Build Open Silicon with Google

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

silicon design render
TLDR; the Google Hardware Toolchains team is launching a new developer portal,, to help the developer community get started with its Open MPW shuttle program. This will allow anyone to submit open source integrated circuit designs to get manufactured at no-cost.

Since November 2020, when Skywater Technologies announced their partnership with Google to open source their Process Design Kit for the SKY130 process node, the Hardware Toolchains team here at Google has been on a journey to make building open silicon accessible to all developers. Having access to an open source and manufacturable PDK changes the status-quo in the custom silicon design industry and academia:
  • Designers are now free to start their projects liberated from NDAs and usage restrictions
  • Researchers are able to make their research reproducible by their fellow peers
  • Open source EDA tools can integrate deeply with the manufacturing process
Together we've built a community of more than 3,000 members, where hardware designers and software developers alike, can all contribute in their own way to advance the state of the art of open silicon design.

Between the opposite trends of the Moore law coming to an end and the exponential growth of connected devices (IoT), there is a real need to find more sustainable ways to scale computing. We need to go beyond cramming more transistors into smaller areas and toward more efficient dedicated hardware accelerators. Given the recent global chip supply chain struggles, and the lead time for popular ICs sometimes going over a year, we need to do this by leveraging more of the existing global foundry capacity that provides access to older and proven process node technologies.

Mature process nodes like SKY130 (a 130nm technology) offer a great way to prototype IoT applications that often need to balance cost and power with performance and leverage a mix of analog blocks and digital logic in their designs. They offer a faster turnaround rate than bleeding-edge process nodes for a fraction of the price; reducing the temporal and financial cost of making the right mistakes necessary to converge toward the optimal design.

By combining open access to PDKs, and recent advancements in the development of open source ASIC toolchains like OpenROAD, OpenLane, and higher level synthesis toolchain like XLS, we are getting us one step closer to bringing software-like development methodology and fast iteration cycles to the silicon design world.

Free and open source licensing, community collaboration, and fast iteration transformed the way we all develop software. We believe we are at the edge of a similar revolution for custom accelerator development, where hardware designers compete by building on each other's works rather than reinventing the wheel.

Towards this goal, we've been sponsoring a series of Open MPW shuttles on the Efabless platform, allowing around 250 open source projects to manufacture their own silicon. 

mpw silicon wafer zoomed view mpw chips die

With the last MPW-5 shuttle that closed up in March this year, we've seen a record level of engagement with 75 open silicon projects submitted for inclusion from 19 different countries.

Each project gets a fixed 2.92mm x 3.52mm user area and 38 I/O pins in a predefined harness to harden their design. It’s also provided with the necessary test infrastructure to validate chip specifications and behavior before being submitted for tape out.

We've seen a variety of designs submission to previous editions of the shuttle including:
floor plan for mpw5 submission

Our partner, Efabless announced that the next MPW-6 shuttle will accept open source project submissions until Monday, June 8, 2022. We can't wait to see the variety of projects the open silicon community creates, building on top of the corpus of open source designs steadily growing one Open MPW shuttle after the next. 

To help you on-board on future shuttles, we created a new developer portal that provides pointers to get started with the various tools of the open silicon ecosystem: so make sure to check out the portal and start your open silicon journey!

website preview

By Johan Euphrosine – Google Hardware Toolchains