Google and US chipmaker SkyWater expand their open source chip design platform

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Workers work in the clean room of U.S. semiconductor maker SkyWater Technology Inc, where computer chips are made, in Bloomington, Minnesota, U.S., in April 2022, in this photo acquired by Reuters on July 19 2022. SkyWater Technology/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY./File Photo

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July 28 (Reuters) – U.S. chipmaker SkyWater Technology Inc (SKYT.O) and Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL.O) Google Public Sector said on Thursday it was expanding an open-source platform for designing chips that can be manufactured at SkyWater’s Minnesota facility.

SkyWater said the US Department of Defense is funding $15 million for the development of the platform.

“One of the reasons the US government is investing in this initiative is so they can then take production on a lot of this development,” said Thomas Sonderman, CEO of SkyWater.

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Designing and manufacturing chips is a very expensive process. Not only is chip design software, called electronic design automation, or EDA, expensive to license, but manufacturing the first test chips in manufacturing facilities can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“We hope the collaboration will address what are truly historical limitations of chip design and production, both for national defense and commercial markets, as researchers gain greater accessibility and developers can go through this exploration more quickly and frankly at a lower cost,” said Will Grannis, CEO of Google Public Sector.

Public Sector Google, a for-profit subsidiary of Google LLC, was launched in June to better work with government and educational institutions, Grannis said. The chip design platform will be powered by Google and live on Google’s cloud, he said.

This is the second chip design platform project Google and SkyWater have worked on. The first was a platform for chips that could be fabricated on SkyWater’s 130-nanometer process. The latest is the production of chips on SkyWater’s 90 nanometer process.

Sonderman said the platform is for analog-digital mixed-signal chips often used in things like smart home products. Such chips can take advantage of larger transistors, such as 90 nanometers, for cheaper production, he said.

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Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee; Edited by Leslie Adler

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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