Early this month, iSuppli had indicated that semiconductor inventory levels may have headed into oversupply territory in Q3.
It said: “Semiconductor Days Of Inventory (DOI) for chip suppliers are estimated to have climbed to 75.9 days in the third quarter of 2010, up 1.5 days from Q2. DOI in Q3 also was 4.8 percent higher than the seasonally adjusted average for the period.”
iSuppli added that the value of inventory was not been this high since the second quarter of 2008, when semiconductor suppliers’ stockpiles peaked at $35.4 billion.
Thanks to Jon Cassell and Debra Jaramilla at iSuppli, I was able to speak with Sharon Stiefel, analyst for semiconductor inventory and manufacturing for iSuppli on this situation.
Is there really an oversupply?
I asked Sharon Stiefel that given the growth that 2010 has seen so far, why are semiconductor inventory levels heading into oversupply territory in Q3?
She said that semiconductor inventories, overall, have risen both in terms of DOI and dollars for the past several quarters, and not yet achieved pre-recession levels last seen in 2008. “The overly lean conditions of 2009 and early 2010 are giving way to inventory levels, which are more appropriate for the strong growth experienced in 2010.
“Oversupply in Q3 2010 is not a foregone conclusion, but is possible that if the companies are not able to match manufacturing run rates with demand as the year winds to a close,” she added.
Which sectors have been witnessing or recording some softness in demand and why?
Stiefel said: “Companies reporting Q3 revenues over the past two weeks have reported a softening in demand, particularly in PC and consumer end markets, attributed to the continued uncertainty in the global economy, leaving consumers unwilling to spend. A company with more exposure to these sectors has more potential of excessive inventories, versus a company with a more balanced product portfolio.”
Industry needs to moderate inventories
It is also said in iSuppli’s release that: ‘The industry will need to moderate inventories at the appropriate time in its growth curve in order to capture current revenue opportunities while they still exist.’ So, when exactly is that appropriate time?
Stiefel noted: “The appropriate time is when sales opportunities exist – projected quarters of growth, rather than revenue contraction. Semiconductor revenues are projected to grow in Q3 2010, contract in Q4 2010 and Q1 2011, and then resume moderate single digit growth for the remainder of 2011.” Read more…
Agnisys Inc. was established in 2007 in Massachusetts, USA, with a mission to deliver innovative automation to the semiconductor industry. The company offers affordable VLSI design and verification tools for SoCs, FPGAs and IPs that makes the design verification process extremely efficient.
Agnisys’ IDesignSpec is an award winning engineering tool that allows an IP, chip or system designer to create the register map specification once and automatically generate all possible views from it. Various outputs are possible, such as UVM, OVM, RALF, SystemRDL, IP-XACT etc. User defined outputs can be created using Tcl or XSLT scripts. IDesignSpec’s patented technology improves engineer’s productivity and design quality.
The IDesignSpec automates the creation of registers and sequences guaranteeing higher quality and consistent results across hardware and software teams. As your ASIC or FPGA design specification changes, IDesignSpec automatically adjusts your design and verification code, keeping the critical integration milestones of your design engineering projects synchronized.
Register verification and sequences consume up to 40 percent of project time or more when errors are the source of re-spins of SoC silicon or an increase in the number of FPGA builds. IDesignSpec family of products is available in various flavors such as IDSWord, IDSExcel, IDSOO and IDSBatch.
IDesignSpec more than a tool for creating register models!
Anupam Bakshi, founder, CEO and chairman, Agnisys, said: “IDesignSpec is more than a tool for creating register models. It is now a complete Executable Design Specification tool. The underlying theme is always to capture the specification in an executable form and generate as much code in the output as possible.”
The latest additions in the IDesignSpec are Constraints, Coverage, Interrupts, Sequences, Assertions, Multiple Bus Domains, Special Registers and Parameterization of outputs.
“IDesignSpec offers a simple and intuitive way to specify constraints. These constraints, specified by the user, are used to capture the design intent. This design intent is transformed into code for design, verification and software. Functional Coverage models can be automatically generated from the spec so that once again the intent is captured and converted into appropriate coverage models,” added Bakshi.
Using an add-on function of capturing Sequences, the user is now able to capture various programming sequences in the spec, which are translated into C++ and UVM sequences, respectively. Further, the interrupt registers can now be identified by the user and appropriate RTL can be generated from the spec. Both edge sensitive and level interrupts can be handled and interrupts from various blocks can be stacked.
Assertions can be automatically generated from the high level constraint specification. These assertions can be created with the RTL or in the external files such that they can be optionally bound to the RTL. Unit level assertions are good for SoC level verification and debug, and help the user in identifying issues deep down in the simulation hierarchy.
The user can now identify one or more bus domains associated with Registers and Blocks, and generate appropriate code from it. Special Registers such as shadow registers and register aliasing is also automatically generated.
Finally all of the outputs such as RTL, UVM, etc., can be parameterized now, so that a single master specification can be used to create outputs that can be parameterized at the elaboration time.
How is IDesignSpec working as chip-level assertion-based verification?
Bakshi said: “It really isn’t an assertion tool! The only assertion that we automatically generate is from the constraints that the user specifies. The user does not need to specify the assertions. We transform the constraints into assertions.”
The number of MEMS and sensors going into mobile, consumer and gaming applications is expected to continue to skyrocket. As a result, OSAT and Wafer foundry players are getting more and more interest in MEMS module packaging, as volume and complexity of MEMS SiP modules is increasing dramatically, said Dr. Eric Mourier, Yole Developpement.
It implies that IDMs needs to find second source partnersand qualify some OSATs in order to secure their supply chain. Also, standardization(coming from both foundries, OSAT, WLP houses or substrate suppliers) is critical and necessary to implement in order to keep the packaging, assembly, and test cost of MEMS modules under control. There are many different players with different designs, and it’s not likely we’ll see one solution adopted by all the players.
As for wafer-level packaging (WLP) for LEDs, WLP has not been strongly deployed in the LED industry due to associated technical challenges. In the short-term, there is ESD integration in Si substrate. In the long-term, LED drivers could be integrated at the package level for Intelligent lighting. Ultimately, there are wafer-to-wafer manufacturing schemes for certain packaget types.
Real production of HB-LEDs with a mixed approach of WLP+through silicon vias (TSV) is just starting. There are some Taiwanese players such as TSMC, Xintec, Visera, Touch MicroTech and Sibdi, and South Korea-based LG Innotek. Additional players in the semiconductor and MEMS industry are seeking to enter the field.
Selection of the right on-chip network is critical to meeting the requirements of today’s advanced SoCs. There is easy IP integration with IP cores from many sources with different protocols, and an UVM verification environment.
John Bainbridge, staff technologist, CTO Office, Sonics Inc., said that it optimizes the system performance. Virtual channels offer efficient resource usage – saves gates and wires. The non-blocking network leads to an improved system performance. There are flexible topology choices with optimal network to match requirements.
Power management is key with advanced system partitioning, and an improved design flow and timing closure. Finally, the development environment allows easy design capture and has performance analysis tools.
For the record, there are several SoC integration challenges that need to be addressed, such as IP integration, frequency, throughput, physical design, power management, security, time-to-market and development costs.
SGN exceeds requirements
SGN met the tablet performance requirement with fabric frequency of 1066MHz. It has an efficient gate count of 508K gates. There are features such as an advanced system partitioning, security and I/O coherency. There is support for system concurrency as well as advanced power management.
Sonics offers system IP solutions such as SGN, a router based NoC solution, with flexible partitioning and VC (Virtual Channel) support. The frequency is optimized with credit based flow control.
SSX/SLX is message based crossbar/ShareLink solutions based on interleaved multi-channel technology. It has target based QoS with three arbitration levels. The SonicsExpress is for power centric clock domain crossing. There is sub-system re-use and decoupling. The MemMax manages and optimizes the DRAM efficiency while maintaining system QoS. There is run-time programmability for all traffic types. The SonicsConnect is a non-blocking peripheral interconnect.
Here is a view from Mike Bryant of Future Horizons, taken from the Enable450 newsletter, for which, I must thank Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO.
This is a question often asked by journalists and others not directly involved in 450mm technology, and indeed was one of the questions that formed the basis of the SMART 2010/062 report Future Horizons produced for the European Commission.
It is also a question every new 450mm project has to answer in its funding request to the European Commission, and whilst working on the Bridge450 submission we realised the arguments have become rather unclear over time. The following gives some insight and clarity into the question.
In 1970, Gordon Moore re-formulated predictions on computer storage by Turing and others into a simple statement that the number of transistors per unit area of an IC will double every two years for at least the next ten years. This became known as “Moore’s Law” and apart from the occasional hiccup has in fact been followed for the past forty years. Note that Moore never suggested a doubling in density every 18 months, this time period coming from a different statement concerning transistor performance.
Of course, doubling the number of transistors would not be that helpful if the price per unit area also doubled. The semiconductor industry has thus strived to maintain the cost of manufacturing per unit area at a constant price, and analysed over time has done a remarkable job in maintaining this number such that the ASP of logic devices has sat at around $9 per square centimetre for this whole period during which the cost of everything else including the equipment, materials and labour used to make the IC have increased, labour costs in particular increasing by a factor of around five times.
The actual cost of processing a wafer appreciates by around 6 percent per annum due to technology cycle upgrades and insertions, for example in the past the replacement of aluminium interconnects with copper or more recently the move to double patterning for lithography of critical layers. Several approaches have been used to maintain a constant area cost, these being:
Improvements in yield – this obviously reduces wastage and vast improvements have been made in this field though yields are now so good that the problem is more maintaining these levels with each new process node rather than improving them further.
Increasing levels of automation – this is still an area undergoing improvement but again we have entered an area of diminishing returns on the investment required.
Introducing larger wafer sizes – this has been performed on an irregular basis over the history of the semiconductor industry. The increase in surface area reduces many but not all of the processing costs whilst material costs tend to stay fairly constant per unit area. Thus at the 300mm transition the increase in area by 2.25 times gave a cost per unit area reduction of 30 percent, approximately compensating for the increased processing costs acquired over the 90nm and 65nm nodes.
A team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), comprising principally of Dr. Ishan Barman, Dr. Narahara Chari Dingari and Dr. Jaqueline Soares, and their clinical collaborators at University Hospitals, Cleveland have developed the Raman scattering-based concomitant diagnosis of breast cancer lesions and related micro-calcifications.
Let’s find out more about this new breast cancer research done by the team at MIT.
Early detection necessary!
According to MIT, one in eight women in the US will suffer from breast cancer in her lifetime and breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Worldwide, breast cancer accounts for 22.9 percent of all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers) in women. In 2008, breast cancer caused 458,503 deaths worldwide (13.7 percent of cancer deaths in women).
Therefore, technological advancements for its early detection and subsequent treatment can make a significant impact by preventing patient morbidity and mortality and reducing healthcare costs, and are thus of utmost importance to society. Currently, mammography followed by stereotactic breast biopsy serves as the most promising route for screening and early detection of cancer lesions.
Nearly 1.6 million breast biopsies are performed and roughly 250,000 new breast cancers are diagnosed in the US each year. One of the most frequent reasons for breast biopsy is microcalcifications seen on screening mammography, the initial step in early detection of breast cancer. Microcalcifications are micron-scale deposits of calcium minerals in breast tissue that are considered one of the early mammographic signs of breast cancer and are, therefore, a target for stereotactic breast needle biopsy.
However, despite stereotactic guidance, needle biopsy fails to retrieve microcalcifications in one of five breast biopsy patients. In such cases, the resulting breast biopsies are either non-diagnostic or false-negative, thereby, placing the patient at risk and potentially necessitating a repeat biopsy, often as a surgical procedure.
There is an unmet clinical need for a tool to detect microcalcifications in real time and provide feedback to the radiologist during the stereotactic needle biopsy procedure as to whether the microcalcifications seen on mammography will be retrieved or the needle should be re-positioned, without the need to wait for a confirmatory specimen radiograph.
Such a tool could enable more efficient retrieval of microcalcifications, which would, in turn, minimize the number of x-rays and tissue cores required to achieve a diagnostic biopsy, shorten procedure time, reduce patient anxiety, distress and discomfort, prevent complications such as bleeding into the biopsy site seen after multiple biopsy passes and ultimately reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with non-diagnostic and false-negative biopsies and the need for follow up surgical biopsy.
If 200,000 repeat biopsies were avoided, at a cost of $5,000 per biopsy (a conservative estimate and would be much higher for surgical biopsies), a billion dollars per year can be saved by the US healthcare system. The MIT Laser Biomedical Research Center, has recently performed pioneering studies to address this need by proposing, developing and validating Raman and diffuse reflectance spectroscopy as powerful guidance tools, due to their ability to provide exquisite molecular information with minimal perturbation.
Specifics of the technique
Stating the specifics of the technique developed by MIT, the team said that their research focuses on the development of Raman spectroscopy as a clinical tool for the real time diagnosis of breast cancer at the patient bedside. “We report for the first time development of a novel Raman spectroscopy algorithm to simultaneously determine microcalcification status and diagnose the underlying breast lesion, in real time, during stereotactic breast core needle biopsy procedures.”
In this study, Raman spectra were obtained ex vivo from fresh stereotactic breast needle biopsies using a compact clinical Raman system, modeled and analyzed using support vector machines to develop a single-step, Raman spectroscopy based diagnostic algorithm to distinguish normal breast tissue, fibrocystic change, fibroadenoma and breast cancer, with and without microcalcifications.
The developed decision algorithm exhibits a positive and negative predictive value of 100 percent and 96 percent, respectively, for the diagnosis of breast cancer with or without microcalcifications in the clinical dataset of nearly 50 patients.
Significantly, the majority of breast cancers diagnosed using this Raman algorithm are ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the most common lesion associated with microcalcifications, which has classically presented considerable diagnostic challenges.
This study demonstrates the potential of Raman spectroscopy to provide real-time feedback to radiologists during stereotactic breast needle biopsy procedures, reducing non-diagnostic and false negative biopsies. Indeed, the proposed approach lends itself to facile assembly of a side-viewing probe that could be inserted into the central channel of the biopsy needle for intermittent acquisition of the spectra, which would, in turn, reveal whether or not the tissue to be biopsied contains the targeted microcalcifications.
According to Stephen Day, VP of Technology, Coto Technology has the number 1 share in reed relays and relay products. The Coto brand is associated with the broadest portfolio, best in class quality, dedicated technical support, and a provider of innovative solutions. He was speaking at the ongoing 13th Globalpress Electronics Summit in Santa Cruz, USA.
Coto has announced the RedRock, a new MEMS based magnetically operated switch. The RS-A-2515 is the world’s smallest wafer level packaged magnetically operated reed switch. It consumes zero power, measures 2mm3 in footprint and switches at less than 0.3W. It delivers high reliability and surface mount package.
The small footprint means use of less PCB real estate, no operate power means a longer battery life. The low switching power leads to higher reliability. The high directionality leads to resistance to stray fields. Hot switchable feature leads to higher reliability.
Together, Coto has managed to combine the best of two worlds — traditional reed switches with MEMS processing. There is high aspect ratio microfabrication (HARM). This is the first commercially available switch. It produces structures that generate strong contact closure forces. The forces are many times greater than the previous MEMS based magnetic switches. It also enables hot switching up to several hundred milliwatts.
HARM is the key to making it all possible. The benefits are many, from temperature rise vs. carry current, to RedRock contact life test, 1V 1 mA hot-switched load. RedRock allows for small size, zero power consumption and high power switching.
At the moment, Coto is leveraging RedRock into high growth applications. In the future, Coto will integrate sensor solution as well. RedRock’s unique combination of features include reed — no power and high current, and MEMS — no power and small size, as well as GMR/Hall — small size and high current — to deliver the RedRock, which features no power, small size and high current.
Today, the challenge is all about abstraction and putting automation around it. Productivity is automation and abstraction. Tom Feist, senior marketing director, Design Methodology Marketing, Xilinx said that the company’s strategy has been about All Programmable abstractions. He was speaking at the ongoing 13th Global Electronics Summit being held in Santa Cruz, USA.
Today’s hardware design abstractions include accelerated time to integration, abstracting hardware. For IP abstractions, Xilinx has introduced the IP integrator. It enables IP re-use and time to integration. The Vivado uses multiple plug-and-play IP. Vivado IP integrator is co-optimized for platforms and for silicon, respectively.
Vivado IP integrator has features such as correct-by-construction and automated IP systems. Vivado high-level synthesis allows C/C++ abstractions. Xilinx introduced the OpenCV library, accelerating smarter vision. It supports frame-level processing library for PS. It also supports pixel processing interfaces and basic functions for analytics.
Mathworks has model based abstraction. The automatic C and HDL code generation is supported from the same algorithmic level.
Hardware/software partitioning is supported for Zynq-7000 AP SoCs. There are comprehensive video, motor control and signal processing IP libraries. There are automated workflows targeting Xilinx platforms.
Xilinx is also working with National Instruments. The automated C and HDL code generation is from the same graphical syntax in the LabVIEW IDE. It automatically generates a hardware implementation to meet requirements, abstracting Xilinx tool flow. There is a comprehensive software, hardware and I/O platform for creating control and monitoring systems.
Abstraction evolution has evolved to system level abstraction. It is abstracting all hardware through an increasing layer of automation.
All Programmable realization empowers software and systems engineers. There is a common compilation environment for heterogenous systems. It consumes C, C++ or OpenCL and libraries with user directives. There is automated flow — the user determines the program modules that run on various components.
The Vivado Design Suite 2013 abstractions with IP based design, C, C++, SystemC and OpenCV is new. Mathworks and National Instruments system level design abstractions with new levels of automation is emerging. Xilinx’s vision has been to empower the software and systems engineers by extending abstractions and automation.
Cavendish Kinetics is well known for its combined experience in MEMS, RF system design and CMOS design. Since 2008, it has focused on developing digital variable capacitors to improve wireless connectivity and data rates for mobile phones.
According to Dennis Yost, president & CEO, Cavendish Kinetics, 4G/LTE mobile devices are not yet achieving their potential. Antenna frequency tuning is an essential technology. Only metal MEMS technology has the size and performance. He was speaking at the ongoing Globalpress Electronics Summit 2013 in Santa Cruz, USA.
Cavendish claims to have the team, proven technology and real demonstrated performance. There is IP and patent protection for customers. Cavendish also owns the process.
The future of cell phone radio is needed in order to meet the performance gap. In future, you will see adaptive power amplifiers.
Antenna frequency tuning used in traditional RF applications. How do you ensure there is no loss in the component? Only MEMS has the performance and size for cell phones. Metal MEMS has almost no series resistance. No switches are required.
Previous designs required switches and different loads. Mechanical capacitors change capacitance value by moving plates – changing the area or plate distance changes the capacitance. MEMS capacitors do the same at the micrometer level.
Users can control design and manufacturing process of devices. How a MEMS is built is just as important as what you build. Success requires MEMS design expertise, MEMS process expertise and MEMS volume production expertise.
Cavendish has MEMS experts in all areas. It developed and owned MEMS manufacturing process. It uses all standard CMOS foundry technology. Innovations have so far yielded over 100 patents in manufacturing process and MEMS design.
By using the NanoMech technology performance, Cavendish Kinectics has demonstrated excellent performance in a small chip.