Quantified Impacts of Guardband Reduction on Design Process Outcomes

Kwangok Jeong,  Andrew B. Kahng,  Kambiz Samadi
University of California, San Diego


The value of guardband reduction is a critical open issue for the semiconductor industry. For example, due to competitive pressure, foundries have started to incent the design of manufacturing-friendly ICs through reduced model guardbands when designers adopt layout restrictions. The industry also continuously weighs the economic viability of relaxing process variation limits in the technology roadmap. Our work gives the first-ever quantification of the impact of modeling guardband reduction on outcomes from the synthesis, place and route (SP&R) implementation flow. We assess the impact of model guardband reduction on various metrics of design cycle time and design quality, using open-source cores and production (specifically, ARM/TSMC) 90nm and 65nm technologies and libraries. Our experimental data clearly shows the potential design quality and turnaround time benefits of model guardband reduction. For example, we typically (i.e., on average) observe 13% standard-cell area reduction and 12% routed wirelength reduction as the consequence of a 40% reduction in library model guardband. We also assess the impact of guardband reduction on design yield. Our results suggest that there is justification for the design, EDA and process communities to enable guardband reduction as an economic incentive for manufacturing-friendly design practices.