The SOI Consortium and member companies had a significant presence at two important events in China recently: the World Semiconductor Congress (WCS) in Nanjing and the SOI Academy, including an FD-SOI Training Day in Shanghai.
Nanjing is especially known as a leading RF chip design hub in China, but WCS went well beyond RF. The three-day 2019 event was held at the Nanjing International Expo Center. It attracted over 30,000 visitors, 5000 of whom attended the various summit forums.
The SOI Consortium organized the SOI Forum, which was part of an afternoon Innovation Summit. Presentations were given by members of the SOI Consortium team, and by leaders from our membership, including Simgui, NXP, Incize, ST, IBM, Cadence and Xpeedic. Some of those presentations are now available from our website — click here to get them.
Earlier in the day, SOI Consortium member VeriSilicon participated in a morning session on AI and IoT Wireless Communications. They presented their low-power Bluetooth design platform for GlobalFoundries 22FDX, and CEO Wayne Dai moderated a lively round-table discussion.
Following hard on the heels of the Nanjing event, the SOI Consortium team and members headed to Shanghai for the SOI Academy 2019, hosted for the second year in a row by member SIMIT (Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and IT under the Chinese Academy of Sciences). The two-day event attracted more than 250 professionals from more than 100 domestic and foreign IC companies and research institutes.
Keynotes by SOI Consortium Executive Director Carlos Mazure, SITRI CEO Mark Ding and Jean-Eric Michallet, Head of the Microelectronics Components Department at Leti and bizdev director for the SOI Consortium focused on the SOI ecosystem. The SITRI and Leti talks also gave updates on their research and industrialization alliance. Further talks were given by leaders from Soitec, GlobalFoundries, VeriSilicon, IBM and Xpeedic. These addressed the growing FD-SOI ecosystem, applications in automotive electronics, 22 nm and 10 nm FD-SOI devices, advanced SOI substrate technology, China’s FD-SOI development, the FD-SOI manufacturing process, product design, EDA tools and all aspects of industry’s software and modeling value chain.
Several speakers noted that more and more local Chinese customers are actively adopting FD-SOI for low-power, high-performance chips.
The second day was devoted to hands-on professional training, given by experts from Leti using an actual PDK and punctuated by in-depth discussions. This helped the IC designers to fully understand the advantages and flexibility of FD-SOI in low-power logic, analog/mixed-signal and RF.
All in all, “It was a great success,” concluded Jean-Eric MICHALLET, Head of the Microelectronics Components Department at Leti and bizdev director for the SOI Consortium. Plans for the next SOI Academy are already underway, with plans to extend the topics to include more on photonics, RF, power and MEMS.
Why FD-SOI? What can you do with it that you couldn’t do before? That was the big question from IHS Markit’s Matthew Short that kicked off the first panel discussion at the SOI Consortium’s Silicon Valley Symposium. And there were some great answers.
Here in this final part of our coverage of the event, we’ll detail who said what in the two panel discussions, as well as the presentations by Leti, Intento Design & the SOI Consortium’s IP/EDA roundup.
If you missed the previous two installments of our coverage, you can catch up on the rest of the presentations in part 1 (NXP, Samsung & more) here and part 2 here (Synaptics, GlobalFoundries & more). Almost all of the presentations are now freely available under “events” on the consortium website – or just click here to get them.
The presentation by Matthew Short, Sr. Director of IoT Technology at IHS Markit, was not specific to SOI, but it sure did lay out out the market opportunities. Entitled IoT, 5G, ADAS and AI Market, it’s available on our website. Matt spent most of his career in chip design at NXP/Freescale, so he really has an engineer’s perspective on where this all is going. At IHS Markit, they define IoT as anything with an IP address. Over the past year more than 10 billion devices were shipped, and there were more “things” than cellular handsets, so the world has really changed. He outlined the growth drivers, suggested that 5G won’t be a “wow” thing for consumers, and noted there is a lot of debate raging regarding how smart sensors should be (the Tier 1’s want smart).
He was then joined on the stage by the participants in the first panel discussion, which looked at product and application drivers. That included: NXP Fellow Rob Cosaro; Tim Dry, Director of Edge & Endpoints Marketing at Samsung Foundry; ST biz dev director Roger Forchhammer; CoreAVI biz dev VP Lee Melatti; Nokia VP Michael Reiha; and Analog Bits EVP Mahesh Tirupattur.
First Short asked why customers wanted more integrated solutions. For CoreAvi, it’s about safety, for ST in automotive it’s about security, for Analog Bits, it’s about integrating more analog, for Nokia it’s just a necessity.
Then he asked Why FD-SOI? What can you do that you couldn’t do before? For ST, which is doing MCUs for automotive, it’s about energy efficiency, speed, the density of non-volatile memory and the robustness of the technology. For NXP, it’s back biasing, low voltage and power numbers never seen before. “FD-SOI really makes a difference in the products we can bring to market,” said Cosaro. For CoreAVI, it’s the long-term power impact. And for Analog Bits, “Customers see huge benefits,” said Tirupattur, for cost sensitive applications. He has customers selling their technology in high volumes in FD-SOI.
What about edge vs. cloud? For Nokia, it’s monolithic integration for best-in-class RF, advanced memory, biasing and voltage regulation adding a layer of intelligence. Samsung sees edge as distributed cloud, and CoreAVI sees safety in the edge, because you can’t completely rely on the cloud.
Where are the weak points in the FD-SOI ecosystem? For Samsung, more people need to use back biasing. “People need to use the knobs,” said Dry. For Analog Bits, the next step is innovation around back biasing, as many in logic don’t understand the benefits, so the ecosystem needs to promote the value proposition. ST suggests that with more products out there, customers will see the benefits. NXP did “a lot of the heavy lifting” at 28nm – now you need more people using these nodes, not just the cellphone nodes.
How will the architecture change? For NXP, it’s all about memory bandwidth. For Samsung, it’s the promise of analog and interconnect. Nokia sees the back-end and heterogeneous integration with FD-SOI and RF enablement. Analog Bits’ Tirupattur said he’s pushing his engineers for even lower power in a still smaller form factor, noting that most analog engineers had been more focused on performance than power, but now that’s changed. For ST, it’s AI/ML throughout automotive, and FD-SOI is beneficial there.
Research giant Leti’s presentation was entitled Applications Around the Connected Car. 85% of Leti’s €315M budget comes from R&D contracts with its 350 industrial partners. Truly a driving force in FD-SOI, Leti is involved in a dizzying array of projects. For the connected car, they cover (much of it on SOI): high precision & smart sensing, embedded processing & fusion, new computing paradigms and deep learning, ultra-low power computing nodes & framework, ultra-low power connectivity for IoT, energy management and scavenging, and security. They do vision at the edge, 3D technology for smart imagers, and ways to dramatically reduce power. They’ve got a Qbits platform on FD-SOI for AI at the edge, a super low power neural network accelerator, and ULP connectivity. Check out the presentation for lots of details.
SOI Consortium Executive Co-Director Jon Cheek gave a quick round-up presentation aggregating various IP and EDA offerings entitled , SOI EDA/IP Overview. It is taken from recent member presentations including Cadence, Silvaco, VeriSilicon, Synopsys and GlobalFoundries, giving you an idea of how dynamic the ecosystem has become.
While the logic side of the design equation has long had robust automation tools, some consider the analog side as sort of black magic. New consortium member Intento Design aims to fix that. Here at ASN we covered their work with ST briefly a few months ago here. At the SOI Symposium, the company’s CEO Dr. Ramy ISKANDER presented their solution in ID-XploreTM: A Disruptive EDA for Emerging FDSOI Applications. Intento, a partner in GlobalFoundries FDXcelerator program, has cognitive software for first-time right analog design. It determines the appropriate static and dynamic body biasing ranges to meet PVTB (Process/Voltage/Temperature/Body Bias), and is fully integrated into the Cadence Environment. They produced multiple correct-by-construction FD-SOI designs, and the total time spent to generate eight candidates FD-SOI designs took less than a day.
The last panel discussion, entitled Are the Tools in the Box? was moderated by the Consortium’s Jon Cheek. Participants included: VeriSilicon SVP David Jarmon; Arm PDG Marketing VP Kelvin Low; NXP’s Stefano Pietri, Technical Director of the company’s Microcontrollers Analog Design Team; Jamie Schaeffer, who’s GF’s Sr. Product Offering Manager for 22FDX and 12FDX; and Cadence Strategic Alliances Director Jonathan Smith.
Yes, the tools are in the box. Smith of Cadence said they’re providing them, and NXP’s Pietro said that they’re very well positioned in his specialty, analog. VeriSilicon has IP, and anything they don’t have in house they’ll license.
So why be afraid of body biasing? NXP has proof by example – they see such huge cost advantages that they try to leverage it as much as possible. GF’s doing training, since each area (automotive, IoT, etc.) has different needs. Some VeriSilicon customers already see such substantial benefits from FD-SOI that they’re not bothering to do biasing. Cadence points out that the Arm POP announcement is huge, and Arm’s Low wondered if the SOI Consortium could do an IP portal? “Our sales departments need to explain the advantages to our customers!” said NXP’s Pietro.
From the audience, NXP VP & longtime FD-SOI proponent Ron Martino (who, btw, wrote some great articles for ASN when they first got into FD-SOI – read them here), asked why designers think FD-SOI means a lot of corners? How do we convince the industry that FD-SOI simplifies design? Cadence is working with GF, responded Smith, and will have some big new at Arm’s TechCon this fall. “We need more training and marketing to show it’s not scary,” he added. For GF, the corners don’t get more complicated, and they’re working with Dolphin Integration on getting them covered early in the planning. Ease of access to IP will help, per Arm.
And in a great concluding remark, VeriSilicon’s Jarmon said, “The craft is being automated. The more we work together, the greater success of FD-SOI.”
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.
For the second consecutive year the SOI Consortium will have a stand at the Networking Reception during the Samsung Foundry Forum (SFF). This important Silicon Valley event will be held on May 14, 2019 at the Santa Clara Marriott. We hope you’ll stop by to learn more about the SOI Consortium and the FD-SOI ecosystem.
There’s been a steady stream of news about Samsung’s FD-SOI offerings and support, including their highly successful 28FDS and coming very soon: 18FDS. (If you need to catch up, click here to read more.) As in the previous 3 years, Samsung will be making major announcements on their technology roadmap and application solutions. SFF is a unique opportunity to network with Korean and US based executives from Samsung Foundry as well as customers and ecosystem partners.
SOI Consortium members ARM, Synopsys, Cadence, Analog Bits, VeriSilicon and Xpeedic will also have stands, and NXP will be on the customer panel.
Seats are limited, so go to http://www.samsungfoundryforum.com/2019/ to register now.
Takeaway #1: As NXP VP Ron Martino noted in his opening keynote at the recent SOI Symposium in San Jose, FD-SOI is the technology platform for enabling edge computing, and ultra-low power is the sweet spot.
Organized by the SOI Consortium with support from our members, the recent SOI Symposium in Silicon Valley was an enormous success. Close to 300 decision makers signed up – more than double what we saw just a couple years ago. Attendees spanned the ecosystem: from end-users to design to foundries and right up to the investment community. The presentations and panel discussions were absolutely terrific, and almost all are now freely available – click here to get them.
The focus was heavily on FD-SOI this time, but some very interesting RF-SOI talks were given as well. This was a day packed with presentations by players from across the SOI ecosystem. In this post, we’ll only cover a few. But the others will follow quickly, so watch this page. And now without further ado, let’s dive in.
NXP is designing FD-SOI into many new products, said Martino, GM of the i.MX Processor Application Product Line. There’s a new wave of products – generically you could call them IoT but in fact they’re found throughout the industry. It’s about interacting with the cloud, so edge processing is critical. His presentation, Embedded Processors for Future Applications, is now freely available for downloading from our website.
The new i.MX7ULP is a great example of ULP in the sweet spot. From a design standpoint, it leverages IP, power optimization, and what he described as “starter biasing”. That gets them the long battery life with 2D & 3D graphics they need for wearables and portables in consumer and industrial applications.
Having deepened their expertise in biasing, NXP has now moved on to “advanced biasing” for the next generation of products. For example, the i.MX RT ULP (real-time, ultra-low-power) series are “cross-over” processors, which Martino says are the “new normal”. They deal 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 with a low-power, 28nm FD-SOI process.
Another new product leveraging advanced biasing is the i.MX RT 600. They’ve done hardware acceleration on specific functions and optimized around visionand voice integration at low cost and power.
Likewise for the i.MX 8 and 8X subsystems for automotive and industrial applications. At Embedded World, they showed it driving advanced OLED screens, cameras (for parking, for example), V2X, audio, user monitoring (like driver pupil tracking), and integration into the windshield in a heads-up system. This is the high end of the capability of 28nm FD-SOI, he said. It’s a 6 CPU core system with multiple operating systems, about which he said: “It’s the dashboard…it’s amazing.”
FD-SOI enables a scalable solution for real-time and general compute with the lowest leakage memory, the best dynamic and static power, Martino concluded. NXP’s leadership in body biasing is enabling edge compute, and we can expect to see more content coming soon.
In another NXP presentation later in the day, Stefano Pietri, Technical Director of the company’s Microcontrollers Analog Design Team caught a lot of people’s attention. A wave of cameras went up to capture each of his slides in Analog Techniques for Low Power, High Performance MPU in FD-SOI – but you can get the whole thing now from our website. It’s a very technical presentation, in which he details the many ways FD-SOI makes the analog team’s job easier, enabling them to get performance not available from bulk technologies. They developed a lot of in-house expertise and IP (see slide 16 for a catalog of the IP).
Tim Dry, Director of Foundry Marketing: Edge and End Point presented Samsung’s FDS with MRAM: Enabling Today’s Innovative Low Power Endpoint Products. In a telling first, Samsung has made this presentation available on our website.
FD-SOI covers the wide range of requirements for intelligent IoT, he explained: from high to low processing loads; and active to dormant processing duty cycles. That includes chips that will last for ten years, and need to be able to wake up fast and kick right into high performance. These products are 50% analog, and packaging is part of the solution (especially for the RF component).
Samsung has been shipping 28nm FD-SOI (which they call 28FDS) since 2015, first in IoT/wearables, then in automotive/industrial and consumer. Yields are fully mature. In March 2019, they announced mass production of eMRAM on 28FDS. It’s a BEOL process, adding only 3 masks. It cuts chip-level power by 65% and RF power by 76% over 40nm bulk with external memory. Beyond the fact that it’s 1000x faster than eFlash, eMRAM also has other advantages that make it especially good for over-the-air updates, for example.
Samsung also has RF and 5G mmWave products shipping in 28FDS. The company has a fantastic ecosystem of partners helping here, said Dry. In AI at the endpoint, they’re shipping IoT products for video surveillance cameras: some are high speed, but some are also low speed – it depends on the detection use case. And most importantly for the design ecosystem, the IP is all ready.
Next up for Samsung is 18FDS, which will ship this year with RF, then in 2020 with eMRAM. 18FDS, Dry said, is optimized for power reduction. Compared to 28FDS, it’s got 55% lower power consumption, 25% less area and 17% better performance at the same power. You’ll hear more about it as well as their design services if you’re at the Samsung Foundry Forum in May (registration info here).
Kelvin Low, VP of Marketing for Arm’s Physical Design Group (PDG) gave a presentation entitled Biased Views on the Industry’s Broadest FDSOI Physical IP Solution. By way of background, Arm and Samsung Foundry recently announced a comprehensive, foundry-sponsored physical IP platform, including an eMRAM compiler for 18FDS. In case you missed it, at the time Arm Senior Product Marketing Manager Umang Doshi described the offering in an Arm Community / Developer physical IP blog, which Arm graciously agreed to share with ASN readers.
At the SOI Symposium, Low emphasized to the audience that Arm now has the broadest range of FD-SOI + IP solutions. It addresses mobile, consumer, IoT, automotive and AI/ML.
There are 18FDS POP (processor optimized pipe) packages for Arm Cortex-A55, Cortex-R52 and Cortex-M33 processors. IP integrates biasing and a number of standard PVTs (corners). And since the Samsung platform is foundry-sponsored, it’s free.
Arm did a test chip with eMRAM, which they’ve just gotten back. It’s functional (some details are available in slide 14 of their presentation), and the company is now preparing a demo board that they’ll be showing shortly. Watch this page!
That’s all for this post. The next post — part 2, covering presentations by Synaptics, GlobalFoundries, STMicroelectronics, Dolphin Integration and Anokiwave — is now available. Click here to read on.
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.”
Lots of great information came out of the two days of workshops in Japan recently organized by the SOI Consortium. Some of the presentations are now posted on the consortium website (get them here).
The first day (held in Yokohama and sponsored by Silvaco) focused on FD-SOI and RF-SOI design. The second day (held at U. Tokyo) focused on More than Moore (especially silicon photonics, MEMS & sensors), and the SOI manufacturing ecosystem.
The 1st day panel discussion was so interesting we’ll give it a post of its own, then follow up with round-ups of the presentations from both days.
The morning panel discussion on end-user deployment for FD and RF-SOI was moderated by SOI Consortium Executive Director Giorgio Cesana. GF’s CTO Subi Kengeri led off saying that that 2017 had been the year of FD-SOI adoption. Samsung Director Adam Lee noted that in the beginning nobody believed it would get traction, but now everybody does, and Samsung is commercializing it: chips coming out this year will ramp in volume in 2019.
VeriSilicon CEO Wayne Dai said he sees great potential in IoT, where the volumes are high but fragmented. In IoT, he said, you need RF, but you really only need very high performance about 20% of the time, which is a perfect fit for FD-SOI.
ST Director John Carey noted that ST’s been using FD-SOI since 2014. They’ve fabbed products for cryptocurrency and infrastructure. Now in their second and third generations of designing with it, they’ve got some big FD-SOI chips coming out next year with embedded memory and RF. He sees it being particularly successful in mmWave, automotive and IoT.
The conversation then shifted to RF-SOI. Mostofa Emam, CEO of Incize, explained that since RF-SOI is already in every smart phone, it’s in a different situation from FD-SOI. The emphasis here is now on adding more blocks. “RF is an art,” he said. “It takes an artist. You need talented artists and tools.” One of the biggest challenges for fabs that are newcomers is models – not just at the transistor level, but also at the substrate level. The big players have addressed this, but Incize is working to support more foundries with new, innovative approaches, and helping them develop robust PDKs. The industry needs more good RF designers as well as better RF design flow, he concluded.
Coming back to FD-SOI, Cesana asked about non-volatile memory (NVM). Samsung’s Lee said they’ve already got NVM options including eMRAM for 28nm, and customers are now requesting eMRAM PDKs for the next node (18FDS). ST’s Kengeri added eNVM is important for FD-SOI, especially since flash is not scaling. While there are lots of options, MRAM gives you all the value, and in FD-SOI it only adds three more mask steps, so cost savings are maintained.
With respect to local computing for AI with FD-SOI, everyone agreed on the importance of the edge. In addition to RF, FD-SOI gives you density even at 28nm, explained Carey. You can manually control power with back biasing, so you get something very flexible, especially for NB-IoT applications where the battery will have to last for 10 years. In fact Kengeri sees FD-SOI as enabling fog/edge computing.
The next question was about 5G: which applications would we be seeing first, and how does FD-SOI help? Lee said Samsung’s seeing it for apps up to 10GHz as well as mmWave. Customers are telling them they want FD-SOI for technical reasons.
Kengeri expanded on that point, saying it comes down to fundamental physics: gate resistance, capacitance, mismatch. FD-SOI has lower Vmin and better Fmax compared to FinFETs, and that’s what tier-one players want.
Carey brought it back to RF-SOI (noting that ST’s introducing a 45nm version), which supports a large number of elements and increased complexity with smaller power budgets. Emam then asked the foundry guys about mmWave. Substrates won’t be the bottleneck he said, so what’s the FD-SOI/mmWave roadmap? Kengeri responded that GF’s ready. Lee said Samsung is also ready, and you’d see it next year on handsets. Samsung has engaged with customers on 30GHz for the middle of next year, he added: it’s qualified. Carey said ST sees it first in consumer premises equipment that’s connected by satellite.
Cesana then asked about image sensor processors (ISPs), noting that analyst Handel Jones has said this is a big opportunity for FD-SOI. You can do 3D integration with sensors, but heat makes noise, so you need technology that decreases heat production and doesn’t give you hotspots (which would be visible in the image). Kengeri pointed to challenges in power density, thermal envelopes and the RTS (random telegraph noise signal). Although there are a lot of options, FD-SOI plays well for thermals and noise, so GF sees a good opportunity here. Dai added that the industry needs volume applications for FD-SOI, and ISPs need to bring more logic closer to the camera. And he concurred that you need FD-SOI for the thermals: it’s very important.
In closing, Dai noted that as a design house, “We walk on two legs: FinFETs and FD-SOI.” 28, 22, 18 and 12nm FD-SOI all enable differentiation. In particular, you need something between 20nm and 7nm: FD-SOI is here. Asked about Japan in particular, Dai said beyond automotive he saw lots of potential in ULP for AVR. Kengeri added that for any applications besides performance-at-any-cost, FD-SOI is the right enabler.
Since about a third of all IoT devices are expected to be connected by Bluetooth, chip designers need IP solutions that will help reduce system cost and greatly improve battery life. And that’s just what VeriSilicon has announced for GlobalFoundries’ 22FDX® (FD-SOI) process.
“By taking advantage of integrated RF capabilities of FD-SOI, in particular GF’s 22FDX, our BLE 5.0 RF IP will significantly reduce the system cost and greatly boost the growth momentum of wearable products such as wireless earplugs,” said Dr. Wayne Dai, Founder, Chairman, President and CEO of VeriSilicon. 22FDX enables efficient single-chip integration of RF, transceiver, baseband, processor, and power management components. GF and VeriSilicon are working on an SoC using VeriSilicon’s BLE 5.0 RF IP in GF’s 22FDX process.
The latest iteration of Bluetooth is 5, which (like its predecessor 4) has a Low Energy (LE) RF option – but with big improvements. According to the Bluetooth website, “With 4x range, 2x speed and 8x broadcasting message capacity, the enhancements of Bluetooth 5 focus on increasing the functionality of Bluetooth for the IoT.” BLE 5.0 was designed for very low power operation and is optimized for the sorts of short burst data transmissions you’ll get with IoT.
On the strength of VeriSilicon’s innovative RF architecture and by leveraging GF’s 22FDX technology, VeriSilicon says the new IP product achieves significant improvements in power, area, and cost compared to current offerings, so it will better serve the emerging and increasing wearable devices and IoT applications space.
“VeriSilicon’s BLE IP complements GF’s 22FDX FD-SOI capabilities and is well positioned to support the explosive growth of low-power IoT and connected devices,” said Mark Ireland, vice president of ecosystem partnerships at GF. “Together, we broaden our IP and services to further enable our mutual clients to provide power and cost efficient solutions.”
VeriSilicon BLE 5.0 RF IP includes a transceiver that is compliant with the BLE 5.0 specification and supports GFSK modulation and demodulation. The silicon measurement shows that the sensitivity can be tested up to -98dBm with less than 7mW power dissipation in typical conditions. It largely improves battery life for low power IoT applications. In addition, the RF transceiver saves 40% area compared to a similar implementation on 55nm bulk CMOS. Besides the RF transceiver, this IP integrates on-chip balun, TX/RX switch and 32K RC OSC driver to save the BOM. Moreover, high efficiency DC/DC and LDOs are also available for power management.
FD-SOI was a very important topic during the recent Mount Qingcheng China IC Ecosystem Forum. To situate things, Mount Qingcheng, with its lush hills and waterways, is located just outside of Chengdu. That of course is where GlobalFoundries is building its new fab, which will be the first in China to run FD-SOI. Chengdu is also a key city in China’s automotive electronics landscape.
The theme of the forum was Building a Smart Automotive Electronics Industry Chain. Over 260 decision-makers from government, academia and industry attended – and the SOI Consortium had a significant presence. The event was chaired by Wayne Dai, CEO/Founder of consortium member VeriSilicon, and tireless champion of the the FD-SOI ecosystem in China and worldwide. Morning keynotes were given by: Carlos Mazure, Soitec CTO and SOI Consortium Executive Co-Director; Mark Granger, GF’s VP of Automotive Product Line Management; and Tony King-Smith, Executive Advisor at AImotive, a GF 22FDX customer.
BTW, transcripts of all the talks are available through Gasgoo, China’s largest automotive B2B marketplace. You can click here to access them. (They’re in Chinese – but you can open them in the language of your choice using the major translation websites.)
Fan Yi, Deputy Mayor of Chengdu, spoke extensively of FD-SOI in his keynote on the importance of rapidly developing smart cars.
He heralded the “spectacular” new GlobalFoundries fab there. Following a meeting with the company’s top brass the day before, he affirmed GF’s confidence in their investment. There is a solid roadmap for FD-SOI, he noted, and efforts are underway to accelerate the move into production and expand education and training. He cited the benefits of FD-SOI for the entire supply chain, from design through package and test, raising the level of the entire IC industry to new heights. The government, he said, attaches great importance to this enterprise. Their thinking regarding intelligent transport in China is integrated with the overall approach to smart cities.
In his opening remarks, Wayne Dai emphasized the need for China to seize the advantage in the next round of development opportunities in the automotive electronics industry. This year’s Qingcheng forum, he noted, brought together key representatives from across the supply chain, from of the highest to the deepest reaches of the smart car electronics industry, and across markets, technologies, solutions, industrial ecosystem, standards and regulations.
In his talk on how FD-SOI is boosting the accelerated development of automotive electronics, Carlos Mazure presented the SOI Industry Consortium. He noted that the Consortium promotes mutual understanding and development across the ecosystem. SOI is already present throughout automotive applications, he noted. There are currently about 100mm2 of SOI per car, in such diverse areas power systems, transmissions, entertainment, in-vehicle networking and more. SOI will experience especially high growth in electrification, information/entertainment, networking, 5G, AI/edge computing and ADAS. He then went on to give some history and an extensive overview of the major trends and highlights we’ve seen over recent years. He finished by giving examples of convergence across the supply chain with IC manufacturers working with automakers to lower power, increase processor performance and advance 5G.
GF’s Mark Granger addressed the rapid development of automotive electronics. In certain areas, he said, he sees growth rates of over 20%. They are working on building the Chengdu ecosystem, especially for design, and in cooperation with the rest of the supply chain. Furthermore, he reminded the audience, when you talk about cars, travel implies that you also talk about IoT as well as things like infotainment and integrated radar ICs. In addition to cost and power efficiencies, the AEC-Q100 standard for IC reliability in automotive applications is also pushing designers to turn to FD-SOI. In the GF meeting with Chengdu government officials (referenced above in deputy mayor Fan Yi’s talk), he too confirmed their support of FD-SOI as a key technology for China. GF is currently cooperating with about 75 automotive partners, he said, and the company is looking to increase cooperation with partners in the Chengdu region.
Tony King-Smith talked about the 22FDX test chip AImotive is doing with Verisilicon and GF. In case you missed it, in June 2017 AImotive announced its AI-optimized hardware IP was available to global chip manufacturers for license. AiWare is built from the ground up for running neural networks, and the company says it is up to 20 times more power efficient than other leading AI acceleration hardware solutions on the market. In the same announcement, they revealed that VeriSilicon would be the first to integrate aiWare into a chip design,and that aiWare-based test chips would be fabricated on GF’s 22FDX. The chip is expected to debut this year.
While the afternoon agenda was not specific to FD-SOI, it did focus on the “smart cockpit” and “intelligent driving”, with talks by nine leading players in China’s automotive IC and investment communities.
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Note: Many thanks to the folks at VeriSilicon, who wrote up this event for their WeChat feed, and shared photos with us here at ASN.