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What Is Integrated Circuit Design?

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  • Written By: Benjamin Arie
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Integrated circuit (IC) design is an electrical and computer engineering specialty. This discipline is vital for the proper fabrication of new integrated circuits, which are used in digital devices such as computers and mobile phones. There are many detailed steps in the IC development process. Conceptual design, simulation, and verification testing are the major fundamentals of the integrated circuit design procedure.

Each integrated circuit contains many interconnected electrical components. These small elements include transistors and resistors, which are used to direct and control current. ICs are manufactured from semi conductive material such as silicon. Integrated circuits are highly intricate, and some may contain nearly a billion transistors.

In integrated circuit design, elements must be meticulously planned and laid out before a chip can be manufactured. Due to the complexity of modern ICs, chips are rarely designed by hand. Instead, conceptual design software is used during the planning process. This computer-aided approach allows circuit designers to avoid mistakes and ensure that every chip is laid out correctly.

During the conceptual planning stage of integrated circuit design, experts work to lay out each circuit as efficiently as possible. Components are arranged to take full advantage of available space and reduce the final size of the chip. Electrical pathways are designed to be short and efficient. This reduces the cost of the IC and allows electrical signals to flow without problems.

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IC chip manufacturers have different capabilities. The machinery used to produce integrated circuits is sometimes limited to certain layouts and structures. The circuit planning process must take this into account, and designers must work closely with manufacturers to make sure a proposed model can actually be produced.

After a new integrated circuit design has been conceptualized, it must be simulated. At this stage, software is again an important tool. Computer programs are used to simulate the flow of electricity through a newly designed chip. The digital logic of an IC is observed closely for errors. If a layout mistake exists, designers try to find and modify the fault using software before the expensive manufacturing process begins.

A circuit design is physically produced into a silicon chip only when experts are satisfied that it has been laid out correctly. Due to the manufacturing costs, integrated circuits are usually produced in bulk. Even after extensive simulation, a new IC design is tested in the real world as soon as it is built. Integrated circuit manufacturers routinely verify each batch of silicon, and check that the digital logic is functioning properly.

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