Chinese EDA leader revealed plans to develop chiplet and AI-based design automation

Misha Lu, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Credit: AFP

China-based electronic design automation (EDA) company Empyrean Technology has unveiled on January 12 that it has begun to undertake the research and development of chiplet-based advanced packaging as well as AI-based design automation.

AI-based design automation has become increasingly crucial for chip design, while chiplet-based advanced packaging has been regarded by some as an alternative path forward as US sanctions constrain Chinese chip development at at 16/14nm or below.

In a recent conference, Empyrean chairman Weiping Liu remarked that the development of Chinese EDA industry has made much progress in recent years, even though a significant gap still exists between Chinese EDA industry and its international peers, as reported by the Chinese media Ijiwei. Liu observed that commercialized domestic EDA tools could only cover 70% of the entire IC design flows, while the lack of a complete platform and supply chain is the biggest hurdle.

In addition, the Empyrean chairman said that Chinese EDA tools only account for 2% of global market, despite the emergence of many fresh EDA companies in China. Liu noted that these companies are mostly small in scale, with only seven of them reaching a headcount of 200 employees. Above all, Chinese EDA industry has yet to cover advanced process nodes, and lacks its own standards, Liu observed.

Backed by China's National IC Fund, Empyrean Technology is the leading EDA tool supplier in China. Other prominent China-based EDA companies include X-Epic Corp., Cellixsoft Corp., and Xpedic Technology. Chinese EDA industry received a major blow in August 2022 when the US Department of Commerce restricted the export of EDA software capable of supporting gate-all-around field-effect transistor (GAAFET) to China. The move has prompted China-based EDA companies to opt for a low-pricing competition strategy to mend its technological gap. Empyrean Technology, for example, has become Samsung Foundry's partners through lower price offers, and of the 23 EDA companies cooperating with Samsung, eight are China-based.

Chinese EDA companies have already made breakthroughs, allowing them to support certain stages or even the entire design flows of certain IC products. Empyrean Technology, for instance, is capable of supporting the entire design flow of analog ICs. In comparison, international peers like Cadence, Synopsys and Siemens are able to support the entire design flows of a wide range of IC types.

Empyrean Technology names three major overarching development objectives in its previous IPO prospectus. By 2023, it aims to fill China's gap in categories of EDA tools deemed strategic. By 2025, it aims to completely replace non-Chinese EDA tools, and establish a complete chip design software ecosystem. By 2030, Empyrean Technology aspires to be a 'global leader' in EDA tools.