Join us! In partnership with our members, the SOI Consortium is co-organizing and participating in two key SOI events coming up in China over the next few weeks. On May 18th, we’ve put together an SOI Forum at the World Semiconductor Congress (WCS) in Nanjing. And on May 23rd & 24th, we’ve teamed up with our members SIMIT, Sitri and Leti for another in our series of SOI Academies, including an FD-SOI Training Day. (The last one this past winter was a terrific success – read about that here if you missed our coverage at the time.)
At WCS, the SOI Forum (sub-forum #8) is part of the afternoon Innovation Summit. We’ll cover the broader SOI ecosystem, including both RF-SOI and FD-SOI – from wafers to design through manufacturing. Presentations will be given by members of the SOI Consortium team, and by leaders from our membership, including Simgui, NXP, Incize, ST, IBM, Cadence and Xpeedic. Click here or scan the QR code for the full program and registration information.
Also at WCS, SOI Consortium member VeriSilicon will be participating in a morning session on AI and IoT Wireless Communications (sub-forum #4). They’ll be giving a presentation on their low-power Bluetooth design platform for GlobalFoundries 22FDX, and their CEO Wayne Dai will be moderating a round-table discussion. You can get more information on that (in Chinese only, tho) here, or follow VeriSilicon on WeChat.
The SOI Academy in Shanghai is an opportunity for experienced designers to gain solid expertise in FD-SOI. The event begins in the afternoon of May 23rd with a series of informative plenary talks by members of the SOI Consortium team, and by experts from our members Leti, Soitec, VeriSilicon, GlobalFoundries and NXP. The FD-SOI Training starts the next morning, on May 24th.. This is a hands-on event lead by top experts from Leti. The morning is devoted to digital design in FD-SOI, and the afternoon to RF design (including for 5G) in FD-SOI. Attendees will get a comprehensive understanding of design techniques for low-power chips leveraging the multiple benefits and flexibility of FD-SOI technology. Get more information here, or from the WeChat QR code.
We’ve got a busy schedule! To keep up to date with where we and our members will be promoting the SOI ecosystem, be sure to check our Events page regularly.
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.
“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.
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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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.
Many of the presentations are now publicly available on the Events page of the SOI Consortium website. Here are the links:
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.
Suddenly they’re everywhere: opportunities to learn more about FD-SOI and RF-SOI. Over the next couple of months you can find them in China, Europe and Silicon Valley. Some are organized by the SOI Consortium, others by foundries and partners.
Here’s a quick listing with links for more info on how to register for upcoming China events.
Nanjing, China. SOI Workshop & Tutorial, 21-22 September 2017.
Organized by the Nanjiing city government and the SOI Consortium. The first day is packed with top presenters, including NXP, ST, Samsung, GlobalFoundries, Cadence, Synopsys, as well as design and IP partners. The second day is a tutorial covering FD and RF-SOI, as well as imagers and photonics. Sessions will be given by Synopsys, Silvaco, Incize, ST, Soitec, and the SOI Consortium.
Shanghai, China. FD-SOI Tutorial. 25 September 2017.
Organized by VeriSilicon and the SOI Consortium. Tutorial covers: tech overview; analog/RF/mixed-signal; neuromorphic and IoT processors; EDA & design process flow; eNVM; and using forward & reverse body bias. Session leaders are from SOI Consortium, GlobalFoundries, ST, Soitec, UCBerkley, Evaderis and Greenwaves.
Shanghai, China. FD-SOI Forum. 26 September 2017.
Organized by VeriSilicon, Simgui, SIMIT and the SOI Consortium. The focus is on Ultra Low Power computing, RF, EDA/IP ecosystem growth and accelerating adoption. Presentations by Dr. Xi Wang of China’s SIMIT/CAS, GF’s CEO Dr. Sanjay Jha, Samsung’s EVP & GM Dr. ES Jung, as well as from Ron Martino, VP & GM from NXP; Paul Boudre, CEO of Soitec; IBS, NSIG, GF, UC Berkeley, VeriSilicon, Cadence and Synopsys. There’s also a very impressive line-up for a final panel discussion.
Shanghai, China. International RF-SOI Workshop. 27 September 2017.
Organized by Simgui, Sitri, SIMIT, VeriSilicon and the SOI Consortium. Now in its 5th year, this conference has grown very quickly: last year it was in a ballrooom with standing room only (note that RF-SOI chips are now found in pretty much every smart phone on the planet). The focus this year is on IoT, mobile, 5G connectivity, and mmW. Keynotes are from TowerJazz, Sony and China Mobile. Presentations from RDA, SMIC, Simgui, Will-Micro, GF, Soitec, Silvaco and Screen.
BTW, for events organized by the SOI Consortium, many of the presentations are available on the website (from Tokyo this summer, for example, and Silicon Valley last spring – and going on back through 2015). Scroll down through Events to Past Events to find them.
FD-SOI makes sense for China. That was the key message SOI wafer leader Soitec made in a press conference on FD-SOI for a select group of journalists just before Semicon China this spring. News then quickly spread, and resulted in over 150 FD-SOI articles in the top China technology and business press.
Soitec also put together a super FD-SOI resource page, with lots of information in Chinese (you can see it here).
Soitec execs Thomas Piliszczuk, SVP of Marketing & Biz Dev and Christophe Maleville, SVP of the Digital Electronics BU joined forces with the CEO of the Chinese wafer company Simgui and the VP of the National Silicon Industry Group (NSIG). They made the case that FinFETs, bulk and FD-SOI will co-exist, FD-SOI is an excellent technology for China on two fronts:
It was a powerful set of messages and clearly resonated throughout the press. Here’s a quick look (with a little help from Google Translate…) at what some of the top publications had to say.
The ChinaByte article was one of many that reported on the key points that the Soitec folks made at their press conference, leading with the headline that FD-SOI can help the China innovation blueprint. Other points included:
With a daily page views of over 1.7 million, CCINET is an influential site. The headline they ran was about how Soitec has promoted the ecosystem of FD-SOI and shares its innovate engineered substrates in China (link here). The thrust was that FD-SOI represents an opportunity for China. It covered the basics of FD-SOI, Soitec’s role as the leading global engineered substrate expert and partnerships in China with Simgui and Sitri, and FD-SOI’s strong ecosystem.
In a long and detailed piece, EETimes-China documented Soitec’s decade-long history in China, explained the special role of Soitec’s Smart CutTM technology in manufacturing the ultra-thin wafers for FD-SOI, then covered the scope of the ecosystem and the value propositions. There was also a follow-up piece by International Editor Junko Yoshida in the global edition of EETimes (see here).
Many publications focused on how Soitec and FD-SOI supports China’s innovation plan. They include: Power System Design; ECCN; Electronic Products China; 21ic; Electronic Engineering & Product World; EC.HC360; Microwave Journal; and China Electronic Market
China Electronic News noted how FD-SOI supports “Made in China 2025”. The headline of the China Business Journal article (which got a lot of WeChat attention) positioned FD-SOI as a new choice for the semiconductor industry, and a chance for China become an industry leader. EEWorld cited Simgui’s and NSIG’s affirmation that FD-SOI adoption is moving fast and will have a bright future in China. EEFocus looked at how FD-SOI compares with FinFETs (very well!), and cites Soitec’s Maleville as saying FD-SOI represents a 6 million wafer/year opportunity in China by 2020.
SST/China called FD-SOI the best choice for mobile and IoT. Of course we can’t cover all the other articles here, but with the Soitec press conference having generated over 150 pieces in the China tech and biz press, that message is now clearly out there.
Soitec, the industry’s leading supplier of SOI wafers recently announced it’s in high-volume manufacturing of a 300mm version of its wildly successful RFeSI line (see press release here).
What’s it all about? FEMs. RF front-end module – aka FEM – chips handle the back-and-forth of signals between the transceiver and the antenna. FEMs built on advanced SOI wafers are found in virtually every smartphone. Until now, the starting SOI wafers for all those RF FEMs were 200mm in diameter. But with demand continuing to increase, and the RF-SOI prospects for 4G/LTE-A (and then 5G) being very bright indeed, the bigger wafers were needed.
(Bear in mind that these RF-SOI wafers are not at all the same kind of wafers used in the RF and analog parts of an FD-SOI SOC. But because there’s still a fair amount of confusion about this, my ASN post, RF-SOI vs. FD-SOI with RF – What’s the difference? from a few months back sorted it out. If you missed it or you’d like a quick refresher, click here to read it.)
So, back to this announcement about the 300mm version of the RFeSI substrates. As the SOI wafer leader, Soitec’s got a lot of proprietary manufacturing technologies, and a boatload of experience with 200mm RF-SOI. High-volume manufacturing of 300mm SOI wafers isn’t new to them, either, since they’ve been doing that for over a decade.
But latest additions to the line, the advanced RFeSI90 wafers, required some really significant innovations. Soitec teamed up with UCL (you can read about that here) a few years ago on a breakthrough approach to SOI wafers for RF. This has opened the door for new enhancements that enable more highly integrated ICs for 4G/LTE-Advanced communications and the next generation of wireless technologies, including 5G.
It so happens that the RFeSI 300mm wafer announcement comes just as Soitec reports that they’ve sold over a million 200mm RF-SOI wafers since 2009. Those million RF-SOI wafers have yielded about 20 billion FEMs. That means Soitec’s RF-SOI substrates are now integral in manufacturing antenna switches, antenna tuners, as well as some power amplifiers and WiFi circuits for the smart phone and related mobile markets. In fact they’re used by all the leading RF semiconductor companies to address cost, performance and integration needs for 3G and 4G/LTE mobile wireless.
Bernard Aspar, Sr. VP of Soitec’s Communication & Power Business Unit, is particularly pleased with their RF success. “The widespread use of Soitec’s materials technology in existing 3G and 4G portable communications demonstrates the important role of RF-SOI in high-volume, cost-sensitive applications such as cellular phones, tablets and other fast-growing markets involving mobile internet devices,” he said. “Now the high-volume availability of our newest 300mm RF-SOI offering enables our customers and their customers to continue to deliver higher performance while giving them access to foundries’ larger global production capacities and more manufacturing flexibility.”
To be sure, 200mm is still going strong and stronger, so Soitec is also increasing its 200mm production capacity. What’s more, last fall Soitec teamed up on a 200mm wafer manufacturing deal with Shanghai-based Simgui, which uses Soitec’s Smart CutTM technology to produce SOI wafers for its own RF, power and automotive customers in China, as well as manufacturing on an OEM basis for Soitec customers worldwide (read about that here).
Meanwhile, over the past 18 months Soitec has been delivering 300mm RFeSI90 wafer samples for product qualification. They note that key partnerships with fabless semiconductor companies and foundries have been instrumental in achieving the production milestones and outstanding performance levels of Soitec’s new 300mm RF-SOI product. In fact to make sure that customers get the performance they need, last year Soitec engineers even developed a way to predict the performance their wafers would provide (if you missed it, you can read more about that here).
To find out why some of the leading foundries and chipmakers have chosen to go with a 300mm RF-SOI wafer solution, and what’s in the RF-SOI substrate innovation pipeline, click here to read part 2 of this article.