Brussels / 4 & 5 February 2023


Can we do an open source chip design in 45 minutes?

The state of free and open source silicon

Free and open source silicon, the art and craft of making computer chips with (only) free tools, has come a long way -- and has now reached the magic threshold where it can't be ignored any more. In this talk, we'll do a fast-paced journey through what's needed to go from an idea for a silicon chip to actually producing a real physical one using free and open source tools and building blocks. And since talk is cheap, we'll actually build a chip design during the talk in a live demo. Join to learn more about what's possible today, how free and open source is permeating the established industry, and how you can get involved as well.

In the last decades, producing a "real" silicon chip was an effort that required a large-ish team, a fair amount of money, and inside knowledge that only a small, selected group of individuals and companies had. That has changed: free and open source silicon is here, and it democratizes access to chip design for anyone. Free tools in all areas of chip design, from simulation to synthesis and physical design, have attracted renewed attention and are at a point where they are powerful enough to be used for actual chip tapeouts. The last barrier of entry for prospective chip designers fell with the announcement of the SkyWater PDK two years ago: real-world design rules, required to manufacture chips, are now freely available as well.

In this talk, we'll look at the open source silicon ecosystem: which tools do we have available, how are they working together in a toolflow, and can all of that be combined to produce a working chip?

Open source software has irrevocably changed the way software is developed. Open source silicon is set to do the same: inject new life into the traditionally closed chip development ecosystem, combining ideas from the open source software world with the accumulated wisdom of seasoned hardware engineers.


Photo of Philipp Wagner Philipp Wagner