The world’s SOI wafer leader, Soitec is posting strong sales and issuing a steady stream of compelling announcements. This is clearly good news for everyone in the SOI ecosystem, as the outlook for the various families of SOI wafers is excellent.
Soitec CEO Paul Boudre told ASN, “I’m excited because of the fundamentals behind the growth. Reaching down the supply chain gives us the ability to help our customers with the next generation. We’re not in a technology push, but in a technology pull. It’s long-term growth we’re seeing.”
Soitec has brought people from the device side into the company to better understand the solutions customers need, he said. They’re talking to the carmakers, telcos and more, working one-on-one with them to understand the constraints and the problems they are trying to fix, in order to deliver a solution based on the Soitec product roadmap. Boudre is particularly excited about 5G. It’s not just new handsets and systems: the entire infrastructure will require a massive upgrade, across which Soitec has a role to play supplying SOI wafers.
They also have other SOI and engineered substrates for specific markets like filters, displays, imaging and power. He adds that they’re seeing nice growth in SOI wafers for photonics, driven by cloud computing, and for smart power in markets like automotive and white goods.
Here’s a roundup of some recent developments. Chips made on RF-SOI wafers are in every mobile phone made on the planet these days, so lets look at what they’re doing there first. We’ll follow that with an update on the surge of activity on FD-SOI wafers.
It’s no secret that the runaway success of RF-SOI for front-end modules (FEMs) in mobile phones has stretched wafer capacity mightily. To help address this, in February 2019 Soitec and China’s SOI wafer leader Simgui announced an enhanced partnership and increased production capacity of 200mm SOI wafers in China, securing future growth. The two companies redefined their manufacturing and licensing relationship to better serve to better serve the growing global market for RF-SOI in mobile and Power-SOI in automotive and consumer electronics.
Since the two companies signed their original licensing and technology transfer agreement in May 2014, Simgui has mastered Soitec’s Smart Cut™ proprietary process to deliver world-class RF-SOI and Power-SOI products. Simgui’s strategic partnership with Soitec allows them to use the same tools and processes to deliver the same products meeting the same specifications.
Simgui has invested in their Shanghai fabrication line in order to double annual 200mm SOI wafer production capacity from 180,000 to 360,000. The fab is production ready, having been qualified by multiple key customers inside and outside China.
Simgui CEO Dr. Jeffrey Wang notes, “China has design, wafer manufacturing and good momentum in the IC industry. We are committed to our strategic partnership with Soitec to keep advancing SOI as China’s key differentiator.”
China Mobile’s interest in the SOI ecoystem is clear: they’ve presented at the SOI symposia in Shanghai for two years running now. In a February 2019 press release, Soitec announced that they’ve joined the China Mobile 5G Innovation Center – and they’re the first materials supplier to do so. The China Mobile 5G Innovation Center is an international alliance chartered to develop 5G communication solutions for China, the world’s largest wireless communications market with 925M mobile subscribers. The Center aims to accelerate the development of 5G by establishing a cross-industry ecosystem, setting up open labs to create new products and applications, and fostering new business and market opportunities.
Soitec’s RF-SOI wafers have been critical in the deployment of 4G communications, and the opportunity in 5G is even bigger. Plus the company’s FD-SOI wafers enable the technology that brings unique RF performance, making it an ideal solution for many applications including mmWave communications such as 5G transceivers. They are also enabling full RF and ultra-low-power computing integration for IoT and edge computing.
In January 2019, Soitec announced that they have expanded their collaboration with Samsung Foundry on the FD-SOI wafer supply, securing the high-volume Samsung needs to meet industry’s current and future demands in consumer, IoT and automotive applications. The agreement is built on the existing close relationship between the companies and guarantees wafer supply for Samsung’s FD-SOI platform starting with the 28FDS process.
“Samsung has been committed to delivering transformative industry leading technologies,” said Ryan Lee, Vice President of Foundry Marketing at Samsung Electronics. “FD-SOI is currently setting a new standard in many high-growth applications including IoT with ultra-low-power devices, automotive systems such as vision processors for ADAS and infotainment, and mobile connectivity from 5G smartphones to wearable electronics. Through this agreement with Soitec, our long-term strategic partner, we hope to lay the foundation for steady supply to meet high-volume demands of current and future customers.”
“This strategic agreement validates today’s high-volume manufacturing adoption of FD-SOI,” said Christophe Maleville, Soitec’s Executive Vice President, Digital Electronics Business Unit. “Soitec is ready to support Samsung’s current and long-term growth for ultra-low power, performance-on-demand FD-SOI solutions.”
In February 2019 Soitec announced they’d become a strategic partner in Silicon Catalyst’s start-up incubator. Silicon Catalyst is a Silicon Valley-based incubator providing silicon-focused start-ups access to a world-class network of advisors, design tools, silicon devices, networking, access to funding and marketing acumen needed to successfully launch their businesses.
Soitec will engage in this start-up ecosystem to gain insight into the newest technologies and applications across high-growth markets, and to guide nascent technologies to successful market penetration.
“As a Strategic Partner of Silicon Catalyst, Soitec has a unique opportunity to grow our visibility among early-stage semiconductor companies,” said Thomas Piliszczuk, Executive VP of Global Strategy for Soitec. “Engineered substrates give semiconductor related start-ups a competitive edge in developing new high-performance, energy-efficient solutions.”
Pete Rodriguez, CEO of Silicon Catalyst said, “Soitec is creating technical advances that are enabling the next generation of products across many market segments. Their SOI technology is a key ingredient to meet the diverse challenges for breakthrough differentiated semiconductor products, combining ultra-low power with excellent analog/mixed-signal performance.”
And finally, jumping back a few months, at the end of 2018 Soitec announced that their SOI wafers are at the heart of a new Renesas SOTBTM energy harvesting chipset, opening a self-powered future for IoT devices. SOTB is how Renesas refers to its FD-SOI technology.
(BTW, here at ASN we’ve been covering the work that Renesas has quietly done on this technology since 2005 (!). And we did a piece about an EETimes Japan article back in 2015 that revealed the launching of the 65nm work. )
Soitec supports the Renesas SOTB chipset with a special version of its FD-SOI wafer product line. The new Renesas SOTB-based chipset overcomes the energy constraints of IoT devices and reduces the power consumption to approximately one-tenth that of the existing products in the market today. That makes the chipset perfectly suited for extreme low-power, maintenance-free and energy harvesting applications including wearable devices, smart home applications, smart watches, portable appliances, infrastructure monitoring systems, industrial, business, agricultural, healthcare, as well as health and fitness apparel, shoes, drones and more.
Renesas has developed its energy harvesting chip using its unique SOTB 65nm process technology that achieves both low active current of 20 μA/MHz and deep standby current of 150 nA. As a result, Renesas’ SOTB chipsets offer enhanced control of the transistor electrostatics and reductions in both the standby and active currents to levels never before achieved. Additionally, Renesas has successfully delivered the dopant-less channel to suppress Vth variability for the ultra-low voltage operation, and the ultra-low power back bias control to reduce the standby current at the same time.
“To spur innovations in IoT and consumer applications, we have integrated our exclusive energy-harvesting SOTB technologies into our Energy Harvest Controller,” said Mr. Toru Moriya, Vice President of Renesas’ Home Business Division, Industrial Solutions Business Unit. “We are confident that our SOTB technology built on Soitec’s ultrathin substrates can deliver unmatched capabilities for developing maintenance-free IoT devices that never require power supply or replacement, giving rise to a new IoT global market based on endpoint intelligence.”
The new R7F0E Embedded Controller is the first device based on Renesas’ SOTB technology. Developers can now design applications that need no battery or recharging. The R7F0E features: an Arm® Cortex® -M0＋; operating frequency up to 32 MHz, and up to 64 MHz in boost mode (that’s body bias in action!); memory of up to 1.5 MB flash, 256 KB SRAM; and active current consumption while operating at 3.0V of just 20 µA/MHz, and in deep standby of 150 nA with real-time clock source and reset manager. As of this writing, Renesas indicates it’s engaging select customers through July 2019, with mass production in 4Q19. Read more about the R7F0E on the Renesas website.
There were over 220 participants at the recent SOI Academy FD-SOI Training event organized in Shanghai. The event extended over two days, with the first day covering a basic introduction to the technology as well as the ecosystem worldwide and in China. The second day was hands-on professional training. Attendees got a comprehensive understanding of how to leverage the benefits and flexibility of FD-SOI design techniques for low-power chips including logic, mixed-signal/RF and analog blocks.
They had a great line-up of experts from whom to learn – check out the agenda here. There was also a follow-up press release (in Chinese) from SITRI here. There will be more of these SOI Academy events in cities across China in the year to come – we’ll keep you posted (and of course, keep checking back for news on the Consortium’s Events page).
The two-day seminar and hands-on FD-SOI design training was (superbly!) co-organized by SITRI and Leti, with the support of the SOI Industry Consortium at the Jiading SIMIT campus outside of Shanghai.
Just to put this in perspective, SIMIT and SITRI are absolutely key players in China’s chip ecosystem. SIMIT is the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology, one of the most venerable institutes in the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) and one of the world’s earliest pioneers in SOI. SITRI is the Shanghai Industrial μTechnology Research Institute, an international innovation center focused on globally accelerating innovation and commercialization of More-than-Moore for IoT. Both institutions are under the aegis of Dr. Xi Wang, Chairman of SITRI, Director General of SIMIT, Academician of CAS, and champion of all things SOI in China.
At this Shanghai event, the participants came from industry (including big companies, SMEs and startups) and technical institutions. In fact as well as attendees from Shanghai people voyaged from other cities such as Shenzhen and Chengdu.
The designers participating to the FD-SOI training day were all experienced in design and highly motivated in learning FD-SOI design, notes Carlos Mazure, Chairman & Executive Director of the SOI Industry Consortium, and Executive VP of Soitec. “This made it possible to dive into the specificities of FD-SOI,” he said, adding that, “The focus on RF was very timely.”
The first afternoon opening keynotes were made by SITRI CEO Dr. Mark Ding and Leti EVP Dr. Julien Arcamone. These were followed by overview talks by execs from Soitec, Verisilicon and GlobalFoundries.
After a lively networking break, three talks delved into FD-SOI technology. The first was by Professor Sorin Cristoloveanu, Laureate of the IEEE Andrew Grove Award and Director at the CNRS (the French National Center for Scientific Research – the largest governmental research organization in France and the largest fundamental science agency in Europe). He covered device physics and characterization techniques. This was followed by talks on the technology by Soitec Fellow Bich-Yen Nguygen, and by Dr. Christophe Tretz, IBM Sr. Engineer on product design methodology.
The day ended with a dinner, where Professor Cristoloveanu says enthusiastic technical discussions continued unabated (and continued even further in follow-up emails), lots of business cards were exchanged, and opportunities for further education were explored.
The second day, designers got hands-on training from Leti experts using FD-SOI PDKs, first in the morning on digital, then in the afternoon on RF. Everyone loved the lively discussion and in-depth exchanges between the experts and the designers. They agreed that FD-SOI has important applications and differentiated competitive advantages for IoT, 5G, automotive, AI and other fields. At the end of the training, Leti and SITRI jointly issued SOI Academy certificates of completion to the designers.
Feedback from participants was very good. Some asked for further education and for hands-on testimonials from companies that are already designing and manufacturing products on FD-SOI.
“The participants were focused, motivated, involved, with good knowledge, which helped make the three hours of Digital training effective,” said Dr. Alexandre Valentian, Leti Sr. Expert, Digital Design. “The IT team was very helpful in setting up the training, the students accounts and the hardware infrastructure.”
“The training on Basics of FD-SOI RF circuit was a great success thanks to the efficiency of our Chinese partners and also thanks to the enthusiasm and the good level of our trainees. As senior Expert of CEA Leti I was really impressed by the professionalism of the organization team. For all these reasons, I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to contribute to the 2018 SOI Academy,” said Dr. Baudouin Martineau, Leti Sr. Expert, RFIC Design & Technologies.
“The professionalism, efficiency and enthusiasm of our Chinese partners and the level and technical relevance of all trainees made the training on Basics of FD-SOI RF circuit a great success and fruitful experience,” added Frédéric Hameau, Sr. RF Research Engineer, Leti Project Leader, Architecture, IC Design & Embedded Software Division, RF Architectures and ICs Laboratory. “It was a pleasure to get the opportunity to be part of this first edition of SOI academy 2018.”
The organizers would like to thank the sponsors, including: the SOI Consortium and its members Soitec, VeriSilicon, GlobalFoundries, Simgui and Cadence, as well as Mentor, ProPlus and other companies and institutions in China and worldwide. Dr. Mazure notes that special recognition must go to Dr. Julien Arcamone, EVP, Leti-CEA and to Qing Wang-Bousquet, SITRI representative, for the perfect and smooth organization, and to the Leti instructors, who are international experts and highly committed.
“As one of the main initiators and organizers of the 2018 SOI Academy, I wanted to personally thank all of you for your respective contribution to this first edition of the SOI Academy,” concludes Dr. Arcamone. “Undoubtedly, it was a great success, very well organized and fluid and we can be proud of that.”
The presentations from the SOI Consortium sponsored workshop held during Semicon West are now posted and freely available on the website – click here to see the full agenda with links to the presentations. The workshop, entitled 4G/5G Connectivity: Opportunities for the SOI Supply Chain, was well-attended and generated excellent discussions.
If you don’t have time to look at all of the ppts, here are quick overviews.
Handel Jones is an industry veteran, China expert and longtime follower of the SOI ecosystem. High performance with low power consumption are the key requirements for the continued growth in the semiconductor industry, he said, making FD-SOI the right choice for a wide range of products. Here’s how he sees it:
He estimates the yearly TAM (total available market) for FD-SOI based products in the range of $46 billion over the next 10 years, largely driven by needs for ultra-low power and RF integration. He goes on to break out volumes by applications (including ISPs – image signal processors; and CIS – CMOS image sensors), foundry markets by feature dimension and to map out technology trends.
Mobile Radio Transformation in the Age of 5G: A Perspective on Opportunities for SOI, Peter Rabbeni, Vice President, Globalfoundries.
Peter Rabbeni is an RF expert par excellence, having overseen the shipping of over 35 billion RF-SOI products to date. In his presentation, he details how 5G NR (New Radio) sub-6GHz frequency band specifications significantly increase frequency range and channel bandwidth, and how new band support and MIMO complexity and die size per handset are driving complexity in RF FEMs. Furthermore, 5G/mmWave phased arrays are driving a paradigm shift in the approaches that can be taken, he explains, so greater integration is needed. Here’s a great slide showing where GF’s two main SOI technologies come into play:
Working in partnership with industry leaders around the world, Leti has been the research powerhouse behind all things SOI since the early 1980s. In fact Reuters ranks them #2 in their most recent list of the World’s Most Innovative Research Institutions. This presentation reviews the key technical benefits of FD-SOI for IoT and IMT (that’s international mobile communications, btw).
This presentation really puts the context around engineered substrates. Here are two excellent and useful slides here that identify which engineered substrates go where in the 5G world, and the engineered substrates that Soitec provides. Check these out:
Ultra-thin Double Layer Metrology with High Lateral Resolution, Bernd Srocka, Vice President, Unity GmbH.
In case you’re not familiar with them, Unity provides a wide range of solutions in metrology and inspection. Both the top silicon layer and BOX layer of wafers for FD-SOI applications have draconian requirements that have required new approaches in metrology to ensure the thickness and homegeneity control of these very thin layers.
Shanghai-based Simgui partners with Soitec, using SmartCut™ technology for the production of RF-SOI wafers. It is doubling its capacity to reach 400K over the next year, and expanding into 300mm. China is aggressively working on 5G and plans to deploy 5G commercialization in 2020. Jeff Wang’s is a terrific presentation detailing the rollout. (BTW, in addition to the massive funding effort underway, the government created the National Silicon Industry Group (NSIG) to support the semiconductor material ecosystem in China. You’ll want to keep up with what’s going on here). Here’s the slide that summarizes the SOI ecosystem in China – the presentation then goes on to detail who does what.
Inspection and Metrology Relevance in SOI Manufacturing, Jijen Vazhaeparambil, Vice President & General Manager, KLA-Tencor.
K-T has played a strategic role in the SOI story going back for decades (and in fact they wrote a piece for the third edition of ASN back in 2005!), ensuring metrology innovations for things that hadn’t previously need detection and measurement. With each new set of requirements, they rose to the occasion with wafer metrology solutions that helped increase quality and decrease costs. This presentation recaps some of them.
FD-SOI was a very important topic during the recent Mount Qingcheng China IC Ecosystem Forum. To situate things, Mount Qingcheng, with its lush hills and waterways, is located just outside of Chengdu. That of course is where GlobalFoundries is building its new fab, which will be the first in China to run FD-SOI. Chengdu is also a key city in China’s automotive electronics landscape.
The theme of the forum was Building a Smart Automotive Electronics Industry Chain. Over 260 decision-makers from government, academia and industry attended – and the SOI Consortium had a significant presence. The event was chaired by Wayne Dai, CEO/Founder of consortium member VeriSilicon, and tireless champion of the the FD-SOI ecosystem in China and worldwide. Morning keynotes were given by: Carlos Mazure, Soitec CTO and SOI Consortium Executive Co-Director; Mark Granger, GF’s VP of Automotive Product Line Management; and Tony King-Smith, Executive Advisor at AImotive, a GF 22FDX customer.
BTW, transcripts of all the talks are available through Gasgoo, China’s largest automotive B2B marketplace. You can click here to access them. (They’re in Chinese – but you can open them in the language of your choice using the major translation websites.)
Fan Yi, Deputy Mayor of Chengdu, spoke extensively of FD-SOI in his keynote on the importance of rapidly developing smart cars.
He heralded the “spectacular” new GlobalFoundries fab there. Following a meeting with the company’s top brass the day before, he affirmed GF’s confidence in their investment. There is a solid roadmap for FD-SOI, he noted, and efforts are underway to accelerate the move into production and expand education and training. He cited the benefits of FD-SOI for the entire supply chain, from design through package and test, raising the level of the entire IC industry to new heights. The government, he said, attaches great importance to this enterprise. Their thinking regarding intelligent transport in China is integrated with the overall approach to smart cities.
In his opening remarks, Wayne Dai emphasized the need for China to seize the advantage in the next round of development opportunities in the automotive electronics industry. This year’s Qingcheng forum, he noted, brought together key representatives from across the supply chain, from of the highest to the deepest reaches of the smart car electronics industry, and across markets, technologies, solutions, industrial ecosystem, standards and regulations.
In his talk on how FD-SOI is boosting the accelerated development of automotive electronics, Carlos Mazure presented the SOI Industry Consortium. He noted that the Consortium promotes mutual understanding and development across the ecosystem. SOI is already present throughout automotive applications, he noted. There are currently about 100mm2 of SOI per car, in such diverse areas power systems, transmissions, entertainment, in-vehicle networking and more. SOI will experience especially high growth in electrification, information/entertainment, networking, 5G, AI/edge computing and ADAS. He then went on to give some history and an extensive overview of the major trends and highlights we’ve seen over recent years. He finished by giving examples of convergence across the supply chain with IC manufacturers working with automakers to lower power, increase processor performance and advance 5G.
GF’s Mark Granger addressed the rapid development of automotive electronics. In certain areas, he said, he sees growth rates of over 20%. They are working on building the Chengdu ecosystem, especially for design, and in cooperation with the rest of the supply chain. Furthermore, he reminded the audience, when you talk about cars, travel implies that you also talk about IoT as well as things like infotainment and integrated radar ICs. In addition to cost and power efficiencies, the AEC-Q100 standard for IC reliability in automotive applications is also pushing designers to turn to FD-SOI. In the GF meeting with Chengdu government officials (referenced above in deputy mayor Fan Yi’s talk), he too confirmed their support of FD-SOI as a key technology for China. GF is currently cooperating with about 75 automotive partners, he said, and the company is looking to increase cooperation with partners in the Chengdu region.
Tony King-Smith talked about the 22FDX test chip AImotive is doing with Verisilicon and GF. In case you missed it, in June 2017 AImotive announced its AI-optimized hardware IP was available to global chip manufacturers for license. AiWare is built from the ground up for running neural networks, and the company says it is up to 20 times more power efficient than other leading AI acceleration hardware solutions on the market. In the same announcement, they revealed that VeriSilicon would be the first to integrate aiWare into a chip design,and that aiWare-based test chips would be fabricated on GF’s 22FDX. The chip is expected to debut this year.
While the afternoon agenda was not specific to FD-SOI, it did focus on the “smart cockpit” and “intelligent driving”, with talks by nine leading players in China’s automotive IC and investment communities.
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Note: Many thanks to the folks at VeriSilicon, who wrote up this event for their WeChat feed, and shared photos with us here at ASN.
“GlobalFoundries, TowerJazz, TSMC and UMC are expanding or bringing up RF SOI processes in 300mm fabs in an apparent race to garner the first wave of RF business for 5G, the next-generation wireless standard,” writes Mark Lapedus of Semiconductor Engineering. His recent piece, RF-SOI Wars Begin, explains why demand across the supply chain is currently tight.
Rest assured, the supply situation is being addressed fast. By next year, 300mm-based RF-SOI manufacturing (vs. 200mm) will increase from 5% to 20%. But with insatiable end-user demand for greater throughput, overall RF-SOI device demand is increasing in the double-digit range, so 200mm-based manufacturing is also expanding fast.
SOI wafer manufacturer Soitec has 70% of the RF-SOI wafer market share. The other RF-SOI wafer manufacturers – Shin-Etsu, GlobalWafers and Simgui – all use Soitec’s RF-SOI wafer manufacturing technology.
This is an excellent, comprehensive piece, that clearly explains the complexities of the markets, the devices, the manufacturing and the supply chain. It’s a highly recommended read.
BTW, the SOI Consortium is organizing a 4G/5G SOI supply chain workshop during Semicon West (July ’18). Sign up or get more information on that under the Events tab here on the consortium website.
Of course, here at ASN, we’ve been covering RF-SOI for over a decade. You can use our RF-SOI tag to access most of the pieces we’ve done over the years.
Some really innovative start-ups presented chips they’re doing on FD-SOI at the SOI Consortium’s 2018 SOI Symposium in Silicon Valley. We’ll cover those here in Part 3 of ASN’s coverage, as well as a presentation on China by wafer-maker Simgui and the final panel discussion.
BTW, if somehow you missed my coverage of the morning sessions about very cool new products and projects from NXP, Sony, Audi, Airbus and Andes Technology, be sure to click here to read it. And in the afternoon the foundry partners provided excellent insight into who’s designing chips on FD-SOI, and VLSIresearch explained why. You can read that here.
Some of the presentations are posted on the SOI Consortium Events page – but some won’t be. Either way, I’ll cover them here.
Ineda Systems began as an ADAS start-up, and are now working on developing low-power SoCs for use in consumer and enterprise applications. They’re using FD-SOI for their current family of chips. SVP Ramkumar Subramanian emphasized that NRE costs are really important for smaller designs. 22FDX, he said, enabled them to move from 40nm, and ramp to larger volumes.
In February, GreenWaves Technologies, a fabless semiconductor startup designing disruptive ultra-low power embedded solutions for image, sound and vibration AI processing in sensing devices, announced its GAP8 IoT application processor. GAP8 evaluation boards can now be ordered. The GAP8 agile power management architecture combined with IOT low duty cycling is a perfect fit for FDSOI processes. CEO Loic Lietar talked about how it would be used in AI applications at the very edge, wherein only the necessary data should be uploaded to the cloud.
Also in February, Dream Chips’ announced that its ADAS SoC fabbed in GlobalFoundries’ 22FDX (FD-SOI) technology was posting record power efficiency (you can read more about it in ASN’s coverage at the time here.) Dream Chips is Germany’s largest independent Engineering Service Provider. At the symposium, CEO Jens Benndor’s talked about their roadmap.
eVaderis CEO Jean Pascal Bost talked about how data-intensive IoT applications are enabled with FD-SOI and embedded magnetoresistive non-volatile memory (eMRAM) technology. You can get the slides from his talk here. eVaderis has eflash-like and eSRAM-like eMRAM IP that covers most MCU applications. They also have an eMRAM compiler tool and high-value-added IP for 22FDX. They foresee impressive power savings at the system level with body biasing: 25x this year and up to 45x in 2020, so that intelligence can be brought to IoT. In February they announced that they are co-developing an ultra-low power MCU reference design using GF’s eMRAM technology on the 22FDX® platform. And in March eVaderis and Mentor/Siemens announced that eVaderis proprietary Magnetic Tunnel Junction (MTJ) model would be co-optimized with AFS to speed-up simulations and generations of embedded MRAM IPs and compiler products with good accuracy.An 22FDX MCU reference design project is underway, with tape-out in July ’18.
Reduced Energy Microsystems (REM) CEO William Coven talked about realizing near-threshold computing with 22FDX and low-power memories. REM has two products on 22FDX: their Neuron Vision SoC and 64-bit RISC-V IP cores. 22FDX, he says, has been fantastic.
Jeffrey Wang, the CEO of wafer-maker Simgui looked at why China is promoting its IC industry. (In the SOI ecosystem, Simgui is particularly known for its RF-SOI wafers, which it produces using Soitec’s Smart CutTM process.) This was more of an overview talk, not necessarily specific to the SOI ecosystem, but certainly interesting.
In terms of worldwide semiconductor sales, he said, about half end up in China. The CICF – aka the Big Fund – is currently running at about $74 billion. Having realized that mergers & acquisitions would not solve the problem, they’ve opened a second round, targeting another $160 billion.
China’s two biggest innovation success stories are Huawei (with its Kirin processor), and China Rail, which is now a global Fortune 500 company. The CAGR for the China semiconductor industry is 19%, though they need 20% to reach their goals.
IC design is a particularly successful area, posting a CAGR of 29%, with two players in China in the top 10 worldwide. Packaging and assembly/test are also very strong. Zing is working on increasing the supply of 300mm silicon wafers, while Simgui is expanding in both 200 and 300mm capex, due to “big demand”, he said.
The day wrapped up with an excellent panel discussion moderated by SOI Consortium Executive Co-Director Giorgio Cesana. Here are a few of the observations made by the panelists.
QuickLogic CTO Tim Saxe said that FD-SOI made their designs more compact. With FD-SOI for FPGAs, you’ve got one set of IP, and you can decide at runtime where you’re going for low power or high performance. With a lot of power domains, you see the benefits at the system level.
GF VP Dave Eggleston said they’re seeing early adopters of eMRAM, especially for wearables with RF and low power.
ARM VP Kelvin Low said people should do more than just migrate to FD-SOI. If they use back biasing, it can replace the need for big/little cores.
Body biasing makes things easier, maintained Verisilicon CEO Wayne Dai. His teams find that with body biasing, you can tape out for “typical” instead of “worst case”.
It’s not too late for FD-SOI: it’s perfect timing for the MCU market, which is still at 40nm, said Sankalp Semi CEO Samir Patel. As designers, they’re happy to focus on companies still on the older nodes.
The IP ecosystem should be more enthusiastic about FD-SOI, said Analog Bits EVP Mahesh Tirupattur. You’ve got more potential customers, and your volume runs can be bigger.
In his closing remarks, SOI Consortium Executive Co-Director Carlos Mazure reminded the audience of the day’s three take-aways:
China Mobile is the world’s largest* telco. So when Danni Song, one of the company’s high-level project managers presented at the SOI Consortium’s 5th International RF-SOI Workshop in Shanghai, you can bet people listened. With each new slide, a glowing sea of cell phone cameras rose over the heads of the audience in the huge, packed ballroom.
Over the last month, there’s been a lot more coverage of 5G in the press (especially after the recent Mobile World Congress (MWC) – check out Junko Yoshida’s EETimes piece for example). For ASN readers who want to know more about 5G and RF-SOI in China, here’s a reminder that Song’s presentation, and many of the others given by leading companies at the RF-SOI Workshop last fall, are now posted on and freely available the Consortium website Events page. Click here for the listing and links.
The theme of the workshop was IoT, mobile, 5G connectivity, and mmW. As Dr. Xi Wang, Director General of SIMIT/CAS (the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem & Information Technology in the Chinese Academy of Sciences), said in his opening keynote, China is strong in RF-SOI. RF-SOI will be growing at a CAGR of over 15% for the next five years, and China has production, design, wafer manufacturing and good momentum. “We will make a great contribution to the whole IC industry,” he predicted.
Of note, too, Russell Ellwanter, CEO of TowerJazz, gave what turned out to be a very inspirational keynote about Value Creation, and the importance of treating your suppliers with respect. He credits his company’s close relationship with RF-SOI wafer-supplier Soitec for TJ’s claim to the world’s best linearity. Five of their seven fabs do RF-SOI. LNA (low-noise amplifers) are a big market driver, and with RF-SOI they can integrate the LNA with the switch.
Here are some more highlights from the day – but by all means check out the presentations for details. (You can click on the illustrations to see them in full screen.)
In her presentation, Embrace a Brand New Cooperation in 5G Era, Song asked where RF-SOI could help in her wish list. Could it increase integration and decrease cost and power consumption? Can it help improve NB-IoT device performance? The supply chain needs to come back around into a circle, so that the telcos are connected to and get insights from the wafer substrate providers, she said.
China Mobile has a 5G Innovation Center, and has established test labs in 8 cities. And the government has announced a 5G launch in 2020, with pre-commercial trials now going into 20 cities. So she was at the RF-SOI Workshop as much to listen and learn as to share China Mobile’s vision.
The presentation by Kidetoshi Kawasaki, GM of Sony Semiconductor Solutions, focused on antenna tuning, which he said is one of the fastest growing things in cell phones. Antenna Tuning Progress & SOI Single Chip Integration for 4G/5G UE (note that UE = user equipment) looks at antenna aggregation, and why it is important for carrier aggregation (CA) and MIMO. Sony has developed an SOI-based next-gen process for 5G integrating passive components. That’s why RF-SOI is important and will be continued to be used in the mobile market, he said.
GF has developed demo vehicles to help customers, said Sr. Director of the RF Business Unit, Peter Rabbeni. (Over the years they’ve shipped over 32 billion RF-SOI devices, btw.) In his presentation, RF-SOI: Delivering Performance & Integration for the Next Generation of Mobile,he noted that RF is becoming more complex than digital. As a result there is a need to integrate to help reduce cost: this is a direct correlation to the standards that are driving complexity. At the same time, performance requirements are increasing, so the challenge is driving increased performance at the same or lower cost than previous generations of products.
To meet 4G/LTE and 5G’s evolving performance demands, GF has recently introduced two new RF-SOI platforms, which he detailed in the presentation. 8SW enables increased integration of front-end modules (FEMs), while 45RFSOI is for mmWave FEMs. (In a separate presentation, IDDO-IC CEO Denis Masliah presented a Differential Complementary Millimeter Wave Power Amplifier for 5G using 45RFSOI process, which is currently being fabbed by GF.)
The two leading RF-SOI wafer suppliers, Soitec and partner Simgui, both gave excellent presentations. Though Soitec EVP Bernard Aspar’s presentation Engineered Substrates as Foundation of Innovation in RF is not posted, he made some important points. Up til now, RF-SOI has mainly been about switches and tuners, he said, but there are other opportunities that offer the potential for huge growth. The full supply chain needs to be prepared, he said, and suppliers need to understand each other. Each technology requires the right substrate – and even as we move into sub-6GHz 5G, there is still work to be done in 4G. In fact Soitec is now offering services to help customers better understand new substrate options.
Soitec’s partner in China, Simgui, now uses Soitec’s Smart CutTM technology for RF-SOI wafer production. Together the two are now producing over a million 200mm RF-SOI wafers/year, said Simgui Sr. Director, Kerui Wang. His presentation, RF-SOI – a Secured Substrate Supply Chain, looked at their strategic partnership with Soitec, wherein they use the same tools and processes to deliver the same products meeting the same specs.
Two leading fabless companies – RDA Microelectronics (which was acquired by Spreadtrum) and SmarterMicro also presented their RF-SOI activities. Although their ppts are not posted, here are a few highlights.
Longtime ASN readers will recall that RDA has been shipping high-volume, RF-SOI based chips to Samsung and others for over five years. In the presentation, RF-SOI in Current and Future RFFE Solutions, Engineering AVP Joseph Jia said that over last two years alone they’ve released almost 50 RFFE (front end) chips on RF-SOI. They see RF-SOI as the right match for switches, tuners and NB-IoT because of the low-voltage and tunability advantages.
SmarterMicro’s CTO, Peter Li, sees RF-SOI as a cornerstone of 5G. In his presentation, Reconfigurable RFFE in 5G, he said the goal is smart systems on fewer dies to decrease size and cost.
Jeff Zhu, assistant director at SMIC, presented SMIC, 0.13um RF-SOI Platform Updates. Mainland China’s largest foundry has recently moved its RF-SOI process from 180 to 130um, and he walked us through some chip designs.
Throughout the day, presenters noted that RF is a great opportunity for China to take a leadership position. As one panelist at the end of the day noted, RF depends more on expertise and talent than digital, which depends more on manpower.
Just before the Shanghai events, there was a 2-day event sponsored by the City of Nanjing, co-organized by SOI Industry Consortium and the City of Nanjing. Over 200 participants attended the workshop and tutorials on SOI applications, SoC development and manufacturing, EDA & IP ecosystem, as well as a design tutorial for More than Moore SOI ecosystem. Almost all of those presentations are now posted on the Consortium – click here to get them.
Some of the participants in the SOI Consortium’s delegation also had the opportunity to visit the enormous Nanjing Sofware Park. Nanjing, we learned, is often considered China’s “RF capital”. The list of the world’s major RF players working in partnership there is certainly an international who’s who.
So, lots of good RF-SOI/5G info on the SOI Consortium website – check it out!
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EDA companies Cadence, Synopsys and Silvaco all gave excellent presentations at the SOI Consortium forums in Nanjing and Shanghai.
Here’s a recap of what the Cadence folks said. (I’ll cover the Synopsys and Silvaco presentations in my next posts.)
At the Shanghai FD-SOI Forum. Dr. Qui Wang, VP & Chief of Staff, talked about FD-SOI Foundry Enablement: From Concept to Mass Production. Cadence, he reminded the packed ballroom, is not just EDA, but also system design enablement targeting verticals. “We’re ready!” he stated.
In the last three years, they’ve done a lot of work on FD-SOI, he said, even working with ARM, GF and Dream Chip on the demo board as a reference design for automotive or vision applications, to show real data to their customers. It uses a quad implementation of the configurable Tensilica Vision P6 core.
To simplify back biasing for the library folks, they worked with the foundries to create interpolations. And as Cadence is traditionally strong in RF/mixed-signal, there’s a new back-biasing tool to simplify board-chip communications, and make the bridge between power and thermal analysis.
Jonathon Smith, Director of Strategic Alliances at Cadence, presented Enabling an Interconnected Digital World — Cadence EDA & IP Update at the Nanjing SOI summit. As he explained, his job is to ensure that design customers can use Cadence tools effectively, not just with Cadence IP, but also with 3rd party IP for the foundry nodes.
He pointed out that the numbers for IoT predictions vary widely, and that industrial IoT (IIoT) will probably account for about 10% of the market. What is sure is that it will contain a large mixed-signal component (RF/digital/analog) and complex packaging.
His customers want to know how fast and easy it is to work in FD-SOI. “Cadence custom and digital tools are ready for FD-SOI,” he said. They have the PDKs and tech files, and the EDA tools are enabled. The reference flows (both digital and custom analog) are tested and ready (Cadence customers who use p-cells and RF look especially for a good mixed-signal flow).
Customers also ask for proof points, and want to know the number of tape-outs they’ve done, performance benchmarks for working silicon and proven IP: this is what gives designers confidence, he said. Examples like Dream Chip’s Computer Vision Processor Chip Design for automotive ADAS CNN applications in 22nm FD-SOI (which they announced at Mobile World Congress in 2017 – see the press release here) have really helped build confidence further, he observed. (In case you missed it, DreamChip presented at the Silicon Valley SOI event in April 2017 – you can get that presentation here.)
Cadence sees SOI as a driving force in IoT markets. They’ve also had some big digital wins recently, he added, and have made some major announcements with the foundries.
For example, in September, they announced that their set of Design for Manufacturing (DFM) tools (signoff solutions) are now qualified on Samsung’s 28nm FD-SOI. This enables customers to create complex, advanced-node designs for the automotive, mobile, IoT, high-performance compute (HPC) and consumer markets (read the press release here). The Samsung Foundry’s PDKs for 28nm FD-SOI are available for download now and incorporate the Cadence Litho Physical Analyzer (LPA), Physical Verification System (PVS) and Cadence CMP Predictor (CCP). In addition to signoff quality, the Cadence DFM tools offer an integration with the Virtuoso® platform and the Innovus™ Implementation System, providing designers with automated fixing capabilities and overall ease of use.
And in October, Cadence announced that its digital and signoff flow, from synthesis to timing and power analysis, supports body-bias interpolation for GlobalFoundries 22FDX™ (read the press release here). The Cadence® tools enable advanced-node customers across a variety of vertical markets—including automotive, mobile, IoT and consumer applications—to use GF’s FD-SOI architecture to optimize power, performance and area (PPA).
Cadence tools for ST’s 28nm FD-SOI foundry process were ready in 2016, btw – there’s a nice video testimonial from ST on power signoff, for example, which you can see here.