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Are we about to reach end of Moore’s Law?


Here is the concluding part of my discussion with Sam Fuller, CTO, Analog Devices. We discussed the technology aspects of Moore’s Law and

Sam Fuller

Sam Fuller

‘More than Moore’, among other things.

Are we at the end of Moore’s Law?
First, I asked Fuller that as Gordon Moore suggested – are we about to reach the end of Moore’s Law? What will it mean for personal computing?

Fuller replied: “There is definitely still life left in Moore’s law, but we’re leaving the golden age after the wonderful ride that we have had for the last 40 years. We will continue to make chips denser, but it is becoming difficult to continue to improve the performance as well as lower the power and cost.

“Therefore, as Moore’s law goes forward, more innovation is required with each new generation. As we move from Planer CMOS to FinFET (a new technology for multi-gate architecture of transistors); from silicon to more advanced materials Moore’s law will still have life for the next decade, but we are definitely moving into its final stages.

“For personal computing, there is still a lot of innovation left before we begin to run out of ideas. There will continue to be great advances in smart phones, mobile computing and tablets because software applications are really just beginning to take advantage of the phenomenal power and capacity of today’s semiconductors. The whole concept of ‘Internet of things’ will also throw up plenty of new opportunities.

“As we put more and more sensors in our personal gadgets, in factories, in industries, in infrastructures, in hospitals, and in homes and in vehicles, it will open up a completely new set of applications. The huge amount of data generated out of these sensors and wirelessly connected to the Internet will feed into the big data and analytics. This would create a plethora of application innovations.”

What’s happening in the plane?
The plane opportunity – 90nm – 65nm – 45nm – 22nm – 20nm – 14/18nm – is starting to get difficult and probably won’t work at 12nm, for purely physics reasons. What is Analog Devices’ take on this?

Fuller said: “You are right! We have been going from 45 nm down to lower nodes, it’ll probably go down to 10 nm, but we are beginning to run into some fundamental physics issues here. After all, it’s a relatively finite number of atoms that make up the channels in these transistors. So, you’re going to have to look at innovations beyond simply going down to finer dimensions.

“There are FinFETS and other ways that can help move you into the third dimension. We’re getting to a point where we can put a lot of complexity and a number of functions on a single die. We have moved beyond purely digital design to having more analog and mixed signal components in the same chip. There are also options such as stacked dies and multiple dies.

“Beyond integration on a single chip, Analog Devices leads in advanced packaging technologies for System in a Package (SiP) where sensors, digital and analog/mixed signal components are all in a single package as the individual components would typically use different technology nodes and it might not be practical to do such integration on a single die.

“So, the challenge often gets described as “More than Moore”, which is going beyond Moore’s law, bringing those capabilities to do analog processing as well as digital and then integrating sensors for temperature sensing, pressure sensing, motion sensing and a whole range of sensors integrated for enabling the ‘Internet of Things’.

“At Analog Devices, we have the capability in analog as well as digital, and having worked for over 20 years on MEMS devices, we are particularly well positioned as we get into ‘More than Moore’.”
Read more…

FinFETs delivering on promise of power reduction: Synopsys

February 1, 2014 Comments off

Here is the concluding part of my conversation with Synopsys’ Rich Goldman on the global semiconductor industry.

Rich Goldman

Rich Goldman

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.”
Read more…

IEF 2013: New markets and opportunities in sub-20nm era!

October 15, 2013 1 comment

Future Horizons hosted the 22nd Annual International Electronics Forum, in association with IDA Ireland, on Oct. 2-4, 2013, at Dublin, Blanchardstown, Ireland. The forum was titled ‘New Markets and Opportunities in the Sub-20nm Era: Business as Usual OR It’s Different This Time.” Here are excerpts from some of the sessions. Those desirous of finding out much more should contact Malcolm Penn, CEO, Future Horizons.

Liam BritnellLiam Britnell, European manager and Research Scientist, Bluestone Global Tech (BGT) Materials spoke on Beyond Graphene: Heterostructures and Other Two-Dimensional Materials.

The global interest in graphene research has facilitated our understanding of this rather unique material. However, the transition from the laboratory to factory has hit some challenging obstacles. In this talk I will review the current state of graphene research, focusing on the techniques which allow large scale production.

I will then discuss various aspects of our research which is based on more complex structures beyond graphene. Firstly, hexagonal boron nitride can be used as a thin dielectric material where electrons can tunnel through. Secondly, graphene-boron nitride stacks can be used as tunnelling transistor devices with promising characteristics. The same devices show interesting physics, for example, negative differential conductivity can be found at higher biases. Finally, graphene stacked with thin semiconducting layers which show promising results in photodetection.

I will conclude by speculating the fields where graphene may realistically find applications and discuss the role of the National Graphene Institute in commercializing graphene.

Jean-Rene Lequepeys, VP Silicon Components, CEA-Leti, spoke on  Advanced Semiconductor Technologies Enabling High-Performance Jean-Rene Lequepeysand Energy Efficient Computing.

The key challenge for future high-end computing chips is energy efficiency in addition to traditional challenges such as yield/cost, static power, data transfer. In 2020, in order to maintain at an acceptable level the overall power consumption of all the computing systems, a gain in term of power efficiency of 1000 will be required.

To reach this objective, we need to work not only at process and technology level, but to propose disruptive multi-processor SoC architecture and to make some major evolutions on software and on the development of
applications. Some key semiconductor technologies will definitely play a key role such as: low power CMOS technologies, 3D stacking, silicon photonics and embedded non-volatile memory.

To reach this goal, the involvement of semiconductor industries will be necessary and a new ecosystem has to be put in place for establishing stronger partnerships between the semiconductor industry (IDM, foundry), IP provider, EDA provider, design house, systems and software industries.

Andile NgcabaAndile Ngcaba, CEO, Convergence Partners, spoke on Semiconductor’s Power and Africa – An African Perspective.

This presentation looks at the development of the semiconductor and electronics industries from an African perspective, both globally and in Africa. Understanding the challenges that are associated with the wide scale adoption of new electronics in the African continent.

Electronics have taken over the world, and it is unthinkable in today’s modern life to operate without utilising some form of electronics on a daily basis. Similarly, in Africa the development and adoption of electronics and utilisation of semiconductors have grown exponentially. This growth on the African continent was due to the rapid uptake of mobile communications. However, this has placed in stark relief the challenges facing increased adoption of electronics in Africa, namely power consumption.

This background is central to the thesis that the industry needs to look at addressing the twin challenges of low powered and low cost devices. In Africa there are limits to the ability to frequently and consistently charge or keep electronics connected to a reliable electricity grid. Therefore, the current advances in electronics has resulted in the power industry being the biggest beneficiary of the growth in the adoption of electronics.

What needs to be done is for the industry to support and foster research on this subject in Africa, working as a global community. The challenge is creating electronics that meet these cost and power challenges. Importantly, the solution needs to be driven by the semiconductor industry not the power industry. Focus is to be placed on operating in an off-grid environment and building sustainable solutions to the continued challenge of the absence of reliable and available power.

It is my contention that Africa, as it has done with the mobile communications industry and adoption of LED lighting, will leapfrog in terms of developing and adopting low powered and cost effective electronics.

Jo De Boeck, senior VP and CTO, IMEC, discussed Game-Changing Technology Roadmaps For Lifescience. Jo De Boeck

Personalized, preventive, predictive and participatory healthcare is on the horizon. Many nano-electronics research groups have entered the quest for more efficient health care in their mission statement. Electronic systems are proposed to assist in ambulatory monitoring of socalled ‘markers’ for wellness and health.

New life science tools deliver the prospect of personal diagnostics and therapy in e.g., the cardiac, neurological and oncology field. Early diagnose, detailed and fast screening technology and companioning devices to deliver the evidence of therapy effectiveness could indeed stir a – desperately needed – healthcare revolution. This talk addresses the exciting trends in ‘PPPP’ health care and relates them to an innovation roadmap in process technology, electronic circuits and system concepts.
Read more…

Moore’s Law good for 14nm, and probably, 10nm: Dr. Wally Rhines

May 31, 2013 Comments off

Its a pleasure to talk to Dr. Walden (Wally) C. Rhines, chairman and CEO, Mentor Graphics Corp. On his way to DAC 2013, where he will be giving a ten-minute “Visionary Talk”, he found time to speak with me. First, I asked him given that the global semiconductor industry is entering the sub-20nm era, will it continue to be ‘business as usual’ or ‘it’s going to be different this time’?

Dr. Wally Rhines.

Dr. Wally Rhines.

Dr. Rhines said: “Every generation has some differences, even though it usually seems like we’ve seen all this before. The primary change that comes with “sub-20nm” is the change in transistor structure to FinFET. This will give designers a boost toward achieving lower power. However, compared to 28nm, there will be a wafer cost penalty to pay for the additional process complexity that also includes two additional levels of resolution enhancement.”

Impact of new transistor structures
How will the new transistor structures impact on design and manufacturing?

According to him, the relatively easy impact on design is related to the simulation of a new device structure; models have already been developed and characterized but will be continuously updated until the processes are stable. More complex are the requirements for place and route and verification; support for “fin grids” and new routing and placement rules has already been implemented by the leading place and route suppliers.

He added: “Most complex is test; FinFET will require transistor-level (or “cell-aware”) design for test to detect failures, rather than just the traditional gate-level stuck-at fault models. Initial results suggest that failure to move to cell-aware ATPG will result in 500 to 1000 DPM parts being shipped to customers.

“Fortunately, “cell-aware” ATPG design tools have been available for about a year and are easily implemented with no additional EDA cost. Finally, there will be manufacturing challenges but, like all manufacturing challenges, they will be attacked, analyzed and resolved as we ramp up more volume.”

Introducing 450mm wafer handling and new lithography
Is it possible to introduce 450mm wafer handling and new lithography successfully at this point in time?

“Yes, of course,” Dr. Rhines said. “However, there are a limited number of companies that have the volume of demand to justify the investment. The wafer diameter transition decision is always a difficult one for the semiconductor manufacturing equipment companies because it is so costly and it requires a minimum volume of machines for a payback. In this case, it will happen. The base of semiconductor manufacturing equipment companies is becoming very concentrated and most of the large ones need the 450mm capability.”

What will be the impact of transistor variability and other physics issues?

As per Dr. Rhines, the impact should be significant. FinFET, for example requires controlling physical characteristics of multiple fins within a narrow range of variability. As geometries shrink, small variations become big percentages. New design challenges are always interesting for engineers but the problems will be overcome relatively quickly.
Read more…

Components Direct offers guaranteed traceable E&O inventory!


Components Direct is a leading source for authorized end-of-life and excess electronic components. The products are guaranteed grade A factory sealed direct from the manufacturer and inventoried in a ESD 20.20 certified and ISO 9001 certified state-of-the art-facility. Components Direct is headquartered in Milpitas, CA with locations in the US and Asia.

It has a leading cloud-based platform for excess and obsolete (E&O) inventory. In 2012, Avnet and Components Direct entered in a strategic relationship. Components Direct is the exclusive channel for Avnet’s factory authorized excess and end-of-life components.

Compared to leading industry giants, such as Element14 and RS Components, Components Direct, currently, doesn’t have a detailed menu showcasing listed products, at least not on the home page, as yet. One hopes that’ll make an appearance soon.

Speaking on the mission of Components Direct, Anne Ting, executive VP, Marketing said: “Components Direct is the premier authorized distributor for excess and end-of-life electronic components. We are the only company working directly with manufacturers and their franchised distributors to offer 100 percent guaranteed traceable E&O components as well as technology services to combat counterfeit components and other gray market activity.

“For our supplier partners, we enable them to put excess product back into the control of an authorized source, as opposed to the gray market. For buyers, we provide them with a secure, authorized one-stop shop for excess, obsolete and unsold factory components.”

Combating gray market
How important is it to combat the gray market? Why will this endeavor stop/lessen gray market activity?

According to Ting, the gray market is a serious and growing problem. As early as 2008, a study by KPMG and the Alliance for Gray Market and Counterfeit Abatement (AGMA) stated that as much as $58 billion of technology products were passing through the gray market, and the problem has only gotten worse.

The gray market is rampant throughout all industries, with everyone from engineers, to procurement professionals and consumers impacted negatively when the products they purchase are advertised as new and authentic, but in reality could be used, refurbished or even worse, counterfeit.

In fact, a 2012 study by market research firm IHS found that over 12 million counterfeit electronics and semiconductor components

Anne Ting

Anne Ting

have entered the distribution chain since 2007, with 57 percent of all counterfeit parts obsolete or end-of-life components. Many of these parts make their way into mission-critical industries, such as defense and aerospace, where a malfunctioning counterfeit part can mean the difference between life and death.

While provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act have enabled the government and trade groups to make some progress towards regulating the supply chain to ensure that components are only sourced directly from the manufacturers or their franchised distributors, the problem has not abated. The Act empowers the federal government to hold contractors financially responsible for replacing counterfeit products.

This, together with other changes, puts more responsibility on suppliers of electronic component to have risk mitigation procedures in place. The issue is become more topical and the industry must act in order to comply with the new legislation.

Components Direct takes this problem seriously, and provides supplier insights and tools to help combat gray market activity. In a recent study we conducted for a leading semiconductor supplier of both analog and digital devices, we discovered that over 124 million units of their product were floating in the gray market across 6,500 plus part numbers.

Over 70 percent of the products were found in Asia, and 20 percent also appeared in both North America and EMEA. The product age spanned many years with date codes of less than one year accounting for 22 percent of their gray market product. A further 5 percent had date codes over 11 years, demonstrating that whether you were an OEM looking for the newest product, or a military sub-contractor looking for obsolete components, no end customer is immune to the presence of unauthorized product.

Components Direct’s technology tools and services track gray market activity and provide suppliers with unprecedented visibility to their product leakage in the gray market by part number, region, data code etc. This data enables our suppliers to trace leakage in their supply chain and lessen potential unauthorized product from getting into the gray market.

Additionally, Components Direct provides suppliers and buyers with a secure, factory authorized channel for selling or purchasing 100 percent guaranteed traceable components. “We only sell products that come directly with manufacturers or their franchised distributors and all our products are inventoried in an ESD 20.20 and ISO 9001 certified facility,” said Ting.As an extension of the manufacturer, Components Direct provides the supply chain buyer with complete confidence and peace of mind that all products originate directly from the manufacturer and have been properly stored, handled and packaged. Sourcing from an authorized source like Components Direct eliminates the risks surrounding product quality, reliability and liability. Read more…

Focus on good power-aware verification strategy for SoCs: Dr. Wally Rhines

January 7, 2013 1 comment

Dr. Wally Rhines.

Dr. Wally Rhines.

It is always a pleasure to chat with Dr. Wally (Walden C.) Rhines, chairman and CEO, of Mentor Graphics. I chatted with him, trying to understand gigascale design, verification trends, strategy for power-aware verification, SERDES design challenges, migrating to 3D FinFET transistors, and Moore’s Law getting to be “Moore Stress”!

Chip design in gigascale, hertz, complex
First, I asked him to elaborate on how implementation of chip design will evolve, with respect to gigascale design, gigahertz and gigacomplex geometries.

He said: “Thanks to close co-operation among members of the foundry ecosystem, as well as cooperation between IDMs and their suppliers, serious development of design methods and software tools is running two to three generations ahead of volume manufacturing capability. For most applications, “Gigascale” power dissipation is a bigger challenge than managing the complexity but “system-level” power optimization tools will continue to allow rapid progress. Thermal analysis is becoming part of the designer’s toolkit.”

Functional verification is continually challenged by complexity but there have been, and continue to be, many orders of magnitude improvement in performance just from adoption of emulation, intelligent test benches and formal methods so this will not be a major limitation.

The complexity of new physical design problems will, however, be very challenging. Design problems ranging from basic ESD analysis, made more complex due to multiple power domains, to EMI, electromigration and intra-die variability are now being addressed with new design approaches. Fortunately, programmable electrical rule checking is being widely adopted and will help to minimize the impact of these physical effects.

Is verification keeping up?
How is the innovation in verification keeping up with trends?

Dr. Rhines added that over the past decade, microprocessor clock speeds have leveled out at 3 to 4 GHz and server performance improvement has come mostly from multi-core architectures. Although some innovative approaches have allowed simulators to gain some advantage from multi-core architectures, the speed of simulators hasn’t kept up with the growing complexity of leading edge chips.

Emulators have more than made up the difference. Emulators offer more than four orders of magnitude faster performance than simulators and emulators do so at about 0.005X the cost per cycle of simulation. The cost of power per year is more than one third the cost of hardware in a large simulation farm today, while emulation offers a 12X savings in power per verification clock cycle. For those who design really complex chips, a combination of emulation and simulation, along with formal methods and intelligent test benches, has become standard.

At the block and subsystem level, high level synthesis is enabling the next move up in design and verification abstraction. Since verification complexity grows at about the square of component count, we have plenty of room to handle larger chips by taking advantage of the four orders of magnitude improvement through emulation plus another three or four orders of magnitude through formal verification techniques, two to three orders of magnitude from intelligent test benches and three orders of magnitude from higher levels of abstraction.

By applying multiple engines and multiple abstraction levels to the challenge of verifying chips, the pressure is on to integrate the flow. Easily transitioning and reusing verification efforts from every level—including tests and coverage models, from high level models to RTL and from simulation to emulation—is being enabled through more powerful and adaptable verification IP and high level, graph-based test specification capabilities. These are keys to driving verification reuse to match the level of design reuse.

Powerful verification management solutions enable the collection of coverage information from all engines and abstraction levels, tracking progress against functional specifications and verification plans. Combining verification cycle productivity growth from emulation, formal, simulation and intelligent testing with higher verification abstraction, re-use and process management provides a path forward to economically verifying even the largest, most complex chips on time and within budget.

Good power-aware verification strategy for SoCs
What should be a good power-aware verification strategy for SoCs

According to him, the most important guideline is to start power-aware design at the highest possible level of system description. The opportunity to reduce system power is typically an order of magnitude greater at the system level than at the RTL level. For most chips today, that means at least the transaction level when the design is still described in C++ or SystemC.

Significant experience and effort should then be invested at the RTL level using synthesis and UPF-enabled simulation. Verification solutions typically automate the generation of correctness checks for power-control sequences and power-state coverage metrics. As SoC power is typically managed by software, the value of a hardware/software co-verification and co-debug solution in simulation and emulation becomes apparent in power-management verification at this level.

As designers proceed to the gate and transistor level, accuracy of power estimation improves. That is why gate level analysis and verification of the fully implemented power management architecture is important. Finally, at the physical layout, designers traditionally were stuck with whatever power budget was passed down to them. Now,they increasingly have power goals that can be achieved using dozens of physical design techniques that are built into the place and route tools.
Read more…

Round-up 2012: Best of electronics, semiconductors and solar

December 31, 2012 2 comments

Friends, here is the round-up of 2012, where the best of electronics, semiconductors and solar PV are presented. Best wishes for a very happy and prosperous new year! 🙂

Also, a word on the horrendous Delhi rape that has shaken up India. I am ashamed to be a man and a part of India’s society. My family and I are extremely sorry that the brave girl is no more! May her soul rest in peace. May God deliver justice, and quickly!

DECEMBER 2012
Opportunities in turbulent PV equipment market

Global semiconductor industry outlook 2013: Jaswinder Ahuja, Cadence

Next wave of design challenges, and future growth of EDA: Dr. Wally Rhines

Global medical image sensors market to grow 64 percent by 2017

Status of power semiconductor devices industry

NOVEMBER 2012
Global solar PV industry to remain under pressure in 2013!

Dr. Wally Rhines on global semiconductor industry outlook 2013

Focus on monolithic 3D-ICs paradigm shift for semicon industry

Xilinx announces 20nm portfolio strategy

Elliptic intros world’s first commercial touchless gesturing technology!

Global semiconductor industry outlook 2013: Analog Devices

IMEC’s 450mm R&D initiative for nanoelectronics ecosystem

OCTOBER 2012
III-V high mobility semiconductors for advanced CMOS apps

Yet another electronics policy for India?

IEF 2012: Turning recession into opportunity!

Global semicon sales to drop 1.7 percent in 2012?

Virtual prototyping ready for masses

MEMS to be $21 billion market by 2017: Yole

TSMC on 450mm transition: Lithography key!

SEPTEMBER 2012
Cadence Allegro 16.6 accelerates timing closure

Dr. Wally Rhines on global EDA industry

Solarcon India 2012: Solar industry in third wave!

AUGUST 2012
Apple wins big vs. Samsung in patent war!

Can being fabless and M-SIPS take India to top?

JULY 2012
Is Europe ready for 450mm fabs?

APRIL 2012
Xilinx intros Vivado Design Suite

MARCH 2012
Cadence releases latest Encounter RTL-to-GDSII flow

WLCSP market and industrial trends

FEBRUARY 2012
Top 10 semiconductor growth drivers: Intersil

Ingredients for successful fabless Indian semiconductor industry: Dr. Wally Rhines

Tariffs will slow growth in domestic demand for PV systems: The Brattle Group

Wireless leads in global semicon spends!

JANUARY 2012
India to allow imports of low-priced Chinese solar cells? Or, is it beaten?

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