on. To remedy this, Sigasi Studio provides features to easily inspect or preview preprocessed code:

  • Source code that is excluded with the Preprocessor is automatically grayed out in the editor.
  • The result of Macro’s can be easily previewed in an addition view, or simply by hovering your mouse over the macro.
  • Syntax errors are immediately reported

Another example of how Sigasi Studio helps SystemVerilog users, is “include files”. A typical pattern in SystemVerilog is to include sources into other source files (with the Preprocessor). In this case the included file can see everything in the scope of the including file. With an ordinary editor, you have to think about all of this yourself. With Sigasi Studio however, this information is available whenever you require it. For example during autocompletes.

And the nice thing is, this does not require any additional setup. Again, this allows you to focus on the real job: getting your design ready, or making sure it is well tested.

Free trial

Would you like to try Sigasi Studio on your own SystemVerilog designs, you can request a full trial license on our website www.sigasi.com. This enables you to try all Sigasi Studio’s features on your own projects and feel how Sigasi empowers you. And please tell us all about your experience.

Sofics moves to new office

By Sofics.

This summer, Sofics moved to a newly built office in Aalter. The new building offers the company a lot more space. The lab space tripled and there are more meeting and break-out rooms, all of them equipped with high-tech smart boards. But the designers also paid a lot of attention to comfort and a low energy consumption.

Classic air-conditioning has been avoided. Instead the concrete shell of the building is held at constant temperature throughout the year. This gives a very high feeling of comfort to the Sofics employees. A system-D ventilation system is used for refreshing air. Heat/energy is collected/stored using a geothermal heat-pump connected to eight 100-m deep holes located under the building. The office’s south-side is designed to collect solar heat from autumn till spring. Photovoltaic panels are placed on the roof. The heat generated by the company servers and the building equipment is recycled. This results in a maximum energy re-use.

All these measures make the net energy consumption of the building phenomenally low – the office design pre-qualified as an ‘almost-energy-neutral building’ and it might even turn out Sofics built an energy passive office.

Later this season, fruit trees and bushes are planted and will welcome employees and visitors of the company.

Sofics’s new address: Sint-Godelievestraat 32, 9880 Aalter.

New market opportunities in optical communication

cluster organizations

In the past, Fiber-optic communication was only used for long distance communication (50 km and beyond). Worldwide, only a limited number of these high-end interface products were required. More recently, companies running large data centers (Facebook, Google, Amazon,…) want to replace the traditional cabling between server racks. Since optical fiber dramatically increases the bandwidth between servers and reduce complexity, it is seen as the solution of the future.

By Sofics

 

The engineers from the Intel groups working on optical communication summarized the potential for Silicon Photonics for different interface distances. The traditional optical communication will be used mainly for the long distances. Silicon photonics will replace the electrical communication for the shorter distances thanks to the combination of low power, low cost and high bandwidth opportunity.
Reducing cost and power while increasing bandwidth

Thus, the optical interconnect suppliers now need to produce a large number of their products. To reduce the cost, they separate the optical parts (laser diodes, photo detectors) from the digital controller circuits. For the electrical ICs regular CMOS technology can be used for mass-production. Moreover, there were several breakthroughs in the last decade, where conventional CMOS processing steps can now be used to create all kinds of optical components like WDM (Wavelength Division Multiplexers), lasers, detectors, waveguides in SOI processes…

From discrete components to Hybrid 2.5D and 3D integration

Both optical and electrical elements are then combined within a single IC package using advanced packing techniques like 2.5D (electronic interposer) and 3D (flip-chip) integration. The hybrid integration allows designers to select the best process option for each function. E.g. the digital functions can be integrated in high end CMOS technology with high performance and smaller size. The photonic die does not benefit from this minimum feature size and can thus be designed in a more mature SOI technology which significantly reduces the total cost.

2.5D integration of optical and electrical IC (CPU) – Fujitsu

 

The electrical IC that is used to control the optical parts and to process the signals before transmitting or after receiving is manufactured using advanced CMOS technology like 28nm. The interfaces consist of high speed (10Gbps, 25Gbps or even 56Gbps) SerDes-type circuits.

To create such high-speed differential circuits, designers utilize the thin oxide transistors. However, those transistors are very sensitive and can easily be damaged during transient events like electrostatic discharge (ESD).

Optical links need custom ESD clamps

In the last 10 years, several companies that are designing interface products and control IC’s for Silicon Photonics contacted Sofics for support. In those projects Sofics engineers focused on protecting the high-speed interfaces (Tx, Rx) on the electrical die as well as protection of the low voltage power pads.

Despite the fact that the sensitive pads are not connected outside of the single IC package, they can still receive ESD stress during assembly. Therefore, adequate protection clamps need to be inserted at the bond pads. On the other hand, for signal integrity, it is important to limit the capacitance between the interface pads and the supply lines.

For these ESD challenges, Sofics engineers propose adequate solutions. For instance, the development of ESD protection with parasitic capacitance below 15fF, ten times lower than the typical low-cap ESD protection devices in 28nm CMOS.

Sofics presented these results at the TSMC OIP conference in Santa Clara (September 13) and during the ECOC conference in Goteburg (September 17-21). More information about the specific protection concepts.

The capacitance value in function of the bias voltage at the pad. On the right side, the ESD layout is shown for the 28nm project. The total area for the ESD protection clamp is 683.75 um².

Localization of railway vehicles when GPS signal is lost

Railway vehicle applications such as public address system or track fault monitoring require position information, often delivered by GPS, that might not always be available, for example in tunnels or valleys. Therefor Televic and Flanders Make developped a low-cost, accurate position estimation system that runs on a railway certified platform and delivers an estimate of the vehicle position within a range of 5 meters, even when the GPS signal is missing during 2 minutes.

By Flanders Make

Televic develops, manufactures and installs top end high-tech communication systems for specific niche markets. Televic Rail, one of its companies, has developped together with Flanders Make an accurate and reliable localization system for estimating the train position/speed using on-board measurements. The information of this localization system can be used in the following applications:

  • A public address system (Passenger Information Systems division) that accurately locates the train for the announcement when the train arrives in stations.
  • A Track fault monitoring system (Mechatronics division) that accurately indicates the location of detected track faults.

 

Examples of applications requiring railway vehicle positioning: (left) passenger information system, (right) track fault monitoring

 

GPS positioning provides a good solution when sufficient number of non-obstructed satellite signals are available. Usually a minimum of four signals is necessary to achieve a correct position estimation. When GPS fails because of e.g. tunnels, valleys, etc., dead reckoning become necessary. Dead reckoning (DR) is the process of calculating the current position of the vehicle based on the knowledge of previous position and other available quantities such as accelerations, speeds and angular rate. These physical quantities are permanently available because measured in the body frame, usually by a system called Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). In the framework of the Mechatronics 4.0 vis-traject, Flanders Make and Televic Rail developed a dead reckoning algorithm able to fusion GPS data, acceleration and rotation rate measured by an IMU and speed radar data. The developed algorithm is also able to cope with different sampling rates at which these signals are available, ranging from 1 Hz to 1 kHz. Kalman filtering has been selected to realize the process of data fusion.

Here below, we briefly describe the tests carried out on Lommel Proving Grounds, the developed algorithm used for position estimation and demonstrate that a positioning error below 5 m can be achieved, even when the GPS data is missing during 2 minutes.

Test and data

As an alternative to measurements using trains, it has been decided to perform tests using a car on which the target measurement systems were installed. In order to carry out these measurements in controlled and safe environment, the Lommel Proving Ground (LPG) has been chosen. The LPG includes a wide range of road types and events, but also allow for constant speed tests, various turn radius, etc.

The Lommel Proving Ground is a place with various type of tracks that have been designed for simulating a wide range of road types. For the test performed on track 10 at a speed of 70km/h, the point where the GPS is disabled is indicated.

 

The car was equipped with the speed radar and the GPS/IMU module in order to get the data needed in the algorithm. A high-end GPS system was also installed in order to have a continuous reference position measurement and to assess the real performance of the fusion algorithm. A number of tests in different conditions (i.e. various speeds, grounds, turning radius) have been carried out on tracks 5, 10 and 16. For measurement on track 10 the GPS module has been disabled each loop at a fixed point for 120s.

 

Test carried out at a speed of 70km/h (~19.4m/s) with GPS disconnection (discontinuous blue line).

 

Fusion algorithm

Data of different nature are available for the dead reckoning algorithm. They all carry useful information that can help keeping on locating the vehicle in absence of GPS information. These data are speed (from the speed radar), accelerations from the accelerometer and angular rotation from the gyros. If the GPS information is available (often at lower rate), the data can be used to get a more accurate location and to have the position information at the rate corresponding to the highest data rate.

In this context, we have used a Kalman filter (KF) to fusion these different types of data. In the case of a KF, this is done simultaneously by means of two models: one expressing the dynamics of the internal variables (the dynamics model) and another expressing how to link the measurement with these variables (the measurement model).

Basically when a data sample is received, it is fused into the global state of the KF (update phase) and then a prediction step is applied in order to determine what will be the next system state. The advantage of the KF is that the measurement model can be different at each time therefore allowing data to have different rates. We can for instance design a measurement model involving only accelerations or all data simultaneously. The global strategy of the DR system is to use the data actually available and to select a different measurement model depending which data is available.

Results

For the validation of the algorithm the focus has been put mainly on the test driven on track 10 where the conditions are close to railway conditions and where the GPS module was disabled for a period of 120 seconds.

Tests show that he average error is not null even in presence of GPS signal. The main reason is that the low-end GPS and high-end GPS (reference) system do not deliver the same position, meaning that in general we are limited by the accuracy of the GPS (supposed the system delivering the true position).  During the time the GPS is disabled, the error does not grow too fast. The error is stable between 2 m and 6 m.

On the left plot, the track with the estimated position using the estimation algorithm (black line), the GPS signal (blue line) which is disabled during 120s and the reference signal (pink line). On the right plots, the error made over the whole turn (top plot) and a focus on the error during the time the GPS is disabled (bottom plot). The average error is between 4 and 5 meters over the complete loop if we exclude the beginning where the filter has not yet converged.

 

Conclusions

Flanders Make and Televic Rail cooperated to develop an accurate and reliable localization system for estimating the train position/speed using on-board measurements. This system includes GPS, IMU and radar information. It uses a Kalman filter based fusioning which enables to retrieve an accurate position estimate for railway vehicle, even when some signal is missing for a limited period of time.

Based on experimental data, acquired with an instrumented vehicle on Lommel Proving Grounds, it was demonstrated that the developed system achieves a positioning error below 5 m, even when the GPS data is missing during 2 minutes. Televic Rail is currently working towards an implementation of the developed algorithm on a railway certified embedded platform.

These results have been achieved in the framework of the Mechatronics 4.0 vis-traject, which is funded by VLAIO. In this vis-traject, Sirris, Flanders Make and iMinds transfer innovative mechatronic solutions to concrete, industrial cases of companies in the following application domains: sensor architectures, advanced control design, sensors and algorithms for condition monitoring and machine diagnosis, vision and scan-based methods for characterization of product features.

ACE electronics buys Viscom 3D AOI

One of the main components of Industry 4.0 is quality inspection and process control. ACE electronics recently invested in an AOI, an Automated Optical Inspection system with advanced features. This will enable them to continue producing reliable and complex PCB’s.

By ACE electronics

 After an intensive testperiod ACE electronics N.V. located in Diest (B) has selected the Viscom 3D AOI S3088 Ultra. Decisive factors such as the unique  3D and software features where complemented by the robust construction of the machine, the high measuring accuracy and exceptional image quality.

“The selection of an AOI machine is not easy and the demo’s that we received from different manufacturors were relative comparable.” says Johan Lieten , Sales & Logistics Manager at ACE electronics . “But when we looked in more detail into the specifications and the software of the S3088 Ultra machine we started to clearly see the differences. Also the results of the more in depht tests were very impressive.”

Viscom is the European marketleader of inspection systems and preferred supplier for customers that focus on complex PCB’s in high tech industries. The last few years the company has been strongly focussing on the development of their new software platform vVision. This allows the user to very simply program, fine-tune and operate the machine, regardless if they are producing small or large production batches.

“Our customer portfolio is very wide, and we produce a combination of mid-volume batches for all types of end-users and markets. This makes fast programming and the detection of all defects very crucial for us.” says Mr. Lieten. “And same as our customers request from us, we also request one indispensable feature when purchasing an AOI machine: reliability.”

As our customers request reliability from us, we request the same from an AOI machine.

The combination of the orthogonal top camera, 8 angle view camera’s and the digital 3D fringe projector guarantees an unprecedented accuray, and is all Made in Germany. Smd-Tec is in the Benelux region the local support for installation, training and service. But also the proximity of Viscom to the Benelux region gives the customer the opportunity to be in direct contact with the manufacturor. This interaction has a double benefit as the customer can count on the highest level of support, and Viscom gets direct feedback to allow even more customer required features in their systems.

“We are very happy with the investment that ACE electronics has made and therewith clearly emphasizing the commitment to their customers.” concludes Tom Van Tongelen, CEO at Smd-Tec. “With this system they will without any doubt have the ability to offer the highest available quality.

Geert de Peuter CEO of Caeleste

cluster organizations

By Caeleste

Since September 1, Geert de Peuter is CEO of Caeleste. One of his first tasks as new CEO of Caeleste is to strengthen the organization after the fast growth during the last years and to bring the internal organization to support the present size and the future growth of the company. Geert will also work on the further growth of the company, the growth of the external network and on a further diversification of the image sensor portfolio and associated activities.

Geert obtained a master’s degree in electronic engineering and pursued his passion for micro-electronics by joining Alcatel’s ASIC design team. There his personal technical contributions and leadership in ASIC solutions for fiber and copper access products as well as network processors were a stepping stone in a series of successful engineering projects that led to a leading market position in broadband access.

Geert also nurtured the start-up and fortification of the Alcatel-Lucent DSL Physical Layer team (i.e. twisted-pair broadband access technology), which evolved into the company and industry reference for broadband access product (r)evolutions. The last five years, Geert managed the ASIC/hardware research team at Nokia Bell Labs, where he focused on groundbreaking, industry-relevant research for fixed and converged broadband innovations.