Tag Archive design

Samsung’s (Very!) Good 28FDS News Just Keeps Coming

Since the beginning of the year, there’s been a steady stream of excellent news around Samsung Foundry’s 28FDS, their highly successful 28nm FD-SOI offering. Let’s take a look at what’s been happening, as things do seem to be accelerating. By way of reminder, they announced the industry’s first eMRAM (embedded MagnetoResistive RAM) testchip tape-out milestone on 28FDS in September 2017 (you can read the press release here) – which was just a year after they had announced mass production of 28FDS process technology.

At the end of 2018, Arm announced the industry’s first Embedded MRAM (eMRAM) compiler IP built on Samsung Foundry’s 28FDS process technology.

Follow that with this announcement at the beginning of 2019: Soitec Expands Collaboration with Samsung Foundry on FD-SOI Wafer Supply. The two companies announced that Samsung had secured a high-volume supply of FD-SOI technology to meet industry’s current and future demands especially in consumer, IoT and automotive applications.

In March came two more big announcements. First: Samsung Electronics Starts Commercial Shipment of eMRAM Product Based on 28nm FD-SOI Process. As they noted in the PR, “Samsung’s 28FDS-based eMRAM solution offers unprecedented power and speed advantages with lower cost. Since eMRAM does not require an erase cycle before writing data, its writing speed is approximately a thousand times faster than eFlash. Also, eMRAM uses lower voltages than eFlash, and does not consume electric power when in power-off mode, resulting in great power efficiency.”

Hard on the heals of that came the news that Arm and Samsung Announce IP Platform including eMRAM for 18nm FD-SOI.

At the SOI Consortium’s Silicon Valley Symposium in April, Tim Dry (he’s Samsung’s Director of Foundry Marketing for Edge and End Point), gave a terrific presentation. Entitled Samsung’s FDS with MRAM: Enabling Today’s Innovative Low Power Endpoint Products, it details the company’s FDSOI roadmap for the IoT Endpoint Platform (and yes, you can download in its entirety).

Then in May at the big Samsung Foundry Forum in Silicon Valley, Arm, in collaboration with Samsung Foundry, Cadence, and Sondrel, demonstrated the first 28nm FD-SOI eMRAM IoT test chip and development board. The Musca-S1 test chip demonstrates a new choice in SoC design for IoT solutions, said Arm. (Sondrel, btw, is Europe’s largest independent IC design consultancy.)

In parallel, Cadence announced: Cadence Custom/AMS Flow Certified for Samsung 28nm FD-SOI Process Technology. Especially aimed at digitally-assisted analog designs, what’s new here is that the Cadence custom and analog/mixed-signal IC design flow is now Samsung Foundry certified for 28FDS. Samsung’s 28FDS PDK techfile is Mixed-Signal OpenAccess ready, enabling customers to deploy OpenAccess-integrated, fully interoperable Virtuoso-Innovus implementation flows.

For its part, at its Foundry Forum, Samsung unveiled extensions of the company’s FD-SOI (FDS) process and eMRAM together with an expanded set of state-of-the-art package solutions. They indicated that the development of the successor to the 28FDS process, 18FDS, and eMRAM with 1Gb capacity will be finished this year.

And finally, companies like NXP are shipping exciting new products fabbed on Samsung’s 28FDS. Ron Martino, VP & GM of NXP’s i.MX Application Processor Product Line covered key products in his presentation at the SOI Consortium’s Silicon Valley Symposium (see our coverage here). Among them: the i.MX7ULP for long battery life with 2D & 3D graphics for wearables and portables in consumer and industrial applications; the i.MX 8 and 8X subsystems for automotive and industrial applications; and the i.MX RT series of “cross-over” processors. The i.MX RT ULP (real-time, ultra-low-power) series, which Martino says is the “new normal”, deals with a high number of sensor inputs. The i.MX RT 1100 MCUs, which have been qualified for automotive and industrial applications, are breaking the gigahertz performance barrier.

In July, linuxgizmos.com reported that, “In June, NXP began volume shipments of its super power-efficient i.MX7 ULP, which it announced in 2017. The SoC is billed as the most power-efficient processor on the market that also includes a 3D GPU. […] the ULP version includes a 3D graphics capable Vivante GC7000.” (Vivante, btw, is a VeriSilicon company, which is an SOI Consortium member and a leading proponent of FD-SOI design and IP in China and worldwide.)

This is leading to some really nice wins for NXP. For example, they’ve got Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service (AVS) leveraging the i.MX RT crossover processor, enabling developers to quickly and easily add Alexa voice assistant capabilities to their products. The RT series has rapidly been expanded, with versions for voice-controlled devices and offline face and expression recognition capabilities for smart home, commercial and industrial devices.

Also announced this summer: NXP and Microsoft Bring Microsoft Azure Sphere Security to the Intelligent Edge with a New Energy-Efficient Processor. That collaboration includes development of a new crossover applications processor in NXP’s i.MX 8 series integrating Microsoft’s Azure Sphere security architecture and Pluton Security Subsystem. Their customers “will be able to harness the high-performance and energy efficiency of NXP’s i.MX 8 applications processors combined with Microsoft’s unequaled security and assurance provided by Azure Sphere certified chips”.

As Martino concluded in his presentation, “The future of embedded processing [is] enabled by FD-SOI.” And Samsung Foundry’s FD-SOI offerings are clearly a massive enabler of that future.

Part 2: Silicon Valley SOI Symposium Takeaways. FD-SOI, Smarter Edge, Goldilocks & More.

Key takeaway #2: If you need a Goldilocks process node – where you’ll get just the right balance between active power, unit cost and investment – look to FD-SOI. And, btw, the IP landscape has improved dramatically. Those were just some of the great points made by Huibert Verhoeven (shown above), GM/SVP of Synaptics’ IoT Division in his talk at the recent SOI Symposium in Silicon Valley.

BTW, if you missed part 1 of our coverage —Silicon Valley SOI Symposium a Huge Success. Key Takeaways (Part 1) Here. – you’ll want to be sure to read it, too. Almost all of the presentations are now posted on our website – click here to access them.

In this post here, we’ll cover presentations by Synaptics, GlobalFoundries, STMicroelectronics, Anokiwave and Dolphin Integration. It was a really full, day, so be sure to stay turned for Part 3 of our coverage to follow shortly: it will highlight the remaining presentations and panel discussions.

Synaptics: Smart Home at the Edge

Synaptics’ Verhoeven’s presentation Revolutionizing User Experience Through Secure Neural Network Acceleration at the Edge was about Smart Home and using SOI. Synaptics is a human interface (HMI) company that’s been doing neural networks since 1986. They’ve always been on the leading edge, from their first shipment of PC touchpads to becoming a dominant force in all things HMI today: they now ship over a billion units annually.

Synaptics slides 15 & 16 from the SOI Symposium, Silicon Valley 2019.

They currently have SOI products shipping with dedicated neural networks for voice, he said. European [privacy] regulations have played a part in driving their use of SOI, as have challenges regarding power and heat. Things are getting smarter at the edge. For example, not only do users want their coffee machine to offer the usual morning espresso, Synaptics says that the next step is for your coffee machine to recognize you’re looking extra tired and ask if you might want a double?!

For them Smart Home and multi-modal applications are the primary area of interest, as well as some automotive. Although their biggest customers have resources, others need guidance. Voice is a critical component, but now you also need video and display.

Why SOI? Their HMI vision requires low power, significant computation and dedicated neural network hardware, explained Verhoeven, so FD-SOI with RF meets their needs. “22nm SOI is a Goldilocks IoT Process Node,” he proclaimed. It gets the combination of active power, unit cost and investment just right. What’s more, he said, “The IP landscape has improved dramatically. Our choice of SOI was not an accident.” Be on the lookout for more products leveraging FD-SOI over the next six months, he concluded.

At this point on SOI, they’ve got 1 TOPS products with dedicated NPU for speakers, soundbars, Wi-Fi mesh, appliances, STBs and smart displays. These products have voice and sensor real-time (RT) AI. Next up is >4 TOPS on SOI with dedicated NPU, targeting STBs and smart displays with voice, video, imaging and RT AI.

GF: World-Changing Opps

GlobalFoundries slides 6 & 7 from the SOI Symposium 2019, Silicon Valley.

“Our clients are at the forefront of changing the world,” declared Mark Granger, VP of the Automotive Product Line at GlobalFoundries. His presentation, Capturing High Growth Market Opportunities with SOI, detailed how mobility, automotive and IoT are the growth markets for SOI. So not unsurprisingly, GF’s 22nm FD-SOI technology, 22FDX, is seeing particular traction in mobile, edge, wearables and automotive.

They’ve got twice as many tape-outs this year as they did a year ago, he noted. GF’s SOI portfolio includes 22FDX®, 45RFSOI and 8SW/7SW RF SOI for 5G/mobility; 22FDX for automotive (fully qualified for automotive Grade 2, with Grade 1 on the way); and 22FDX, 130RFSOI and 8SW/7SW RF SOI for IoT.

GF has announced a stream of good news recently:

  • with Dolphin Integration they’re delivering differentiated FD-SOI Adaptive Body Bias Solutions for 5G, IoT and automotive applications;
  • they’ve crossed the billion-dollar design win threshold with 8SW RF SOI technology;
  • they’ve collaborated with Synopsys to develop the industry’s first Automotive Grade 1 IP for their 22FDX process;
  • and they worked with Rambus on the delivery of High-Speed SerDes on 22FDX® for communications and 5G applications.

You might have heard about the Dolphin Integration news, as we covered it recently here at ASN (if not, be sure to read it here). Dolphin’s IP and methodology solutions address energy efficiency challenges. Automated transistor body biasing adjustment can achieve up to 7x energy efficiency with power supply as low as 0.4V on 22FDX designs. At the Silicon Valley event, Dolphin Integration CEO Philippe Berger provided additional information in his talk, FD-SOI IP Platform for Energy-Efficient IoT SoC.

Dolphin Integration slides 5 & 6 from the SOI Symposium 2019, Silicon Valley.

In another GF-related talk, Nitin Jain, the CTO of longtime GF RF-SOI customer Anokiwave presented Unleashing the mmWave Phase Array Using SOI for 5G & Satcom. Anokiwave is a fabless semi IC company (you’ll find a good technical discussion of mmWave phase array written by their Chief Architect here). They do active antennas (aka phased array), something the military’s done for a long time, but now Anokiwave is bringing it to new markets and applications including radar, satcom and 5G. What they’ve been able to do is planarize the active antennas. They use GF’s 45RFSOI process technology for phased array systems because of the cost, performance, scalability and system enhancements it enables. 45RFSOI, he explained, is ideal for beam-forming FEMs (including the switches, LNAs and PAs). The move to 5G/mmWave is going to require a lot of antennas, so these Anokiwave ICs are headed to high volumes, concluded Jain.

Stellar by ST

As Roger Forchhammer, Director of Business Development at STMicroelectronics pointed out in his presentation, Automotive FD-SOI Microcontrollers with Embedded PCM, ST pioneered FD-SOI (and that was almost a decade ago, btw). Then in February 2019, they announced a world first: they’d begun sampling 28nm FD-SOI microcontrollers (MCUs) with embedded non-volatile memory (eNVM) based on embedded Phase-Change Memory (ePCM) to 10 alpha customers. These MCUs target powertrain systems, advanced and secure gateways, safety/ADAS applications, and vehicle electrification.

STMicroelectronics slides 9 & 10 from the SOI Symposium 2019, Silicon Valley.

(In case you want technical details, the breakthrough ePCM eNVM was first presented at IEDM in December 2018 – you can get the presentation that accompanied the paper, Truly Innovative 28nm FDSOI Technology for Automotive Microcontroller Applications embedding 16MB Phase Change Memory, from the ST website.)

In his Silicon Valley presentation, Forchhammer said they’re now doing Stellar, a whole family of automotive products on FD-SOI. To do it, they’d taken an existing device and moved it to 28nm FD-SOI with ePCM, which they manufacture at their fab in Crolles, France. A major advantage for automotive he cites is that in software updates it’s bit-level programmable. “ST is fully behind FD-SOI,” he concluded, adding that we’re see more automotive as well as IoT products coming soon.

Well folks, that’s all for this post. We’ll finish up our coverage of the SOI Consortium’s 2019 Silicon Valley Symposium in the next ASN post (there was so much to cover!). So please stay tuned.

Chengdu Conference Indicates FD-SOI Will Play Major Role in China/Automotive

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.

(Image Courtesy: VeriSilicon)

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.)

Chengdu Officials Affirm Support for FD-SOI

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.

SOI Consortium Leads Industry Keynotes

Wayne Dai, VeriSilicon Founder and CEO (Photo courtesy VeriSilicon)

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.

Carlos Mazure, Soitec CTO and SOI Consortium Executive Co-Director; Tony King-Smith, Executive Advisor at AImotive and Mark Granger, GF’s VP of Automotive Product Line Management (Photo courtesy VeriSilicon)

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.

Share This! Terrific Guide to All Things FD-SOI in GSA Newsletter

Manuel Sellier, Product Marketing Manager at Soitec

Manuel Sellier, Product Marketing Manager at Soitec for the FD-SOI (and some other) SOI product lines has written an absolutely terrific primer entitled FD-SOI: A technology setting new standards for IoT, automotive and mobile connectivity applications. It’s in the August edition of the GSA Forum (the GSA is the Global Semiconductor Alliance).

If you know anyone who needs to quickly glean an understanding of FD-SOI that is both in-depth and broad, you’ll want to share this piece with them right away.

Before joining Soitec, Sellier was a chip designer at ST, where he gained deep experience designing FD-SOI chips. What’s more, he holds a Ph.D. in the modeling and circuit simulation of advanced MOS transistors, including FD-SOI and FinFETs. So, he really knows his stuff. But don’t worry that this might be too technical: Sellier’s writing is thoroughly accessible (and engaging!) for anyone in the industry.

He starts with the wafer history, then quickly moves on to the features from the designer’s standpoint. And he puts it all in a business perspective. I can’t recommend this piece enough – even if you think you know everything already yourself, you’re sure to learn something new.

ST, Intento: EDA for Faster Analog Design in FD-SOI

Intento Design is working with STMicroelectronics to bring ID-XploreTM EDA software, which is aimed at solving the critical analog design challenges, to FD-SOI process nodes.

“ID-Xplore is a disruptive EDA software that accelerates analog design and migration processes by at least one order of magnitude. It reduces the cost and latency inherent to analog design. Currently, there is no similar EDA tool on the market covering the analog design challenges like ID-Xplore,” noted Dr. Ramy Iskander, CEO of Intento Design (see the press release here).

ST’s FD-SOI design expertise roots, of course, are as deep as they get. “ST’s decision to work with us confirms the relevance of our solution. We are very excited to work jointly with ST teams to take the most benefit out of FD-SOI technology leveraging ST’s pioneering leadership in this area,” continued Dr. Iskander.

“We’ve already seen the benefits of ID-Xplore in accelerating the design phase of different analog circuits, thanks to the software’s fast and accurate exploration capabilities in advanced FD-SOI processes,” said Thierry Bion, ST’s Hardware Design Director, Aerospace Defense & Legacy Division. “By facilitating IP reuse and sharing of design insights between engineers, ID-Xplore™ is helping our teams significantly accelerate new product introductions.”

ID-Xplore uses the OpenAccess database standard and is fully integrated within the Cadence design environment. The designer’s implicit and explicit knowledge is expressed as technology-independent constraints, bringing the designers back to their core expertise and creativity.

If you want to learn more, the folks over at semiwiki.com have made a number of posts on Intento Design recently. They’re really helpful in understanding what the company does, how and why:

CEO Interview: Ramy Iskander of Intento Design Edit (by Daniel Nenni) – good backgrounder on the company and product.

The Intention View: Disruptive Innovation for Analog Design Edit (by Daniel Nenni) – an excellent interview with Dr. Caitlin Brandon about how the tool works and how it aligns with and supports the way analog designers work.

A New Kind of Analog EDA Company Edit (by Daniel Payne) – Daniel Payne started his career as a circuit designer at Intel, and is now a well-known consultant/expert in the EDA world. Here he explores how ID-Xplore actually works and its “cool new automation features”.

FD-SOI for Near-Threshold-Voltage Design? It’s a Good Knob, Say #55DAC Expert Panelists

That FD-SOI can be a key to achieving near-threshold voltage design was an important point made during a  #55 DAC expert panel. Entitled How Close to Threshold-Voltage Design Can We Go Without Getting our Fingers Burnt? the session was organized by Jan Willis of Calibre Consulting. Turnout was excellent. Btw, Jan (herself an EDA expert) was one of the original advisors in the formation of the SOI Consortium, and while this DAC panel was not meant to be about FD-SOI, it turned out be a focal point.

Near-threshold voltage design* is an especially hot topic for IoT and edge-computing designers, for whom balancing performance, reliability and extremely low power is generally challenge #1. For them, the ability to get chips working at very low voltages translates into battery life savings.

The original goal of the panel was “…to explore how far below nominal voltage we can design, in what applications it makes sense and in what ways it will cost us.” The description in the #55 DAC program noted that “Energy consumption is the driving design parameter for many systems that must meet ‘always-on’ market requirements and in IoT in general. For decades, the semiconductor industry has attempted to leverage the essential principle that lowering voltage is the quickest, biggest way to reduce energy for a SoC. Some today contend sub-threshold voltage design is viable while others argue for near-threshold voltage design as the minimum.”

(Update 2 August 2018:  a complete video of this panel is now available on YouTube — click here to view it.)

#55 DAC Expert Panel: How Close to Threshold-Voltage Design Can We Go Without Getting our Fingers Burnt? Left to right: Brian Fuller, Arm (moderator); Scott Hanson, Ambiq Micro; Lauri Koskinen, Minima Processor; Mahbub Rashed, GlobalFoundries; Paul Wells, sureCore. (Organized by Jan Willis of Calibre Consulting)

The panelists included:

  • Scott Hanson – Ambiq Micro
  • Mahbub Rashed – GLOBALFOUNDRIES
  • Lauri Koskinen – Minima Processor
  • Paul Wells – sureCore Ltd., Sheffield

Brian Fuller of Arm served as moderator.

Panel organizer Jan Willis, Calibre Consulting

Following the panel Jan published the following excellent recap on LinkedIn. She graciously agreed for it to be reprinted here in ASN, for which we thank her. So without further ado, read on!

#55DAC Expert Panel on Near-Threshold Voltage Sees Growing Opportunity Despite Challenges

First published on LinkedIn, June 27, 2018 by Jan Willis, Strategic Partnerships & Marketing Executive

Brian Fuller, Arm, skillfully guided a group of experts through the challenges of near-threshold design to conclude that the adoption is going to start gathering pace in a panel session at the 55th DAC in San Francisco on Monday, June 25.

Scott Hanson, CTO of Ambiq Micro, led off by saying the list of what’s not challenging is a much shorter list but that by taking an adaptive approach, they have been successful. It’s required innovating throughout the design process including test where Scott said they had create their own “secret sauce” to make it work. Later on in the panel, Scott described designers in near-threshold as “picojoule fanatics” to overcome the limitations in design tools which are geared towards achieving performance goals.

Lauri Koskinen, CTO of Minima Processor, agreed that adaptivity is key. Minima says it has to be done in situ in the design to make it robust for manufacturing while useful across more than one design. Later in the panel, Lauri indicated that FD-SOI is like having another knob available for optimizing energy in the Minima approach to near-threshold design.

Mahbub Rashed, head of Design and Technology Co-Optimization at GlobalFoundries, highlighted the need for more collaboration between EDA, IP, and foundries to support near-threshold design but noted a lot of progress has been made on FD-SOI processes. Mahbub cited models down to 0.4V for FD-SOI processes are available now and GlobalFoundries is able to guarantee yield.

Paul Wells, CEO of sureCore, validated that sureCore has bench marked their memories on GlobalFoundries FD-SOI with success. He reflected that FD-SOI has rapidly established itself as cost effective for a number of emerging markets. The panel all agreed that achieving quality on the memory at near-threshold voltage was much tougher than for digital IP. [Editor’s note: sureCore‘s CTO wrote an excellent summary of their SRAM IP for FD-SOI in ASN back in 2016 – you can still read it here.]

Paul went on to summarize at the end of the panel that near-threshold voltage is the way of the future and that it’s gathering pace. Mahbub called upon the EDA community to step up to improve the tools for low energy design. Lauri and Scott both summarized that there were drivers emerging that will grow the addressable market for near-threshold voltage design. Lauri pointed to growth coming from the applications that require edge computing which he thinks will require near-threshold voltage design. Scott concluded the panel by pointing out that there’s been a tremendous increase in performance of near-threshold voltage designs which will increase the addressable available market in the future.

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This piece was first published by Jan Willis on LinkedIn, June 27, 2018. Here is the original.

* As explained by Rich Collins of Synopsys in the TechDesign Forum: “Operating at near-threshold or sub-threshold voltages reduces static and dynamic power consumption, at the cost of design complexity. […] A transistor’s threshold voltage (Vth) is the voltage at which the transistor turns on.  Most transistor circuits use a supply voltage substantially greater than the threshold voltage, so that the point at which the transistors turn on is not affected by supply variations or noise. […] In sub-threshold operation, the supply voltage is well below the Vth of the transistors. In this region, the transistors are partially On, but are never fully turned. Near-threshold operation happens between the sub-threshold region and the transistor threshold voltage Vth, or around 400 – 700mV for today’s processes.

Industry 1st and It’s on FD-SOI: ARM’s eMRAM Compiler IP for Samsung’s 28FDS

Per Arm, the industry’s first eMRAM compiler IP is now on Samsung’s 28nm FD-SOI technology. The announcement was made in a post by Kelvin Low, VP Marketing for ARM’s Physical Design Group (read it here). He said that ARM has successfully completed their first eMRAM IP test chip tapeout. The Arm eMRAM compiler IP will be available from 4Q 2018 for lead partners.

Samsung Foundry’s 28nm FD-SOI process technology is called 28FDS. eMRAM (which stands for embedded MagnetoResistive RAM) is a novel non-volatile memory (NVM) option positioned to replace incumbent NVM eFLASH, which has hit its limits in terms of speed, power, and scalability.

Arm’s new eMRAM compiler IP gives Samsung’s 28FDS customers the flexibility to scale their memory needs based on the complexity of various use-cases, explains Low. “What drives the cost-effectiveness of this compiler IP is that eMRAM can be integrated with as few as three additional masks, while eFlash requires greater than 12 additional masks at 40nm and below,” he says. “Also, the eMRAM compiler can generate instances to replace Flash, Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM) and slow SRAM/data buffer memories with a single non-volatile fast memory – particularly suited for cost- and power- sensitive IoT applications.”

A key slide shown by Arm at the 2017 SOI Consortium’s Silicon Valley Symposium (Courtesy: Arm and the SOI Consortium)

At the SOI Consortium’s 2017 Silicon Valley Symposium, Arm said that they were stepping up their support of FD-SOI (read about that here) – and clearly they are! At that event, Arm VP Ron Moore gave a great presentation, which is freely available on our website: Low Power IP: Essential Ingredients for IoT Opportunities.

Samsung, btw, has been offering 28FDS for about three years now. (ASN did a 3-part interview with Kelvin Low back in 2015 when he was a senior director of marketing for Samsung Foundry. It’s still a useful read – you can get it here.) As of last fall, Samsung said it had taped out more than 40 products for various customers. And at the SOI Consortium’s 2018 Silicon Valley Symposium, Hong Hoa, SVP said they’d already taped out another 20 this year (read about that here).

Samsung says the write speed of their eMRAM is 1000x faster than eFlash. They actually announced the industry’s first eMRAM testchip tape-out milestone on 28FDS in September 2017 (you can read the press release here). They also did an eMRAM test chip with NXP. (BTW, Samsung has a really nice video explaining their eMRAM offering – you can see it above or on YouTube here.)

As noted in ASN’s Silicon Valley 2018 symposium coverage, the basic PDK for the Samsung 18nm FD-SOI process (18FDS) will be available in September 2018, with full production slated for fall of 2019. It will deliver a 24% increase in performance, a 38% decrease in power, and a 35% decrease in area for logic. RF for the 18FDS platform will be ready by the end of this year, and eMRAM beginning in 2019.

Dolphin Showcases New EDA Tool for FD-SOI – More THINGS2DO Results

Dolphin Integration, a partner in the ENIAC THINGS2DO European FD-SOI project, showcased its achievements with PowerStudio™ during the project final review. Power Studio is Dolphin’s cutting-edge EDA tool for safe Power Regulation Networks implementation.

THINGS2DO, which stands for THIN but Great Silicon to Design Objects, was a 4-year, >€120 million EU project (85% industry-funded) with over 40 partners that just finished up at the end of 2017. The goal was to build a design & development ecosystem for FD-SOI. The project funded and supported the development of major FD SOI-based IPs and ASICs as well as EDA tools. (Another recent THINGS2DO announcement was Dream Chips’ ADAS SoC fabbed in GlobalFoundries’ 22FDX technology — read about that here.)

“Being involved in the THINGS2DO project was an opportunity for Dolphin Integration to start introducing FD-SOI in its automatic design methodologies,” said Frederic Poullet, Dolphin Integration’s CTO (read the press release here). “Dolphin Integration plans to offer a full suite of tools allowing its customers to implement right-on-first-pass Power Regulation Networks.”

The company notes that THINGS2DO also proved that low power consumption makes FD-SOI a perfect fit for IoT and automotive applications. For instance, dynamic control of threshold voltage can be used to compensate for temperature variations, and to drive speed improvements by 200% in ultra-low voltage applications.

Dolphin Integration provides energy efficient IPs and ASIC services dedicated to the low-power application market and supports its internal teams with tailor-made software tools. To address the specific needs of its customers in low-power design, Dolphin developed PowerStudio™, a global solution for the optimization of Power Regulation Networks (PRNet) to be used at an early stage of the SoC design process. In particular, it addresses new design challenges in noise and power supply integrity.

The first module of PowerStudio™ will also embed architecture optimization features at the schematic level, in terms of FoM-based cost optimization, mode management, margin cuts and integrability rate-based risk optimization.

Btw, Dolphin Integration Director Frederic Renoux gave an excellent great presentation at an SOI Consortium event in Nanjing, China last year, entitled Embedding power regulation & activity control networks for best SoC PPA.

Dolphin Integration joined Global foundries’ FDXcelerator™ Program last year (read the press release here) to streamline design in 22FDX®. “Our comprehensive and robust library of voltage regulators, power gating cells and logic modules, enables to deal cost-effectively and securely with power distribution, power gating, power monitoring and power control of any SoC design in 22FDX,” Michel Depeyrot, Dolphin Integration’s Chairman, said at the time. “As connected devices sleep most of their time, users of 22FDX also benefit from our ultra-low power and accurate oscillators to design an always-on RTC which consumes as little as 60 nA.”

See the Dolphin Integration website for the full catalog of their IP, EDA and ASIC/SoC service offerings, including for GF’s 22FDX.

GF’s 22FDX Garners Automotive Certifications & a Hot New ADAS Customer

Mark Granger, GlobalFoundries’ VP Automotive Product Line Management

GF’s 22FDX® (22nm FD-SOI) offering is on an automotive roll. The technology platform has been certified for several key automotive standards, and GF has announced an exciting new ADAS customer in Arbe Robotics.

In addition to sharing info from various press releases and blogs, ASN also had a chance to catch up with Mark Granger, GF’s VP for automotive, who provided some great insights. Read on!

Taking the Heat

When it comes to compliance, automotive industry standards are excruciatingly rigorous. Every part that goes into a car must adhere to the relevant standards: chips are no exception. One such standard is the AEC – Q100, a “Failure Mechanism Based Stress Test Qualification For Integrated Circuits”. The AEC – aka the Automotive Electronics Council – handles those testing standards and certification. Grade 2 means a technology is certified for the -40°C to +105°C ambient operating temperature range. To achieve Grade 2 certification, devices have to successfully withstand reliability stress tests for an extended period of time over the specified temperature range.

GF recently announced that 22FDX has been AEC Q100 Grade 2 certified (press release here).  However Granger adds that for their customers, they’ve added additional headroom that takes them to 125°C. They’re now working on Grade 1 certification, he says, which means the devices are certified to handle junction temperatures up to 125°C (and there again, GF has added additional headroom that takes them to 150°C). That should be done by the end of 2018. The ability you get with FD-SOI to tune the transistors using body biasing is really beneficial here, he says.

For GF, the 22FDX qualifications exemplifies their commitment to providing high-performance, high-quality technology solutions for the automotive industry. The automotive industry is driven by a “zero excursions – zero defects” mindset, says Granger, and that drives the foundry, too.

SOI has been used for decades across industries where heat and electromagnetic radiation are challenges, bringing soft error rates (SER) down by orders of magnitude, notes Granger. (SOI, btw, essentially eliminates what are known as Single Event Upsets (SEU) caused by latch-up, which in turn brings down SER.) That in turn, ties into the FIT (failure in time) rate – and that’s part of the ISO 26262 “Road vehicles – Functional safety” standard – where 22FDX is also certified.

As a part of GF’s AutoPro™ platform, 22FDX allows customers to easily migrate their automotive microcontrollers and ASSPs to a more advanced technology, while leveraging the significant area, performance and energy efficiency benefits over competing technologies. Moreover, the optimized platform offers high performance RF and mmWave capabilities for automotive radar applications and supports implementation of logic, Flash, non-volatile memory (NVM) in MCUs and high voltage devices to meet the unique requirements of in-vehicle ICs.

GF’s Fab 1 in Dresden, Germany (which is where they do 22FDX) also has achieved ISO-9001/IATF-16949 certification, which demonstrates that it is capable of meeting the stringent and evolving needs of the automotive industry. (IATF is the International Automotive Task Force. 16949 is a Quality Management System (QMS) certification specifically for the automotive sector.)

Granger wrote a really informative blog on the GF website – you can read it here. It includes this graphic, indicating where in the car 22FDX-based parts are expected to go.

Here’s how GF sees the applications for 22FDX and other chip technologies in automotive applications. (Courtesy: GlobalFoundries)

On Radar

GF recently announced that Arbe Robotics selected 22FDX® as the process technology for its groundbreaking patented imaging radar. Arbe aims to achieve fully automated system capabilities and enable safer driving experiences for autonomous vehicles (read the press release here).

As the first company to demonstrate ultra-high-resolution at a wide field of view, Arbe Robotics’ radar technology can detect pedestrians and obstacles at a range of 300 meters, in any weather and lighting conditions. The processor creates a full 3D shape of the objects and their velocity, and classifies targets using their radar signature.

As Granger noted in his blog, “Radar is one of several sensor types used to detect objects near a vehicle, to enable features like adaptive cruise control. Lidar is another. It uses pulsed lasers to determine distance from an object by measuring the time it takes for the light to reflect back. However, lidar is currently expensive and is affected by weather conditions. Radar is less expensive, and higher-resolution radars promise to compete well with lidar in automotive applications, thereby enabling lower-priced vehicles to enjoy greater ADAS capabilities. 22FDX-based radar sensors can provide higher resolutions and less latency than current radar sensors at a very low total system cost.”

While they may be complementary at first, there is a battle brewing between high-resolution radar and lidar, Granger told ASN. Putting their solution on 22FDX enables Arbe to achieve a 77 GHz mmWave radar and compete cost-effectively with lidar. “They wanted the best,” says Granger. 22FDX can achieve the requisite Ft and Fmax figures of merit. And with transistor stacking, they can also integrate the power amplifier (PA) on a single device. With the low inherent capacitance of the PA in 22FDX, you can get the high power output you need for mmWave but with low power consumption.

GF blogger Dave Lammers has also written a great piece about the Arbe solution (you should read it: here’s the link). “The company said its advanced technology allows the detection of small targets, such as a human or a bike even if they are somewhat masked by a large object such as a truck,” he writes. “The imaging radar can determine whether objects are moving, and in what direction, and alert the car in real-time about a risk.

“While other car sensors can fail when it is raining, if there’s fog, and due to blinding lights such as a sudden reflection, Arbe’s radar is completely oblivious to all those factors. The custom designed radar processor creates a full real-time 4D image of the environment, and classifies targets using their radar signature.”

Avi Bauer, Arbe’s VP of R&D, is now clearly an SOI fan. Lammers quotes him as saying, “With SOI the design is more straightforward, and (voltage) biasing allows you to do things that cannot be done in standard CMOS. For the transmit and receive modules, SOI’s higher resistivity substrate benefits the passive components – inductors and capacitors – and allows good isolation. High Q passives are important. At 22nm, SOI allows better performance overall.”

Clearly good things are coming down the road for FD-SOI!

How FD-SOI Gives NXP’s i.MX7ULP a “Power-Sipping IoT Budget” (Embedded Systems Engineering)

Here’s why the embedded community should care whether the chips they use are built on FD-SOI. FD-SOI has “…dramatically improved the landscape for power efficiency,” NXP VP Joe Yu explains in a recent Embedded Systems Engineering piece (you can read it here). He gets into the hows and whys of the i.MX7ULP chip design, taking a deep dive into the things that the embedded folks really care about.

He details how FD-SOI decreases leakage and dynamic power, including the roles played by forward and reverse body biasing. He then goes on to explain why it’s better for analog, and how it prevents latch-up.

FD-SOI enables new features, too, he points out, like ultra-low power consumption and deep sleep suspend. And perhaps most importantly, he explains how bursty high-performance and ultra energy efficiency are dynamically traded off on an as-needed basis. “Engineers no longer face a forced selection: low-power processor or high-performance processor,” he say. “Rather, the selection for performance or power efficiency can be made instantaneously, as needed, without having to reconfigure.”

All of this plus the rich graphics and user interface FD-SOI enables makes the i.MX 7ULP perfect for “…IoT edge devices, as well as smart home controls, building automation, portable patient monitoring, wearables, and portable scanners.”

This is an excellent read: highly recommended.

Of course, ASN covered the i.mX7ULP when it was first announced (on Samsung’s 28nm FD-SOI) last year – you can still read our coverage here. But it’s good to see the company explaining to their customers how FD-SOI will change the way they build products. BTW, you can get all the i.MX7ULP product details on the NXP website here. NXP has also put together a nifty video on the i.MX7ULP – see it here.