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An Obstacle-Avoiding Router for Custom VLSI

Hamachi, Gordon Taro
Technical Report Identifier: CSD-86-291
April 1986

Abstract: Magic's automatic routing system combines the flexibility of hand-routing with the speed and quality of automatic channel routers, by allowing chip designers to prewire selected nets by hand. The router then works around this previously-placed layout, called obstacles, to automatically wire the remaining nets. This ability to partially hand-route an integrated circuit gives designers complete control over critical paths, power and ground routing, and other special nets. At the same time the router provides a fast way to make the remaining connections in the design.

The system's novel features include a fast channel decomposer, an obstacle-avoiding global router, and an obstacle-avoiding switching router. The router's channel decomposition algorithm relies on a corner-stitched data structure to efficiently produce a small number of large channels. The global router considers obstacles during path generation, trading-off net length and channel complexity to simplify the subsequent channel routing task. While able to cope with obstacles, Magic's switchbox router is still comparable to the best traditional (non-obstacle-avoiding) channel routers.

The router's obstacle-avoidance features rely on two underlying concepts: (1) a preferred direction for crossing an obstacle, and (2) hazards, or areas the routing should avoid. Crossing obstacles in the preferred direction minimizes the creation of blocked areas, which can not be crossed by other routing; this minimizes obstacles' impact on the automatic routing. Crossings in preferred directions are controlled by strategically-placed hazards adjacent to obstacles.

Measurements show that obstacle-avoiding routing is both useful and practical: hand-routing improves the electrical characteristics of the selected nets, while the hand-routed obstacles have only minor effects upon the routing quality of a design as a whole. The improvement in electrical characteristics is due to the decreased net length and increased attention to layer selection possible when nets are prewired by hand.