Since the beginning of the year, there’s been a steady stream of excellent news around Samsung Foundry’s 28FDS, their highly successful 28nm FD-SOI offering. Let’s take a look at what’s been happening, as things do seem to be accelerating. By way of reminder, they announced the industry’s first eMRAM (embedded MagnetoResistive RAM) testchip tape-out milestone on 28FDS in September 2017 (you can read the press release here) – which was just a year after they had announced mass production of 28FDS process technology.
At the end of 2018, Arm announced the industry’s first Embedded MRAM (eMRAM) compiler IP built on Samsung Foundry’s 28FDS process technology.
Follow that with this announcement at the beginning of 2019: Soitec Expands Collaboration with Samsung Foundry on FD-SOI Wafer Supply. The two companies announced that Samsung had secured a high-volume supply of FD-SOI technology to meet industry’s current and future demands especially in consumer, IoT and automotive applications.
In March came two more big announcements. First: Samsung Electronics Starts Commercial Shipment of eMRAM Product Based on 28nm FD-SOI Process. As they noted in the PR, “Samsung’s 28FDS-based eMRAM solution offers unprecedented power and speed advantages with lower cost. Since eMRAM does not require an erase cycle before writing data, its writing speed is approximately a thousand times faster than eFlash. Also, eMRAM uses lower voltages than eFlash, and does not consume electric power when in power-off mode, resulting in great power efficiency.”
Hard on the heals of that came the news that Arm and Samsung Announce IP Platform including eMRAM for 18nm FD-SOI.
At the SOI Consortium’s Silicon Valley Symposium in April, Tim Dry (he’s Samsung’s Director of Foundry Marketing for Edge and End Point), gave a terrific presentation. Entitled Samsung’s FDS with MRAM: Enabling Today’s Innovative Low Power Endpoint Products, it details the company’s FDSOI roadmap for the IoT Endpoint Platform (and yes, you can download in its entirety).
Then in May at the big Samsung Foundry Forum in Silicon Valley, Arm, in collaboration with Samsung Foundry, Cadence, and Sondrel, demonstrated the first 28nm FD-SOI eMRAM IoT test chip and development board. The Musca-S1 test chip demonstrates a new choice in SoC design for IoT solutions, said Arm. (Sondrel, btw, is Europe’s largest independent IC design consultancy.)
In parallel, Cadence announced: Cadence Custom/AMS Flow Certified for Samsung 28nm FD-SOI Process Technology. Especially aimed at digitally-assisted analog designs, what’s new here is that the Cadence custom and analog/mixed-signal IC design flow is now Samsung Foundry certified for 28FDS. Samsung’s 28FDS PDK techfile is Mixed-Signal OpenAccess ready, enabling customers to deploy OpenAccess-integrated, fully interoperable Virtuoso-Innovus implementation flows.
For its part, at its Foundry Forum, Samsung unveiled extensions of the company’s FD-SOI (FDS) process and eMRAM together with an expanded set of state-of-the-art package solutions. They indicated that the development of the successor to the 28FDS process, 18FDS, and eMRAM with 1Gb capacity will be finished this year.
And finally, companies like NXP are shipping exciting new products fabbed on Samsung’s 28FDS. Ron Martino, VP & GM of NXP’s i.MX Application Processor Product Line covered key products in his presentation at the SOI Consortium’s Silicon Valley Symposium (see our coverage here). Among them: the i.MX7ULP for long battery life with 2D & 3D graphics for wearables and portables in consumer and industrial applications; the i.MX 8 and 8X subsystems for automotive and industrial applications; and the i.MX RT series of “cross-over” processors. The i.MX RT ULP (real-time, ultra-low-power) series, which Martino says is the “new normal”, deals with a high number of sensor inputs. The i.MX RT 1100 MCUs, which have been qualified for automotive and industrial applications, are breaking the gigahertz performance barrier.
In July, linuxgizmos.com reported that, “In June, NXP began volume shipments of its super power-efficient i.MX7 ULP, which it announced in 2017. The SoC is billed as the most power-efficient processor on the market that also includes a 3D GPU. […] the ULP version includes a 3D graphics capable Vivante GC7000.” (Vivante, btw, is a VeriSilicon company, which is an SOI Consortium member and a leading proponent of FD-SOI design and IP in China and worldwide.)
This is leading to some really nice wins for NXP. For example, they’ve got Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service (AVS) leveraging the i.MX RT crossover processor, enabling developers to quickly and easily add Alexa voice assistant capabilities to their products. The RT series has rapidly been expanded, with versions for voice-controlled devices and offline face and expression recognition capabilities for smart home, commercial and industrial devices.
Also announced this summer: NXP and Microsoft Bring Microsoft Azure Sphere Security to the Intelligent Edge with a New Energy-Efficient Processor. That collaboration includes development of a new crossover applications processor in NXP’s i.MX 8 series integrating Microsoft’s Azure Sphere security architecture and Pluton Security Subsystem. Their customers “will be able to harness the high-performance and energy efficiency of NXP’s i.MX 8 applications processors combined with Microsoft’s unequaled security and assurance provided by Azure Sphere certified chips”.
As Martino concluded in his presentation, “The future of embedded processing [is] enabled by FD-SOI.” And Samsung Foundry’s FD-SOI offerings are clearly a massive enabler of that future.
Specialty foundry TowerJazz is ramping a 65nm version of its RF-SOI process on 300mm wafers at Fab 7 in Uozu, Japan. To support the ramp, the company has signed a contract with long-term partner, Soitec, guaranteeing a supply of tens of thousands of 300mm SOI silicon wafers, securing wafer prices for the next years and ensuring supply to its customers, despite a tight SOI wafer market.
Five of TJ’s 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, CEO Russell Ellwanter said in his lead keynote at the SOI Consortium’s 5th International RF-SOI Workshop in Shanghai (spring, 2018). BTW, that was in fact a very inspirational talk about Value Creation, and the importance of treating your suppliers with respect. He credited his company’s close relationship with RF-SOI wafer-supplier Soitec for TJ’s claim to the world’s best linearity.
“We are delighted to see the strong adoption of 300mm RF SOI through this large capacity and supply agreement with TowerJazz to augment our already significant 200mm RF-SOI partnership,” said Soitec CEO Paul Boudre. “TowerJazz was the first foundry to ramp our RFeSI products to high volume production in 200mm and continues as one of the industry leaders in innovation in this exciting RF market with advanced and differentiated offerings.”
According to the TJ press release (you can read it here), with its best in class metrics the TowerJazz 65nm RF-SOI process enables the combination of low insertion loss and high power handling RF switches with options for high-performance low-noise amplifiers as well as digital integration. The process can reduce losses in an RF switch improving battery life and boosting data rates in handsets and IoT terminals.
It’s a high-growth market, to be sure. Market researchers Mobile Experts predict that the mobile RF front-end market will reach $22 billion in 2022 from an estimated $16 billion in 2018. TowerJazz says its breakthrough RF SOI technology continues to support this high-growth market and is well-poised to take advantage of next-generation 5G standards, which will boost data rates and provide further content growth opportunities in the coming years.
Customers are already getting into position. For example, Maxscend (WuXi, China), a provider of RF components and IoT integrated circuits, is ramping in this new technology. “We chose TowerJazz for its advanced technology capabilities and its ability to deliver in high volume while continuously innovating with a strong roadmap. We specifically selected its 300mm 65nm RF SOI platform for our next-generation product line due to its superior performance, enabling low insertion loss and high power handling,” said Maxscend CEO Zhihan Xu.
As longtime ASN readers will know, we’ve been covering the evolutions of TJ’s RF-SOI platforms since the beginning of the decade. It’s worth noting, too, that beyond RF, TowerJazz also offers foundry customers other SOI-based processes, such as the new 0.18μm BCD SOI, a 200V SOI technology platform (announced in 2017, press release here) for motor drivers, industrial tools, electric vehicles and more. The previous generation 0.18μm SOI for automotive power management also offers exceptional area savings and is well-suited for high temperature operation. Back in 2014, here at ASN we did a great interview with TJ SVP Dr. Marco Racanelli about when and why they use SOI – and while processes have advanced, the basic drivers are still there, so it’s a still a good read.
And finally, designers will want to know that the TJ Multi-Project Wafer (MPW) Shuttle Program offers the 65nm RF-SOI process, as well as other SOI-based processes. See the website for scheduling and details.
Leti and Soitec have announced a new collaboration and five-year partnership agreement to drive the R&D of advanced engineered substrates, including SOI and beyond. This agreement brings the traditional Leti-Soitec partnership to a whole new dimension and includes the launch of a world-class prototyping hub associating equipment partners to pioneer with new materials, The Substrate Innovation Center will feature access to shared Leti-Soitec expertise around a focused pilot line. Key benefits for partners include access to early exploratory sampling and prototyping, collaborative analysis, and early learning at the substrate level, eventually leading to streamlined product viability and roadmap planning at the system level.
Leading chip makers and foundries worldwide use Soitec products to manufacture chips for consumer applications targeting performance, connectivity, and efficiency with extremely low energy consumption. Applications include smart phones, data centers, automotive, imagers, and medical and industrial equipment, but this list is always growing, along with the need for flexibility to explore new applications starting at the substrate level. At the Substrate Innovation Center, located on Leti’s campus, Leti and Soitec engineers will explore and develop innovative substrate features, expanding to new fields and applications with a special focus on 4G/5G connectivity, artificial intelligence, sensors and display, automotive, photonics, and edge computing.
“Material innovation and substrate engineering make entire new horizons possible. The Substrate Innovation Center will unleash the power of substrate R&D collaboration beyond the typical product road maps, beyond the typical constraints,” said Paul Boudre, Soitec CEO. “The Substrate Innovation Center is a one-of-a-kind opportunity open to all industry partners within the semiconductor value chain.”
Whereas a typical manufacturing facility has limited flexibility to try new solutions and cannot afford to take risks with prototyping, the mission of the Substrate Innovation Center is to become the world’s preferred hub for evaluating and designing engineered substrate solutions to address the future needs of the industry, inclusive of all the key players, from compound suppliers to product designers. Using state of the art, quality-controlled clean room facilities, and the latest industry-grade equipment and materials, Leti and Soitec engineers will conduct testing and evaluation at all levels of advanced substrate R&D.
“Leti and Soitec’s collaboration on SOI and differentiated materials, which extends back to Soitec’s launch in 1992, has produced innovative technologies that are vital to a wide range of consumer and industrial products and components,” said Emmanuel Sabonnadière, Leti CEO. “This new common hub at Leti’s campus marks the next step in this ongoing partnership. By jointly working with foundries, fabless, and system companies, we provide our partners with a strong edge for their future products.”
Per Arm, the industry’s first eMRAM compiler IP is now on Samsung’s 28nm FD-SOI technology. The announcement was made in a post by Kelvin Low, VP Marketing for ARM’s Physical Design Group (read it here). He said that ARM has successfully completed their first eMRAM IP test chip tapeout. The Arm eMRAM compiler IP will be available from 4Q 2018 for lead partners.
Samsung Foundry’s 28nm FD-SOI process technology is called 28FDS. eMRAM (which stands for embedded MagnetoResistive RAM) is a novel non-volatile memory (NVM) option positioned to replace incumbent NVM eFLASH, which has hit its limits in terms of speed, power, and scalability.
Arm’s new eMRAM compiler IP gives Samsung’s 28FDS customers the flexibility to scale their memory needs based on the complexity of various use-cases, explains Low. “What drives the cost-effectiveness of this compiler IP is that eMRAM can be integrated with as few as three additional masks, while eFlash requires greater than 12 additional masks at 40nm and below,” he says. “Also, the eMRAM compiler can generate instances to replace Flash, Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM) and slow SRAM/data buffer memories with a single non-volatile fast memory – particularly suited for cost- and power- sensitive IoT applications.”
At the SOI Consortium’s 2017 Silicon Valley Symposium, Arm said that they were stepping up their support of FD-SOI (read about that here) – and clearly they are! At that event, Arm VP Ron Moore gave a great presentation, which is freely available on our website: Low Power IP: Essential Ingredients for IoT Opportunities.
Samsung, btw, has been offering 28FDS for about three years now. (ASN did a 3-part interview with Kelvin Low back in 2015 when he was a senior director of marketing for Samsung Foundry. It’s still a useful read – you can get it here.) As of last fall, Samsung said it had taped out more than 40 products for various customers. And at the SOI Consortium’s 2018 Silicon Valley Symposium, Hong Hoa, SVP said they’d already taped out another 20 this year (read about that here).
Samsung says the write speed of their eMRAM is 1000x faster than eFlash. They actually announced the industry’s first eMRAM testchip tape-out milestone on 28FDS in September 2017 (you can read the press release here). They also did an eMRAM test chip with NXP. (BTW, Samsung has a really nice video explaining their eMRAM offering – you can see it above or on YouTube here.)
As noted in ASN’s Silicon Valley 2018 symposium coverage, the basic PDK for the Samsung 18nm FD-SOI process (18FDS) will be available in September 2018, with full production slated for fall of 2019. It will deliver a 24% increase in performance, a 38% decrease in power, and a 35% decrease in area for logic. RF for the 18FDS platform will be ready by the end of this year, and eMRAM beginning in 2019.
GF’s 22FDX® (22nm FD-SOI) offering is on an automotive roll. The technology platform has been certified for several key automotive standards, and GF has announced an exciting new ADAS customer in Arbe Robotics.
In addition to sharing info from various press releases and blogs, ASN also had a chance to catch up with Mark Granger, GF’s VP for automotive, who provided some great insights. Read on!
When it comes to compliance, automotive industry standards are excruciatingly rigorous. Every part that goes into a car must adhere to the relevant standards: chips are no exception. One such standard is the AEC – Q100, a “Failure Mechanism Based Stress Test Qualification For Integrated Circuits”. The AEC – aka the Automotive Electronics Council – handles those testing standards and certification. Grade 2 means a technology is certified for the -40°C to +105°C ambient operating temperature range. To achieve Grade 2 certification, devices have to successfully withstand reliability stress tests for an extended period of time over the specified temperature range.
GF recently announced that 22FDX has been AEC Q100 Grade 2 certified (press release here). However Granger adds that for their customers, they’ve added additional headroom that takes them to 125°C. They’re now working on Grade 1 certification, he says, which means the devices are certified to handle junction temperatures up to 125°C (and there again, GF has added additional headroom that takes them to 150°C). That should be done by the end of 2018. The ability you get with FD-SOI to tune the transistors using body biasing is really beneficial here, he says.
For GF, the 22FDX qualifications exemplifies their commitment to providing high-performance, high-quality technology solutions for the automotive industry. The automotive industry is driven by a “zero excursions – zero defects” mindset, says Granger, and that drives the foundry, too.
SOI has been used for decades across industries where heat and electromagnetic radiation are challenges, bringing soft error rates (SER) down by orders of magnitude, notes Granger. (SOI, btw, essentially eliminates what are known as Single Event Upsets (SEU) caused by latch-up, which in turn brings down SER.) That in turn, ties into the FIT (failure in time) rate – and that’s part of the ISO 26262 “Road vehicles – Functional safety” standard – where 22FDX is also certified.
As a part of GF’s AutoPro™ platform, 22FDX allows customers to easily migrate their automotive microcontrollers and ASSPs to a more advanced technology, while leveraging the significant area, performance and energy efficiency benefits over competing technologies. Moreover, the optimized platform offers high performance RF and mmWave capabilities for automotive radar applications and supports implementation of logic, Flash, non-volatile memory (NVM) in MCUs and high voltage devices to meet the unique requirements of in-vehicle ICs.
GF’s Fab 1 in Dresden, Germany (which is where they do 22FDX) also has achieved ISO-9001/IATF-16949 certification, which demonstrates that it is capable of meeting the stringent and evolving needs of the automotive industry. (IATF is the International Automotive Task Force. 16949 is a Quality Management System (QMS) certification specifically for the automotive sector.)
Granger wrote a really informative blog on the GF website – you can read it here. It includes this graphic, indicating where in the car 22FDX-based parts are expected to go.
GF recently announced that Arbe Robotics selected 22FDX® as the process technology for its groundbreaking patented imaging radar. Arbe aims to achieve fully automated system capabilities and enable safer driving experiences for autonomous vehicles (read the press release here).
As the first company to demonstrate ultra-high-resolution at a wide field of view, Arbe Robotics’ radar technology can detect pedestrians and obstacles at a range of 300 meters, in any weather and lighting conditions. The processor creates a full 3D shape of the objects and their velocity, and classifies targets using their radar signature.
As Granger noted in his blog, “Radar is one of several sensor types used to detect objects near a vehicle, to enable features like adaptive cruise control. Lidar is another. It uses pulsed lasers to determine distance from an object by measuring the time it takes for the light to reflect back. However, lidar is currently expensive and is affected by weather conditions. Radar is less expensive, and higher-resolution radars promise to compete well with lidar in automotive applications, thereby enabling lower-priced vehicles to enjoy greater ADAS capabilities. 22FDX-based radar sensors can provide higher resolutions and less latency than current radar sensors at a very low total system cost.”
While they may be complementary at first, there is a battle brewing between high-resolution radar and lidar, Granger told ASN. Putting their solution on 22FDX enables Arbe to achieve a 77 GHz mmWave radar and compete cost-effectively with lidar. “They wanted the best,” says Granger. 22FDX can achieve the requisite Ft and Fmax figures of merit. And with transistor stacking, they can also integrate the power amplifier (PA) on a single device. With the low inherent capacitance of the PA in 22FDX, you can get the high power output you need for mmWave but with low power consumption.
GF blogger Dave Lammers has also written a great piece about the Arbe solution (you should read it: here’s the link). “The company said its advanced technology allows the detection of small targets, such as a human or a bike even if they are somewhat masked by a large object such as a truck,” he writes. “The imaging radar can determine whether objects are moving, and in what direction, and alert the car in real-time about a risk.
“While other car sensors can fail when it is raining, if there’s fog, and due to blinding lights such as a sudden reflection, Arbe’s radar is completely oblivious to all those factors. The custom designed radar processor creates a full real-time 4D image of the environment, and classifies targets using their radar signature.”
Avi Bauer, Arbe’s VP of R&D, is now clearly an SOI fan. Lammers quotes him as saying, “With SOI the design is more straightforward, and (voltage) biasing allows you to do things that cannot be done in standard CMOS. For the transmit and receive modules, SOI’s higher resistivity substrate benefits the passive components – inductors and capacitors – and allows good isolation. High Q passives are important. At 22nm, SOI allows better performance overall.”
Clearly good things are coming down the road for FD-SOI!
“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.
Good news: there are far fewer bigoted extremists out there when it comes to FD-SOI vs. FinFETs. People want the best technology for their application. It’s that simple. That’s a key piece of news from the updated survey by Dan Hutcheson, CEO of VLSI Research, which he presented in the afternoon session of the SOI Consortium’s 2018 SOI Symposium in Silicon Valley
The afternoon then featured presentations by foundry partners, which I’ll cover here.
Also in the afternoon were presentations by wafer-maker Simgui, some innovative start-ups leveraging FD-SOI for custom SoCs and the final panel discussion. I’ll cover those in Part 3 of this series.
BTW, if somehow you missed my coverage of the morning sessions about very cool new products and projects from NXP, Sony, Audi, Airbus and Andes Technology, be sure to click here to read it.
The presentations are starting to be posted on the SOI Consortium Events page – but some won’t be. Either way, I’ll cover them here.
A couple years ago at the annual SOI Symposium in Silicon Valley, Dan Hutcheson presented results of a survey he did (ASN covered it – you can still read about it here). At the 2018 event, he presented an update, which is now posted. You can get it here.
The FD-SOI roadmap and IP availability are no longer issues for decision makers, he found. The 14nm branch – do you go FinFET or FD-SOI? – is gone. “Fins and FD are complementary,” he observed. Most people said they’d consider using both and running two roadmaps, choosing whichever technology is appropriate to a given design.
From a transistor viewpoint, the top reasons to choose FD-SOI is that it’s better for analog and has lower leakage/parastics. It’s perceived as better for complex, high mixed-signal SoCs, and especially for RF and sensor integration. In fact, people see RF as the new mixed-signal, wherein FD-SOI is uniquely positioned for 5G and mmWave.
From a business viewpoint, FD-SOI is perceived to have real advantages. In particular, FD-SOI wins when it comes to keeping down design costs, manufacturing costs and time-to-market. IoT is still the hottest target market for FD-SOI, to which he adds high growth expected in automotive and medical.
With 20 tape-outs in 2018, Samsung is seeing an acceleration in its FD-SOI business. “The trend is healthy,” said Hong Hoa, SVP of the company’s foundry business. FD-SOI, he continued, is on a “differentiation path.”
Samsung’s 28nm FD-SOI process, called 28FDS is at full maturity with very strong yields. They’re seeing more customers and a wider range of applications. The design infrastructure, silicon-verified IP and methodologies are also all mature. They have optimal implementation and verification guidelines for body bias design, a body bias memory usage guide, and a body bias generator integration guide. The process supports Grade 1 automotive, and will be qualified for Grade 2 in a few weeks.
FD-SOI, Hoa reminded the audience, offers superior RF performance compared to both planar bulk and 14nm FinFET. The Samsung strategy is to first provide a base for for the FD-SOI process, then add RF and eMRAM. The base for 28nm was done in 2016; they added RF in 2017 and eMRAM this year.
The Samsung platform for IoT applications integrates both RF and eMRAM to support multi-function needs in a single platform. Lead customers are already working with eMRAM in their designs, he added. (BTW, Samsung has a really nice video explaining their eMRAM offering – you can see it on YouTube here.)
The basic PDK for the Samsung 18nm FD-SOI process (18FDS) will be available in September 2018, with full production slated for fall of 2019. It will deliver a 24% increase in performance, a 38% decrease in power, and a 35% decrease in area for logic. RF for the 18FDSplatform will be ready by the end of this year, and eMRAM beginning in 2019.
With design wins from 36 customers underway, 12 of which are taping out in 22FDX (GF’s 22nm FD-SOI process) this year, the market has validated FDX for differentiation, said GF SVP Dr. Bami Bastani. And indeed, designers are using it for a wide array of applications across North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific and Japan.
Customers in the North America are designing in 22FDX for NB-IoT, industrial, RF/analog, mobile, network switches and cryptocurrency applications. In Europe, it’s more or less the same plus automotive/mmWave, optical transmission, wireless BTS and AI/ML. In Asia Pacific/Japan the mix is similar to Europe.
Bastani sees the three big enablers as the the strengths of the roadmap, the ecosystem and multi-sourcing from Dresden and Chengdu (where they’re already equipping the cleanrooms). He also tipped his hat in acknowledgment to the partnership with FD-SOI wafer supplier Soitec, noting that they have gone the extra mile to match GF’s requirements.
So that was the first part of a great afternoon. As mentioned above, my next post (part 3) will cover a very informative presentation by wafer-maker Simgui on the markets in China, plus talks by some innovative start-ups leveraging FD-SOI for custom SoCs and the final panel discussion.
“The ecosystem is ready. The focus is now on applications and products.” And with those words, SOI Consortium Executive Director Carlos Mazure opened the annual Silicon Valley SOI Symposium. As promised, the day was packed with presentations about products on FD-SOI – some from big players like NXP and Sony, some from names new to the FD-SOI ecosystem like Audi and Airbus, and some from start-ups just getting into the game.
The event got excellent coverage in EETimes/EDN – including in their editions across the globe in China, Japan, Taiwan, India and more. Samsung, GF Ramp FD-SOI, heralded the headlines.
It was a full day of excellent presentations. In this post, I’ll chronicle the morning presentations. The next post(s) will cover the afternoon session. Note that as of this writing, the ppts are not yet posted on the SOI Consortium website, but many will be. Keep checking back under the Events tab, and look under “past Events”.
As semiwiki noted a few years back, Andes Technology is “…the biggest microprocessor IP company you’ve never heard of.” Based in Taiwan, Mediatek is one of their big customers; they’ve got a strong client base across Asia/Pacific, and are now making inroads into North America. Last year they announced with GF their 32-bit CPU IP cores had been implemented on GF’s 22FDX® FD-SOI technology.
In his symposium keynote, CEO Frankwell Lin said that in the test chip they’re doing with GF and Invecus, they’re seeing a 70% power savings compared with what they’d gotten in 28ULP. Their newest products are the N25 32bit and NX25 64bit RISC-V based cores, and in July they’ll announce a core that runs on Linux.
“With FD-SOI we’re enabling the future of embedded processing,” the always-quotable (and keynote speaker) NXP VP/GM Ron Martino told us. NXP’s i.MX7ULP, i.MX8, i.MX8X and i.MXRT are all FD-SOI based. They all share fundamental building blocks, so NXP can build platforms, scale and re-use IP. “It’s better than any technology I’ve worked on in my 30 years in the industry,” he said.
They’re seeing much higher performance with on-chip flash. And the RT “crossover” processor boasts 3x higher computing performance than today’s competing MCUs. This is going to be critical for edge computing going forward, to which end NXP is working very closely with foundry partner Samsung.
FD-SOI is not just helpful for the logic part of these chips – memory technologies also share in the benefits. They get much higher performance with on-chip flash. Leakage is cut by a factor of ten with biasing techniques, and the enhancements mean that memory can operate at very low voltages.
NXP is increasingly sophisticated with how they use body biasing, applying high-granularity techniques to independent domains in different parts of the chips. Getting sub-0.6 Vmin delivers value at multiple levels: on battery life, on total system cost, and on system enablement. Invest in body biasing if you want to get leadership results, advised Martino.
Edge computing – including machine learning and neural networks for things like image classification – is a big target, he continued. At the last CES they did a proof-of-concept “foodnet” where two appliances talked to each other without having to go to the cloud. In that case it was an i.MX8 in a fridge and an i.MXRT in a microwave, but he explained that the same concept can be applied to a car for driver awareness, where you don’t want to take the extra time for or don’t have a connection to the cloud.
iMX and FD-SOI enable scalable solutions, he concluded.
What’s a metal-bending company doing talking about electrons? asked Audi Project Manager Dr. Andre Blum. And why SOI? Well, for Audi, he said, SOI stands for Solutions, Opportunities and Innovation.
Audi is working on the various levels of autonomous driving, and they want it to be without design limitations. That means being able to hide sensors wherever they’re needed. They’ll create a cocoon around the car for the best driver experience. He showed a fun video Audi’s made to illustrate their concept – it’s the Invisible Man video, which you can check out on YouTube.
But those new architectures can’t up the power budget (think heat): rather they need to cut power drastically while increasing performance. And with FD-SOI, they see an opportunity to do just that, he said, while integrating the sensors.
Audi is one of 25 partners in a heavily funded (>100 million Euros) brand new EU Horizon 2020 program called Ocean12 (lead by Soitec). The launch was only May 1st 2018 (so as of today it doesn’t even have a website yet), and it will run for about 4 years. It is described by ECSEL (a public-private entity that puts together the big EU research projects) as an “opportunity to carry European autonomous driving further with FDSOI technology up to 12nm node”. One to watch!
For Airbus, it’s all about increased connectivity and communications that are trusted and secure, said company expert Olivier Notebaert. Since their chip runs are low, NRE – non-recurring engineering costs – are very important; and they need flexible systems.
SOI has a long history in aerospace – in fact that’s originally where it got its start, since it can handle radiation and is immune to latch-up. Notebaert says that even for Airbus, IoT is their future. The developments they pioneer will be part of it.
Airbus is a partner in the EU Horizon 2020 DAHLIA project – which stands for Deep sub-micron microprocessor for spAce rad-Hard appLIcation Asic. The project is, “…developing a Very High Performance microprocessor System on Chip (SoC) based on STMicroelectonics European 28nm FDSOI technology with multi-core ARM processors for real-time applications, eFPGA for flexibility and key European IPs, enabling faster and cost-efficient development of products for multiple space application domains. The performance is expected to be 20 to 40 times the performance of the existing SoC for space.”
According to another recent presentation, DAHLIA is prototyping an FPGA this year that will be in production in 2019.
For Sony GM Kenichi Nakano, FD-SOI has big potential for low-power products. And he should know. Sony has been an FD-SOI pioneer, using it as the basis for GPS chips that are now in a growing number of cool products, especially watches. They’re getting good feedback from the market and see good opportunities across a diversified global customer base, he said. Their CXD5603, for example, is the lowest power GNSS (GPS) chip worldwide. In mass production since 2015, it is now dominating world wearable markets like trackers — such the popular Amazfit line.
Running through their various FD-SOI based GPS offerings, he noted that the GPS is a pretty simple chip. But now customers are asking for more, like for it to work in the water (where a GPS typically doesn’t). So Sony has partnered with triathalon teams and are seeing good results.
With success, of course, comes greater demands: for greater accuracy, for more precise positioning in motion, for increased height accuracy, for even lower power – and Sony is meeting these demands with FD-SOI, in solutions like the new CXD5602. The CXD5602 product configuration covers audio/video/communications: key factors in IoT. A camera version is releasing this summer, as are main and extension boards. An LTE module will be released at the end of 2018.
And now they’re using those FD-SOI chips in audio applications. You’ll find it in the Xperia™ Ear Duo, he said. The MWC press release noted that Xperia Ear Duo “… is driven by Sony’s ultra-low power consuming “CXD5602” chip and a sophisticated multi-sensor platform, the “Daily Assist” feature will recognize time, location and activities to offer relevant information throughout the day – reminding you what time your next meeting is when you reach the office or narrating the latest news headlines.”
Also in that PR, Hiroshi Ito,Deputy Head of Smart Product Business Group at Sony Mobile Communications, said, “Ear Duo is the first wireless headset to deliver a breakthrough Dual Listening experience – the ability to hear music and notifications simultaneously with sounds from the world around you.” The highly anticipated wireless “open-ear” stereo headset started rolling out to select markets in Spring 2018. There’s a great info page with video here.
So that’s what we heard in the morning. My next post (or posts?) will cover the afternoon. That includes Dan Hutcheson’s excellent talk updating his FD-SOI survey, presentations from Samsung, Globalfoundries and Simgui, plus some from very cool start-ups, and the final panel presentation.
They’ve got initial silicon of Dream Chips’ ADAS SoC fabbed in GlobalFoundries’ 22FDX (FD-SOI) technology, and it’s got record power efficiency (read the full press release here). The chip offers high performance image acquisition and processing capabilities and supports AI / Neural Network (NN) vision operation with a total of 1 TOPS at 500 MHz on 4 parallel engines. With all functions including quad-core Arm® Cortex®-A53, Tensilica DSPs, and INVECAS’ LPDDR4-Interfaces activated, the SoC shows single digit power dissipation without the need for forced cooling, which is of significant importance for embedding in automotive environments.
Targeting automotive computer vision applications, the SoC was created in close cooperation with Arm, ArterisIP, Cadence, GF, and INVECAS as part of the European Commission’s ENIAC THINGS2DO reference development platform, where about 40 partners in Europe cooperated to propel the FDSOI-Design Ecosystem.
Of particular importance is the new and reduced power footprint of this SoC in 22FDX-technology from GF. AI/NN-operation for image recognition is available today, but most of the solutions need active cooling. Implementation of Dream Chip Technologies’ SoC on GF’s 22FDX platform demonstrated single digit Watt and cooling targets for designers managing power dissipation. If needed, the SoC bears the potential to increase the performance even further up to 2 TOPS at 1.0 GHz by applying GLOBALFOUNDRIES’s forward body-bias capabilities and other optimization techniques.
The jointly developed ADAS SoC platform from Dream Chip Technologies is available now. Part of GF’s FDXcelerator™ Partner Program, Dream Chip is the largest independent German Design Service company specialized in the development of large ASICs, FPGAs, embedded software and systems with a strong application focus on automotive vision systems (ADAS).