Now in its third year, the 2015 IEEE S3S Conference has evolved into the premier venue for sharing the latest and most important findings in the areas of process integration, advanced materials & materials processing, and device and circuit design for SOI, 3D and low-voltage microelectronics. World-class leading experts in their fields will come to this year’s S3S Conference to present, discuss and debate the most recent breakthroughs in their research.
This year’s program includes:
The conference also features several events tailored for socialization and peer-to-peer discussions, such as the welcome reception, the cookout and the interactive Poster & Reception Session which is a great place to meet new colleagues and learn and exchange insights on technical topics. Enjoy a light snack and a beverage of your choice while meandering around to meet and discuss technical issues with long-time colleagues and make connections with new and influential experts and decision makers in your field.
Take time to visit the local attractions of Sonoma County. Sonoma is well known for outdoor recreation, spas, golf, night life, shopping, culinary activities, arts and music and wineries. It is truly my pleasure to serve as the General Chair of the 2015 Conference. —Bruce Doris
Download the Advance Program
Find all the details about the conference on our website: s3sconference
Click here to go directly to the IEEE S3S Conference registration page.
Click here for hotel information. To be sure of getting a room at the special conference rate book before 18 September 2015.
The DoubleTree by Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, One Doubletree Drive, Rohnert Park, CA 94928
October 5th thru 8th, 2015
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An IBM paper on a 14nm SOI-FinFET SRAM functional down to 0.3V has garnered press attention. The paper, entitled 14nm FinFET Based Supply Voltage Boosting Techniques for Extreme Low Vmin Operation by R.V. Joshi et al, was presented during the Symposium on VLSI Circuits in Kyoto, Japan in June. According to the abstract, the authors presented a new, “… dynamic supply and interconnect boosting techniques for low voltage SRAMs and logic in deep 14nm FinFET technologies. The capacitive coupling in a FinFET device is used to dynamically boost the virtual logic and array supply voltage, improving Vmin. Hardware measurements show a 2.5-3x access time improvement at lower voltages and a functional Vmin down to 0.3V. Results are supported by novel physics-based capacitance extraction and novel superfast statistical circuit simulations.” EETimes reported on the paper in a piece entitled “IBM Slashes Next-Gen Power” (see it here), wherein the lead author confirmed that this work was based on a 14nm SOI-FinFET architecture.
SOI-wafer leader Soitec has appointed Grégoire Duban as Chief Financial Officer. This recruitment supports the ongoing strategic refocusing of the Group’s activities on its core electronics business, as Soitec announced on January 19 (read full press release here). Duban will report directly to Soitec CEO Paul Boudre.
“Grégoire Duban possesses over 18 years’ experience in leading change under corporate restructuring programs at groups in the energy, digital and automotive sectors. His expertise is focused on improving operating performance, implementing new business models, restructuring operations and refocusing businesses to increase the profitability of groups in transition, such as ours. I am delighted to welcome him on board”, says Boudre.
He adds, “I would also like to express my gratitude to Olivier Brice, who is leaving his position as Chief Financial Officer to move on to new responsibilities, after supporting Soitec in recent years with tremendous professionalism and outstanding commitment.”
With five manufacturing sites around the world and 72,000 wafer starts/month, X-Fab is a leading pure-play analog/mixed-signal and specialty foundry for automotive, industrial and medical applications. ASN recently had the opportunity to talk to Tilman Metzger, Product Marketing Manager for the X-Fab Group, about when customers choose an SOI-based offering.
Advanced Substrate News (ASN): Can you give us an overview of the SOI offering at X-Fab?
Tilman Metzger (TM): X-FAB offers a range of SOI solutions from 1µm to 0.18µm. We support high voltage (HV) requirements from 20V to 650V. X-FAB also targets very high temperature applications of up to 225˚C.
Our latest addition to the SOI family is XT018, our first 0.18µm SOI solution. The modular XT018 platform combines a state-of-the-art 180nm mixed-signal process with benefits of a robust SOI HV technology. XT018 supports voltages up to 200V and targets next generation automotive and industrial applications.
ASN: When did X-Fab first start offering SOI and why?
TM: We started more than 15 years ago with a 2µm HV SOI process. Our first SOI development was driven by specific customer requirements for an HV motor driver application.
ASN: What sorts of chips are currently being manufactured by X-Fab using SOI?
TM: X-FAB solely focuses on analog and high-voltage SOI applications. We do not target RF-SOI or high density SOCs like CPUs etc.
Typical products include high-side gate pre-driver ICs, motor driver ICs, ultrasound driver ICs, solid state relays, optocoupler and analog switch arrays.
ASN: For X-Fab, what are the traditional SOI markets (both in terms of end-markets and geography)? How do you see it evolving?
TM: Historically, we have seen demand for SOI-based technologies mainly from the industrial sector. That said, we expect to see more automotive customers adopt our SOI solutions in the future.
Geographically, our SOI customer base mostly originates from North America, Europe and Japan. Customers from Greater China and South Korea are generally slower in adoption but gaining momentum.
ASN: When and why do your customers choose an SOI-based process?
TM: Typically, we see two types of SOI customers:
ASN: Can you expand on the time-to-market (TTM) issue a bit?
TM: Since SOI substrates are more expensive than normal bulk wafers, the average wafer price is also higher. Typically customers look at a straight cost-per-die calculation when evaluating the business case for their product. But there’s also the aspect related to ease of design – with SOI, design is easier, so the design cycle might be faster and less costly in terms of engineering time. As a result, if customers can launch their product faster, they can grab more market share and increase their profits.
ASN: What kind of support do you offer designers for SOI-based chips? Is it different from the sort of support for bulk processes?
TM: Generally, for our SOI technologies we offer the same comprehensive support as for our bulk solutions. In addition, we provide SOI application notes that discuss SOI related design considerations. With the exception of XI10, the SOI material we are using is “thick film” SOI, where the device layer is up to 55µm thick, so the behavior of active devices is similar to those on non-SOI substrate. Let’s consider the designers doing high-voltage analog: in bulk, they do standard junction isolation, but in SOI they use deep trench isolation, which actually comes with fewer parasitics, so it’s easier to simulate and design.
ASN: Would you say the SOI ecosystem is well established in the markets X-Fab serves?
TM: There are no special SOI ecosystem requirements for X-FAB’s SOI solution. We use established SOI wafer suppliers and support all major EDA platforms (Cadence, Mentor, Synopsys, Tanner). with complete design kits. Analog and high voltage is all about customization. In the analog world, there are some generic IPs, but most of it is specialized. We offer basic IPs for SOI solutions including I/O and standard cell libraries and memories such as OTP, SRAM etc. which is similar to our offering for non-SOI processes..
ASN: Can you tell us more about X-Fab’s SOI offerings?
TM: X-Fab has two one-micron SOI ultra-high-voltage process offerings for 650 Volt and 350 Volt which are used by customers for applications that plug directly into the grid. There is also a big market for 600V IGBT and MOSFET driver ICs. Some customers select these processes for their inherent robustness in applications like avionics and aerospace. (We do not offer specific radiation-hardened solutions, but our customers use these when they have particular reliability requirements.)
Our one-micron process XI10 targets very high-temperature applications: it offers different metallization schemes, and can support up to 225°C.
XT06 is a 0.6µm SOI technology that supports voltages up 60V and is popular across a range of industrial applications.
XT018 is our latest SOI solution. As mentioned earlier it not only targets industrial and medical applications, but also next generation automotive products. An example is the new CAN FD** standard which is more complex and challenging to implement. XT018 offers the right process options to address these requirements. X-FAB has a long successful track record of serving the automotive market. This is also reflected by the fact that the automotive segment accounts for more that 50 percent of our total revenue.
ASN: For MEMS, when and why do your customers opt for an SOI-based solution? Do you see any growth in interest in putting MEMS on SOI?
TM: For MEMS, we definitely see the opportunity to take advantage of SOI material. In general, SOI wafers are interesting for the formation of highly uniform silicon membranes or other mechanical structures, especially if we prefer to use SOI’s mono-crystalline properties rather than depositing poly silicon. The top device layer is ideal for defining silicon features with thicknesses from a few microns to several tens of microns, without the effort of very long silicon deposition times. The buried oxide (BOX) layer acts as a natural etch-stop layer during silicon etching, at the etching either from the front or from the back of the wafer. Stopping at the BOX layer mitigates any non-uniformity for the deep silicon etch and allows for great process control.
For instance, at X-FAB, we use SOI wafers to manufacture our open-platform gyro sensor / accelerometer process. We use the SOI wafer’s device layer to make single-crystal masses with uniform thickness for predictable and robust performance. In this case the buried oxide layer not only acts as an etch stop when etching the silicon but is also a sacrificial material to remove from underneath silicon structures such as inertial masses and comb-drives.
We also have our newer three-axis gyro / accelerometer process where X-FAB is making its own SOI substrate with buried cavities. In other cases, we etch a pattern all the way through the back side of the wafer to leave thin membranes on the front side of the wafer. Again, the etch is well-controlled, stopping on the buried oxide and the remaining oxide / device layer silicon membrane could be used on its own or with further layers and structuring to form a variety of device types such as pressure sensors, force sensors, thermopile structures or microphones.
ASN: Do you see SOI becoming a more important part of X-Fab’s offering? If so, why?
TM: Yes. One of the factors that we foresee to drive SOI based designs is the increasing challenges of automotive systems and ICs. This is largely driven by newer standards like CAN FD. While SOI is is still a relatively small part of our business, we see opportunities, especially with our XTO18 offering, which may open new high-volume markets.
We have customers that require a stable supply of their product over a long period in time, often for a decade or more. In the automotive industry, those customers are using a 10-year old process. We need to be able to guarantee that those processes will be available for ten to fifteen years.
We have customers in consumer markets using SOI – either because they’ve tried and failed on bulk, or they’re looking for long-term solutions. They see the benefits in the ease and speed of design, which helps them ensure that they don’t miss windows of opportunity. But they need to crunch the numbers themselves. SOI will give them a smaller chip size, but there is not a “one fits all” approach – it depends on the design topology.
ASN: Will the SOI-based processes offered by X-Fab evolve? If so, how and why?
TM: Remember, analog and mixed-signal is not a linear shrink like for digital. The node at 0.18 microns is the leading edge for high-voltage. We can add more functionality and more voltage classes. We’ll continue to add features and modules where we see opportunities for increased performance or new markets. That said, for the five platforms in our current SOI offering, the mature ones won’t change too much except for increasing performance. The markets are evolving, but they’re also very conservative.
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X-Fab has organized a series of design webinars, including a number that cover SOI-related topics. Click here to access the list.
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* EMI = electromagnetic interference; EMC = electromagnetic compatibility; ESD = electromagnetic discharge
**CAN stands for controller area network, a protocol that allow microcontrollers and other devices to communicate without a CPU. It is used extensively in automotives for connecting electronic control units (ECUs) and in industry for factory automation. CAN FD is CAN with Flexible Data rates.
International research teams working on or interested in the far-reaching SOIPIX radiation-detector project have a workshop coming up in June. The project was originally started by KEK* scientists to develop a new detector technology and quantum beam imaging for high-energy particle physics. As research teams around the world (including Japan, USA, China and Europe) joined to take advantage of the multi-wafer project runs, it soon expanded to include more applications. (To learn more about the program, click here.)
Leveraging the SOIPIX strategy of SOI-based monolithic sensor-electronics integration, applications are now being developed in areas such as medical (x-ray sensors and radiotherapeutic systems), materials research, nuclear physics, astrophysics, electron microscopy and industrial uses (such as x-ray inspection systems).
(Here at ASN, we covered the project and its implications for medical imaging back in 2010 – click here to read that piece.)
The next workshop, SOIPIX2015, will take place at Tohoku University (Sendai, Japan) 3-5 June 2015. Registration has been extended until 22 May 2015. Click here for registration information.
*KEK is Japan’s High Energy Accelerator Research Organization.
The IEEE SOI-3D-Subthreshold Microelectronics Technology Unified Conference (IEEE S3S) is welcoming papers until May 18, 2015.
Last year, the second edition of the IEEE S3S conference, founded upon the co-location of the IEEE International SOI Conference and the IEEE Subthreshold Microelectronics Conference was a great success targetting key topics and attracting even more participants than in 2013.
While paper submissions are still accepted, the 2015 edition of the conference already promises a rich content of high-level presentations.
Geoffrey Yeap from Qualcomm will open the plenary session. He will give us a broad overview of the Ultra-Low Power SoC technologies.
Invited speakers from major industries (Intel, On Semiconductor, ST, Freescale, NXP, Soitec and more) and from many prestigious academic institutions will share with us their views of the ongoing technical challenges related to SOI, Sub-VT and 3D integration.
There will be two short courses again this year: One on SOI Application, and the other on Monolithic 3D.
There will also be a class on Logic devices for 28nm and beyond as well as a fundamentals class on Robust Subthreshold Ultra-low-voltage Design of Digital and Analog/RF Circuits.
The Hot Topics session will, this year, be about Ultra-Low Power.
During the Rump session we will debate about the What does IoT mean for semiconductor technology?
Scope of the conference:
The Committee will review papers submitted by May 18 in the three following focus areas of the conference:
Silicon On Insulator (SOI): Ever increasing demand and advances in SOI and related technologies make it essential to meet and discuss new gains and accomplishments in the field. For over 35 years our conference has been the premier meeting of engineers and scientists dedicated to current trends in Silicon-On-Insulator technology. Previously unpublished papers are solicited in all areas of SOI technology and related devices, circuits and applications.
Subthreshold Microelectronics: Ultra-low-power microelectronics will expand the technological capability of handheld and wireless devices by dramatically improving battery life and portability. Ubiquitous sensor networks, RFID tags, implanted medical devices, portable biosensors, handheld devices, and space-based applications are among those that would benefit from extremely low power circuits. One of the most promising methods of achieving ultra-low-power microelectronics is to reduce the operating voltage to below the transistor threshold voltage, which can result in energy savings of more than 90% compared to conventional low-power microelectronics. Papers describing original research and concepts in any subject of ultra-low-power microelectronics will be considered.
3D Integration, including monolithic 3D IC or sequential 3D IC, allows us to scale Integrated Circuits “orthogonally” in addition to classical 2D device and interconnect scaling. This session will address the unique features of such stacking with special emphasis on wafer level bonding as a reliable and cost effective method, similar to the creation of SOI wafers. We will cover fabrication techniques, bonding methods as well as design and test methodologies. Novel inter-strata interconnect schemes will also be discussed. Previously unpublished papers are solicited in all of the above areas related to 3D implementation.
Students are encouraged to submit papers and compete for the Best Student paper awards. Details on paper submission are given on the call for papers webpage.
Paper submission deadline: 18 May, 2015
Notification of acceptance: 07 June, 2015
Short course date: 5 October, 2015
Conference date: 5 – 8 October, 2015
More details are available on the S3S website.
Research and consulting group Semico has issued a new report entitled SOI Update 2015: Finding New Applications (for information on getting a copy of the report, click here). As described on the Semico website: “With the recent growth in RF-SOI for switches and integrated solutions for RF functions such as power amplifiers and transceivers, the opportunities for growth in SOI wafer demand have once again garnered a lot of attention. In addition, as the industry transitions to very complex and expensive finFET technology, SOI is providing a high performance, low power option to semiconductor vendors who do not want take on the challenges of finFETs. This report explores the markets, products and outlook for SOI wafer adoption over the next five years.”
Semicon China (Shanghai, 17-21 March 2015) was an awe-inspiring event. The sheer size and the energy were dazzling. But it was the investment plans prompted by the government’s injection of RMB 120 billion (US$19.6 billion) last fall in seed money for the industry with supporting local funds pouring in that was clearly the source of a lot of adrenalin and M&A talk.
China’s industry is in high gear, still posting double-digit growth. But here’s the rub: while China consumes about half of the world’s roughly US$ $350 billion in chips (2015, WSTS), fabs in China only account for 2.5% of worldwide revenue. They’d like to see that change in a big way, and fast.
Hence Beijing’s IC Investment Fund, which is expected to continue to be expanded. SEMI estimates that the total government (central plus local) funds will reach US$100 billion, plus it’s prompting the creation and growth of additional local government and industry funds. (Dr. Adam He at SEMI has done an excellent job explaining Beijing’s investment strategy – you can see his summary here.) New VC funds are popping up everywhere, and existing ones are being augmented.
Which is why everybody was calling it the best time the industry’s ever seen. In his talk, Handel Jones of IBS, called it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
This should represent significant opportunities for the SOI ecosystem in China. China foundries are offering RF-SOI already (click here to read about the Shanghai RF-SOI Workshop). And it is worth noting that China’s R&D institutes have deep expertise in all things SOI.
FD-SOI is an important topic (click here to see an ASN piece on FD-SOI by a professor at a top Beijing institute from last year, and here for more about the recent Shanghai FD-SOI workshop). China’s designers are hot on FD-SOI, too. (Did you hear about how the Beijing cryptocurrency mining hardware company SFARDS is preparing to release its debut miner, which is built on a 28nm FD-SOI ASIC, by April 2015? Read about it here.)
SOI-based MEMS, power, and sensors products are also already produced in China’s foundries. In fact SOI was a strategic focus by key institutes like SIMIT under the national “Innovation 2020” 5-year plan launched in 2010.
In terms of SOI wafers, China’s wafer leader, Simgui also works closely with Soitec, the world’s SOI wafer leader. Not surprisingly, theirs was a busy stand at Semicon China.
The Hot Topic: M&A
During the keynotes and industry sessions, M&A were central themes, as China looks beyond its borders for expertise. Hardly a talk went by that didn’t touch on this topic, all emphasizing that 1 + 1 > 2, and hammering home the importance of holding on to top talent in takeover scenarios. With each new slide, a sea of smartphones raised above the crowd to capture the onscreen tips.
In fact, with the IC Investment Fund taking center stage, the head of China Merger & Acquisition at Goldman Sachs gave the audience a primer on the M&A process. China, he noted, is now number two for M&A worldwide, just behind the US. While in the past the activity was “inbound”, China’s companies are now active on a transnational scale. This year will be an M&A record breaker for the semiconductor industry in China.
China’s expats are returning in droves from abroad, founding new companies. New industrial parks like the one out by the Shanghai airport are attracting major investors.
Big Show, Small World
This was the biggest Semicon ever, with 2750 booths covering 57,000m2 (over 600,000 sq. ft – more than three times the size of West) and over 50,000 visitors (almost twice what they got at West+Intersolar last year).
But Semicon China also had its small-world moments that show just how far SOI is reaching. Consider this. I was on the metro in Shanghai, heading over to Semicon, reading the show program. The guy next to me asked a question about the show (he was heading there, too), and we got to chatting.
It turns out he’s the founder of Trinamic, a German company that designs chips for motion control. They have just started an SOI project with X-fab as the foundry. He’s very clear and enthusiastic about what he expects SOI to do for them. It’s for a high-volume app in small, precision motor control for things like video surveillance cameras.
This is an encouraging indication of just how far the SOI ecosystem is reaching! (We have an interview coming up with the folks at X-fab, btw, so keep an eye out for that.)
We’ll also have lots more from China, including interviews and profiles of the institutes and companies that are major players in the SOI ecosystem there. It’s truly an incredible place to be right now.
The Heterogeneous Technology Alliance (HTA), a coalition of top European R&D organizations, is offering an SOI-MEMS platform. Looking to bridge the gap between academia and industry, this technological platform pools the SOI-MEMS expertise, capabilities and fabrication facilities of Leti (France), Fraunhofer (Germany), CSEM (Switzerland) and VTT (Finland).
The main focus of HTA (click here for the website) is the further development of innovative Smart Systems. SOI-MEMS is typically used for silicon oscillators, microphones, speakers, compass, navigation, motion sensors, sensors and actuators, energy harvesting, micro fuel cells, microfluidics and other deep reactive-ion etched micro structures. A recently issued brochure gives an overview of the offering.
The HTA is active at all levels of Smart Integrated Systems Solutions: from applied research on materials, processes and equipment through the fabrication of devices and components to the development of new products and services. Development and small-scale production cleanrooms for micro-electronics, MEMS, power electronics and analogue components is available. Wafer handling capacity encompasses wafer sizes ranging from 100, through 150 and 200 to 300 mm.
A one-stop shop for complete system solutions, the HTA guarantees simple access to an enlarged portfolio of technologies and is structured to facilitate technology transfer to European and non-European companies. In addition to working with large industrial partners, the HTA offers services specially suited for small and medium-sized companies. With a combined staff of more than 5,000 scientists and a portfolio of more than 3,000 patents, the HTA is de facto the largest European organization in the field.