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I'm trying to make this as non-opinion-based as possible.

There are a lot of textbooks and resources for how transistors, and various things that are made of transistors, work. However, in all my searching, the only tutorial I've ever seen for actual IC design is this one. In my initial perusing, however, it seems fairly "off the top of my head"-ish, as in, "I think I'll talk about this, now."

Are there any other such IC design tutorials? I'm not even asking for a ranking, just if they exist in the first place.

Edit: in college, I took a course called "Analog & Mixed-Signal Integrated Circuit Design"; most of our time was spent talking about different types of op-amps and their different merits and limitations. The final project was to design an op-amp, using one of the four types mentioned in the class (two-stage, telescopic, folded-cascade, and current mirror) to meet one of four different sets of design specs. But it just seemed like we were thrown into the deep end with an understanding of what swimming was but with no idea how to do a breaststroke.

Essentially, in IC design, there are a lot of knobs to twist to accomplish your goal; so many knobs, in fact, that it gets a little overwhelming at times, and I don't know where to start. I was just wondering if there were any resources out there, not for how these IC and IC blocks work, but how to design them and use them effectively.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have a few textbooks about analog and digital IC design, but I get the feeling that's not quite what you're looking for. I too am curious whether such tutorials exist \$\endgroup\$ – DerStrom8 Jan 26 '18 at 21:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you mean for use in a specific software tool or more like general tips for placing circuits in ICs like one would follow when placing those same circuits on PCBs? I would think a full tutorial to be rare because it's not a task commonly done by any single person. \$\endgroup\$ – Samuel Jan 26 '18 at 21:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Samuel More the latter than the former. See edit above. \$\endgroup\$ – John Doe Jan 26 '18 at 21:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a good question but it's tricky because it's highly dependent on what you know. Knowing the basics of transistors and their parameters can help you with integrated circuits like op amps or digital logic. But much like programming a script, you have to know what you need before you can implement an algorithm to solve what you need to get done. \$\endgroup\$ – KingDuken Jan 26 '18 at 22:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would not worry about the skills too much, you will learn those on the job. You need to have your basics covered so circuit analysis, know how semiconductors work etc. and basically know how to use a simulator. Ideally you'd start at a company where there are more experienced engineers you can learn from. Compared to what I know now and what I knew when I left Uni (with a Master's), I knew, uhm, not so much. I though 10 MHz was quite a high frequency. Now I design at 60 GHz! \$\endgroup\$ – Bimpelrekkie Jan 26 '18 at 22:17
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So, I'm an Analog IC designer. I design circuits with analog functions for use on an IC. My first circuits for use on a chip I designed when I was still at University in the 1990s.

I'm not a digital IC designer, I do not define functions in Verilog/VHDL which are then synthesized (made into a layout that goes onto a chip). I do however make small/simple logic designs but I treat them the same as my analog circuits. So no automatic layout generation for example.

The book by Hans Camenzind indeed discusses briefly what (part of) analog IC design is about.

As you've found there's a lot of stuff you need to cover before you can design your own circuits for use in a chip. I'd say that it is simply too much to cover in a "tutorial".

You need to know:

  • how semiconductors work that includes PN junction, diode, BJTs (NPN, PNP) and/or NMOS/PMOS.

  • Be able to do (small signal) circuit analysis, for example determine the bandwidth and gain of a given circuit.

  • Have a basic understanding of how the components (diodes and all mentioned above) are realized on a chip

  • be able to use a circuit simulator, prototyping an IC can cost a lot, think $10000 up to 1 million USD so we do the design in a simulator.

  • be able to understand the Design manual which comes with the IC manufacturing process in which you will be designing your IC. Each process has specific properties you need to be aware of.

  • be able to come up with a circuit which can perform the function which you need.

Sometimes you also have to make your own layout, this is easy to learn in comparison to the items mentioned above.

So yeah, it takes a couple of years to master all this ;-)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also worthy of mention: learn how to read and write all component specs, also with worst case environmental tolerances. You must be able to read schematics faster than english \$\endgroup\$ – Sunnyskyguy EE75 Jan 26 '18 at 22:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ OK, so the come up with a circuit part. What helps me a lot is that since I was a teenager (so even before Uni) I was fascinated by circuits so I tried to figure out how every schematic I could get my hands on (from magazines, books) worked. That taught me a lot about possible circuit and how things are done. In reality many circuits consist of small "standard" solutions like current mirrors, diff. pairs, common emitter amps. The trick is usually to combine all these into something that does what you need. \$\endgroup\$ – Bimpelrekkie Jan 26 '18 at 22:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately, I'm married and the sole provider for my wife and two very young kids; I have limited to no time available for exploration. My learning these days is coming from design "assignments" from someone from another department here at work; it's slow going at best due to multiple people being involved, so I'm trying to see what options are available to me. \$\endgroup\$ – John Doe Jan 26 '18 at 22:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Leroy105 Cadence Virtuoso is mainly for Analog and Mixed signal design. Although Cadence is the "de facto standard" it is not the only one, there's also Mentor Graphics and Keysight ADS. Cadence does offer the best integration (all tools you need from design to layout) I think but it is expensive. Very expensive. Also do not forget to check what the foundry (making your chip) design kit supports. No use on having Mentor when the foundry expects you to use Cadence. \$\endgroup\$ – Bimpelrekkie Jan 27 '18 at 15:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Leroy105 If you do not have much "in house" experience then for sure outsourcing should be on your list. Outsourcing is expensive as well though. You have to be sure you have a valid business case for your design as the design is "only" part of the cost. Also account for production testing and product verification, lifetime tests depending on what your customers need. Think 100k USD per item as well. You really need to be sure you're going to sell a million of the chips or more to be cost effective. Unless you can charge 100 USD per chip of course. \$\endgroup\$ – Bimpelrekkie Jan 27 '18 at 15:39
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yes There are older free ones and newer paid ones

I selected Analog, since all logic must follow analog rules as well.

websites: https://web.archive.org/web/*/Designing%20Analog%20Chips

Books https://archive.org/search.php?query=analog%20IC%20design

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An initial search brings up this page:

https://www.mics.ece.vt.edu/ICDesign/Tutorials/Overview/index.html

It has a number of sections that follow the design flow. Perhaps this is what you're looking for.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems like a specific tutorial for a design tool (suite), namely Cadence. Did I miss something? \$\endgroup\$ – John Doe Jan 26 '18 at 22:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, you're correct, that course is about how to use the software (I think), I use Cadence btw for simulation and layouting my designs. \$\endgroup\$ – Bimpelrekkie Jan 26 '18 at 22:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well if you think about it how are they going to show you how to do something (the definition of a tutorial) if they can't show you how to do it (in whatever software they use)? Many of the concepts will be the same regardless of the software package, so much of that tutorial is probably still applicable \$\endgroup\$ – DerStrom8 Jan 26 '18 at 23:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think if the OP actually wants to see a physical layout of any given IC, that would be proprietary information, just as the Cadence source code would be. Sometimes Intel shows physical layers in IEEE magazine as a tease, but that is about it. \$\endgroup\$ – Sparky256 Jan 27 '18 at 6:30

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