OpenPOWER Foundation Provides Microwatt for Fabrication on Skywater Open PDK Shuttle

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The OpenPOWER based Microwatt CPU core has been selected to be included in the Efabless Open MPW Shuttle Program. Microwatt’s inclusion in the program represents a lower barrier to entry for chip manufacturing. It also demonstrates the ability to create fully designed, fabricated chips relying on a complete, end-to-end open source environment – including open governance, specifications, tooling, IP, hardware, software and manufacturing.

The Efabless Open MPW Shuttle Program provides fabrication for fully open-source projects using the SkyWater Open Source PDK. It’s sponsored by Google and allows designers to experiment and test innovative designs with lower risk and fabrication costs.

“Chip fabrication has essentially always been done in closed, proprietary environments, with incredibly prohibitive costs and risks associated with it,” said Tim Ansell, software engineer, Google. “SKY130 is the industry’s first open source foundry process design kit, and fabricating a completely open source processor like Microwatt showcases how much progress we’ve made in open source hardware.”

Ansell helped develop a fully open sourced Process Development Kit (PDK) in partnership with Skywater in 2020, and joined the OpenPOWER Foundation Board of Directors in January 2021 to bring software development techniques and practices into the world of open source hardware.

Microwatt is a small, simple CPU core written in VHDL 2008 designed as a proof of concept when the POWER ISA was open sourced at OpenPOWER Summit North America 2019. Since then, it has grown to support Micropython, Zephyr and Linux.

“The OpenPOWER Foundation is thrilled to be participating in the first fully open sourced shuttle program,” said James Kulina, Executive Director, OpenPOWER Foundation. “This new open approach for chip fabrication has the potential to change the innovation curve for the semiconductor industry, providing easier access to trial and test new ideas rapidly at lower costs.”

Stay tuned on our blog for more information on Microwatt and the Skywater Open PDK Shuttle program. To discuss the project further, please join the OpenPOWER Foundation Slack workspace or reach out to James Kulina or Tim Ansell on Twitter.