Monthly Archives: June 2016

Launch.

2.5D & 3D ICs — Do We Have A Liftoff?

All the work that’s been done on stacked die really could pay off soon.

 

The challenges of Moore’s law scaling at advanced technology nodes are well documented. I won’t repeat them here. The benefits of “more than Moore” scaling (i.e., 2.5D and 3D ICs) are also well-known. This technology has shown great promise to provide an alternate path for large-scale integration. The technology has seen a lot of research effort, infrastructure support, standards development and technical publication. It’s just about ready to enter the mainstream, and it’s been this way for a while now. And that’s the problem.

 

I’ve personally been involved in 3D IC efforts for several years now. In the early days, my focus was on 3D IC “stack planning.” Translation: Tools to help understand which 2.5/3D IC stack configuration will provide the desired power, performance and cost profile. Questions addressed here include what type of memory and memory interface to use, what type of (and how many) interposers are required and which function to map to what technology node. Many options to consider, typically with budget to implement only one of them, so it better be the right one.

 

Launch.

 

Much work was expended on building these tools, and the user base was quite small, but very smart and vocal. I would often get asked when all this work would pay off with higher tool sales. I would always say the same thing. “Soon, 2.5/3D IC is just about to take off.”

 

More recently, I’ve been looking at the problem from the implementation end of the spectrum. How to build substrates for 2.5D ICs and how to integrate the system on them. There are many challenges here. What substrate material, what routing pitch, how to source and test the die that go onto that substrate and so on. eSilicon presented some pioneering work at a recent 3D IC conference regarding a 2.5D system built with an organic substrate. The results are quite promising and we believe this technology will see significant interest, as 2.5/3D IC is just about to take off.

 

The good news is that this time, liftoff for 2.5/3D IC might be real. There is a definite increase in the number of product plans incorporating this technology. A basic driver for any new technology like this is cost. Test and yield drive cost, and there are promising improvements in both areas. New strategies to test at the die-level more efficiently are emerging. Process improvements are making silicon substrates more reliable, and organic substrates are showing great promise as well. Initial products will likely be based on 2.5D technology, with full (vertical stack) 3D implementation following later.

 

So, if you’re a substrate vendor, semi equipment supplier, EDA tool developer or IP developer, maintain a positive outlook. All that work could pay off soon…

 

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This is a guest post by Mike Gianfagna of eSilicon

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A guide to IoT CPUs

he Internet of Things is a fast-growing industry built on the promise of ubiquitous connectivity that will enable billions of devices to talk to each other and to people. The estimates for the number of IoT devices to ship by 2020 can vary widely, from the more conservative six billion figure presented by the Linley Group to the breath-taking 200 billion projection provided by Intel.

 

Although the IoT market presents a gigantic opportunity, I’ll leave its exact definition for another article. For the purpose of this blog post, I will therefore refer to IoT to mean any new device that integrates a sensor, a CPU and connectivity; this includes everything from wearablesmobile or home entertainment devices to connected cars, smart farming, energy, healthcare and other M2M applications.

 

The type of processors deployed inside connected devices is largely influenced by the type of sensing needed for the target application. For example, some devices will perform a limited amount of processing on data sets such as temperature, humidity, pressure or gravity; more complicated systems however will need to handle (multiple) high-resolution sound or video streams.

 

Until recently, many consumer and industrial IoT devices have been reusing semiconductor productsdesigned for other markets such as mobile or embedded applications. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the IoT market is clearly segmented alongside five major categories (as shown below). Therefore designing custom SoCs for each distinct category of IoT devices can provide several advantages over reusing old solutions across multiple segments.

 

Even though the individual requirements for these SoCs can be quite different, there are two overarching trends that permeate throughout the entire range presented above.

 

Firstly, since a vast majority of IoT devices need some form of wireless connectivity, integrating the radio baseband on chip is becoming a standard practice. By bringing multiple communications standards such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or cellular onto the SoC, overall BOM costs as well as power consumption is significantly cut down leading to more affordable devices that have better battery life.

 

 

Imagination, TSMC IP platforms - SoC IP (7)

Secondly, having a form of hardware-enforced security implemented at the system level creates the kind of future-proof framework that IoT devices need to ensure consumers and companies alike that their sensitive data and applications will not be at risk.

 

Let’s now look at the five types of IoT devices in greater detail.

 

Smart sensors and low-power M2M applications

 

Smart sensors are essentially connected microcontrollers that integrate various analog interfaces for sensing. Their CPU performance requirements typically sit between 50 and 100 DMIPS while connectivity includes energy-efficient standards such as low power Wi-Fi (802.11n or 802.11ah), Bluetooth Smart, low power cellular (e.g. Cat-M LTE) or 802.15.4-based protocols (e.g. ZigBee, Thread, 6LoWPAN, Z-Wave etc.)

 

Standing Egg sensor hub - hw block diagram_v2

Standing Egg has designed a MIPS-based MCU for sensor fusion and M2M applications

Connected audio and video

 

Connected audio is a category that includes everything from Bluetooth-based speakers to high-end home cinema systems (e.g. sound bars). Depending on the target applications, the CPU needs to scale from a high-performance MCU delivering 300 to 500 DMIPS to an area-efficient application processor capable of around 1000 DMIPS. On the connectivity front, most semiconductor devices for wireless audio applications integrate Bluetooth (Classic or Smart) and/or Wi-Fi.

 

JBL_Go_Smart

JBL Go Smart is a MIPS-based connected speaker

 

Choosing the specific flavor of the 802.11 protocol depends on the target application; for example, a connected speaker similar to the Amazon Echo Dot shouldn’t require more than 802.11n Wi-Fi. For more complicated setups (i.e. multi-room, multi-channel Dolby Atmos home theaters) a bump to 802.11ac might be required to ensure there is enough bandwidth to feed the entire mesh network.

 

The connected video segment refers to Chromecast-type devices and connected or IP cameras used for streaming or recording video, respectively. IP cameras for example typically have a very basic UI and thus do not require an embedded GPU capable of rendering 3D graphics.

Quanta_WebRTC_ IPcamera

The Quanta WebRTC IP camera supports VP8 and H.264 encoding and integrates a MIPS CPU

 

The internal architecture of an IP camera chip looks very similar to a connected audio SoC – the only notable differences are the presence of a video engine integrated on chip and a wired connectivity interface (e.g. Ethernet). Meanwhile, wireless displays are terminals that simply mirror or extend the surface of a more sophisticated smart device.

 

High-performance computing devices

 

Multimedia-rich devices require an application processor that integrates the full range of processing capabilities needed for today’s complex workloads; this includes a multicore CPU, powerful 3D graphics, a multi-standard video encoder and decoder and all-round connectivity. As with the other categories above, the exact configuration of each chip varies depending on the particular application.

 

For example, most video analytics platforms will process data locally before sending the results to the cloud. Therefore, these systems require a very powerful and highly integrated multimedia pipeline that includes a multicore GPU or specialized vision hardware capable of handling advanced AI algorithms. In the case of smart cameras SoCs, the connectivity will probably be covered by high-speed Wi-Fi (e.g. 802.11ac 2×2). For ADAS applications however, V2X-based cellular communications (802.11p) is probably the best way to go.

 

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Video analytics as performed by the ELVEES ELISE SoC (MIPS + PowerVR + Ensigma on a chip)

 

In the case of connected home devices with high-resolution displays and rich UIs, the right balance must be struck between processing requirements, power consumption and cost. One such example is the smart TV and set-top box segment where the overall system costs is one of the main drivers. For this category, a more graphics-oriented GPU that is optimized for area efficiency is more suitable; the same can be said for the multicore CPU or the radio processor. If system designers can combine digital TV and wireless connectivity in one single SoC-ready solution, then they reduce costs significantly by not sourcing dedicated chips for each protocol.

 

Designing an SoC for wearables on the other hand is all about minimizing power consumption. Depending on the target market and use case, wearables can be configured as a standalone device or tethered to a smartphone; and thus the system designer faces a number of key system options. This means reducing the range of wireless standards to a combination of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or LTE and adopting a CPU and GPU configuration optimized for energy efficiency above anything else.

 

Ingenic Newton2 - wearable dev platform

Ingenic M200 is a MIPS-based wearable chip designed for ultra-low power consumption

 

High-density compute nodes represent a particular category where competition has heated up recently. Target applications include green computing-type systems (e.g. network and storage systems, cloud computing or large-scale data centers) that must deliver ultra-high performance capabilities in a power efficient envelope.

 

MIPS I6400 - scalability

High-density compute nodes feature a heterogeneous CPU architecture

 

A typical high-density compute node is defined by a more specialized architecture that integrates a manycore CPU alongside other hardware accelerators (e.g. GPUs, DSPs, FPGAs) used for compression, data filtering and other complex algorithms. I’m not going to spend a lot of time focusing on every block inside the SoC, but I would like to highlight a particular feature of the manycore CPU: hardware multithreading. This allows the compute node SoC designer to scale much better in terms of performance by turning on individual threads inside each of the CPUs before powering on multiple cores. This heterogeneous CPU computing solution leads to significant gains in efficiency, both in terms of area and power.

 

Conclusion

 

IoT promises to be a driving force that will create new business models and address some of the global challenges facing our society. Our scalable solutions are designed to target every level of IoT device and system and offer proven answers to typical problems including; managing wireless communications bandwidth to balance control and data transfer needs; providing sufficient local processing resources to enable rich graphical UIs or video and image processing; controlling power consumption and efficiency; and ensuring appropriate levels of network and data security.

 

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This is a guest post by Alexandru Voica is a senior marketing manager for Imagination Technologies. You can follow him on Twitter @alexvoica.

 

LFoundry

SMIC Buys 70% of LFoundry for 49M Euros

Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (“SMIC”; NYSE: SMI; SEHK: 981), one of the leading semiconductor foundries in the world and the largest and most advanced foundry in mainland China, jointly announces with LFoundry Europe GmbH (“LFE”) and Marsica Innovation S.p.A. (“MI”), the signing of an agreement on June 24, 2016 to purchase a 70% stake of LFoundry for a consideration of 49 million EUR. LFoundry is an integrated circuit wafer foundry headquartered in Italy, which is owned by LFE and MI. At the closing, SMIC, LFE and MI will own 70%, 15% and 15% of the corporate capital of the target respectively. This acquisition benefits both SMIC and LFoundry, through increased combined scale, strengthened overall technology portfolios, and expanded market opportunities for both parties to gain footing in new market sectors. This also represents the Mainland China IC foundry industry’s first successful acquisition of an overseas-based manufacturer, which marks a major step forward in internationalizing SMIC; furthermore, through this acquisition, SMIC has formally entered into the global automotive electronics market.

 

As the leading semiconductor foundry in Mainland China, in the first quarter of 2016, SMIC recorded profit for the 16th consecutive quarter with revenue of US$634.3 million, an increase of over 24% year-on-year. In 2015, SMIC recorded annual revenue of US$2.24 billion. In fiscal year 2015, LFoundry revenue reached 218 million EUR.

 

This acquisition will bring both companies additional room for business expansion. At present, SMIC’s total capacity includes 162,000 8-inch wafers per month and 62,500 12-inch wafers per month, which represents a total 8-inch equivalent capacity of 302,600 wafers per month. LFoundry’s capacity amounts to 40,000 8-inch wafers per month. Thus, by consolidating the entities, overall total capacity would increase by 13%; this combined capacity will provide increased flexibility and business opportunities for supporting both SMIC and LFoundry customers.

 

SMIC has a diversified technology portfolio, including applications such as radio frequency (“RF”), connectivity, power management IC’s (“PMIC”), CMOS image sensors (“CIS”), embedded memory, MEMS, and others—mainly for the communications and consumer markets. Complementarily, LFoundry’s key focus is primarily in automotive, security, and industrial related applications including CIS, smart power, touch display driver IC’s (“TDDI”), embedded memory, and others. Such consolidation of technologies will broaden the overall technology portfolios and enlarge the areas of future development for both SMIC and LFoundry.

 

The semiconductor industry is one of the most globalized industries; the successful establishment of a multi-country manufacturing base sets a precedent in the Mainland Chinese IC foundry industry. The union of Chinese and Italian enterprises in the semiconductor industry will bring China market opportunities to LFoundry and more potential European customers to SMIC. Both SMIC and LFoundry can further develop the business potential of the Euro-Asia market.

 

Dr. Tzu-Yin Chiu, the CEO and Executive Director of SMIC said, “The successful completion of the LFoundry srl acquisition agreement is an important step in our global strategy. Both SMIC and LFoundry will mutually benefit from the shared technology, products, human talents and complementary markets. This will additionally expand our production scale and allows us to service the automotive IC market and for LFoundry to enter into China’s consumer electronics market, thus bolstering our overall development and growth. Through the acquisition, communication and cooperation in the semiconductor industry between China and Europe has been further enhanced, and contributes to the mutual success of the integrated circuit industry in both regions. In the future SMIC will continue to enhance, strengthen, and further expand leadership in the global semiconductor ecosystem.”

 

Sergio Galbiati, the Managing Director of MI and Chairman of LFoundry srl, said, “This is the beginning of a new era for LFoundry and our Italian fab. We are pleased to become part of a very strong worldwide player, SMIC. Together we can further improve LFoundry’s strength on optical sensor related technology, which is well recognized worldwide, and continue to contribute to the growth of technology in Europe, thanks to our partnerships with many relevant players. The agreement with SMIC will enable us to have a stronger level playing field in Europe.”

 

Günther Ernst, the Managing Director of LFE and CEO of LFoundry srl, said, “We have made significant efforts in achieving technology excellence. The agreement with SMIC will further enable us to better use our own manufacturing capacity and have access to SMIC’s extremely diverse technology offerings while taking advantage of SMIC’s commercial network and overall capacity. As part of SMIC, LFoundry will continue to pioneer technology to help our customers achieve success and drive value for our partners and employees around the world. We look forward to working closely with the SMIC team to ensure a smooth transition.”

 

LFoundry

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Increased Use of Semiconductors in the Automotive Will Boost the Semiconductor Equipment Market

According to the latest market research report by Technavio, the global semiconductor capital equipment marketis expected to reach USD 47.34 billion mark by 2020.

In this report, Technavio covers the present scenario and growth prospects of the global semiconductor capital equipment market education market for 2016-2020. To calculate the market size, the report considers the revenue generated from each equipment of the semiconductor production process.

 

The electrification and automation of automobiles have led to the increasing need for semiconductor wafers. Different types of semiconductor ICs are used in a number of automotive products like navigation control, infotainment systems and collision detection systems. There is also a growing demand for hybrid and electric vehicles (HEVs) with increased environmental awareness and emissions legislations. The demand for driverless and smart cars will generate demand for advanced sensors over the next four years.

 

“With advances like the emergence of 3D and ultra-high definition (UHD) TVs and hybrid laptops in the consumer electronics sector, the demand for semiconductor ICs will further increase during the forecast period. This rise in demand for semiconductor ICs will, in turn, generate demand for semiconductor devices,” said Asif Gani, one of Technavio’s lead industry analysts for semiconductor equipment.

 

“Technavio researchers expect the semiconductor market to grow at a CAGR of 6.42% during the forecast period. The increase in sales of microelectronics and consumer electronic devices is anticipated to support the growth of the semiconductor market,” added Asif.

 

Global semiconductor capital equipment market by geography 2015-2020 (% share)

 

  • APAC 40.05%
  • North America 35.2%
  • Europe 7.21%
  • ROW 2.50%

 

Request sample report: http://bit.ly/1UrLazk

 

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APAC

 

In 2015, APAC accounted for USD 27.86 billion of the total revenue. A number of semiconductor foundries such as TSMC, Samsung, and SMIC are present in APAC. These foundries are driving the semiconductor capital equipment market in this region.

Taiwan is one of the key countries in the region that is creating maximum demand for semiconductor equipment. In 2015, fab equipment spending in Taiwan was above USD 10 billion, which was above 25% of the total industry spending on wafer fab equipment. South Korea and Japan are the other key contributors to the market because of the presence of different semiconductor manufacturing units.

 

North America

 

North America was the second-largest revenue contributor to the market in 2015 and generated USD 7.23 billion revenue for the same year. The increase in the automotive market of the US and the shipments of communication devices, such as smartphones and phablets, have been driving the production of semiconductor ICs in the region. The presence of few prominent semiconductor manufacturers like GlobalFoundries and Intel that fabricate wafers of sizes 200 nm and 300 nm have been creating demand for semiconductor capital equipment in the region. GlobalFoundries is planning to expand Fab 8.2 during the forecast period. We expect Intel to expand its facilities post 2016, creating demand in the region.

 

Europe

 

In 2015, the Europe market accounted for USD 2.8 billion revenues. Europe will grow at a relatively low rate compared to other regions because of less number of semiconductor foundries and IC manufacturers in this region. Some of the semiconductor manufacturing companies in this region are Infineon Technologies, NXP Semiconductors, and STMicroelectronics, which are contributing to the revenue from this region.

dolphin die

Dolphin Integration pushes SoC optimization to the next level with all risks managed

Minimizing the PCB footprint and the BoM cost implies embedding the Power Regulation Network (PRNet) in the SoC.

Meanwhile, minimizing drastically the SoC power consumption involves implementing several modes of activity to turn on and off different functions of the SoC, which generates noise on the supply lines during mode switching.

 

Dolphin Integration is pioneering the fabric of PRNet:

Discover the solutions to achieve the lowest power consumption with the smallest silicon area thanks to the mastery of noise propagated on supply lines:

 

 

                       – eSR-Niagara, a switching regulator providing the best compromise between  power savings (down to a mere 5 % of energy waste) and small silicon area.

                      – qLR-Aubrey, a linear regulator with an ultra-low quiescent current of 150 nA including the voltage reference, to supply the Always-on Power Domain.

                      – Retention Alternating Regulator (RAR), a unique voltage regulator, first of its kind, which ensures the lowest waste of energy in each power mode – both active and retention – of a power island.

                     –  nLR-Charny, an ultra low-noise linear regulator to supply sensitive analog converters or RF loads.

                      – iLR-Victoria, a linear regulator to supply logic loads or conventional analog loads. It combines small area with fast load transient and fast wake-up time….

 

  • DELTA Integration Rules, a set of guidelines ensuring that all constraints are addressed at PRNet level.

 

Pushing SoC optimizations near the limits and risking to improperly size the PRNet is daunting! Dolphin Integration’s voltage regulators, benefiting from the Delta Integration Rules, allow proceeding with a set of unavoidable verifications when dealing with embedded PRNet, and enable SoC designers to determine necessary but not oversized margins.

 

To easily proceed with the needed verifications, Dolphin Integration enables simulating early in the design flows thanks to EDA Solutions.

dolphin die

 

About Dolphin Integration

Dolphin Integration contributes to “enabling low-power Systems-on-Chip” for worldwide customers – up to the major actors of the semiconductor industry – with high-density Silicon IP components best at low-power consumption.

The “Foundation IP” of this offering involves innovative libraries of standard cells, register files and memory generators. The “Fabric IP” of voltage regulators, Power Island Construction Kits and their control network MAESTRO enable a flexible assembly with their loads. They especially star the “Feature IP”: from high-resolution converters for audio and measurement applications to power-optimized 8 or 16 and 32 bit micro-controllers.

 

Over 30 years of experience in the integration of silicon IP components, providing services for ASIC/SoC design and fabrication with its own EDA solutions, make Dolphin Integration a genuine one-stop shop addressing all customers’ needs for specific requests.

It is not just one more supplier of Technology, but the provider of the DOLPHIN INTEGRATION know-how!

The company strives to incessantly innovate for its customers’ success, which has led to two strong differentiators:

  • state-of-the-art “panoplies of Semiconductor IP components” for high-performance applications securing the most competitive SoC architectural solutions,
  •    a team of Integration and Application Engineers supporting each user’s need for optimal application schematics, demonstrated through EDA solutions enabling early performance assessments.

Its social responsibility has been from the start focused on the design of integrated circuits with low-power consumption, placing the company in the best position to now contribute to new applications for general power savings through the emergence of the Internet of Things.

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3 Myths About Electronic Design You Need to Stop Believing Now

Evident in ubiquitous products like cellphones, laptops, and televisions, electronic design is a large part of everyday life. Electronic designers determine many aspects of these gadgets, from their particular features, prices, and longevity. They are pressured to design, create, and produce modern technology rapidly in accordance to the increased demand for high tech products. Moreover, in order to meet various customer requirements, electronic designers construct reliable and economical solutions. Yet, since electronic design involves complex modern technology, many people are often quick to accept inaccurate information about the designing process. These myths lead to misuse of pervasive technologies, which can result in risky consequences. Here are three myths about electronic design you need to stop believing now:

 

Electronic design is only important to government regulators and industry gurus

 

People frequently overlook the significance of electronic design due to its complex nature. Subsequently, they assume that the small details are not only too sophisticated but also irrelevant. However, this is a common mistake, particularly made by those working outside of safety- and security-critical industries. Our lives are tremendously impacted by so many electronic devices in countless ways, from the Global Positioning System in our vehicles to the music in our cell phones.

 

Although electronic design is especially important to government officials and industry experts, it is essential for all technology users to understand the basics of electronic design. By doing so, we can understand the capabilities of our everyday technologies and how to use them safely and efficiently. Through unique and complex steps, electronic designers work to create effective, reliable, and low cost products that satisfy the demands of the consumer. In the electronic design process, the engineer designs the product, creates a prototype, tests the material, evaluates the outcome, and produces the final device. Although the process may seem complicated, it is important for technology users to gain at least the most basic understanding of electronic design. In addition, we can become better electronic users and smarter shoppers.

 

Quantitative analysis is better than human intuition.

 

In our contemporary and digitized society where electronics are continuously becoming more pervasive, we depend on technology to produce accurate results rapidly. Although this reliance on technology promotes faster outcome, there is a lack of creativity and innovation. Furthermore, electronics can’t reason like the human mind can. In spite of human bias that can often distract us, creative thinking is imperative during the electronic designing process. Electronic designers work to meet all of the customers’ needs, which cannot be calculated electronically. Determining these needs and the methods of satisfying them are captured by human intuitions. The designing process particularly needs the creativity and ingenuity of the human mind to generate original ideas.

 

This myth leads to another misunderstanding that true business insights can be found through automated means alone. For example, an analysis may methodically determine an error but only a person who has years of experience can understand why the issue even exists and know the methods of solving the problem.

 

Most electronic design processes have identical chief elements.

 

Although the main process of designing electronics may be similar, the specific elements are not interchangeable. With the growing demand for new high tech products, the electronic design industry continues to increase. In fact, the high demand for new products provides challenges for electronic designers to model complex designs for new products. Electronic designers have to not only customize the model for the particular product but also analyze the interactions among countless constituent parts in their designs to ensure that the final product is complete and easy to manufacture. The various steps of electronic design, from hardware design to production, differ with each product and its components. Even if two products have identical features, each one has to be designed and created through distinct processes. For instance, a television and a cell phone can both display videos. However, customers demand different features in cell phones and televisions, such as remote controlled television and touch screen phone. Since there are dissimilar requirements, the electronic designer has to integrate these differences through the entire design, prototype creation, product test, evaluation, and production processes.

 

About the author: Kathy Yoo is an SEO & Outreach Intern at The Marketing Zen Group and enjoys writing content on behalf of the electronic design gurus at Pivot International. As an avid traveller and learner from Canada, she loves exploring different cultures and cheering for the Toronto Raptors. Catch up with her on Twitter @kathy__yoo