NXP Semiconductors N.V. recently released the LPC1500 microcontroller series, optimized for fast, easy, and high-precision motor control.
So, what’s unique about the new LPC family? First, the LPC1500 was designed to simplify motor control for the masses. It has the flexibility to drive various types of motors, such as ACIM, PMSM, BLDC, etc. The LPC1500 can also drive multiple motors simultaneously.
These aren’t all! The hardware interconnection between the SCTimer/PWM, ADCs and comparators allow the motor to be driven with little CPU intervention. It has free LPCXpresso IDE and free FOC firmware for sensored and sensorless motors that reduces cost and improves time to market.
Looking at the unique features and benefits, the Switch Matrix allows any function to be routed out to any pin making schematic capture and board layout simpler and faster. The SCTimer/PWM block is unique to NXP.
Benefits are, it can run independently of the CPU and generate extremely precise PWM waveforms for quiet, smooth, efficient motor drive. The 2x 2Msps 12b,12ch ADCs can measure simultaneous phase currents to determine precise motor position and speed. There are four comparators for fast system shutdown upon fault detection.
The LPC1500 is suitable for large appliances, HVAC, building automation, factory automation, industrial pumps and generators, digital power, remote sensing, etc.
How will the LPC1500 aid embedded engineers? According to NXP, it saves time to market using the free FOC firmware and GUI tuning tool. It also saves system cost by using only one system MCU, e.g., HVAC typically has one MCU for fan control and one MCU for the compressor. LPC1500 can control both.
The LPC1500 feature set makes it ideal for sensorless motor control removing the need for sensored motors and allowing customers to switch to cheaper sensorless motors. As the SCTimer/PWM can run independently of the CPU, the freed up CPU bandwidth can be used to control other parts of the system for example the LPC1500 can be used for both the control and motor board in a washing machine.
NXP is currently working with customers to understand their future requirements and developing the roadmap to match their needs.
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.”
What are the top five trends likely to rule the semicon industry in 2014 and why? Rich Goldman, VP, corporate marketing and strategic alliances, Synopsys, had this to say.
FinFETs will be a huge trend through 2014 and beyond. Semiconductor companies will certainly keep us well informed as they progress through FinFET tapeouts and ultimately deliver production FinFET processes.
They will tout the power and speed advantages that their FinFET processes deliver for their customers, and those semiconductor companies early to market with FinFETs will press their advantage by driving and announcing aggressive FinFET roadmaps.
IP and subsystems
As devices grow more complex, integrating third-party IP has become mainstream. Designers recognize as a matter of course that today’s complex designs benefit greatly from integrating third-party IP in such areas as microprocessors and specialized I/Os.
The trend for re-use is beginning to expand upwards to systems of integrated, tested IP so that designers no longer need to redesign well-understood systems, such as memory, audio and sensor systems.
Internet of Things/sensors
Everybody is talking about the Internet of Things for good reason. It is happening, and 2014 will be a year of huge growth for connected things. Sensors will emerge as a big enabler of the Internet of Things, as they connect our real world to computation.
Beyond the mobile juggernaut, new devices such as Google’s (formerly Nest’s) thermostat and smoke detector will enter the market, allowing us to observe and control our surrounding environment remotely.
The mobile phone will continue to subsume and disrupt markets, such as cameras, fitness devices, satellite navigation systems and even flashlights, enabled by sensors such as touch, capacitive pattern, gyroscopic, accelerometers, compasses, altimeters, light, CO, ionization etc. Semiconductor companies positioned to serve the Internet of Things with sensor integration will do well.
Systems companies bringing IC design in-house
Large and successful systems companies wanting to differentiate their solutions are bringing IC specification and/or design in house. Previously, these companies were focused primarily on systems and solutions design and development.
Driven by a belief that they can design the best ICs for their specific needs, today’s large and successful companies such as Google, Microsoft and others are leading this trend, aided by IP reuse.
Advanced designs at both emerging and established process nodes
While leading-edge semiconductor companies drive forward on emerging process nodes such as 20nm, others are finding success by focusing on established nodes (28nm and above) that deliver required performance at reduced risk. Thus, challenging designs will emerge at both ends of the spectrum.
Part II of this discussion will look at FinFETs below 20nm and 3D ICs.
I had interacted with Dr. Ajoy Bose, CEO of Atrenta, some months ago. It was a pleasure to meet up with Piyush Sancheti, VP of Marketing recently. First, I asked him about the outlook for EDA in 2014.
Outlook for EDA
Piyush Sancheti said: “EDA does not look that attractive from growth point. However, you cannot do SoC designs without EDA. Right now, EDA’s focus is on implementation. The re-use of IP has been doing the rounds for many years. Drivers for SoCs are mobile and Internet of Things. The design cycle for those markets are very short – about three months. EDA business is shifting to IP re-use. The focus is now toward design aggregation.
“We will have done roughly 66 percent of business – net new — on existing customers. There is an industry shift toward doing more on the front end. EDA growth will come from IP-SoC involvement.
“Sub-20nm has challenges. ST says FT-SoI is the way to go. Complexity of process plays a big role, and the amount of chips you put in will also increase. In 14/16nm, we have an investment going on in 3D design. We are extending our 2D tool into 3D tool. We are also investing in the IP qualification. We have standardized a set of design rules in RTL. There are about 30 companies in the TSMC ecosystem.
“Our main focus is IP enablement. SoC acceptance is another key aspect. Our company focus is IP-enablement for SoCs. IP qualification ensures that it meets guidelines. Second, acceptance and making sure all IPs fit in the blocks. Third, integration. We already have this technology and it is driving the business.”
What’s Atrenta’s take on 3D design? Sancheti replied: “The industry has been slow as 3D designs are not yet to a point of business success. Focus on monolithic 3D-ICs will be a paradigm shift for the semicon industry. For mainstream commercial design, 20nm is still mainstream, but 14/16nm does not look mainstream, as of now. Process node is not necessarily a driver of innovation. EDA as an industry will remain in single digit growth.”
How will EDA move into the embedded software space?
Sancheti said: “We’ve looked into that market. But, the price point is significantly lower. Over time, it could be a strategic area for us. Over time, embedded software development and chip design will co-mingle.”
ESL is where the future of EDA lies. Still true? He added that the future of EDA is going up. It has to head toward integration of embedded software and chip development. However, ESL is not the only viable option.
Atrenta has 220 people in India, about 10 people in Bangalore and 200 in Noida. Sushil Gupta runs the India operations. It has tie-ups with IIT Delhi and IIT Kharagpur as well. Atrenta sees lot of scope for work with the Indian start-ups.
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!’