Home > Future Horizons, global semiconductor industry, global semiconductor market, IEF 2009, Numonyx, STMicroelectronics, TSMC > Excerpts from Future Horizons’ International Electronics Forum 2009 @ Geneva

Excerpts from Future Horizons’ International Electronics Forum 2009 @ Geneva

October 18, 2009

Here are excerpts of some key presentations made on day 1 at the recently held International Electronics Forum 2009 (IEF 2009), in Geneva, Switzerland, from Sept. 30-Oct. 2, which was held under the auspices of the Geneva Chancellerie D’Etat & Istitut Carnot CEA LETI. I hope to be presenting full reports as well.

May I also take this opportunity to thank Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, Future Horizons, as well as Gemma Fabian.

“Powering Out Of Recession With Innovation”’ — Maria Marced, President, Europe, TSMC

Maria Marced emphasised both investment and collaboration as a way forward for the semiconductor industry to recover from this recession. Based on the fact that every known recession has been followed by a strong recovery in demand the Taiwanese wafer foundry TSMC is expected to increase its earlier projected dollar investment plans substantially. Its new manufacturing GigaFab (Fab12-Phase4) will eventually be able to supply 150,000 wafers per month.

It will also being investing in people and will be adding 30 percent more R&D engineers to its existing 1200 worldwide and will also be adding 15 percent to its existing design technology engineers.

Maria stressed that it is innovation in our products and continued R&D that will improve semiconductor company margins. R&D costs and time-to-market can be reduced by processing equipment suppliers, IDMs and fabless companies collaborating with foundries for future success in finer geometries. TSMC has already announced that it has set up a development laboratory in a partnership with IMEC of Louvain, Belgium.

There were some questions about possible overcapacity as some plants in China were coming on line, but Maria thought differently as TSMC was already running at 90-95 percent of capacity today. There even could be a shortage of processed wafers in 2010.

“Feeding The World’s Insatiable Appetite For Memory – New Technologies, New Markets, New Applications” — Brian Harrison, President & CEO, Numonyx

Brian Harrison of Numonyx, a memory company jointly owned by STMicroelectronics and Intel, made a robust case for its latest technology Phase-Change Memory (PCM). Describing the history of non-volatile memory Brian showed its dramatic growth driven by both a continuously reduced cost-per-bit and new applications that needed its ability to support firmware that could be updated ‘down the wire’ or ‘across radio networks’.

The industries’ most recent entrant, PCM, is claimed to be a disruptive technology that will enable the next wave of innovation. In the right application it will replace both DRAM and flash memories — replacing these because of either speed, size, retention reliability or lower energy or a combination of all virtues.

Numonyx is already sampling 128Mbit 90nm product and has cost reduction 45nm process in development that is aimed at 1Gbit products. Samsung is also working on products in this field. The two companies are collaborating on package and interface standards.

“Agile Customer Support-Models For ‘More Moore” — Jean-Marc Chery, Executive VP & CTO, STMicroelectronics

Finer and finer geometries are still possible and there seems no immediate end, to the progress of process development. Jean-Marc needs a variety of processes to cater for broad application markets, that include automotive, industrial, medical and radio, so STMicroelectronics needs to maintain leads in low-power CMOS, smart power, analogue, discretes and MEMs markets.

To maintain this present agile supply chain and fund future development the company believes in growth in its own fabs in Crolles, Agrate, Tours and Catania, which gives it a key competitive differentiator. It then leverages these internal resources to deliver its business units the best price and foundry-like supply by using multiple sources.

As an example, STMicroelectronics joins European development programmes and works closely with laboratories such as CEA/LETI and other European institutes and universities. It is also involved in process development with the International Semiconductor Development Alliance (ISDA) which involves AMD, Chartered Semiconductor, IBM, Infineon, NEC, Samsung, and Toshiba. A 28nm CMOS process is being developed, which will be ready for volume production in 2010 at four sites.

What matters to Jean-Marc is keeping the ability to produce silicon subsystems for its chosen markets and this can be done either on-chip or by using 3-D integration techniques, such as stacking RF chips on top of digital CMOS within a single package. He finds these technologies important to keep in-house rather than going to an open-market foundry, although he does not rule out joint manufacturing plants with ISDA members.

“Wireless Communications & Broadband For The Upturn: Opening New Horizons” — Alain Dutheil, President & CEO, ST-Ericsson

ST-Ericsson is the fabless company created from elements from semiconductor companies STMicroelectronics and NXP and communications OEM Ericcson. It has about 8,000 staff, mostly in R&D, and has sales of about $3.6B in semiconductor products and subsystems.

Alain saw the mobile handset market fall less than others in the recession and sees broadband communications as an economic stimulant in the future. Broadband communications, which includes mobile broadband, is a key enabler of a country’s prosperity. It increases economic activity as it allows people to be better at their job, and allows increased learning and health.

People are moving from fixed broadband to mobile and this is good as the infrastructure is easier to maintain and upgrade. Next year mobile broadband usage (mobile handsets, PCs and other platforms) will overtake fixed as the mobile revolution moves forward and gives better performance than DSL.

The mobile phone is adapting better to consumer behaviour and market demand and is expected to take over many of the applications of the PC, GPS and TV. New consumers have grown up with the mobile phone and the Internet and use it naturally as a source of information and their social empowerment.

So, when LTE rolls out next year they are expected to use smart phones and other mobile connected devices as first choice over the fixed Internet option. Added to this is the quiet rise of machine–to-machine radio communication and Alain predicts 50 billion machines will be communicating in this M-to-M way in five years time.

“3D Stacking Technology & Its Application” — Nobuaki Miyakawa, Director, Honda Research Institute

High performance trends in semiconductors not only involve process improvements, but also assembly technology. Nobuako Miyakawa proposed that because of the increased impedance of the long wires used on today’s large chips and the need for mixed process technologies for RF applications 3-D stacking technologies must be brought in. This will increase frequency performance and lower power consumption.

Honda is developing a 3-D wafer-to-wafer stacking method with the low interconnection resistance of 0.7 ohm using a Through-Silicon Via (TSV) and a bump technology. Direct connectivity between the layer bumps and the TSV is now improved using only five processing steps and the yields of the chips, which are naturally smaller than using VLSI, are also higher.

3-D verses 2-D chip assembly progress in the laboratory is good and volume manufacture will be well timed for the rise in activity after the recession. All measurements on prototypes are carried out on 8-inch 180nm wafers and meet MIL STD and JEDEC reliability tests.

It is also thought that this 3-D chip technology may allow some process nodes to be skipped in the process technology roadmap.

“The Role Of Semiconductors In Cloud Computing” — Young Sohn, CEO, Inphi

Anytime/anywhere computing and communication is the driving force behind a number of high-growth semiconductor market segments. One of these is in the hardware required to speed and reduce power in servers and networks in the data centres used for ‘cloud computing’.

‘Cloud Computing’ customers do not usually own the computer hardware or infrastructure they use and so ‘time share’ or ‘pay as you go’ usage from a third-party supplier, such as Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft or Yahoo. Cloud computing allows user companies to avoid the large initial capital expenditure and the hiring of computer experts.

This gives a low barrier of entry to new users, which can use such cloud systems and off-the-shelf applications via a web browser. The cloud infrastructure is usually interconnected servers in data centres and these have a large bandwidth and fast and large storage.

Internet traffic is growing at 44 percent even in 2009, driven by services such as YouTube and facebook. Spend on cloud computing will be 25 percent of all incremental IT spend growth by 2012. This growth means big opportunities for high-speed hardware particularly to cope for video applications and hardware and design concepts that can reduce power in memory and processor farms.

As an example a major data centre has 70,000 server boards with a memory of 192 GB per server – so millions of dollars can be saved in energy and server cooling charges.

Young gave other examples on the impact of system speed. Amazon claims that every 100msec of latency costs them one percent in sales; Google claims that an extra 500msec of search time drops traffic by 20 percent; and a financial broker said that they could lose $4M per msec if their trading platform is 5msec behind the competition.

This market is ripe for a new generation of innovative semiconductor solutions in the energy efficiency, performance and security arena.

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  1. Pradeep Chakraborty
    October 18, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Role of semicon in cloud computing — yes, of course — that’s an avenue folks should definitely watch out for… innovative semiconductor solutions required for energy efficiency, performance, security… as the speaker says!

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