I had the pleasure of interacting many times with Norman CM Lui, CEO, Skymos back in 2006. Established 1983, Skymos Electronics Ltd is one of the foremost designers and manufacturers of chip components, specializing in multilayer chip inductors, ferrite chip beads, multilayer chip ceramic capacitors, chip resistors and resistor networks. It has been awarded ISO 9001 and 9002 approval.
It was among the few suppliers offering multilayer chip inductors, ferrite chip beads, chip resistors, low-temperature co-fired ceramic capacitors (LTCC), etc.
Back then, he spoke of the applications of MLCCs that were generally in Bluetooth, GPS, cable TV equipment, satellite, etc. For example, taxis plying with GPS would need high Q (quality) MLCCs. New applications include converged handsets, MP4 players, PS3, digital cameras and video cameras; flat-panel high-definition TVs; dual-core multiprocessors (for motherboards, notebooks, desktop PCs and scanners); and automotive electronics.
Lui said most suppliers were more concerned about the 3H – high capacitance, high voltage and high frequency – for MLCCs, as well as high Q (quality factor). The frequency of MLCCs had become much higher as the termination is done on the top, instead of the sides.
Various types of dielectric were being used for MLCCs – such as the BaTiO3, NP0/C0G, XSR/X7R and Y5V/Z5U, respectively. The X5R allowed more capacitance for MLCCs and dielectric constant (K) was higher. The NP0/C0G group supported capacitance ranging from 1pF to 1µF and up to 10nF.
As for the electrodes, Pd/Ag was being used and Ni was also being used currently. For Pd/Ag electrode, the termination was in Ag/Ni/Sn. For Ni electrode, termination was mainly in Cu/Ni/Sn. Skymos is currently focusing on the Pd/Ag electrodes for MLCCs.
One major development was the use of BME (base metal electrode). Lui said that moving from the current electrode to BME would require lot of investment of about $50 million. For using BME, suppliers would need to install all new equipment, especially for the furnace, which would be used to oxidize the Ni element.
Another development has been the improvement in capacitance. Using BME for 0402, suppliers can produce MLCCs with high capacitance, such as 2.2µF, 3.3µF/6.3V, etc. Earlier, capacitance was 0.47µF using Pd/Ag electrode. The BME could enable higher capacitance due to an increase in the number of active layers.
For instance, the dielectric was 8-10 microns when using Pd/Ag electrodes. Using BME, the dielectric became 2-3 microns. The corresponding values for 0603 type is 10µF/6.3V using BME, 47µF for 0805, and 220µF for 1206. MLCCs have replaced those applications that previously required tantalum capacitors.
Another development has been the advent of the MLCC array, which has more applications in the PC industry. This array can reduce the EMI. Skymos is offering this MLCC array. It also improves the high Q, voltage and capacitance.
On the issue of MLCCs vs. ultracapacitors, Lui said, suppliers could already reach up to 220µF capacitance via MLCC, which were replacing tantalum capacitors. The tantalum capacitors were now being used for applications requiring 220µF-330µF capacitance. As a result, all other types of capacitors were dropping in demand, as compared to MLCCs. Ultracapacitors were intended to replace the Ni battery. However, there has also been a shift to oxide batteries.
The supplier’s R&D strategy includes focusing on 3H and possibly, BME. It also reduced the insulation loss and noise by grounding. The MLCC combined a capacitor and a filter. I hope Skymos has produced 20KV MLCCs. It was already offering 10KV MLCCs.
Most of this data actually appeared in Global Sources Electronics Components magazine in 2006!
Early this month, STMicroelectronics and Freescale Semiconductor introduced a new dual-core microcontroller (MCU) family aimed at functional safety applications for car electronics.
These 32-bit devices help engineers address the challenge of applying sophisticated safety concepts to comply with current and future safety standards. The dual-core MCU family also includes features that help engineers focus on application design and simplify the challenges of safety concept development and certification.
Based on the industry-leading 32-bit Power Architecture technology, the dual-core MCU family, part-numbered SPC56EL at ST and MPC564xL at Freescale, is ideal for a wide range of automotive safety applications including electric power steering for improved vehicle efficiency, active suspension for improved dynamics and ride performance, anti-lock braking systems and radar for adaptive cruise control.
The Freescale/STMicroelectronics joint development program (JDP) is headquartered in Munich, Germany, and jointly managed by ST and Freescale.
The JDP is accelerating innovation and development of products for the automotive market. The JDP is developing 32-bit Power Architecture MCUs manufactured on 90nm technology for an array of automotive applications: a) powertrain, b) body, c) chassis and safety, and d) instrument cluster.
STMicroelectronics’ SK Yue, said: “We are developing 32-bit MCUs based on 90nm Power Architecture technology. One unique feature — it allows customer to use dual core or single core operation. The objective of this MCU is to help customers simplify design and to also reduce the overall system cost.
On the JDP, he added: “We will have more products coming out over a period of time. This JDP is targeted toward automotive products.”
Commenting on the automotive market today, he said that from June onward, the industry has been witnessing a gradual sign of recovery coming in the automotive market.
Automotive market challenges
There has been an increasing integration and system complexity. These include:
* Increasing electrification of the vehicle (replacing traditional mechanical systems).
* Mounting costs pressure leading to integration of more functionality in a single ECU.
* Subsequent increase in use of high-performance sensor systems has driven increased MCU performance needs.
There are also increasing safety expectations. Automotive system manufacturers need to guarantee the IEC61508 (SIL3) and ISO26262 (ASILD) system-safety capability. Also, a move from passive to active safety is increasing the number of safety functions distributed in many ECUs.
Finally, there is a continued demand for quality — in form of zero defects, by which, a 10x quality improvement is expected.
MCU family addresses market challenges
The MCU family offers exceptional integration and performance. These include: high-end 32-bit dual-issue Power Architecture cores, combined with comprehensive peripheral set in 90nm non-volatile-memory technology. It also provides a cost effective solution by reducing board size, chip count and logistics/support costs.
It also solves functional safety. The Functional Safety architecture has been specifically designed to support IEC61508 (SIL3) and ISO26262 (ASILD) safety standards. The architecture provides redundancy checking of all computational elements to help endure the operation of safety related tasks. The unique, dual mode of operation allows customers to choose how best to address their safety requirements without compromising on performance.
The MCU also offers best-in-class quality. It is design for quality, aiming for zero defects. The test and manufacture have been aligned to lifetime warranty needs.
The MCU family addresses the challenges of applying sophisticated safety concepts to meet future safety standards. Yue added, “There are two safety standards — we are following those guidelines.” These are the IEC61508 (SIL3) and ISO26262 (ASILD) system-safety capabilities.
The automotive industry is also targeting for zero defects. “Therefore, all suppliers in tier 1 and 2 need to come up with stringent manuyfaturing and testing process that ensures zero defects,” he said.
32-bit dual-issue, dual-core MCU family
Finally, why dual core? Yue said that the MCU helps customers to achieve to achieve safety and motor control. Hence, dual core will definitely help deliver results.
“In many automotive applications, especially in safety-related applications, we want to have redundancy for safety. In the lock-step mode, two cores run the same task simultaneously, and results are then compared to each other in every computation. If the results are not matched, it indicates that there are some problems.”
This MCU family definitely simplifies design. It uses a flexible, configurable architecture that addresses both lock-step and dual parallel operation modes on a single dual-core chip. Next, it complies with safety standards.
A redundant architecture provides a compelling solution for real-time applications that require compliance with the IEC61508 SIL3 and ISO26262 ASIL-D safety standards. It also lowers the systems cost.
Dual-core architecture reduces the need for component duplication at the system level, and lowers overall system costs.
STMicroelectronics recently introduced the M24SR dynamic NFC/RFID tag.
Speaking about the USP of the M24SR, Amit Sethi, Product Marketing manager – Memories and RFID, STMicroelectronics India, said: “The unique selling proposition of the M24SR product is its two interfaces, giving users and applications the ability to program or read its memory using either an RF NFC interface or a wired I2C interface, in an affordable and easy-to-use device for a wide range of applications such as consumer/home appliance, OTP card, healthcare/wellness and industrial/smart meter.”
Let us see how the M24SR is beneficial for smartphone or any other audio device.
The M24SR is a dynamic NFC/RFID tag that manages the data exchange between the NFC phone and the microcontroller. The main use cases for data exchange are updating user settings, downloading data logs, and remote programming and servicing. The dynamic tag also enables seamless Bluetooth and Wi-Fi pairing, which is useful in, for example, audio devices.
How is the M24SR different from other products of the same segment?
Sethi said that the key difference is the dual interface: the M24SR memory can be accessed either by a low-power 2C interface or
by an ISO14443A RF interface operating at 13.56MHz. It also features RF status (MCU wake-up) and RF disable functions to minimize power consumption. In addition, the devices support the NFC data exchange format (NDEF from NFC forum) and 128-bit password protection mechanism.
The M24SR series is available in EEPROM memory densities from 2 Kbit to 64 Kbit and three package types: SO8, TSSOP8, and UFDFPN8.
What are the contributions of M24SR toward the Internet of Things?
Accotding to him, the M24SR dynamic NFC/RFID tag interactive and zero power capability, simplifies complex communications setups and enables data exchange among the home automation, wearable electronics, home appliances, smart meter, wellness, etc.
Especially with the NFC capability, the M24SR is ideal for applications waiting for something, like a ticket or ID to launch an activity.
Relevance for India
Finally, what’s the relevance of the product for the Indian market?
Sethi added: “Mobile and NFC based application are gaining its popularity in India. M24SR is an easy-to-use and an affordable product for the Implementation of NFC-based applications in transportation, entertainment, and lifestyle areas.
As for the go-to-market strategy, the M24SR mass market launch is planned for end of February 2014. Some M24SR samples have been delivered to key customers during Q4 2013 and design/development is ongoing.
Following a host of forecasts for 2014, it is now the turn of Applied Materials with its forecast for the year. First, I asked Om Nalamasu, senior VP, CTO, Applied Materials regarding the outlook for the global semicon industry in 2014.
Semicon outlook 2014
He said that Gartner expects the semiconductor industry to grow in mid-single digits to over $330 billion in 2014.
“In our industry – the semiconductor wafer fab equipment sector – we are at the beginning of major technology transitions, driven by FinFET and 3D NAND, and based a wide range of analyst projections, wafer fab equipment investment is expected to be up 10-20 percent in 2014. We expect to see a year-over-year increase in foundry, NAND, and DRAM investment, with logic and other spending flat to down.”
Five trends for 2014
Next, what are the top five trends likely to rule the industry in 2014?
Nalamasu said that the key trends continuing to drive technology in 2014 and beyond include 3D transistors, 3D NAND, and 3D packaging. 3D remains a central theme. In logic, foundries will ramp to 20nm production and begin early transition stages to3D finFET transistors.
With respect to 3D NAND, some products will be commercially available, but most memory manufacturers plan to crossover from planar NAND to vertical NAND starting this year. In wafer level packaging, critical mechanical and electrical characterization work is bringing the manufacturability of 3D-integrated stacked chips closer to reality.
These device architecture inflections require significant advances in precision materials engineering. This spans such critical steps as precision film deposition, precision materials removal, materials modification and interface engineering. Smaller features and atomic-level thin films also make interface engineering and process integration more critical than ever.
Driving technology innovations are mobility applications which need high performance, low power semiconductors. Smartphones, smart watches, tablets and wearable gadgets continue to propel industry growth. Our customers are engaged in a fierce battle for mobility leadership as they race to be the first to market with new products that improve the performance, battery-life, form-factor and user experience of mobile devices.
How is the global semiconductor industry managing the move to the sub 20nm era?
He said that extensive R&D work is underway to move the industry into the sub-20nm realm. For the 1x nodes, more complex architectures and structures as well as new higher performance materials will be required.
Some specific areas where changes and technology innovations are needed include new hard mask and channel materials, selective material deposition and removal, patterning, inspection, and advanced interface engineering. For the memory space, different memory architectures like MRAM are being explored.
FinFETs in 20nm!
By the way, have FinFETs gone to 20nm? Are those looking for power reduction now benefiting?
FinFET transistors are in production in the most advanced 2x designs by a leading IDM, while the foundries are in limited R&D production. In addition to the disruptive 3D architecture, finFET transistors in corporate new materials such as high-k metal gate (HKMG) that help to drastically reduce power leakage.
Based on public statements, HKMG FinFET designs are expected to deliver more than a 20 percent improvement in speed and a 30 percent reduction in power consumption compared to28nm devices. These are significant advantages for mobile applications.
Status of 3D ICs
Finally, what’s the status with 3D ICs? How is Applied helping with true 3D stacking integration?
Nalamasu replied that vertically stacked 3D ICs are expected to enter into production first for niche applications. This is due primarily to the higher cost associated with building 3D wafer-level-packaged (WLP) devices. While such applications are limited today, Applied Materials expects greater utilization and demand to grow in the future.
Applied is an industry leader in WLP, having spear-headed the industry’s development of through silicon via (TSV) technology. Applied offers a suite of systems that enable customers to implement a variety of packaging techniques, from bumping to redistribution layer (RDL) to TSV. Because of work in this area, Applied is strongly positioned to support customers as they begin to adopt this technology.
To manufacture a robust integrated 3D stack, several fundamental innovations are needed. These include improving defect density and developing new materials such as low warpage laminates and less hygroscopic dielectrics.
Another essential requirement is supporting finer copper line/spacing. Important considerations here are maintaining good adhesion while watching out for corrosion. Finally, for creating the necessary smaller vias, the industry needs high quality laser etching to replace mechanical drilling techniques.
Here is the concluding part of my conversation with Synopsys’ Rich Goldman on the global semiconductor industry.
Global semicon in sub 20nm era
How is the global semicon industry performing after entering the sub 20nm era? Rich Goldman, VP, corporate marketing and strategic alliances, Synopsys, said that driving the fastest pace of change in the history of mankind is not for the faint of heart. Keeping up with Moore’s Law has always required significant investment and ingenuity.
“The sub-20nm era brings additional challenges in device structures (namely FinFETs), materials and methodologies. As costs rise, a dwindling number of semiconductor companies can afford to build fabs at the leading edge. Those thriving include foundries, which spread capital expenses over the revenue from many customers, and fabless companies, which leverage foundries’ capital investment rather than risking their own. Thriving, leading-edge IDMs are now the exception.
“Semiconductor companies focused on mobile and the Internet of Things are also thriving as their market quickly expands. Semiconductor companies who dominate their space in such segments as automotive, mil/aero and medical are also doing quite well, while non-leaders find rough waters.”
Performance of FinFETs
Have FinFETs gone to below 20nm? Also, are those looking for power reduction now benefiting?
He added that 20nm was a pivotal point in advanced process development. The 20nm process node’s new set of challenges, including double patterning and very leaky transistors due to short channel effects, negated the benefits of transistor scaling.
To further complicate matters, the migration from 28nm to 20nm lacked the performance and area gains seen with prior generations, making it economically questionable. While planar FET may be nearing the end of its scalable lifespan at 20nm, FinFETs provide a viable alternative for advanced processes at emerging nodes.
The industry’s experience with 20nm paved the way for an easier FinFET transition. FinFET processes are in production today, and many IC design companies are rapidly moving to manufacture their devices on the emerging 16nm and 14nm FinFET-based process geometries due to the compelling power and performance benefits. Numerous test chips have taped out, and results are coming in.
“FinFET is delivering on its promise of power reduction. With 20nm planar FET technologies, leakage current can flow across the channel between the source and the drain, making it very difficult to completely turn the transistor off. FinFETs provide better channel control, allowing very little current to leak when the device is in the “off” state. This enables the use of lower threshold voltages, resulting in better power and performance. FinFET devices also operate at a lower nominal voltage supply, significantly improving dynamic power.”
The year 2014 is expected to be a major year for the global semiconductor industry. The industry will and continue to innovate!
Apparently, there are huge expectations from certain segments such as the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable electronics. There will likely be focus on the connected car. Executives have been stating there could be third parties writing apps that can help cars. Intel expects that technology will be inspiring optimism for healthcare in future. As per a survey, 57 percent of people believe traditional hospitals will be obsolete in the future.
Some other entries from 2013 include Qualcomm, who introduced the Snapdragon 410 chipset with integrated 4G LTE world mode for high-volume smartphones. STMicroelectronics joined ARM mbed project that will enable developers to create smart products with ARM-based industry-leading STM32 microcontrollers and accelerate the Internet of Things.
A look at the industry itself is interesting! The World Semiconductor Trade Statistics Inc. (WSTS) is forecasting the global semiconductor market to be $304 billion in 2013, up 4.4 percent from 2012. The market is expected to recover throughout 2013, driven mainly by double digit growth of Memory product category. By region, all regions except Japan will grow from 2012. Japan market is forecasted to decline from 2012 in US dollar basis due to steep Japanese Yen depreciation compared to 2012.
WSTS estimates that the worldwide semiconductor market is predicted to grow further in 2014 and 2015. According to WSTS, the global semiconductor market is forecasted to be up 4.1 percent to $317 billion in 2014, surpassing historical high of $300 billion registered in 2011. For 2015, it is forecasted to be $328 billion, up 3.4 percent.
All product categories and regions are forecasted to grow positively in each year, with the assumption of macro economy recovery throughout the forecast period. By end market, wireless and automotive are expected to grow faster than total market, while consumer and computer are assumed to remain stagnant.
Now, all of this remains to be seen!
Earlier, while speaking with Dr. Wally Rhines of Mentor, and Jaswinder Ahuja of Cadence, both emphasized the industry’s move to 14/16nm. Xilinx estimates that 28nm will have a very long life. It also shipped the 20nm device in early Nov. 2013.
In a 2013 survey, carried out by KPMG, applications markets identified as most important by at least 55 percent of the respondents were: Mobile technology – 69 percent; Consumer – 66 percent; Computing – 63 percent; Alternative/Renewal Energy – 63 percent; Industrial – 62 percent; Automotive – 60 percent; Medical – 55 percent; Wireline Communications – 55 percent.
Do understand that there is always a line between hope and forecasts, and what the end result actually turns out to be! In the meantime, all of us continue to live with the hope that the global semiconductor will carry on flourishing in the years to come. As Brian Fuller, Cadence, says, ‘the future’s in our hands; let’s not blow it!’
Xilinx Inc. has announced of its 20nm All Programmable UltraScale portfolio with product documentation and Vivado Design Suite support.
Neeraj Varma, director-Sales, India, Xilinx, said: “We are enabling All Programmable and smarter systems. We are using smart IP. We are aligning to produce smarter systems. We are helping customers to differentiate their products faster.
“In future, we will go with concurrent nodes with FPGAs, SoCs and 3D ICs. As per our estimates, 28nm will have a very long life. We shipped the 20nm device in early Nov. 2013. It complements 28nm or new high-performance architectures. 16nm complements 20nm with FinFET, multiprocessing, memory.”
Strategy execution has kept Xilinx a generation ahead. As of Dec. 2013, its 20nm portfolio is available to customers. There are two major announcements from Xilinx.
* Xilinx 20nm All Programmable UltraScale portfolio now available with ASIC-class architecture and ASIC-strength design solution.
* Xiilinx doubles industry’s highest capacity device to 4.4 mn logic, delivering density adantage, a full generation ahead.
KINTEX UltraSCALE – XCKU035, 040, 060, 075, 100, 115.
VIRTEX UltraSCALE – XCVU065, 080, 095, 125, 145, 160.
There is a family migration path. There is scalability for derivative applications. You can leverage PCB investment across platforms. It is future-proof with migration path to 16nm. For making these happen, Xilinx is using the TSMC 20SoC.
Varma added, “We have increased the logic cells in Kintex and Virtex, and added 100G Ethenet blocks and 150G Interlaken blocks.”
The second announcement – highest density in FPGAs in industry. The XCVU440 is the largest in the industry by 4X, a full generation ahead, and uses 50M equivalent ASIC gates. Xilinx is delivering an ASIC-class advantage through silicon, tools and methodology.
There is UltraSCALE ASIC-class architecture, and ASIC-class capabilities. There is also the Vivado ASIC-strength design suite.
UltraFAST is the design methodology. UltraSCALE will support networking, digital video and wireless.
Interconnect bottlenecks impede next generation performance.
* Routing delay dominates overall delay.
* Clock skew consumes more timing margin.
* Sub-optimal CLB packing reduces performance and utilization.
Varma added: “We have solved these issues – as UltraSCALE re-architects the core. There is 90 percent utilization now with maximum performance. We added next-generation routing, ASIC-like clocking – have clocks by segment, and logic cell packing.
“Block-level innovations optimize critical paths for massive bandwidth and processing. We are going to support DDR4, and there will be a lot more security features.”
The Vivado design suite accelerates productivity. Analytical placer solves the interconnect issue.
UltraSCALE apps include:
VIRTEX: 400G OTN switching, 400G transponder, 400G MAC-to-Interlaken bridge, 2x100G Muxponder, ASIC prototyping.
KINTEX: 4×4 mixed mode radio, 100G traffic manager NIC, super high-vision processing, 256-channel ultrasound, 48-channel T/R radar processing.
Texas Instruments has been a leader in DLP or digital light processing, a type of projector technology that uses a digital micromirror device. Kent Novak, senior VP, DLP Products, Texas Instruments (TI) mentioned that DLP became the no. 1 supplier of MEMS technology in 2004.
The DLP pico projectors business started in 2009. Now, pico is going into gaming systems, etc. In 2011, it went into the cinema industry. In India, out of 10,000 screens, close to 7,000 are now digital. In 2012, new DLP development kit was launched allowing developers to embed the DLP chip into non-traditional applications in new markets. In 2013, TI started working on DLP automotive chips.
He said: “DLP is an array of millions of digital micromirrors. We ship around 45 million devices. We see India as a growth opportunity for cimemas. In DLP front projection business, we have 60 percent share in India. Only 5 percent of Indian classrooms have projectors, making room for growth.”
In low power pico projection, TI has 95 percent market share in India for standalone pico projection. A phone with pico projection was launched in India with iBall at 35 lumen.
DLP technology is available in India in:
Industrial: Machine vision can improve quality control in the Indian manufacturing sector.
Medical: Intelligent illumination systems for cost effective blood analysis.
Safety: Cost effective, accurate chemical analysis of food and industrial.
Automotive: Infotainment and safety solution being qualified.
DLP in automotive displays has several applications, such as wide field of view head up display (HUD) – app available by 2016, free shape interactive active console – app available by 2017, and smart headlights. Some other features include:
* High image quality: consistent contrast, brightness over lamp.
* Full, deep, accurate cover over lifetime.
* Easily enlarges larger display areas.
* High power efficiency.
* DLP technology automatically reduces reflection.
New market opportunities
There are said to be several new opportunities for DLP. These are in:
Industrial: Machine vision, spectroscopy, interactive display, 3D printing, intelligent lighting, digital light exposure.
Infotainment: Mobile phones, tablets, camcorders, laptops, mobile projection, ultra slim TVs.
Gaming: Dual console gaming, interactive gaming, near eye display.
Digital signage: Interactive surface, storefront interactive, retail engagement.
Automotive: Head up display, interactive display, intelligent lighting.
Medical: Spectroscopy, 3D printing, intelligent lighting.
TI has DLP LightCrafter family of evaluation modules. It enables faster development cycles for end equipment requiring smalll form factor, lower cost and intelligent, high-speed pattern display. The DLP LightCrafter 4500 features the 0.45 WXGA chipset. The DLP chip can enable new and innovative intelligent display apps. If your solution uses, programs or senses light, DLP could be a fit.
DLP catalog offers programmable, ultra-high speed pattern. “DLP is light source agnostic. We use whatever’s most efficient for brightness,” he added.