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TI’s 14-bit ADC unites speed and efficiency

May 23, 2009 Comments off

BANGALORE, INDIA: Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) recently introduced a dual, 14-bit analog-to-digital converter (ADC), the ADS62P49, at 250MSPS to deliver a premier combination of wide signal bandwidth, high dynamic performance and low power consumption.

The ADS62P49 achieves 73-dBFS signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio and 85-dBc spurious-free dynamic range (SFDR) at an input frequency of 60 MHz. I was able to catch up with Apoorva Awasthy, Business Development Manager, High Performance Analog, Texas Instruments India, to find out more about this new 14-bit ADC.

Chief features of TI 14-bit ADC
Texas Instruments (TI) has united speed and efficiency with the industry’s fastest dual, 14-bit ADC at 250 MSPS. Key features of this device include:

* It delivers a premier combination of wide signal bandwidth, high dynamic performance and low power consumption;
* Fastest dual, 14-bit ADC at 250MSPS enables multi-channel, wide-bandwidth sampling without sacrificing dynamic performance, for enhanced accuracy in portable test equipment;
* Low power of 625 mW per channel reduces thermal footprint for increased system efficiency in high-density, multi-antenna base station receivers and software defined radios;
* Programmable gain and other user-selectable settings maximizes design flexibility;
* Complete signal chain with comprehensive evaluation tools suite speeds time to market; and
* It is first in a series of four 12- and 14-bit dual channel ADCs with sample rates of 210MSPS and 250MSPS, respectively.

TI also says that the 250-MSPS data converter provides 66 percent greater bandwidth than competing dual ADCs. Has this been based on any on-field performance? Awasthy said that this is the performance specified in the data sheet and was tested in a lab.

Naturally, the key application areas would be interesting to look at! Awasthy said, “The ADS62P49 is suitable for applications such as communications and defense imaging systems, and wide-band test and measurement equipment. The block diagram given here shows an application area.Source: TI

Again, when TI says that the ADS62P49 has the “the industry’s fastest sample rate”, what’s the benchmark? Awasthy said, “We have done comparisons between our device and others in the industry. We are the only one to offer a dual, 14-bit device that achieves 250MSPS.”

Solving customer challenges
What are the main customer challenges solved by the new ADC? Awasthy said: “Communications, defense and test design engineers are constantly challenged to create signal and data acquisition receivers with increasingly wide signal bandwidths that do not compromise overall system performance. Another key feature in demand is the low power capabilities without bargaining on performance.

“TI addresses these challenges with the ADS62P49, which delivers high-performance, compact, power-efficient designs, and enables rapid deployment of 3G and 4G systems, software defined radios and spectrum analyzers.”

What if the competition brings out such a device or a better one soon? TI is not in a position to speculate on what the competition is planning. “The data converter market offers tremendous opportunities to TI. We will continue to offer leading edge data converters that address our customers’ challenges and advance next generation system design,” he added.

This is the first in a series of four 12- and 14-bit dual channel ADCs. Awasthy said that TI expects more of such devices to be released in the second half of this year.

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TI’s TPS62601 converter for telecom apps

October 10, 2008 Comments off

This August, Texas Instruments India (TII) announced the industry’s smallest and thinnest 500-mA, step-down DC/DC converter solution, the TPS62601 converter, for space-constrained applications.

According to TI, It gives portable designers the ability to add more features and functions on a handheld device. The high-efficiency power management IC is the first 6-MHz, 500-mA converter to achieve a 13-mm2 solution size with an ultra-thin 0.6-mm total height.

I caught up with Ramprasad Ananthaswamy, Director, Power Management Products, Texas Instruments India, to find out a bit more about this so-called industry’s smallest and thinnest converter solution, and its essential design trends.

So what exactly is the TPS62601 power converter targeted toward? According to Ananthaswamy, the TPS62601, a high-efficiency power management IC is the first 6-MHz, 500-mA converter to achieve a 13mm2 solution size with an ultra-thin 0.6-mm total height.

The TPS62601 converter achieves up to 89-percent power efficiency and only 30-uA typical operating quiescent current, all from a 0.9×1.3mm chip scale package roughly the size of a flake of pepper. The synchronous, switch-mode device’s fixed frequency of 6 MHz allows the use of only one 0.47-uH inductor with a height of 0.6 m and two low-cost ceramic capacitors, without compromising performance and efficiency.

The device supports applications, such as memory modules, GPS modules, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi modules or other wireless micro-modules used in ultra-thin smart phones, digital still cameras, portable disk drives and media players.

Applications areas of this device include: Smart and media phones; Cell phones; Media players; Mobile Internet devices; DSCs; and Other portable communications devices.

This chip will help powering sources such as: WLAN modules; WiFi modules; Bluetooth modules; Memory modules; and Generic micro modules.

Essential design trends
There is a need to understand the essential design trends of the TPS62601 that makes it unique. Ananthaswamy added that the TPS62601 can deliver DC voltage regulation accuracy of +/- 1.5 percent. In addition, its excellent load transient response, wide input voltage range of 2.3V to 5.5V and 1.8V of output allows the device to effectively support single-rail voltage requirements as designers add new features and functions.

The converter also applies energy-saving techniques to help maximize battery run-time. For example, the converter automatically enters a power save mode during light-load operating conditions via an automatic pulse frequency modulation and pulse width modulation switching feature. In shutdown mode, the device’s current consumption is reduced to less than 1 uA. 

Size and high-performance are important. The converter achieves up to 89-percent power efficiency and only 30-uA typical operating quiescent current, from a small chip scale package.

A high switching frequency of 6MHz reduces the size of the external components used around this chip, thereby reducing the total size of the power solution. A low quiescent current of 30 uA also makes it very attractive for portable applications requiring long run times.

Helping portable designers
Let us understand how the TPS62601 will actually enable the portable designers to add more features and functions on to a handheld device. Ananthaswamy says: “Portable system designers continue to desire more features on their devices, which require smaller, efficient DC/DC converters to maintain long battery life and system run-times. As the size of the total power solution is small, more PCB space becomes available for additional features that need to get added on to the cell phone. The TPS62601 gives portable designers access to the smallest, thinnest 500-mA DC/DC solution, which simplifies design and reduces board space and time-to-market.”

The converter also applies energy-saving techniques to help maximize battery run-time. For example, the converter automatically enters a power save mode during light-load operating conditions via an automatic pulse frequency modulation and pulse width modulation switching feature. In shutdown mode, the device’s current consumption is reduced to less than 1uA.

Power management
How well does the TPS62601 tackle power management issues? The biggest issue inside feature rich cell phones today is thermal management. This power converter, consuming only 30uA for its own operation, manages the thermal problem through efficient power conversion. “Better efficiency means less heat,” added Ramaswamy.

Energy-saving techniques
Elaborate on the energy-saving techniques that can help maximize battery run-time, he said: “Globally, switching regulators are efficient means of power conversion. This device is a buck derived switching regulator that efficiently converts the single cell Li-ion battery voltage to the one that is required by the various multimedia rich cell phone chips, like applications processors, GPS modules, digital multimedia broadcast chips, camera engines, WiFi etc.

“It can power all of these chips, while consuming as little as 30uA for its own operation. Depending on the input to output voltage ration, the conversion efficiency can also reach close to 90 percent. Less consumption, better conversion efficiencies, etc., all of these result in longer battery run times.”

Is it then safe to say that the maximizing battery run-time problem has been tackled with the TPS62601? Not exactly!!

According to Ramaswamy, the TPS62601 addresses part of the battery run-time issue. “With this initiative, TI has gone a step ahead in making the battery last longer,” he noted.

Making power converters efficient is only a part of the battery run-time issue. Along with making power converters efficient, one also has to look at how much power is consumed by the various chips that are used in a cell phone, the operating system that runs the cell phone and the overall power saving features that are built into the cell phone system. The speaker volume settings, backlight brightness settings and the duration of the backlight and some of the other user friendly settings have an effect on the battery run times.

Motion sensors driving MEMS growth

September 8, 2008 Comments off

In a recent report, iSuppli predicted that driven by new demand from consumer electronics (CE) and wireless applications, the global market for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) will expand to $8.8 billion in 2012, up from $6.1 billion in 2006.

I caught up with Jérémie Bouchaud, Director and Principal Analyst, MEMS, iSuppli Corp., to find out more about the dip in the fortunes of the mainstay products and the latest trends in the MEMS market, especially, the significance of consumer electronics applications such as motion sensors for gaming, laptops and DSCs, and mobile handsets.

Will the mainstay products for MEMS actuators, inkjet heads and DLP chips, will lose market share? Or, is it a slight dip?

Jérémie Bouchaud says that MEMS actuators, include inkjet and DLP, and also RF MEMS switches. While selling prices stay constant, MEMS inkjet heads are losing shipments at a rate of 6 percent per year over the forecast period, so the market grows only slightly at 0.4 percent CAGR from 2006-2012.

DLP shipments continue to grow, but price erosion is running at 10 percent CAGR, which means that the market is shrinking at close to 5 percent per year to 2012. RF MEMS switches are the one bright spot that helps the market for this type of MEMS device to recover slightly in 2012. RF MEMS switches will grow at 100 percent CAGR over this time to top $260 million in 2012.

The new wave is partly founded in the rapid rise of consumer electronics applications such as motion sensors for gaming, laptops and DSCs, and mobile handsets. How much share are these segments likely to garner?

According to the analyst, all types of sensors in wireless communications and consumer electronics (inertial, pressure, microphones, filters, oscillators etc) exceed $1,5 billion: or 17 percent of the total MEMS market.

“Specifically, the motion sensing opportunity, including accelerometers and gyroscopes, for consumer applications like MEMS accelerometers for mobile phones (e.g., image rotation such as in iPhone and Nokia phones), gaming (Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3), etc., and gyros (mostly digital still cameras and camcorders, gaming like Playstation 3) will grow at over 20 percent CAGR from 2006 to 2012 to exceed $680 million, about 8 percent of the total market,” he said.

iSuppli has also mentioned automotive as a key area for MEMS. What kind of growth does it see for automotive?

Bouchaud adds that automotive will grow at 8 percent CAGR to reach $2.1 billion in 2012, up from 1,3 billion in 2006. The market is largely driven by mandates for tire pressure monitoring, electronic stability control systems and reduced emissions, accelerating growth for pressure and inertial sensors.

So, will “new players have a chance to address a relatively open market”, and if yes, what would those markets be?

Bouchaud indicates that the consumer electronics market is more open than the automotive sector, which features established, long-term supply arrangements, and production cycles lasting five or more years.

CE applications are characterized by fast time-to-market and short product lifetimes. For example, mobile phones that change yearly or even more frequently, and supply agreements satisfied by fast manufacturing ramp-up and ability to meet seasonal demand spikes, and often several suppliers in the same product, (e.g. ST and ADI in Wii). As sensor specifications are more relaxed than automotive, price and footprint are most decisive.

Will there be a growth in dedicated mass production facilities then?

According to him, several large MEMS players, e.g., STMicroelectronics, Freescale and Bosch Sensortec, have or are now invested in upgrading to 8″ production facilities to meet the higher demand from the consumer sector. By 2011, at least 12 companies will operate at this larger wafer size.

“Some companies like Analog Devices are at the limit of their current capacity, due to its strong automotive sensor offering, and has recently decided to work with non-MEMS CMOS foundries like TSMC, a first in the industry. UMC will also join the MEMS community, partnering with Asian Pacific Microsystems,” he says.

And, how would the new entrants be investing in R&D? Will they be doing enough?

The analyst says that R&D rates run high in automotive (12-15 percent of MEMS revenues) and even higher in consumer (can be 15-20 percent). The high R&D rate is needed to sustain leading edge products in fast moving markets. Deep R&D pockets are needed, a luxury that is not available to all.

Elaborating a bit more on the market consolidation, he says: ” Today, the share of the MEM revenues in the hands of the top 30 MEMS companies grew at about the same rate as the market. The markets that drive growth in MEMS are consumer electronics and automotive sensors.

“The sensors will be increasingly commoditized due to extreme price pressure in both sectors, and iSuppli expects the production of MEMS devices for these two markets to be concentrated among fewer companies in the future. One facet is manufacturers attempting economies of scale by combining sales in automotive and consumer areas, e.g. at Bosch, and in future with Freescale and ST.

“Other companies are pioneers and hold a strong market position for a relatively long time. Examples are TI with DLP chips and Knowles with MEMS microphones. We also expect more M&As in the near future to exacerbate the consolidation.”

Top 25 semicon vendors of 2007

March 20, 2008 Comments off

Here are the top 25 global suppliers of semiconductors, according to iSuppli. First up, there are no surprises in the top 5 — Intel, Samsung, Texas Instruments, Toshiba and STMicroelectronics retain their spots for this year too. The surprises occur in the second rung — or, in the next five spots.

Renasas and Hynix exchanged places, with Hynix moving up from 7th position in 2006 to 6th position in 2007, and Renasas dropping from 6th last year to 7th. This is very interesting, because, despite memory market pains during 2007, South Korea’s Hynix Semiconductor and Japan’s Toshiba and Elpida Memory achieved memory-chip revenue growth of 15, 14.5 and 8.8 percent respectively in 2007, as per iSuppli.

Infineon, Sony major movers
The next three positions are the major surprises of the year. Well, the 10th position was no surprise to me — AMD, dropping from 8th in 2006 to 10th in 2007. Sony and Germany’s Infineon Technologies have been the biggest gainers of the year!

According to iSuppli, Infineon acquired TI’s DSL CPE chip business and its wireless baseband semiconductor unit, boosting its revenue. Qimonda, which spun off Infineon, dropped from 12th in 2006 to 16th this year. This split had seen Infineon go out of the top 10 last year.

As per iSuppli, logic application specific integrated circuits (application specific standard products and ASICs) enjoyed the strongest performance among all semicon segments in 2007. Sony and Toshiba were key drivers of growth in this segment due to their sales of semiconductors for the PS3.

Fabless is surely in
The presence of Qualcomm and nVidia in the top 25 list speaks volumes of the power of fabless companies. Qualcomm moved up from 16th to 13th position this year, while nVidia moved up from 25th to the 20th position this year. There is every chance that we will see a fabless company in the top 10 next year! There is an even better chance that more fabless companies will make it to the top 25 companies next year and in future.

All other key players dropped in their rankings. NXP dropped from 9th to 11th; NEC dropped from 11th to 12th; Freescale from 10th to 14th; Micron from 13th to 15th; Elpida moved up from 19th to 17th; while Matsushita and Broadcom dropped a place each.

An iSuppli release says: “Overall, the top 25 semiconductor suppliers significantly outperformed the combined performance of companies ranked lower than them in 2007. The Top-25 as a group achieved revenue growth of 4.5 percent in 2007 while the combined growth of all other semiconductor suppliers was only 0.8 percent.”

On a personal note, I would love to see names like SemIndia and HSMC making it to the list. If not now, then at least sometime in the near future. However, it seems from certain published reports that the Indian fab story has gone all wrong. I’ll take up this topic in a future blog for sure!

Top 10 semicon firms of 2007 by revenue

December 15, 2007 Comments off

According to Gartner, the top 10 semiconductor firms for 2007 by revenue are: Intel, Samsung Electronics, Toshiba, Texas Instruments, STMicroelectronics, Infineon Technologies (including Qimonda), Hynix Semiconductor, Renesas Technology, NXP Semiconductors, and NEC Electronics.

Worldwide semiconductor revenue totaled $270.3 billion in 2007, a 2.9 percent increase from 2006, according to preliminary results from Gartner Inc.

Vendor performances were mixed with two vendors in the top 10 that experienced double-digit growth and two vendors that showed declines in revenue.

“Semiconductor vendors need to watch the performance of their end customers even closer as a major part of the industry becomes increasingly tied to consumer spending patterns,” said Andrew Norwood, research vice president at Gartner. “Loss of market share in an end-user application, such as a mobile phone, by a customer (a mobile phone manufacturer) can have a dramatic effect on a vendor’s business.”

Intel grew revenue more than twice as fast as the semiconductor market average, and it is likely to edge up its market share to 12.2 percent in 2007 from 11.6 percent in 2006.

Intel’s growth came primarily from strong shipments of mobile PCs. Armed with a strong product lineup for enthusiast desktops and servers, Intel regained lost share in those markets from AMD.

While the global market for dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) is expected to decline in 2007 due to a severe drop in prices caused by oversupply, Samsung Electronics is likely to increase its revenue by slightly higher than the overall global semiconductor market growth rate (DRAM is one the firm’s main products).

Samsung’s growth is driven by steady revenue growth in NAND flash memory and strong revenue growth in nonmemory areas such as application processors, media integrated circuits (IC), complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor, smart card ICs and LCD driver ICs.

Toshiba’s revenue increased 27.8 percent in 2007 to $12,504 million, gaining three places in the rankings and moving into third place. The rapid gains mainly came from NAND flash memory.

Toshiba also increased production of CMOS image sensors for mobile phones and application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs)/application-specific standard products (ASSPs) revenue for digital consumer electronics, including LCD TVs, next-generation DVDs (HD DVDs) and video game consoles.

IDC’s semicon predictions and top 10 vendors

August 22, 2007 Comments off

Looks like a season of predictions in semiconductors. Just a few weeks back, I was looking at IC Insights’ top 20 global semicon rankings by sales. And now, we have IDC’s list of the top 10 vendors by revenue, along with predictions of its own. Let’s look at the table.

According to IDC’s table, Intel, Samsung and Texas Instruments held on to the number 1, 2 and 3 positions respectively, with TI showing the highest growth percentage in revenue among the top three leaders.

With the exception of Intel, Renesas, and NXP, all other vendors in IDC’s 2006 top 10 ranking showed positive growth. Hynix grew at an amazing rate of 43 percent over the same period thanks to the company’s growing position in DRAM and NAND.

Now, if we look back at IC Insights’ ranking from a few weeks ago, I find some differences. First, the similarity — The top three — Intel, Samsung and TI, retain their positions in both tables!

However, in IC Insights’ table, ST and Toshiba exchanged the next two positions, as did Hynix and TSMC, while Renesas was at no. 8! Freescale dropped from no. 9 to no. 16, while Sony, NXP and NEC gained one place each. Infineon climbed back up to no. 12, from no. 16, while Qualcomm occupied the no. 13 position, up from no. 17. AMD dropped two positions, from no. 13 to no. 15.

In IDC’s table (by semicon revenue), STMicroelectronics, Toshiba, Renesas, Hynix, AMD, Freescale and NXP occupied positions 4th to 10th, respectively. IDC has made some predictions as well. These include:

Outlook for 2007
* Demand for semiconductors is centered on the big three segments: PC and mobile phone unit volume is steady, led by emerging regions and low-end products. Consumer demand is lackluster, but excess inventory has subsided and IDC expects the design momentum to lead to healthy volume growth during the holiday season.
* DRAM and NAND are experiencing much lower revenue outlook this year following the severe price correction in the first half of 2007.
* Microprocessor market remains flat this year.

Long-term trends
* Emerging regions will boost semiconductor volume growth.
* Multimedia-rich mobile phones continue to drive semiconductor content and demand for processing, memory consumption, and power management.
* Personal computing further migrates toward mobility and low-priced form factors.
* Video processing proliferates across multiple consumer electronic segments, resulting in strong growth for semiconductor suppliers.
* Semiconductor connectivity technologies drive new usage models across device segments.
* Growth in personal content implies increasing need for storage, including NAND.

By the way, IDC’s Worldwide Semiconductor Market Forecaster predicts that the 2007 revenue slowdown in the worldwide semiconductor market will make way to a healthier 2008!

The worldwide semiconductor market will grow at a conservative rate of 4.8 percent in 2007, compared to 8.8 percent in 2006. IDC expects growth to resume at 8.1 percent in 2008 based on the current outlook. Interesting days ahead in semicon!

Shifts in top 20 global semicon rankings

July 30, 2007 Comments off

If the recent preliminary results released by IC Insights is anything to go by, there have been some movements among the top 20 semiconductor companies of the world during H1-2007. This is best illustrated by the table below.

While the top three — Intel, Samsung and TI, retain their positions, ST and Toshiba have exchanged the next two positions, as have Hynix and TSMC, while Renesas remains at no. 8!

Freescale has taken a big drop from no. 9 to no. 16, while Sony, NXP and NEC gained one place each. Infineon has climbed back up to no. 12, from no. 16, while Qualcomm occupies the no. 13 position, up from no. 17. AMD dropped two positions, from no. 13 to no. 15.

Will the semicon industry see a tight year ahead? As per reports, IC Insights said that there should be a “noticeable seasonal rebound” in overall IC demand beginning in September 2007, which may cause “significant changes” in the top 20 semiconductor ranking in the second half of 2007. Wait and watch this space!

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