Tag Archive design

ByAdele Hars

SEMI Honors RF-SOI Innovators Raskin & Aspar

RF-SOI innovators Jean-Pierre Raskin of UCL and Bernard Aspar of Soitec changed the course for key RF chips. The industry has long recognized their contributions: their solution for “trap-rich” RF-SOI wafers is now the starting point to virtually every FEM in every smart phone on the planet (really!). And of course here at ASN we’ve been following their work for over a decade. Now more accolades are coming in.

The latest is the 2017 European SEMI Award, which was given at ISS Europe 2018 for “…their seminal work with radio frequency silicon-on-insulator (RF-SOI) substrates” (read the press release here). As SEMI notes, the “…award winners’ pioneering research and collaboration with academia and industry led to major advances in RF switches and ushered RF-SOI technology from concept to worldwide adoption.” Aspar and Raskin were nominated and selected by their peers within the international semiconductor community.

Bernard Aspar, Executive Vice President, Communication & Power BU at Soitec
Aspar founded CEA-Leti spinoff Tracit Technologies in 2003. He was appointed senior vice president of the Tracit Division (now the Communication & Power business unit) when Soitec acquired Tracit in 2006. He has more than 15 years of experience in direct wafer-bonding and layer transfer. Aspar has filed more than 35 patents and co-authored some 100 scientific articles. He holds engineering and Ph.D. degrees in materials sciences and a master’s degree in microelectronics from the University of Montpellier, France.

Jean-Pierre Raskin, professor, Université catholique de Louvain (UCL)
Raskin contributed to pioneering scientific studies demonstrating that silicon-based MOS technology could enable affordable, high-quality mobile devices. His findings led to the advent of RF-SOI technology and today impact the global microelectronics industry. He is an IEEE Senior Member, EuMA Associate Member and Member of the Research Center in Micro and Nanoscopic Materials and Electronic Devices of the Université catholique de Louvain, where he has been a full professor since 2007. He is author or co-author of more than 350 scientific articles.

Their advanced RF-SOI technology is now behind a wide range of applications and systems in areas including mobile devices, satellite communications, IoT, automotive radar and aerospace.

If you want to better understand all this, a few years ago UCL and Soitec teams contributed an excellent article to ASN. It clearly explains how and why these new substrates came to be. You can still read it here. (Or if you’re still a little confused about RF-SOI vs. RF on FD-SOI, here’s a piece we did back in 2015 that explains the basics.)

ByAdele Hars

Outstanding 28nm FD-SOI Chips Taped Out Through CMP

ST Fellow Dr. Andreia Cathelin gave a terrific presentation at the recent CMP Annual Meeting. Now posted and freely available, Performance of Recent Outstanding 28nm FD-SOI Circuits Taped Out Through CMP highlighted eight examples – though she told ASN that she had easily over 50 from which to choose.

CMP is a Multi-Project Wafer (MPW) service organization in ICs, Photonic ICs and MEMS. They’ve been organizing prototyping and low volume production in cooperation with foundries for over 37 years. In partnership with ST since 1994, in the fall of 2012 they opened access to MPW runs in the 28nm FD-SOI process. More than 180 tape-outs have been fabricated since then using the process.

As Dr. Cathelin said, this lets ST show their industrial clients just how good the technology is. The chips she chose to cover in her presentation get “spectacular performance”, she said, especially for low-power or power-sensitive SoCs.

Here’s a quick recap of what she presented (some of which she co-authored), followed by some other SOI-related updates from the CMP meeting.

8 (of Many) Great Chips

FD-SOI, said Dr. Cathelin, “…is unmatched for cost-sensitive markets requiring digital and Mixed Signal SoC integration and performance.” In the first dozen slides of her presentation, she gave the technical details on the advantages of FD-SOI in  analog, RF/millimeter wave,  Analog/Mixed-Signal and digital design. If you’re a designer, you’ll want to check those out.

Then she ran through eight great chips – all manufactured by ST on 28nm FD-SOI through CMP’s MPW services. Here they are. (You can click on the illustrations to see them in full screen.)

1. A digital delay line with coarse/fine tuning through gate/body biasing in 28nm FDSOI

(Courtesy: CMP, ST, ISEN)

This chip was presented at ESSCIRC ’16 by a team from ISEN Lille, Professors Andreas Kaiser and Antoine Frappé (you can get the complete paper by I.Sourikopoulos et al on IEEE Xplore – click here.) As noted in the abstract, “Delay controllability has always been the major concern for the reliable implementation of circuits whose purpose is timing.” By leveraging body biasing in FD-SOI, this novel low-power design architecture for 60GHz receivers enables very high bandwidth together with fine-grain wide range delay flexibility, for implementing Delay Feedback Equalizer techniques in the Intermediate Frequency (IF) reception path. The results are state-of-the-art: ultra wide range, linear control, fs/mV sensitivity and energy efficient controllable delay cells.

2. 28FD-SOI Distributed Oscillator at 134 GHz and 202GHz

(Courtesy: CMP, ST, ims)

Presented at RFIC ’17 by a team from the IMS Bordeaux lab, Professor Yann Deval and STMicroelectronics, this chip demonstrates the highest oscillation frequency attainable so far at the 28nm node, be it planar bulk or FD-SOI. (Click here to get the full paper by R. Guillaume et al from IEEE Xplore.) As noted in the abstract, solutions on silicon for mmW and sub-mmW applications have been demonstrated for high-speed wireless communications, compact medical and security imaging. The main challenges are for the signal generation at high frequencies, and this implementation demonstrates spectacular oscillation frequencies close to the transistor’s transition frequency (fT). In this chip, they used body bias tuning to optimize the phase noise, demonstrated very low on-wafer variability, and simulation methods that permit measurement prediction precision within 0.1%.

3. A 128 kb Single-Bitline 8.4 fJ/bit 90MHz at 0.3V 7T Sense-Amplifier-less SRAM in 28nm FD-SOI

(Courtesy: CMP, ST, Lund U.)

Extremely energy efficient SoCs are key for the IoT era – but SRAM gets very tricky at ultra-low voltages (ULV). Presented at ESSCIRC ’16 by B. Mohammadi et al (on IEEE Xplore here) from Professor Joachim Rodrigues’ team at the Lund University, this is a 128 kb ULV SRAM, based on a 7T bitcell. The minimum operating voltage VMIN is measured as just 240mV and the retention voltage is as low as 200mV. FD-SOI enabled them to overcome ULV performance and reliability challenges by letting the Lund U.-lead team selectively overdrive the bitline and wordline with a new single-cycle charge-pump. Plus they came up with a new scheme so it doesn’t need a sense amplifier, yet delivered 90MHz read speed at 300mV, dissipating 8.4 fJ/bit-access.

4. Matched Ultrasound Receiver in 28FDSOI

(Courtesy: CMP, ST, Stanford U.)

Presented at ISSCC ’17 (with an extended relative paper at JSSC ’17) by M-C Chen et al with Professor Boris Murmann’s team at Stanford, the full title of the paper about this chip is A Pixel Pitch-Matched Ultrasound Receiver for 3-D Photoacoustic Imaging With Integrated Delta-Sigma Beamformer in 28-nm UTBB FD-SOI. (Click here to get it on IEEE Xplore.) It’s a a proof-of-concept for a big ultrasound receiver: a “pixel pitch-matched readout chip for 3-D photoacoustic (PA) imaging.” PA is “…an emerging medical imaging modality based on optical excitation and acoustic detection.” It’s used in studying cancer progression in clinical research, for example. As noted in the paper abstract, “The overall subarray beamforming approach improves the area per channel by 7.4 times and the single-channel SNR by 8 dB compared to prior art with similar delay resolution and power dissipation.” One of the (many) advantages of FD-SOI in this context is for front-end signal conditioning in each pixel. This unique type of pixel pitch-matched architecture implementation is possible only in a 28nm (or less) node of an FD-SOI technology, as it is matched with the pitch sizing needed for the ultrasound transducers in order to generate signals for a 3-D reading.

5. SleepTalker – 28nm FDSOI ULV WSN Transmitter: RF-mixed signal-digital SoC

(Courtesy: CMP, ST, UCL)

Presented at VLSI ’16 and JSSC ’17 by G. de Streel et al from Professor David Bol’s team at Université Catholique de Louvain la Neuve, the full title of the paper about this chip is SleepTalker: A ULV 802.15.4a IR-UWB Transmitter SoC in 28-nm FDSOI Achieving 14 pJ/b at 27 Mb/s With Channel Selection Based on Adaptive FBB and Digitally Programmable Pulse Shaping (get it on IEEE Xplore here). This chip tackles the IoT requirement for sensing functions that can operate in the ULV context. That means creating wireless sensor nodes (WSN) that can be powered on an energy harvesting power budget – and that’s a real challenge if you want to incorporate an RF component that can handle medium data rates (5-30 Mb/s) for vision or large distributed WSN networks. The energy efficiency has to be better than 100 pJ/b. To get there, the UCL-lead team used wide-range on-chip adaptive forward back biasing for “…threshold voltage reduction, PVT compensation, and tuning of both the carrier frequency and the output power. […] Operated at 0.55 V, it achieves a record energy efficiency of 14 pJ/b for the transmitter (TX) alone and 24 pJ/b for the complete SoC with embedded power management. The TX SoC occupies a core area of 0.93 mm2.”

6. A 128×8 Massive MIMO Precoder-Detector in 28FDSOI

(Courtesy: CMP, ST, Lund U.)

This massive MIMO chip was presented at ISSCC ’17 by a team from Professors Liang Liu and Ove Edforss at the Lund University  in a paper entitled 3.6 A 60pJ/b 300Mb/s 128×8 Massive MIMO precoder-detector in 28nm FD-SOI (H. Prabhu, et al; get it from IEEEE Xplore here). While Massive MIMO (MaMi) will be needed for next-gen communications, it can’t be achieved by just scaling MIMO – that would be too costly in terms of flexibility, area and power. As noted in the Lund U. team’s intro, “Algorithm optimizations and a highly flexible framework were evaluated on real measured channels. Extensive hardware time multiplexing lowered area cost, and leveraging on flexible FD-SOI body bias and clock gating resulted in an energy efficiency of 6.56nJ/QRD and 60pJ/b at 300Mb/s detection rate.”

7. ENVISION: A 0.26-to-10TOPS/W Subword-Parallel Dynamic-Voltage-Accuracy-Frequency-Scalable Convolutional Neural Network Processor in 28nm FDSOI

(Courtesy: CMP, ST, KU Leuven)

Today’s solutions for always-on visual recognition apps are an order of magnitude too power hungry for wearables. Running at 10’s to several 1OO’s of GOPS/W, they use classification algorithms called ConvNets, or Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN). The paper about this chip was presented at ISSCC ’17 by a team from professor Marian Verhelst at Katoliek Universiteit Leuven (B. Moons, et al, get it from IEEE Xplore here), and it changes everything. Leveraging FD-SOI and body-biasing, the KU Leuven team solved the power challenge with, “…the concept of hierarchical recognition processing, combined with the Envision platform: an energy-scalable ConvNet processor achieving efficiencies up to 10TOPS/W, while maintaining recognition rate and throughput. Envision hereby enables always-on visual recognition in wearable devices.”

8. Fine-Grained AVS in 28nm FDSOI Processor SoC

(Courtesy: CMP, ST, UC Berkeley)

As we learned at SOI Consortium FD-SOI Tutorial Day in SiValley last year, Professor Borivoje “Bora” Nikolic of UC Berkeley is known as one of the world’s top experts in body-biasing for digital logic (he and his team have designed more than ten chips in ST’s 28nm FD-SOI!) They presented the RISC-V chip here at ESSCIRC ’16 and JSSC ’17, in a paper entitled Sub-microsecond adaptive voltage scaling in a 28nm FD-SOI processor SoC (B.Keller, et al, on IEEE Xplore here). As they noted in the intro, a major challenge for mobile and IoT devices is that their workloads are highly variable, but they operate under very tight power budgets. If you apply adaptive voltage scaling (AVS), you can improve energy efficiency by scaling the voltage to match the workload. But in the current gen of SoCs, the AVS timescales of hundreds of microseconds is too slow. The chip the Berkeley team presented brought that down to sub-microseconds by aggressively applying body-biasing throughout the chip, including to workload measurement circuits and integrated power management units. The result is “… extremely fine-grained (<1μs) adaptive voltage scaling for mobile devices.” (BTW, they expand on some of the details in another paper published in 2017.)  These design techniques are now taught at UC Berkeley, as this kind of implementation is the subject of a course in SoC design (including the RF part of transceivers); a first educational chip has already been taped-out and successfully measured. (BTW, Professor Nikolic will once again join Dr. Cathelin and other luminaries in teaching at the SOI Consortium’s FD-SOI Training Day in Silicon Valley, 27 April 2018 –  click here for sign-up information.)

More SOI Through CMP

At the meeting, CMP also made a presentation on all their MPW offerings – you can get it here. On ST’s SOI (in addition to 28nm FD-SOI, of course), that includes the new 160nm SOIBCD8s: Bipolar-CMOS-DMOS Smart Power (for automotive sensor interface ICs, 3D ultrasound, MEMS & micro-mirror drivers); and 130nm H9-SOI-FEM: Front-End Module (for radio receiver/transceiver, cellular, WiFi, and automotive keyless systems).

CMP also provides tutorials that are used by institutions across the globe. A new update to the tutorial, RTL to GDS Digital Design Flow in 28nm FD-SOI Process is now available – you can see the presentation they did about that here. (It now includes LVS and DRC steps with Mentor/Calibre or Cadence/PVS.) Other services, like the 2-day, hands-on THINGS2DO FD-SOI training days at the end of March are always fully booked almost immediately, but don’t hesitate to inquire, as they’ll be adding more.

For some more examples of 28nm FD-SOI chips run through CMP over the years, see their website pages on Examples of Manufactured ICs. There are also some nice examples on pages 21 and 23 of their most recent annual report.

For those in the photonics world, CMP has teamed up with Leti to offer Si-310 PHMP2M, a 200mm CMOS SOI platform. CMP is cooperating with Tyndall for the photonics packaging – see that presentation here.  Training kits and tutorials will be available in Q3 of this year.

And in partnership with MEMSCAP, CMP offers Multi-User MEMS Processes (aka MUMPs) for SOI-MEMS.

So lots of terrific SOI resources for CMP – check it out!

~ ~ ~

Note: special thanks to Andreia Cathelin of ST and Kholdoun Torki of CMP for their help on this piece.

ByAdele Hars

FD-SOI – Yes, New Products – and Great Press, too!

FD-SOI has hit Q1 with terrific momentum, both in terms of visibility into products and in press coverage. In case you missed them, here are three articles you should definitely read:

But, if you don’t have time to read them all right away, here are some highlights to tide you over til you do.

Expanding Adoption

Ed Sperling at SemiEngineering sees FD-SOI adoption “… gaining ground across a number of new markets, ranging from IoT to automotive to machine learning, and diverging sharply from its original position as a less costly alternative to finFET-based designs.”

After recounting the advantages (with which ASN readers are well familiar), he notes that two things have changed in our industry. First, fewer and fewer companies can afford to design in the most advanced FinFET nodes. And second: there are enough emerging markets where power is critical, but there won’t necessarily be the billions of units per chip needed to amortize exorbitant design costs.

In particular, for FD-SOI adoption he cites, “…the inferencing stage of machine learning [note: that happens in “edge” devices], base-stations, IoT and IIoT, bitcoin mining, 5G, radar, and a variety of automotive applications.” (GF’s Jamie Schaeffer makes the technical case in the article for NB-IoT and automotive if you want more info.)

ST’s Giorgio Cesana makes an interesting point about body biasing (that I hadn’t hear before) re: uni-direction vs. bi-directional. Currently, he explains, body biasing is uni-directional – although you can use it now in such a way that is effectively bi-directional. However, after the 22nm node, it will become truly bi-directional, which will enable wider swings for power savings. (For those concerned about pre-mature chip aging, see the full article for explanations by experts from Soitec who explain why that’s not a problem after all.)

Cesana also points out that the kind of chips leveraging FD-SOI are not the kind of chips that will need to move to a new node every year. They’re looking for power savings, not shrink. Sperling goes on to make an interesting observation about Intel/MobileEye and power savings vs. shrink – by all means read what he has to say about that….

In conclusion, Sperling asserts that we are now witnessing a shift in the semi supply chain essentially dovetailing with the expansion of FD-SOI adoption and its ecosystem, wherein “…as new markets open up, chipmakers are finding themselves much closer to the application than in the past.”

All in all a great read – don’t miss it.


David Lammers (who you probably know from SST) wrote about products on FD-SOI for GF’s Foundry Files in 22FDX Shows IoT Traction at MWC 2018. A number of start-ups will be showing products on GF’s 22FDX (FD-SOI) technology at Mobile World Congress.

For example, Nanotel Technology is using 22FDX to “…reduce power consumption for its mixed-signal NB-IoT modem.” Lammers interviewed the company’s CTO, Anup Savla, who explained, “We have a digital engine, a processor, designed around IoT applications, where the emphasis is on low power and low leakage. With 22FDX there are knobs that are available to turn down the power and leakage. The opportunities to do that are unparalleled, and you just don’t get that kind of opportunity from bulk CMOS.” A significant part to this design is analog – which of course really benefits from FD-SOI.

Riot Micro CEO Peter Wong cites savings in power, area and TTM with 22FDX. (Courtesy: GlobalFoundries)

Riot Micro on the other hand, has designed an all-digital cellular modem for LTE Cat-M and NB-IOT. There’s no DSP, and big parts of the chip can be shut down as needed to save power for long-term battery operation in the field (get more details in the full GF blog). Several major cellular carriers are on track to certify it this year, and a Middle Eastern customer plans to incorporate it into an emergency-alert system. The company’s CEO, Peter Wong told Lammers, “With 22FDX, the value proposition for us is potential power and area savings.” They also leveraged the growing 22FDX IP ecosystem to accelerate TTM.

Dream Chip Technologies, which as Lammers reminds us, showed their multi-core vision processor at MWC last year, says that now “…the design is providing European auto makers and Tier 1 automotive component suppliers with a platform from which they can create custom derivatives.”

Verisilicon, an SOI Consortium member and a major FD-SOI champion in China will be teaming up with GF show their dual-mode connectivity solutions (which we first heard about last year). GF and VeriSilicon have a suite of IP so that customers can create single-chip, low-power wide-area (LPWA) solutions that support either LTE-M (for the US) or NB-IoT (for Asia & Europe). The IP covers integrated baseband, power management, RF radio and front-end components.

Lammers also cited Anubhav Gupta, GF’s director of strategic marketing and business development for IoT, AI & Machine Learning. He said they’ve got customers taking older multi-chip designs and re-creating them as single-chip solutions in 22FDX for better performance and savings in area, power and cost. Gupta noted that with body biasing in digital designs, they can operate down to 0.4V with standby leakage currents of less than one picoamp per micron. And when embedded MRAM is used in tandem with on-chip SRAM, off-chip flash can be completely eliminated.


Clear Winner

In a wide-ranging interview (see part 7, which focuses on FD-SOI), GF CTO Gary Patton told Anandtech’s Ian Cutress that, “FinFET is a great technology for [performance at any cost], but if you’re looking for something that is more in the consumer space, you need to balance performance with power and cost, you know FD-SOI is a clear winner.”

Patton told Cutress that they have working 12FDX devices in NY that are already close to reaching performance targets. They’ll be in risk production in early 2019.

Meanwhile in 22FDX, Patton talked about the different flavors, including RF, ULP, UL leakage and mmWave, and how well suited they are for target applications especially in automotive and IoT. Elsewhere in the interview he mentioned that potential customers in the cryptocurrency mining businesses are looking at 22FDX, and that ST will be using it to do some “incredible products”.

All in all – products and press – it’s a really fine Q1.


ByAdele Hars

RFSOI Short Course – Great Line-Up! (EuroSOI, March 2018)

RF-SOI is in every smart phone out there, and with 5G, there are lots more applications on the horizon. If you’d like to learn more about designing in RF-SOI, there’s a great short course coming up the day before and in conjunction with the EuroSOI-ULIS Conference in Granada, Spain.

The title of this short course is RFSOI: from basics to practical use of wireless technology. Program and registration details can be found here. The course runs for the full day on Sunday, 18 March 2018.

The talks, which are being given by a stellar line-up of experts, include:

  • RF SOI, fabrication, materials and eco-system – Ionut Radu Director of Advanced R&D, Soitec
  • Fundamentals of RF SOI technology – Jean-Pierre Raskin, Professor, UCL
  • 22nm FDSOI Technology optimized for RF/mmWave Applications – David L. Harame, RF CTO Development and Enablement, GlobalFoundries
  • RF SOI technology and components for 5G connectivity – Christine Raynaud, Program Manager (Business Development – Technology to Design), CEA-Leti
  • Analog and RF design on SOI – Barend van Liempd, Senior Researcher, imec
  • Techniques and tricks for RF measurements on SOI – Andrej Rumiantsev, Director RF Technologies, MPI Corporation
  • FOSS TCAD/EDA tools for advanced SOI-device modeling – Wladek Grabinski, R&D CM Manager, MOS-AK
  • RF design flow for SOI – Ian Dennison, Design Systems Senior Group Director, Cadence

The course is being organized by SOI Consortium members Incize and Soitec.

BTW, this year marks the 4th joint EUROSOI – ULIS Conference. The EuroSOI Conference, which has been ongoing for decades, is well paired with the ULtimate Integration on Silicon Conference. The joint conference provides an interactive forum for scientists and engineers working in the field of SOI technology and advanced nanoscale devices. One of the key objectives is to promote collaboration and partnership between different players from academia, research and industry. As such, it covers technical topics, industry trends and updates from pertinent European programs.

EuroSOI-ULIS will take place 19–21 March 2018 at the University of Granada in Spain. For information on the program and how to register, see the website. Following the conference, the papers will be available at the IEEE Xplore® digital library, and the best papers will be published in a special issue of Solid-State Electronics.




ByAdele Hars

GF Delivering 45RFSOI Customer Prototypes for 5G

GlobalFoundries’ 45nm RF-SOI platform is qualified and ready for volume production on 300mm wafers (read the company’s full press release here).  It was just at the beginning of last year that GF announced the PDK availability for 45RFSOI (we covered it here).  Now there are several customers engaged for this advanced RF SOI process, which is targeted for 5G mmWave front-end module (FEM) applications, including smartphones and next-generation mmWave beamforming systems in future base stations.

In case you missed it, at the Consortium’s Shanghai symposium GF’s Mr. RF — Peter Rabbeni — gave a great talk on the company’s RF-SOI capabilities, which are very impressive (they’ve shipped over 32 billion RF-SOI devices, after all). His slides from that day are available here on the SOI Consortium website. See his slide 12 for an indication of how 45RFSOI fits into the overall picture.

Slide 12 from Peter Rabbeni’s talk at the RF-SOI Symposium in Shanghai. (Courtesy: GlobalFoundries and the SOI Consortium).

As they explain it, next-generation systems are moving to frequencies above 24GHz, so higher performance RF silicon solutions are required to exploit the large available bandwidth in the mmWave spectrum. GF’s 45RFSOI platform is optimized for beam forming FEMs, with features that improve RF performance through combining high-frequency transistors, high-resistivity SOI substrates and ultra-thick copper wiring. Moreover, the SOI technology enables easy integration of power amplifiers, switches, LNAs, phase shifters, up/down converters and VCO/PLLs that lowers cost, size and power compared to competing technologies targeting tomorrow’s multi-gigabit-per-second communication systems, including internet broadband satellite, smartphones and 5G infrastructure.

Psemi and Anokiwave are among those companies at the forefront of 45RFSOI use.  Citing the drive to deliver faster, higher-quality video, and multimedia content and services Anokiwave CEO Bob Donahue said, “GF’s RF SOI technology leadership and 45RFSOI platform enables Anokiwave to develop differentiated solutions designed to operate between the mmWave and sub-6GHz frequency band for high-speed wireless communications and networks.”

The production line is in East Fishkill, N.Y.

ByAdele Hars

More than EDA – Cadence Talks About Designing With FD-SOI

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.)

Design Wins

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.

Cadence Has It All

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).

EDA requirements for FD-SOI are complete. (Courtesy: Cadence & SOI Consortium)

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.

ByAdele Hars

Body Biasing is Back! (SemiEngineering)

A recent article in Semiconductor Engineering announced The Return of Biasing (read the whole thing here). It’s back because of the quest to build more powerful mobile devices that support long battery life. And with FD-SOI designers can once again easily use what is essentially an old design trick for controlling threshhold voltage (Vt). (In the simplest terms, Vt is the point at which a transistor turns on or off.)

This piece is a really good read if you want to know why body biasing is back in the game, and when and how it’s used. It gets fairly technical, but it’s also very clear. SemiEngineering’s Ann Steffora Mutschler really explores the advantages and issues in interviews with experts at ARM and ST, among others. They explained, for example, the differences between leveraging body biasing on bulk and FD-SOI.

By way of background, btw, for much of the history of chip design, body biasing was standard operating procedure. But, as ST Marketing Director Giorgio Cesana noted, body biasing effectively ended at the 40nm node for bulk, and is unworkable in FinFETs. But with FD-SOI, you can not only lower the Vt, but greatly expand the Vdd (supply voltage) range.

ARM Fellow Rob Aitken notes that, “If you are using an FD-SOI type of process, then biasing the substrate is fairly straightforward because the insulator is just sitting there. There are some mechanics to doing it, but the process is tuned to do it easily.”

You really will want to read the whole piece to get a fuller understanding of why and how the use of body biasing is once again on the rise.

ByAdele Hars

FD-SOI in China – Foundries See Interest Mounting Fast

The foundries sent their top guns to the FD-SOI Forums organized by the SOI Consortium and its members in Shanghai and Nanjing. This is a quick recap of what they said.

GF: Winning with SOI

“With FD-SOI, we can deliver a level of integration never before possible,” said GlobalFoundries CEO Sanjay Jah in his Shanghai talk, Winning With SOI. The ecosystem they’re building is covering both design and supply. He showed a video of the new fab, which is going up at an enormous speed in Chengdu, China. It’s huge: a half-kilometer long on one side. And it will start producing wafers in H218, ramping up to a million/year.

GlobalFoundries CEO Sanjay Jah citing key TAMs at the FD-SOI Forum in Shanghai. (Photo courtesy: SOI Consortium & GlobalFoundries)

FD-SOI is past the discovery phase now, he continued. They’ve got 135 engagements and 102 PDKs downloaded. In China alone, they have ten customers taping out 15 products. The key is going after high-growth markets, including mobility, IoT, RF/mmW and automotive (see picture above). “We see intelligence migrating to the edge,” he said.

With 22FDX®, there are 11 fewer mask steps than industry standard 28nm HKMG processes, he said. Back bias is a big differentiator, reaping benefits without penalties and shortening time-to-market. eMRAM is also a big driver of interest. The IP – both foundation and complex – is silicon-proven: you can measure it. The FDXceleratorTM program now has 35 partners.

He also touched on RF-SOI, where GF is #1 in terms of market share.

“I’m very excited about the future for us,” he concluded.

With back bias, you can do even more, said GF’s Sanjay Jha, so customers feel the risk is lower. (Photo courtesy: SOI Consortium & SOI Consortium)

In the Nanjing SOI forum, GF’s head of China sales, Zhi Yong Han gave an excellent presentation that is posted on the SOI Consortium website (you can get it here). He emphasized that they are educating designers to help them take advantage of the FD-SOI for advanced devices, as well and working with universities. The result is that they’re seeing significant growth in the Chinese market.

Slide 9 from GF’s Nanjing presentation shows all the boxes ticked: 22FDX® is qualified for volume production. (Courtesy: GlobalFoundries and the SOI Consortium)

Zhi Yong Han also highlighted the excellent performance of GF’s RF-SOI offering, and the huge capacity they’re building out. NB-IoT clients are now approaching them, he added.

Samsung: World’s 1st eMRAM Test Chip

“E.S. stands for Engineering Sample,” quipped Dr. E.S. Jung, EVP/GM of the foundry business for Samsung Electronics. A very energetic speaker, his talk covered Cutting Edge Technology from a Trusted Foundry. (Samsung Foundry is now a standalone business unit.)

Samsung has seven major 28nm FD-SOI customers, and has taped out over 40 products. This coming year a number of products will be taking off in mass production, he said.

eMRAM (which only required three additional mask steps) is the newest addition to the family of embedded non-volatile memories and it offers unprecedented speed, power and endurance advantages (see the press release here).

Regarding back bias in the IP, he said they’ve solved it working with their suppliers, EDA vendors and customers. Migrations will re-use that IP.

At the Nanjing SOI forum, VP of Samsung Foundry Suk Won Kim looked at design methodology in his talk, 28FDS Samsung Foundry Platform. It’s easy to implement your SoC with FD-SOI technology, he said, explaining how PPA and cost/transistor makes 28FDS an optimal node. The PDK – including RF – are ready for high volume production. There is no design overhead: the differences between FD-SOI and bulk are not difficulties, he emphasized.

For 28FDS, the full spectrum of the ecosystem is available: design enablement, advanced design methodologies, and silicon-proven IP. Samsung has a body bias generator, and the design methodology takes care of checking the body bias integrity. In terms of the physical design, there is awareness in the floorplan for body biasing and flip-well devices. In terms of timing sign-off, there’s almost no change – in fact there are fewer PVT corners. The flow for power integrity sign-off doesn’t change. The RTL-to-GDS flow is about the same – and where they diverge, designers are embracing the differences.

And for those looking ahead, the PDK for 18FDS evaluation will be available soon.

More pics?

For pics of many more slides, check out articles posted about the SOI forums in the China press, including EETimes China, EEFocus, and EDN China (plus see their focus piece).

BTW, there were five days of events in Shanghai and Nanjing, with over 50 presentations  given in ballrooms full-to-bursting. As noted in my previous post, China FD-SOI/RF-SOI Presentations Posted; Events Confirm Tremendous Growth, many (but not all) of the presentations are now available  in the Events section here on the SOI Consortium website.

So in future posts, we’ll cover the EDA/IP companies, design tutorials and user presentations for both the FD-SOI and RF-SOI China events — including those not posted. Stay tuned!

ByAdele Hars

Press Heralds Lattice Semi’s Move to FD-SOI

The press is heralding Lattice Semi’s move to FD-SOI for all its new products. Recent articles in EE Journal, ElectronicsWeekly and eeNewsAnalog see it as a very savvy move.

As noted on the Lattice website, their business is to provide “… smart connectivity solutions powered by our low power FPGA, video ASSP, 60 GHz millimeter wave, and IP products to the consumer, communications, industrial, computing, and automotive markets worldwide.” And at their last Analyst and Investor Day, Lattice CEO Darin Billerbeck did a brilliant job explaining their strategy of targeting the “new edge”, where IoT devices really live.

Slide from Lattice Semiconductor 2017 Analyst & Investor Meeting. (Courtesy: Lattice Semi)

At EW, David Manners talked to Lattice COO Glen Hawk, who told him they’re moving all their new products to 28 nm FD-SOI over the next couple of years. Manners says they benefit from the “…flexibility, low-power and low-cost of FD-SOI”. (Read the full article here.)

A Lattice spokesperson told Peter Clarke at EENewsAnalog that, “Lattice will be migrating to 28 nm FDSOI for new products, which we believe will enable us to achieve 10x lower power with the highest performance devices for edge connectivity and edge computing applications. Existing products will remain on their existing nodes and foundries.” (Read the full article here.

And over at EE Journal, Kevin Morris spent a day at Lattice. Rather than copy the traditional FPGA companies that are going for the high end with advanced FinFET processes, he explains, “Lattice uses FD-SOI processes to milk out the most performance possible with the tiniest power budgets and lowest device cost.” The result he predicts is that, “Lattice will own the edge where pennies and millimeters and microwatts are at a premium.” (Read the full article here.)

ByAdele Hars

China FD-SOI/RF-SOI Presentations Posted; Events Confirm Tremendous Growth

The FD-SOI and RF-SOI events in Shanghai and Nanjing were absolute success stories. Over the course of five days, hundreds of executives and design engineers packed halls for talks by the leaders of the top ecosystem players, and for tutorials given by the world-renowned design experts.

These annual events have been ongoing in China now for a few years now. Citing the tremendous growth of SOI, Dr. Xi Wang, DG of SIMIT and head of the Chinese Academy of Science in Shanghai said in his keynote, “We’ve come a long way.” Five years ago, he recalled, very few people in China even knew what SOI was. Today the central government has recognized its value, and the ecosystem is riding a wave of growth and strength. A national industrial IC group has been approved for investment, and design/IP are ready. The industry has reached a consensus, he said, that FD-SOI is cost-effective and complementary to Finfet, while RF-SOI has reached an almost 100% adoption rate in front-end switches for mobile phones.

Dr. Xi Wang, DG of SIMIT and head of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai giving a keynote address at the 5th Shanghai FD-SOI Forum. (Photo courtesy: Simgui and the SOI Consortium)

Many of the presentations are now publicly available on the Events page of the SOI Consortium website. Here are the links:

(Photo credit: Adele Hars)

Over the next few weeks, I’ll cover the highlights of each of these events. Their success clearly represents a tremendous vote of confidence for the SOI ecosystem in China and worldwide.

The success of these SOI events is a testament to China’s recognition of the great opportunity of SOI-based chip technologies. FD-SOI decreases power consumption and enables deep co-integration of digital, analog, RF, and mm-wave. RF-SOI enables 4G and 5G connectivity with even richer integrated functionalities. It allows the fusion of the RF switch, LNA, and PA, for supporting both traditional sub-6GHz but also mm-wave frequency ranges. SOI technologies also offer a means for China – already the world’s largest chip consumer – to leap to the forefront of chip design and manufacturing,” noted Giorgio Cesana, Executive Co-Director of the SOI Consortium.

The events were followed by top tech news outlets in China. Links follow below (the pieces are in Chinese; or you can open them in Google Translate or Chrome to read them in the language of your choice). Tip: in these pieces you’ll find lots of great pics of key slides, including some that have not been shared on the Consortium website.

FD-SOI coverage included pieces in top pubs such as EETimes China, EEFocus, EDN China (plus a focus piece) and Laoyaoba to name a few. Leading bloggers also posted excellent overviews as well as pieces about specific presentations, including those by Samsung, GlobalFoundries and Handel Jones.

RF-SOI coverage included pieces in leading publications such as China IC, EETimes China, EDN China, EEFocus and SemiInsights.