Send in your ideas. Deadline June 1, 2024
Theme fund: NGI0 PET
Start: 2019-12
End: 2022-10
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Free/open source semiconductor manufacturing process

LibreSilicon aims to reduce the steep entry barriers to full custom application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) design and help people to regain trust in their computing devices, right at the bedrock: When they are manufactured. LibreSilicon provides a standard for manufacturing semiconductors which allows platform independent process design kits (PDKs) and design rules that allow manufacturing the same chip layout in any factory that has calibrated their process according to the LibreSilicon specs. By introducing this process standard, full custom ASIC design should become available to private persons without corporate or academic access to IC foundries. After democratizing software development with tools like Arduino, and PCB design with tools like KiCAD, LibreSilicon will democratize ASIC design, and GDS2 intends to become the new Gerber file format for semiconductor manufacturing.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

When you go to a store to buy a laptop or mobile phone, you may see different brands on the outside but choice in terms of what is inside the box (in particular the most expensive component, the processor technology) is pretty much limited to the same core technologies and large vendors that have been in the market for decades. This has a much bigger effect on the users than just the hefty price tag of the hardware, because the technologies at that level impact all other technologies and insecurity at that level break security across the board.

In the field of software, open source has already become the default option in the market for any new setup. In hardware, the situation is different. Users - even very big users such as governments - have very little control over the actual hardware security of the technology they critically depend on every day. Security experts continue to uncover major security issues, and users are rightly concerned about the security of their private data as well as the continuity of their operations. But in a locked-down market there is little anyone can do, because the lack of alternatives. European companies are locked out of the possibility to contribute solutions and start new businesses that can change the status quo.

One of the ways to break through this standstill, is to construct computer parts from the ground up and make your designs open for everyone to check and verify. Combine this open hardware with open source software and you have a device that, with the right knowledge and skills, is completely transparent and customizable. This project aims to develop an open source production process for custom computer chips, making manufacturing of these chips quick, easy, inexpensive and auditable.

Run by Lanceville Technology Group Co. Ltd.

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This project was funded through the NGI0 PET Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825310.