Google and U.S. chip maker SkyWater expand open source chip design platform

Clean room of SkyWater Technology Inc where computer chips are made, in Bloomington
Workers work inside the clean room of U.S. semiconductor manufacturer SkyWater Technology Inc where computer chips are made, in Bloomington, Minnesota, U.S., April, 2022 in this handout picture acquired by Reuters on July 19, 2022. SkyWater Technology/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY./File Photo

July 28 (Reuters) - U.S. chip manufacturer SkyWater Technology Inc (SKYT.O) and Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google Public Sector announced on Thursday they are expanding an open source platform to design chips that can be made in SkyWater’s Minnesota facility.

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

“One of the reasons the U.S. government is investing in this initiative is because they can then take the output of a lot of this development,” said SkyWater CEO Thomas Sonderman.

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

“We’re hoping that the collaboration is going to address what are really historical limitations of chip design and production, both for national defense as well as commercial markets, because researchers get improved accessibility and developers get to go through that exploration faster and candidly at lower costs,” said Will Grannis, CEO of Google Public Sector.

Google Public Sector, a for-profit subsidiary of Google LLC, was launched in June to better work with the government and education institutions, said Grannis. 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 that Google and SkyWater have worked on. The first was a platform for chips that could be manufactured on SkyWater’s 130 nanometer process. The latest one is for 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 nanometer, for cheaper production, he said.

Reporting By Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Reports on global trends in computing from covering semiconductors and tools to manufacture them to quantum computing. Has 27 years of experience reporting from South Korea, China, and the U.S. and previously worked at the Asian Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires and Reuters TV. In her free time, she studies math and physics with the goal of grasping quantum physics.