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Archive for February, 2013

Union budget 2013-14: Is there some hope for semiconductors?

February 28, 2013 8 comments

Here are highlights of the Union budget 2013-14 presented by P. Chidambaram, union Finance minister, Government of India. Also, is there finally, some hope for the Indian semiconductor industry?

Highlights

* Doing business with India should be easy, friendly and helpful.
* Foreign investments must be encouraged.
* Accelerating growth is the main goal.
* Need to encourage FDI in consonance with economic priorities.
* To target $1 trillion in infrastructure in the 12th plan.
* There are incentives for semiconductor wafer fab manufacturing.
* There will be appropriate incentives for the semiconductors industry, including zero customs duty on plants and machineries.

* To increase allocation for science and atomic departments.
* Indian Institute of BioTechnology to be set up at Ranchi.
* Non-conventional wind energy sector needs help.
* Will encourage cities to take up waste-energy projects through PPPs.
* Plan being developed for Chennai-Bangalore industrial corridor.
* Preparatory work started for Bengalooru-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
* To launch two new industrial cities in Gujarat and Maharashtra.
* Propose to continue with the Technology Upgradation funds scheme for the textile sector.
* India’s first women’s public sector bank to be set up.
* Woman’s bank license to be in place by October, 2013.
* All PSU banks branches to have ATMs by March, 2014.
* Zero customs duty for electrical plants and machinery proposed.
* Higher customs duty on set-top boxes.
* To provide more than Rs 4200 crore for medical studies.
* To allocate Rs 1106 crore for alternative medicine industry.
* To allocate 100 crores to AMU, BHU, TISS-Guwahati and INTACH.
* Government to set up National Institute of Sports Coaches in Patiala.
* To expand private FM radio to 294 cities.
* To auction 839 licenses for FM network to cover all India.
* Government to construct power transmission system from Srinagar to Leh at the cost of Rs 1,840 crore, Rs 226 crore provided in current budget.
* Mobile phones priced more than Rs. 2,000 will see duty raised by 6 percent.
* Extend tax benefit to electrical vehicles.
* A company investing Rs 100 crore or more in plant and machinery in April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2015 will be allowed 15 percent investment deduction allowance apart from depreciation.
* SEBI to simplify KYC norms governing foreign investors.
* SEBI will simplify procedures for entry of foreign portfolio investors to invest in India.
* Higher outlay on waste management.
* Government to monitor cost of doing business in India.
* Zero customs duty proposed for electrical plants and machinery.
* Proposal to provide Rs. 800 crore for the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy for generation-based incentive for wind energy projects as the non-conventional wind energy sector deserves incentives.
* Government will provide low interest bearing funds from the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) to IREDA to on-lend to viable renewable energy projects. The scheme will have a life span of five years.
* Proposal to set apart Rs. 2,000 crore and asked the National Innovation Council to formulate a scheme for the management and application of the fund.

Coming to semiconductors, the world today is discussing the viability of 450mm fabs. I am well aware that Malcolm Penn has been pushing for 450mm fabs across Europe. I believe that one such fab will cost in the excess of $25 billion, if not more. So, who will invest that kind of money in India? Do we have clean water and 24-hour electricity supply in any state that’s required for such a fab? What will this so-called 450mm fab manufacture? Does the fab have a blueprint in place? Well, have we even addressed any of these questions?

Sensor fusion and converging elements

February 20, 2013 Comments off

Sensor fusion encompasses hardware and software elements. There can be many data sources, such as MEMS. non-MEMS, etc.

The obvious question: why sensor fusion? Tony Massimini, chief of technology, Semico Research Corp., USA, said that it is useful for power savings, and the initial reason was to improve accuracy and reliability of inertial measurement units (IMUs, etc. If we look at the progression of sensors to sensor fusion, there have been simple interrupts such as screen orientation, tap detection, fall detection, and so on. IMUs are available for location-based services (LBS) and navigation, and IMUs are available and other data sources, etc.

Source: Semico Research, USA.

Source: Semico Research, USA.

Senosr fusion enhances user experience with portable devices. The growth is driven by smartphones. Competing devices will add more features to keep up with smartphones such as tablets, notebooks (ultraportables). Key growth markets today will provide basis for future end use markets (see graph: systems with sensor fusion). The market will likely grow at CAGR of 58.8 percent till 2016.

New end use markets and applications include areas such as gaming, HUD (heads-up display), sports, health and fitness, personal navigation, personal medical, context awareness, voice recognition, visual recognition, augmented reality and automation.

Sensor fusion is used for enhancing the user experience. For instance, add data to 3D axes frame of reference. Sensor fusion offers always ON and low latency. You can also connect to external sensors — wearable for health and fitness. Life tagging is possible too, e.g. photo and video library for context aware services. Next, there is improved security with biometrics.

Summarizing the sensor fusion market, the MEMS sensor ASPs continue to erode. There are an increasing number of sensors. There are improved MEMS sensors, including hardware accelerators. There is interaction with cloud for data. It also enables application innovations. Finally, there are new end use markets.

Global semicon sales to reach $302.02 billion in 2013: Cowan LRA model

February 18, 2013 5 comments

This is a continuation of my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, who has provided me the latest numbers.

With the ‘closing out’ of the final, overall sales result for 2012 by the WSTS, the Cowan LRA model for forecasting global semiconductor sales has been updated to include the full complement of 2012’s monthly sales numbers, thereby incorporating 29 years of historical, global semiconductor (actual) sales numbers as gathered, tracked and published each month by the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization.

The necessary mathematical computations required to update the complete set of linear regression parameters embedded in the Cowan LRA forecasting model have been carried out.

The newly derived set of linear regression parameters reflect 29 years (1984 to 2012) of historical global semiconductor sales numbers as a basis of predicting future quarterly and full year sales and sale growth forecast expectations by exercising the Cowan LRA model.

Therefore, the table given here summarizes the model’s latest 2013 sales and sales growth expectations as a function of the model’s range (low, expected and high) for January 2013′s sales forecast estimates as generated by the newly, updated model’s linear regression parameters.

Source: Cowan LRA model, USA.

Source: Cowan LRA model, USA.

It is estimated that in 2013, the global semiconductor industry is likely to reach $302.022 billion, a growth of 3.6 percent.

Note that next month’s forecast will be based on January 2013’s actual sales number, which is anticipated to be released by the WSTS at the end of the first week in March. Once posted, the model will be rerun to yield the quarterly and full year sales, and sales growth expectations for 2013, respectively.

PC’s Electronic Components Blog named top resource for electrical engineers! ;)

February 14, 2013 9 comments

Today, Feb. 14th, has turned out to be a great day for me! I received an email early morning, which stated: PC’s Electronic Components Blog is featured on the list of 100 Top Resources for Electrical Engineers that we published on ElectricalEngineeringSchools.org, USA!

Wow! This happens to be my sixth world title in a row!! The picture of the award badge is given alongside!!!

I am so very happy that my blog on electronic components has bagged an award! I had started my career writing about electronic components for Asian Sources Media, now Global Sources‌, in Hong Kong.

Back in those days – 1994-1995, there used to be some presence of electronic components made by local manufacturers, especially in Naraina Industrial Area, New Delhi. I still remember, very clearly, doing the rounds of Naraina, along with my friend, Dolly! Back then, most of the components were made for colour TV sets, and a few makers had just started making components for cellular phones.

Today, there are big-sized, very large representatives of electronic components in India.

I recall one of my earlier stories was on DIP switches. There used to be slide and rocker types of DIP switches. I wonder whether they are still used today! Maybe, they are, in some electronic devices! I also recall there used to be some demand for TV antennae at that time, as well as for cell phone antennae! How time has flown by since!!

May I take this opportunity and offer sincere thanks to all of my readers, well wishers, friends and acquaintances I have made over the years for their continuous love and support! Without you, no award is ever possible! 😉

I’d like to conclude by taking the names of two gentlemen, who have spurred me on to write blogs on components, electronics and semiconductors, as well as telecom. They happen to be Alfred Cheng. country manager, Hong Kong, Global Sources, and Spenser Au, former publisher, CTG and now, CEO, Global Sources, Hong Kong, who made me work on the Telecom specs tables.

A word is also due for Raj Gopinath, my editor-in-chief at Asian Sources, and Daniel Tam, who replaced Spenser, back in 1999, as publisher of CTG. Special mention needs to be made of Claudius Chan, who I consider as a ‘guru’ of electronic components. Whatever I am today is largely due to my time spent at Global Sources! Thanks a lot, my dear friends!!

Alfred just sent me a mail saying: Hi Pradeep, How many more prizes would you like to win, my friend? I wish I could write as good as, maybe 50 percent as good as you do since we used to work together in the electronics industry. 🙂 Thanks a lot, my friend!

Demystifying the MIPI SLIMbus

February 14, 2013 3 comments

SLIMbus is a multi-drop, time division multiplexed serial bus. It has one clock and one data line, with CMOS signalling and no analog PHY. It is targeted for low bandwidth connectivity between the AP/modem and audio/Bluetooth/haptic. SLIMbus was originally specified by the MIPI Alliance in 2007. Arasan’s total IP solution delivery demystifies the adoption of SLIMbus.

According to Ajay Jain, director, Mobile Connectivity Products, Arasan Chip Systems, the SLIMBus system overview includes a host component (e.g., apps processor), a device component (e.g., a broadband modem), and a SLIMbus device component (e.g., audio processor, Bluetooth modem). The logical implementation of SLIMbus system feature is realized through devices within SLIMbus IPs.

The AP/modem have software infrastructure and an active manager device that manages the SLIMbus. Any component can have a framer device activated to drive the SLIMbus CLK. Each component can have one or more generic devices to buffer and transmit/receive audio and other data.

The physical layer enables TDM. The data line NRZI is encoded. The active framer can drive clock gears 1 to 10 for power management. There is an interleaving of control and data on the SLIMbus frames.

As far as device evaluation and enumeration are concerned, each component initializes its devices in correct order under the direction of the interface device. The active framer drives the SLIMbus CLK and framing channels with default values. All components perform frames, superframes and message synchronization. All active devices report presence and characteristics with broadcast messages. Arasan provides the software stack to perform SLIMbus.

The SLIMbus allows a finite set of channel rate multipliers (data segments/superframes). If SLIMbus CLK frequency, it allows channel rate multiplier of audio data rate. Other transfer protocols may be preferred in certain cases, e.g., flow control required, pushed or pulled protocol. All transfer protocols are programmable through the Arasan software stack.

Each port-port connection needs to be mapped onto a SLIMbus data channel. There is two-channel audio on SLIMbus data channels 6 and 7. A subframe length of 32 slots is assumed. The SLIMbus is amazing, yet complex. There are a finite set of parameters. Arasan’s IPs have addressed the low-level complexities of implementation.

Obama urges US to ‘keep going’ in clean energy!

February 13, 2013 4 comments

US president Barack Obama.

US president Barack Obama.

I was watching US president Barack Obama deliver the state of the union address. There was lot of positiveness. First, he urged the Congress to get together and pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change. He called for the nation to embrace the need for modest reforms in medical healthcare.

The USA’s first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, the US manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three years. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again. That should great news for the Americans!

Following the first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio, Obama announced the launch of three more manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Department of Defense and Energy to turn regions into global centers of high-tech jobs. He asked the Congress to help create a network of 15 hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made in America.

America, he said, was poised to control its energy future. The US has doubled the amount of renewable energy generated from sources like wind and solar — with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it. He urged the Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. He called to generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year — there’s a need to drive down costs even further! He urged the US to keep going all in on clean energy, like China. Obama added that those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.

The initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, housing — will help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs. However, none of it will matter unless the US equips citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs. That has to start as early as possible, he urged!

Obama has signed a new executive order that will strengthen USA’s cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect national security, jobs, and privacy. He called upon the Congress to pass legislation that would give the government a greater capacity to secure USA’s networks and deter attacks.

As Obama said during his speech, “The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next!” Can India, at least, learn?

Applications of multilayer chip capacitors

February 12, 2013 2 comments

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.

LTCCBack 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!

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