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STMicroelectronics unveils STM32 F-2 series of MCUs

STM32 F-2 block diagram.

STM32 F-2 block diagram.

STMicroelectronics has unveiled its roadmap for ARM Cortex-M4 and -M0 with products sampling from mid 2011 onward and production by end of 2011. It has also unleashed the full performance of the Cortex-M3 with its latest STM32 F-2 series.

According to Vinay Thapliyal, technical marketing manager, MCU, STMicroelectronics, India, there are over 30 new part numbers, pin-to-pin and software compatible with existing STM32 devices.

He said: “Today, we already have 110 parts running for the F-1 series, which is currently existing and in full production. Now, we are extending the family. This time, we have launched the F-2 family — the highest performance family — to unleash the ultimate performance of Cortex-M3.” Naturally, the F-2 series is benefiting the existing F-1 devices.

As mentioned, 30 new devices will be launched. They are already ramping now. “All of these belong to the high-performance, low-power family. We will also be revealing our roadmap for M4 and M0 — to be  in production by end of 2011, with sampling by middle of 2011.”

ST’s F-2 series will further enhance real time preformance. Thapliyal added that ST has built in ART accelerator into these devices. This will deliver 150 DMIPS (Dhrystone MIPS) at 120MHz.

The adaptive real-time memory accelerator unleashes the Cortex-M3 core’s maximum processing performance equivalent to 0-wait state execution Flash up to 120 MHz.

The ART accelerator is a pre-fetch queue and branch cache mechanism that stores the first instructions and constants of the branches, interrupt and subroutine calls. The penalty occurs the first time those events occur like for any pipelining mechanism.

After that, the instructions stored in cache are pushed immediately in the pref-etch queue upon recognition of a stored branch address. In addition, the embedded Flash is organized in 128-bit rows, allowing up to 8 (16-bit) instructions to be read per access. Read more…

STMicroelectronics on corporate responsibility — part 1

STMicroelectronics recently launched its Corporate Social Responsibility Report — said to be the first of its kind. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Vivek Sharma, Director, India Design Center, and Vice President, Emerging Market Regions, and find out more about this report. Here’s what he had to say:

ST’s concept of sustainable excellence
Corporate Social Responsibility has been the core belief for STMicroelectronics since its inception. In fact, STMicroelectronics is one of the first global industrial companies to recognize the importance of environmental responsibility and has won many awards for its pioneering work in this field.

The Company played a leading role in demonstrating that ‘Green is Black’ i.e. that environmental responsibility delivers real financial benefits and these goals are not in contradiction to each other. For building a culture on this core belief, all levels in an organization have not only to be involved, but also to ensure their commitment as well.

This was given a communicatble & practical shape when corporation adopted TQM principles in early nineties and its concepts, processes and practices were cascaded to all levels of whole enterprise. Soon after, company published its first ‘Environmental Decalogue’ in 1994 followed by another wave of TQEM.

In this journey, the company has continually widened the scope of its definition of corporate responsibility and increasingly formalized both the deployment of its principles within the company and the reporting of the results to stakeholders to ensure that it remains at the forefront of Corporate Responsibility.

ST’s Sustainable Excellence program was launched in 2007 to revamp the same core belief and to embed Corporate Responsibility into every level of the Company’s activities. The term reflects ST’s firm belief in its ability to balance stakeholders’ expectations to make the Company ‘sustainable’ – successful now and in the future – in the short and long term and enable it to contribute to sustainable development at a global level. This progam is based on three key principals i.e. Integrity, People and Excellence which captures the essence of it.

Why such a report now?
What’s the need for such a report at this point of time? That’s the obvious question!

Sharma said: “It is an annual report through which we intend to give an overview of our Corporate Responsibility strategy, our achievements at company and local levels and a description of the challenges we face in all areas of corporate responsibility such as environment, employee well-being, community involvement, and product responsibility while also demonstrating strong performance in aspects that are becoming increasingly important to stakeholders. This is a testimony to our commitment to CSR and it reports the progress track record on various fronts, hence demonstrating our accountability. Read more…

What’s the future of MEMS?

MEMS market.

MEMS market.

What does the future hold for MEMS? How can the MEMS indistry stay profitable and innovative in the next five years? The MEMS market is still in a dynamic growth with an estimated 12.3 percent CAGR over 2013-2019 in $US value, growing from $11.7 billion in 2013 to $24 billion in 2019.

This growth, principally driven by a huge expansion of consumer products, is mitigated by two main factors. First, due to a fierce competition based on pricing, the ASPs are continuously decreasing.

Second, innovation is slow and incremental, as no new devices have been successfully introduced on the market since 2003.  Fierce competition based on pricing in now ongoing putting thus extreme pressure on device manufacturers.

Some trends are still impacting MEMS business. These are:

* Decrease of price in consumer electronics; ASP of MEMS microphones.
* Component size is still decreasing.

However, successful companies are still large leaders in distinct MEMS categories, such as STMicroelectronics, Knowles, etc. But maintaining growth in consumer electronic applications remains a challenge.

The market for motion sensor in cell phones and tablets is large and continuously expanding. Discrete sensors still decline, but will still be used in some platforms (OIS function for gyros). Next, 6- and 9-axis combos should grow rapidly. Because of strong price pressure and high adoption rate, the total market will stabilize from 2015.

STMicroelectronics, InvenSense and Bosch are still leaders in 3-axis gyros and 6-axis IMUs. It seems difficult for new players to compete and be profitable in this market. The automotive, industrial and medical applications of MEMS are driving growth of MEMS business. MEMS for automotive will grow from $2.6 billion in 2012 to $3.6 billion in 2018 with 5 percent CAGR.

MEMS industry is big and growing. Strong market pull observed for sensors and actuators in cell phones, automotive, medical, industrial.

• Not limited to few devices. A new wave of MEMS is coming!
• Component and die size are still being optimized while combo approaches become mainstream. And several disruptive technology approaches are now in development to keep going in term of size and price decrease.
• But the MEMS industry has not solved a critical issue: how to increase the chance of new devices to enter the market?

–RF switch, autofocus, energy harvesting devices, fuel cells… are example of devices still under development after over 10 years of effort.
–How to help companies to go faster and safer on the market with new devices?

STMicro intros M24SR dynamic NFC/RFID tag

Amit Sethi

Amit Sethi

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.

Can 2014 be a major year for global semicon industry?

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!’

ST intros STM32F4 series high-performance Cortex-M4 MCUs

STMicroelectronics has introduced the STM32F4 series STM32 F4x9 and STM32F401, which are high-performance Cortex-M4 microcontrollers (MCUs).

On the growth drivers for GP MCUs, the market growth is driven by faster migration to 32 bit platform. ST has been the first to bring the ARM Cortex based solution, and now targets leadership position on 32bit MCUs. An overview of the STM32 portfolio indicates high-performance MCUs with DSP and FPU up to 608 CoreMark and up to180 MHz/225 DMIPS.

Features of the STM32F4 product lines, specifically, the STM32F429/439, include 180 MHz, 1 to 2-MB Flash and 256-KB SRAM. The low end STM32F401 has features such as 84 MHz, 128-KB to 256-KB Flash and 64-KB SRAM.

The STM32F401 provides thebest balance in performance, power consumption, integration and cost. The STM32F429/439 is providing more resources, more performance and more features. There is close pin-to-pin and software compatibility within the STM32F4
series and STM32 platform.

The STM32 F429-F439 high-performance MCUs with DSP and FPU are:
• World’s highest performance Cortex-M MCU executing from Embedded Flash, Cortex-M4 core with FPU up to 180 MHz/225 DMIPS.
• High integration thanks to ST 90nm process (same platform as F2 serie): up to 2MB Flash/256kB SRAM.
• Advanced connectivity USB OTG, Ethernet, CAN, SDRAM interface, LCD TFT controller.
• Power efficiency, thanks to ST90nm process and voltage scaling.

In terms of providing more performance, the STM32F4 provides up to 180 MHz/225 DMIPS with ART Accelerator, up to 608 CoreMark result, and ARM Cortex-M4 with floating-point unit (FPU).

The STM32F427/429 highlights include:
• 180 MHz/225 DMIPS.
• Dual bank Flash (in both 1-MB and 2-MB), 256kB SRAM.
• SDRAM Interface (up to 32-bit).
• LCD-TFT controller supporting up to SVGA (800×600).
• Better graphic with ST Chrom-ART Accelerator:
– x2 more performance vs. CPU alone
– Offloads the CPU for graphical data generation
* Raw data copy
* Pixel format conversion
* Image blending (image mixing with some transparency).
• 100 μA typ. in Stop mode.

Some real-life examples of the STM32F4 include the smart watch, where it is the main application controller or sensor hub, the smartphone, tablets and monitors, where it is the sensor hub for MEMS and optical touch, and the industrial/home automation panel, where it is the main application controller. These can also be used in Wi-Fi modules for the Internet of Things (IoT), such as appliances, door cameras, home thermostats, etc.

These offer outstanding dynamic power consumption thanks to ST 90nm process, as well as low leakage current made possible by advanced design technics and architecture (voltage scaling). ST is making a large offering of evaluation boards and Discovery kits. The STM32F4 is also offering new firmware libraries. SEGGER and ST signed an agreement around the emWin graphical stack. The solution is called STemWin.

Now, India to have two semicon fabs!

September 12, 2013 10 comments

Finally, the Government of India has approved the establishment of a semiconductor wafer fab (fab) in India!

This is indeed heart warming news, especially for the Indian semiconductor and electronics industries. For years, India has been trying to get at least one fab up and running! Now, the dream is about to be realized!

Speaking from China, an ecstatic BV Naidu, chairman and managing director, Sagitaur Ventures, co-chairman, Karnataka ICT Grioup and former president, India Semiconductor Association (ISA) said: “This is really a fantastic news for the Indian semiconductor industry. The government has been trying to achieve this since 2008. The announcement goes as a strong signal to global community.”

Pradip Dutta, corporate VP and MD, Synopsys, said: “It is a momentous decision for the semiconductor industry and by extension the electronics industry for our country. It should lead to a level playing field for the local manufacturers and mitigate some of the disability factors. I sincerely hope the industry reacts positively to this news and this leads to a vibrant local IC design industry.”

Raghu Panicker, sales director, Mentor Graphics India, added: “For years, India has been trying to get at least one fab up and running! This has indeed been a long awaited news. Finally its not ONE, but TWO. The fabs would fuel the growth of semicon start up’s and electronics industry as a whole. It is a big step forward for the overall ESDM inititaive by IESA and government.”

Jaypee Group, IBM and Tower form one consortium. HSMC, STMicroelectronics and a Malaysian company are said to be part of the other consortium.

Flip Chip: An established platform still in mutation!

Flip-Chip is a chip packaging technique in which the active area of the chip is ‘flipped over’ facing downward, instead of facing up and bonded to the package leads with wires from the outside edges of the chip.

Any surface area of the Flip-Chip can be used for interconnection, which is typically done through metal bumps. These bumps are soldered onto the package and underfilled with epoxy. The Flip-Chip allows for a large number of interconnects with shorter distances than wire, which greatly reduces inductance.

According to Lionel Cadix, market and technology analyst, Yole Developpement, France, metal bumps can be made of solder (tin, tin-lead or lead-free alloys), copper, gold and copper-tin or Au-tin alloys. The package substrates are epoxy-based (organic substrates), ceramic based, copper based (leadframe substrates), and silicon or glass based.

Source: Yole Developpement, France.

Source: Yole Developpement, France.

In the period 2010-2018, Flip-Chip will likely grow at a CAGR of 19 percent. In 2012, laptop and desktop PCs were the top end products using Flip-Chip. It represents 50 percent of the Flip-Chip market by end product with more than 6.2 million of wafer starts. PCs are followed by smart TV and LCD TVs (for LCD drivers), smartphones and high performance computers.

The Flip-Chip market in 2012 is around $20 billion, selling 20 billion units approximately in 12’’ equivalent wafers. Taiwan is so far the no. 1 producer. At least 50 percent of the Flip-Chips devices get into end products. By 2018, the Flip-Chip market should grow to a $35 billion market, selling 68 billion units.

Applications and market focus
Looking at the applications and market focus, Flip-Chip technology is already present in a wide range of application, from high volumes/consumer applications, to low volumes/high end applications. All these applications have their own requirements, specifications and challenges!

Some of these are military and aerospace, medical devices, automobiles, HPC, servers, networks, base stations, etc, in low volumes. It is present in set-top boxes, game stations, smart TVs/displays, desktops/laptops and smartphones/tablets in high volumes. Flip-chip applications are also in imaging, logic 2D SoCs, HB-LEDs, RF, power, analog and mixed-signal, stacked memories, and logic 3D-SiP/SoCs.

In computing applications, for instance, the Intel core i5 is the first MCM combining a 77mm2 CPU together with a 115mm2 GPU in a 37.5mm side package. Solder bumps with a pitch of 185μm are used for the slicon to substrate (1st) interconnect. This MCM configuration is suitable for office applications, with relatively low demanding processing powers. For mobile/wireless applications, there are opportunities for MEMS in smartphones/feature phones. Similarly, Flip-Chip is available for consumer applications.

For microbumping in interposers for FPGA there is a focus on Xilinx Virtex 7 HT. Last year, Xilinx announced a single-layer, multi-chip silicon interposer for its 28nm 7 series FPGAs. Key features include two million logic cells for a high level of computational performance, and high bandwidth, four slice processed in 28 nm, 25 x 31mm, 100 μm thick silicon interposer, 45 um pitch microbumps and 10 μm TSV, and 35 x 35 mm BGA with 180 μm pitch C4 bumps.

Even if the infrastructure had been ready for full 3D stacking, the 2.5D Interposer would still have been the right choice for FPGAs since the ’10,000 routing connections’ would have used up valuable chip area, making the chip slices larger and more costly than they are now. Virtex 7 HT will consist of three FPGA slices and two 28 gbps SerDes chips on an Interposer capable of operating at 2.8 Tb/sec.

Read more…

PV inverter — innovations and market trends

France’s Yole Développement, recently organized a seminar on PV inverter – technical innovations and market trends. The speakers were Brice Legouic, Power Electronics Market & Technology Analyst, Yole and Paul Kleistead, Cree.

What are the trends for 2011-12? According to Legouic, a first step of standardization should take place at the added functionalities level. This includes MPP positioning with advanced solutions, monitoring, and anti-theft and protection. Two, players with a higher level of product quality will enter the EU market. These include Japanese players focusing on efficiency and reliability, but with more expensive inverters.

Yole also anticipates a double speed business to take place. If the residential segment is opened to Chinese manufacturers and industrial/solar farms are dedicated to high-end products, the PV inverter market would become two different markets.

Speaking about market trends, he said that trends will be driven by reduction of feed-in tariff, which hurries the end users to sign contracts. Over 2 million are likely to be sold in 2012. The total market in 2010 was slightly below €3.3 billion, and will overpass €3.5 billion by 2012.

Over 75 percent of the market is owned by the top 10 PV inverter players. Five of these are German, eight are European, and two are American. Eighty percent of EU inverters are made in Europe and 20 percent are made in the USA. Asian players will likely increase their supply for the EU market. Japanese players currently have  very small implantation in the EU. Yole believes that their market share could reach 15 percent within the next three years.

On technological trends, Legouic touched upon the neutral-point-clamped (NPC) architecture. The NPC architecture uses diode to clamp the DC bus voltage in two equal voltages. The benefits are:
* allowing the use of lower 600V devices instead of 1200V,
*  reducing dynamic losses, and
*  SJ MOS can be used for outer switches for their higher frequency performances.

The NPC architecture is nearly always used for 10-50kW inverters.

Using the SiC free-wheeling diode can increase efficiency from up to 2 percent. More and more are used for low- to medium-power range. Benefits include much better recovery time and reduction in IGBT switching losses. On the DC/DC stage component chart, he added that according to STMicroelectronics, we can assume that when the maximum input voltage of an inverter is below 650V, the DC/DC stage is MOSFET-based. Over 650V, the inverter can be considered to be built with a 1200V IGBT.

As for implementation of new technologies, such as SiC vs. GaN, 900-1200V will be the targeted range for over 10kW inverters. SiC diodes are already implemented in residential and commercial inverters. In 2012, silicon will represent more than 90 percent of the modules market, and about 75 percent of the wafer market. SiC will be mostly driven by diodes. Components will be at an early stage of adoption. Read more…

Emerging piezoMEMS apps and ion beam etch solutions for next gen MEMS and sensors

October 11, 2011 2 comments

Yole Developpement of France recently organized a seminar on next generation MEMS. The speakers were Dr. Eric Mounier, project manager, Yole Développement, and Dr. Adrian Devasahayam, senior director, Technology, Veeco Instruments.

As performance requirements for MEMS and other devices become more stringent, the industry is encountering etch challenges that cannot be overcome with existing toolsets. The use of materials that are not readily etched reactively, combined with higher sensitivities to post etch corrosion in smaller devices, is driving a search for a more suitable etch solution for certain applications.

MEMS ferroelectric thin films: Source: Yole.

MEMS ferroelectric thin films: Source: Yole.

According to Dr. Mounier, Yole, it is estimated that until 2015, the ferroelectric thin film business will grow at rate of +7.5 percent per year with many current or new applications. In the MEMS field, these applications could be wafer level autofocus, IR sensors, RF switches, medical ultrasonic transducers. In other markets, applications would include IPD tunable capacitor, IPD hearing aids, FeRAM, optical switches, etc.

Dr. Mounier added that the ferroelectric thin films global market growth is mainly driven by two high growth rate MEMS applications until 2015, namely, IR sensors and wafer level optic autofocus.  He added that many other applications are expected to emerge in 2014-2015. These would include RFMEMS and ultrasonic thin film technologies that are under development by large groups, such as IBM, Philips, Toshiba, etc. IPD high density planar capacitors with thin films are being evaluated all over the world by key companies, such as STMicroelectronics, Ipdia, On Semi, Maxim, etc.

Magnetometers using MEMS technologies are currently under development, such as at Bosch, VTT, etc.. They are likely to be integrated with accelerometers to create inertial sensing modules (combo sensors) for consumer/auto applications. Read more…

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