Electronics manufacturing

Heterogenous integration key enabler for electronic systems

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Day 2 of the SEMI Technology Week focused on materials. Rolf Aschenbrenner, Fraunhofer IZM, presented on heterogenous integration as the key enabler for electronic systems.

There has been a diversification of semiconductor products. There is no single leading driver. Instead, we have had a fragmented growing market. Diversification has been in terms of IoT infrastructure with connectivity and data processing as the backbone, IoT, AR/VR, AI, automotive, 5G connectivity, and servers/data centers. There is growth of high-performance computing, edge computing, and embedded IoT computing, using smart sensors, localized networks, etc. There is the heterogenous integration platform for doing all of this.

Heterogenous integration refers to the assembly and packaging of multiple separately manufactured components into a higher-level assembly that, in the aggregate, provide enhanced functions and improved operating characteristics. Higher-level assembly includes homogenously integrated SoCs, SiPs, or MCMs. This involves system design, algorithms, and software.

The packaging toolbox provides the characteristics for the different use cases. The toolbox has functions for interconnecting, materials, architecture, etc. For the SiP packaging toolbox, there are the new embedded technology that interconnect via electroplating. Thin active chips are embedded into the di-electric layers. Passive components are also embedded with the chips, as are SMD components.

Challenges include the remaining di-electric thickness has been decreasing, as are the multi-material challenges. Multiple additional functions also emerge for SiP packaging toolbox. Cost is an important issue, as are customer requirements, testing, assembly, co-design, and standardization. It is important to remember that all package materials will continue to change over the next 10 years.

Compact SiP requires material knowhow, along with understanding failure. There are also plating challenges, thermal and mechanical issues, corrosion, electrical, and new semiconductor materials, such as SiC, GaN, and new Ga2O3.

Heterogenous integration drives the interconnect density. We have developed a consortium to understand the challenges of panel-level packaging. These include Amkor, Dupont, AT&S, Hitachi Chemical, Ajinomoto, Evatec, ASM, RENA, etc. Warpage and die-shift control provide process understanding that enables high-precision RDL layers (or, dielectric layers).

What a year, 2020! Welcome 2021!!

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Welcome, 2021! The year 2020 is gone!! It is history!!! It was the year of the Covid-19, or, coronavirus. Note: the pandemic has not yet gone. Now, a new strain is doing the rounds. Some vaccines have already started shipping. Luckily, my family, and I have survived the year 2020! We sincerely hope you and your families have survived, as well. How many of us can survive this year? Fingers crossed, we hope that everyone should! We now look forward to the new year. There are hopes for proper vaccines, and those should be available for all, hopefully, soon!

Today, I wish to speak about how 2020 turned out to be a great year for me. Till March 2020, things were slow, as usual. Thereafter, they changed, and, fast! It all started with Yole Développement, France’s rapid, point-of-care molecular tests that help fight Covid-19, last April. There was a Semtech webinar on 5G fact vs. fiction, and how LoRaWAN plays a role. Next, Messe Muenchen India, hosted a webinar titled: ‘Opportunities in Medical Electronics post Covid-19’.

These were followed by the iconic IEEE International Reliability Physics Symposium (IRPS) 2020 in May 2020. For 57 years, the IRPS has been premiere conference for engineers and scientists to present new and original work in the area of microelectronics reliability. I made a new lot of followers.

Next, came Nokia, with the world’s first drone tsunami evacuation alerts in Sendai City, Japan. Infineon Technologies had a session on smart buildings. The Small Cell Forum spoke about how it was driving the ecosystem of small cell mobile infrastructure. This was followed by Dassault Systèmes and Aden Group for the Akila Care hospital for Covid-19, after the Leishenshan hospital in Wuhan, China! May 2020 ended with SEMI, SEMI Foundation and The Gig Economy webinar titled: Designing the future of work!

June 2020 was an even bigger month! BloombergNEF presented on India’s clean power revolution. Next, there was the 2020 Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits. It was held virtually for the first time! Following this came the IEEE 70th Electronic Components and Technology Conference (ECTC) 2020. Again, it was virtually held, for the first time. And, again, more followers came in!

Semicon West ahoy!
In July, the Semicon West 2020 event was held virtually, for the first time. According to Al Gore, some of the innovation around new materials is immense! So was ITC India 2020! Among the many presentations, one on ‘silicon lifecycle challenges and expanding role of test’, stood out. From Canada, there was an invite to cover Zinc8 Energy Solutions that redefines long-duration energy storage! And, what readership followed! 😉

Display Week 2020.

August saw SEMI, ESD Alliance, and McKinsey present on the future mobility disruptions on semiconductor design ecosystem. There was the IoT World 2020, as well. There was focus on data exchanges as the IoT market continues growth.

Interesting Display Week!
Next came Display Week 2020, thanks to an invite from long-time friend, Sri Peruvemba. This presented an opportunity to interact with the Display Supply Chain Consortium (DSCC). Foldable displays continue to advance! OLEDs are expected to lead from 2019-2024! An interesting session was about the women in technology.

September saw the Embedded Vision Summit 2020, where, I received an invitation, courtesy, Jeff Bier. Next came the SEMI Strategic Materials Conference (SMC) 2020. One presentation talked about silicon photonics and heterogenous integration challenges. SEMI also hosted a conference with Indium Corp., titled: What’s driving automotive electronics assembly and packaging? The IFA 2020 Berlin went virtual too!

Malcolm Penn, Future Horizons, UK, has predicted that the global semiconductor industry should grow 12 percent in 2021. Yole Developpement had a session on the NAND flash memory business. The Cadence Live 2020 event also went virtual for the first time.

Next came SEMI Global Smart Manufacturing Conference 2020. One standout presentation was on Predict and prevent automotive semiconductor zero defect enablement. In October, the future potential of 5G was unlocked at the GSMA Thrive North America 2020. There was Indian PM Narendra Modi at India Energy Forum by CERAWeek.

Dr. Wally Rhines.

The Chinese American Semiconductor Professional Association (CASPA) organized its annual conference: Next Wave of Semiconductor Innovation, in the USA, last October, where Dr. Walden (Wally) Rhines presented the keynote.

For those keen, fully homomorphic encryption (FHE) has long been described as transformative for cloud security. The algorithm was developed to enable computing on encrypted data sets, keeping the underlying data secure. It is a game-changer in cloud computing. I had to be awake till 4am for this, and am grateful for a wonderful presentation. 😉

Next, BNEF London 2020 summit called for green recovery. This was followed by the SEMI and MATRADE session on the global semiconductor market. There was the 9th Americas Spectrum Management Conference, as well. SEMI organized the MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress (MSEC 2020). A standout report was tinyML, and the massive opportunity when MI meets real world of billions of sensors.

I also had the pleasure of covering Dr. Roslyn Layton, Co-founder, China Tech Threat, on the report: US tightens controls on exports to SMIC, China! Is there a way out? Again, all of these events were in October. I really had a tough time covering all! 😉

In November, there was the Intel FPGA Technology Day 2020, as well as Xilnx’s Xilinx Adapt: 5G event. The 5GAA organized a conference on CV2X in Europe. Yole Développement and Teledyne had a session on glass and silicon bioMEMS components for medical devices. Yole and Chip Integration Technology Center (CITC), the Netherlands, also hosted an event on power and RF packaging. There was the Siemens AG Digital Enterprise SPS Dialog event, as well.

I was pleasantly surprised on receiving an invite from the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) to participate in their 22nd Ministerial Meeting. Since GECF does not feature India, I was curious. So, I attended, and covered! 😉

SIA sets 2030 goals.

Next, Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) examined China’s semiconductor self-sufficiency, in November. There was the IoT TechEx North America 2020, as well. Global Semiconductor and Electronics Forum 2020, presented many more opportunities to network.

Decadal plans
December, the last month of 2020, began with SEMI, USA, webinar on market data resources and equipment materials outlook for 2021. Next, Semiconductor Industry Association had a session on decadal plan for semiconductors setting 2030 goals.

Yole Développement and System Plus Consulting hosted the session on how 3D packaging was breaking new ground. Semiconductor Industry Association had another webinar on how semiconductors were driving automotives. These were followed by the 4th CIS & CEE Spectrum Management Conference, which I could not cover properly enough. This was largely due to the unfamiliar Russian dialect! There was also the RISC-V summit. Finally, my niece, Ms. Shelley Bhattacharjee, got married (see image). 🙂 We had to fly to Bangalore, followed by the mandatory quarantine, on return.

Shelley’s marriage.

Whew! That’s quite a list, and tremendous coverage! 2020 has been a year full of semiconductors. My blog has seen growing number of readers this past year. The global semiconductor industry also continued its unrelenting march, despite a very tough year gone by.

Bangalore trip
During the trip to Bangalore, the sight at the airport was amazing. Long queues for entry, preferably, mobile check-ins, and air hostesses wore PPE kits, etc. Some middle-seat passengers were in PPE kits. We all had to wear masks and head gear. In Bangalore, most of my friends did not even turn up to meet me, after promising. I understand their plight! Those who did, were grateful and thankful. As was I! Everyone lamented the plight that we all were in. They wanted the pandemic to disappear and things getting back to normal. One hopes that does happen this year.

On a personal note, virtual events are good, and probably, here to stay. However, they do not always bring the right audience, and of course, the speakers were missing the applauses. There were no master of ceremonies in many cases. In some cases, there was poor connectivity. Nevertheless, everyone provided post-event recordings. While you get to hear the very best about the latest in technology, there were hardly any demonstrations. Of course, there were the various, different background noises, in some cases, of babies crying, children and various partners screaming, and whistles of the pressure cooker. But then, this is a pandemic. Everyone is working from home! No one was ready for this situation!!

On the other side, literally driven to the corners, the world has found new resilience and adaptability. Thanks to WFH, there is now more family time. Friends long lost, have re-appeared. For me, especially, some industry events, earlier unthinkable, were easily available. Simply because: I put out their story first! 😉

There were some other events related to Industry 4.0, as well, on telecom and solar/PV. Rockwell Automation had its annual conference. As did Siemens! In telecom, there was the GSMA Thrive North America 2020 and the 9th Americas Spectrum Management Conference. Intel and IoT Solutions Alliance presented the telemetry and video analytics for Industry 4.0.

Dr. Wally Rhines featured by way of EDA adoption by IT companies. DVClub Europe (Design & Verification Club) looked at IP integration into complex SoCs. For electronic components, OTI’s ConducTorr CPM materials are now compatible with all OLED display manufacturing! Mention also needs to be made of IoT World 2020.

What’s next?
Already, there are multiple invites to cover conferences all over the world in 2021! There are semiconductors, along with Industry 4.0, medical electronics, telecom, etc. My first stop in the new year will be the Industry Strategy Symposium (ISS) 2021, organized by SEMI, USA.

Next, there is the PMWC 2021, at Silicon Valley, USA. The event will honor Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House coronavirus task force member. He has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. There is a possibility of meeting him too! Let’s see how it all goes! There is also the Technology Unites by SEMI, later.

As one wise man said, true unity begins at all of our homes, with our respective families. Let us all hope and pray for a safer, better, and healthier 2021, and beyond. It is time to pat yourselves on the back. Rise, and shine! Stay safe, and prosper, dear friends!!

PC @ Famous Blogger’s Club!

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Friends, I stumbled upon this post recently! Actually, it was an interview that I had done sometime back in 2011, with the Famous Bloggers’ Club.

Some of my old friends from the past may remember this. Nearly everyone had predicted some big things for me. And, most of them have actually come true. Well, here is it again, in case anyone is interested! 😉

Famous Blogger Club: Tell the world something about yourself and what you do in life? (Add Twitter and Facebook profile link, if available).

That’s me! 😉

PC: I have over 20 years experience in the international technology media. I specialize in semiconductors, electronics and telecom, research., etc. I am associated closely with the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) as well.

My blog was selected by Electronics Weekly, UK as the world’s best blog in the Electronic Hardware Category, Dec. 2008 The blog also received an Honorable Mention in the category: Best Technology Blog at:the BlogNet Awards, Feb. 2009.

I was also a good cricketer at school/college, and dabble a bit in astrology, numerology and palmistry. I have also tried my hands at writing plays.

FBC: What was the story behind your blog? How did you start blogging – since when – how did you name your blog).

PC: When I returned to India from overseas in early 2007, I knew there was no good source for me to read up on electronics, semiconductors, etc. So, I decided to start writing or blogging on topics I would require to read. And, hopefully, it would be useful to others too. Since I am extremely bad with names, I just named it after myself.

Here’s a post I wrote some time back on my reasons for blogging:

a) I am really tired of searching Google and Yahoo, and other search engines for information, and hence, decided to write on key information on semiconductors.

b) My blog is also my archive — I am really frustrated at NOT being able to FIND my old articles on the Web. The few, I found on other sites, actually wanted me, as a user, to sign up! To read my own articles… really! So, Pradeep Chakraborty’s Blog now archives all of my articles written over the past two years.

c) India DOES NOT have any magazine on semiconductors yet, and, till I also spun of a semiconductor site off the blog for CIOL, there wasn’t even a semicon portal in India! I hope I have managed to give India a small and decent site on semiconductors!

d) I wanted to be THE resource for the semiconductor industry… again, I have miles to go. It is not easy being a lone ranger 🙂

e) The sheer thrill of doing something difficult — sitting in India — which does not have such detailed blogs on semiconductors, especially. It has really been difficult :), but very thrilling! My colleague, Ms. Usha Prasad, pokes fun at me — saying, go, light your bulb (a la the Sharukh Khan movie, Swades!) Ok, I’ve done nothing of that sort, as this movie showed!

f) My blog posts are all exclusive pieces, as I’m a believer in: great content = great traffic! Again, it is really difficult writing exclusive posts, especially on semiconductors.

g) I wanted to see where I stand, as against my former employers 🙂 — EDN, US (Reed) and EE Times (Global Sources). Yes, I can never match them! 😉 These are the places where I developed myself as a writer and an editor, and I will forever remain indebted to Global Sources and Reed!

h) I also attempted to create a brand out of my name, using semiconductors, essentially, as a platform. I have yet to see how successful it has been 🙂

FBC: Have you earned any money from been a blogger? How did you it – add links to useful websites for making money online. If not. then tell us why you blog?

PC: Yes, some of my blog posts have been and are bought by international magazines such as Nikkei, etc. I have also blogged about companies and their products for payment, and continue to do so. I have also started a separate blog for Photonics, USA.

FBC: Would you tell us about one of your famous posts? Why do you think it’s famous. Is it because of “content – traffic – comments – search engines?

PC: Oh, it has got to be on the Top 10 embedded companies in India, simply because of the great interest in this subject all over the world. A close second would be the Top 20 Solar/PV companies.

May I add that my focus has only been on great content that will be useful to the industries I serve/work in.

FBC: If I asked you to suggest one blogger friend to send him/her a Famous Blogger Club invitation, who you will suggest?

PC: That would have to be either of Ms. Laura Peter, David Lammers or Aaron Hand — from Semiconductor International.

EMI shielding solution for semiconductor components: GSEF 2020

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Franz Vollmann, Global Head of Printed Electronics, Heraeus, presented a session on new EMI shielding solution for semiconductor components at the Global Semiconductor and Electronics Forum (GSEF) 2020.

Customer needs in the semiconductor and electronics industry include reduced complexity, system solution, enhanced design freedom, higher level of customization, space and weight reduction, rapid design changes, easy scalability, and cost.

5G is a mega trend and a game changer in consumer and industrial apps. 5G networks offer faster consumer and smarter enterprise. But, the electromagnetic shielding of the electronic packages is a challenge. An increasing number of electronics packages require shielding against electromagnetic interferences.

Potential use cases of 5G in the future include smart traffic and autonomous driving, smart transportation, entertainment and gaming, human/IoT interaction, broadband, etc. EMI leads to higher packaging density, and that needs EMI shielding at the packaging level, and at board level, if possible.

There are competing technologies for EMI shielding. Existing technologies include PVD spluttering and metal gaskets on PCB level. The next-gen technologies include Ag Nano ink spray and Ag MOD inkjet. Each technology has advantages and drawbacks.

Heraeus approach
Heraeus approach in printed electronics for EMI shielding integrates Ag ink with inkjet printing and adds curing. Advantages of Heraeus solution compared to sputter include -80dB shielding performance, selective coating with no masking and full design flexibility, zero waste, over 25 percent lower TCO, less capex and smaller footprint factor of 3, etc.

Heraeus uses metal inks. Let us look at nano particle inks vs. metal organic decomposition inks. Metal inks are of two types — nano particle suspension links and precursor type/metal organic decomposition links. MOD ink has lower metal content. Heraeus EMI shielding solution uses the inkjet solution that revolutionizes printing. There is a pre-treatment printer, Ag and protective resist printing, and Ag and protective resist curing.

Selective shielding sputtering is required. Partial coating can be done without additional masking and etching. You can avoild significant material losses. There is shielding effectiveness with Ag inkjet. Superior shielding results happen from 800MHz to 9GHz. Inkjet printing results in very homogenous silver layer.

New solution is required for conformal and compartmental EMI shielding for the semiconductor industry. We have a complete technology platform solution, including material, equipment, and process. There is significant lower initial investment and smaller footprint compared to PVD sputtering. Tailored selective coating is possible by digital print layout. You can get excellent shielding performance and high throughput.

Convergence in world of smart connected devices: GSEF 2020

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The Global Semiconductor and Electronics Forum (GSEF) was held recently. It brings together the end-to-end value chain in the semiconductor and electronics industry.

Lars Reger, Executive VP and CTO, NXP Semiconductors, opened the conference with a talk on convergence in the world of smart connected devices. He said that the world is rapidly and drastically changing. We are now meeting in digital environments. There is quite some disruption in our daily lives. Societal expectations are now high.

Lars Reger/

We have been trained to expect more and more from devices. They are removing barriers, anticipating the opening of a door, delivering medication, administering tests or delivering groceries. Smart connected devices have come a long way, but there is more to go. There will be 50 billion smart connected devices around us by 2025.

In the semiconductor market, mass apps are now driving growth. Secure edge processing, autonomous and electric cars, 5G, etc., will be driving growth in 2020 and beyond. In smart connected devices, there is a very broad range. The new era of electronic devices will see growth of secure edge processors. Data collection, processing and decisions are taken at the edge. Edge devices are securely connected to the cloud.

Major technology vectors for any smart device include sense, think, connect, and act. You can get all of your information and start acting. You also have to trust the devices and that, they never fail. Maximum quality of components is mandatory for high-value system. You have to look at functional safety, component reliability and robustness, and security.

The domain-based architecture is on lines of Industry 4.0 smart factory. There is connectivity, autonomy, energy management, environment and safety, and information management and HMI. MCUs can firewall the different domains.

NXP has broadened the system solutions and functional cluster. There is need for repartition, integration and optimization. The levels of system solutions include product ready, such as integration, system configuration, porting, field test and validation of hardware and software stack in customer module or form factor, feature complete, such as enhancement of the reference control stack and advanced features. There is the reference design, such as industrial/automotive customer-grade control stack, and middleware stack, enablement, such as firmware and drivers, and test apps, and hardware, such as customer package, reference boards, and customer app support. Customization increases as we go upward from the bottom.

NXP products are using watts to save kW in customer apps. These can be in power adapter, 5G/6G networks, electric/hybrid vehicles, etc. We also have full end-to-end secure smart access system. AI@work is used for detection systems. There will be better detection systems in future. These are spread across vision, voice and sound, etc.

Challenges for the society bring opportunities. Convergence brings benefits in development. Modularity and system solutions are reducing design complexity and cost. They are personalized and customizable. These allow faster time-to-market.

TrendForce announces top 10 tech industry trends for 2021

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TrendForce has provided its forecast of 10 key trends in the tech industry for 2021.

As the DRAM industry officially enters the EUV era, NAND Flash stacking technology advances past 150L
The three major DRAM suppliers, Samsung, SK Hynix, and Micron, will not only continue their transition towards the 1Znm and 1alpha nm process technologies, but also formally introduce the EUV era, with Samsung leading the charge, in 2021. DRAM suppliers will gradually replace their existing double patterning technologies in order to optimize their cost structure and manufacturing efficiency.

After NAND Flash suppliers managed to push memory stacking technology past 100 layers in 2020, they will be aiming for 150 layers and above in 2021 and improving single-die capacity from 256/512Gb to 512Gb/1Tb. Consumers will be able to adopt higher-density NAND Flash products through the suppliers’ efforts to optimize chip costs.

While PCIe Gen 3 is currently the dominant bus interface for SSDs, PCIe Gen 4 will start gaining increased market share in 2021 owing to its integration in PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and motherboards featuring Intel’s new microarchitecture. The new interface is indispensable for fulfilling the massive data transfer demand from high-end PCs, servers, and HPC data centers.

Mobile network operators will step up their 5G base station build-out while Japan/Korea look ahead to 6G
The 5G Implementation Guidelines: SA Option 2, released by the GSMA in June 2020, delves into great technical details regarding 5G deployment, both for mobile network operators and from a global perspective. Operators are expected to implement 5G standalone architectures (SA) on a large scale in 2021.

In addition to delivering connections with high speed and high bandwidth, 5G SA architectures will allow operators to customize their networks according to user applications and adapt to workloads that require ultra-low latency. However, even as 5G rollout is underway, Japan-based NTT DoCoMo and Korea-based SK Telecom are already focusing on 6G deployment, since 6G allows for various emerging applications in XR (including VR, AR, MR, and 8K and above resolutions), lifelike holographic communications, WFH, remote access, telemedicine, and distance education.

Internet of Things evolves into Intelligence of Things as AI-enabled devices move closer to autonomy
In 2021, deep AI integration will be the primary value added to IoT, whose definition will evolve from Internet of Things to Intelligence of Things. Innovations in tools such as deep learning and computer vision will bring about a total upgrade for IoT software and hardware applications. Taking into account industry dynamics, economic stimulus, and remote access demand, IoT is expected to see large-scale adoption across certain major verticals, namely, smart manufacturing and smart healthcare.

With regards to smart manufacturing, the introduction of contactless technology is expected to speed up the arrival of industry 4.0. As smart factories pursue resilience, flexibility, and efficiency, AI integration will equip edge devices, such as cobots and drones, with even more precision and inspection capabilities, thereby transforming automation into autonomy. On the smart healthcare front, AI adoption can transform existing medical datasets into enablers of process optimization and service area extension.

For instance, AI integration delivers faster thermal image recognition that can support the clinical decision-making process, telemedicine, and surgical assistance applications. These aforementioned applications are expected to serve as crucial functions fulfilled by AI-enabled medical IoT in diverse settings ranging from smart clinics to telemedicine centers.

Integration between AR glasses and smartphones will kick-start a wave of cross-platform applications
AR glasses will move towards a smartphone-connected design in 2021 in which the smartphone serves as the computing platform for the glasses. This design allows for significant reduction in cost and weight for AR glasses. In particular, as the 5G network environment becomes more mature in 2021, the integration of 5G smartphones and AR glasses will enable the latter to not only run AR apps more smoothly, but also fulfill advanced personal audio-visual entertainment functionalities through leveraging the added computing power of smartphones. As a result, smartphone brands and mobile network operators are expected to venture into the AR glasses market on a large scale in 2021.

A crucial part of autonomous driving, driver monitoring systems (DMS) will skyrocket in popularity
Automotive safety technology has evolved from an application for car exteriors to one for car interiors, while sensing technology is moving towards a future where it integrates driver status monitoring with external environmental readings. Similarly, automotive AI integration is evolving past its existing entertainment and user assistance functions, into an indispensable enabler of automotive safety.

In light of the string of traffic accidents in which the drivers ignored road conditions due to their overreliance on ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems), which have recently skyrocketed in adoption rate, the market is once again paying close attention to driver monitoring functions.

In the future, the main thrust of driver monitoring functions will be focused on the development of more active, reliable, and accurate camera systems. By detecting the driver’s drowsiness and attention through iris tracking and behavioral monitoring, these systems are able to identify in real time whether the driver is tired, distracted, or driving improperly.

As such, DMS (driver monitoring systems) have become an absolute necessity in the development of ADS (autonomous driving systems), since DMS must serve multiple functions simultaneously, including real-time detection/notification, driver capability assessment, and takeover of driving controls whenever necessary. Vehicles with DMS integration are expected to enter mass production in the near future.

Foldable displays will see adoption in more devices as a means of upping screen real estate
As foldable phones progressed from concept to product in 2019, certain smartphone brands successively released their own foldable phones to test the waters. Although these phones’ sell-through performances have so far been mediocre owing to their relatively high costs – and, by extension, retail prices – they are still able to generate much buzz in the mature and saturated smartphone market. In the next few years, as panel makers gradually expand their flexible AMOLED production capacities, smartphone brands will continue to focus on their development of foldable phones.

Furthermore, foldable functionality has been seeing increasing penetration in other devices as well, specifically notebook computers. With Intel and Microsoft leading the charge, various manufacturers have each released their own dual-display notebook offerings. In the same vein, foldable products with single flexible AMOLED displays are set to become the next hot topic.

Notebooks with foldable displays will likely enter the market in 2021. As an innovative flexible display application and as a product category that features flexible displays much larger than previous applications, the integration of foldable displays in notebooks is expected to expend manufacturers’ flexible AMOLED production capacity to some degree.

Mini LED and QD-OLED will become viable alternatives to white OLED
Competition between the display technologies is expected to heat up in the high-end TV market in 2021. In particular, Mini LED backlighting enables LCD TVs to have finer control over their backlight zones and therefore deeper display contrast compared with current mainstream TVs. Spearheaded by market leader Samsung, LCD TVs with Mini LED backlighting are competitive with their white OLED counterparts while offering similar specs and performances.

Furthermore, given their superior cost-effectiveness, Mini LED is expected to emerge as a strong alternative to white OLED as a display technology. On the other hand, Samsung Display (SDC) is betting on its new QD OLED technology as a point of technological differentiation from its competitors, as SDC is ending its LCD manufacturing operations. SDC will look to set the new gold standard in TV specs with its QD OLED technology, which is superior to white OLED in terms of color saturation. TrendForce expects the high-end TV market to exhibit a cutthroat new competitive landscape in 2H21.

Advanced packaging will go full steam ahead in HPC and AiP
The development of advanced packaging technology has not slowed down this year despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the various manufacturers release HPC chips and AiP (antenna in package) modules, semiconductor companies such as TSMC, Intel, ASE, and Amkor are eager to participate in the burgeoning advanced packaging industry as well. With regards to HPC chip packaging, due to these chips’ increased demand on I/O lead density, the demand on interposers, which are used in chip packaging, has increased correspondingly as well.

TSMC and Intel have each released their new chip packaging architectures, branded 3D fabric and Hybrid Bonding, respectively, while gradually evolving their third-generation packaging technologies (CoWoS for TSMC and EMIB for Intel), to fourth-generation CoWoS and Co-EMIB technologies.

In 2021, the two foundries will be looking to benefit from high-end 2.5D and 3D chip packaging demand. With regards to AiP module packaging, after Qualcomm released its first QTM products in 2018, MediaTek and Apple subsequently collaborated with related OSAT companies, including ASE and Amkor. Through these collaborations, MediaTek and Apple hoped to make headways in the R&D of mainstream flip chip packaging, which is a relatively low-cost technology.

AiP is expected to see gradual integration in 5G mmWave devices starting in 2021. Driven by 5G communications and network connectivity demand, AiP modules are expected to first reach the smartphone market and subsequently the automotive and tablet markets.

Chipmakers will pursue shares in the AIoT market through an accelerated expansionary strategy
With the rapid development of IoT, 5G, AI, and cloud/edge computing, chipmakers’ strategies have evolved from singular products, to product lineups, and finally to product solutions, thereby creating a comprehensive and granular chip ecosystem. Looking at the development of major chipmakers in recent years from a broad perspective, the continuous vertical integration of these companies have resulted in an oligopolistic industry, in which localized competition is more intense than ever.

Furthermore, as 5G commercialization generates diverse application demands for various use cases, chipmakers are now offering full service vertical solutions, ranging from chip design to software/hardware platform integration, in response to the vast commercial opportunities brought about by the rapid development of the AIoT industry. On the other hand, chipmakers who were unable to position themselves in time according to market needs will likely find themselves exposed to the risk of overreliance on a single market.

Active matrix Micro LED TVs will make their highly anticipated debut in the consumer electronics market
The release of large-sized micro LED displays by Samsung, LG, Sony, and Lumens in recent years marked the start of micro LED integration in large-sized display development. As micro LED application in large-sized displays gradually matures, Samsung is expected to be the first in the industry to release its active matrix micro LED TVs, therefore cementing year 2021 as the first year of micro LED integration in TVs.

Active matrix addresses pixels by making use of the display’s TFT glass backplane, and since the IC design of active matrix is relatively simple, this addressing scheme therefore requires a relative low amount of routing. In particular, active matrix driver ICs require PWM functionality and MOSFET switches in order to stabilize the electrical current driving micro LED displays, necessitating a new and extremely expensive R&D process for such ICs. Therefore, for micro LED manufacturers, their greatest challenges at the moment in pushing micro LED to the end devices market lie in technology and cost.

Please note: These are all the predictions from TrendForce, Taiwan for 2021.

Smarter manufacturing with Intel’s deep learning-based machine vision

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As demand for smarter and more efficient manufacturing is growing, IoT technologies⁠—including sensors, edge devices, gateways, servers and the cloud⁠—are being used throughout the factory to compute deep learning analytics workloads at the appropriate location.

Efficient data-driven manufacturing can help to reduce labor costs, increase quality and maximize profit. The biggest hindrance to achieving these outcomes is the difficulty in extracting data from vendor-locked and proprietary systems for analytics downstream.

Speaking at the session on smart manufacturing at the ongoing Embedded Vision Summit 2020, Ms. Tara K. Thimmanaik, Systems Architect, Intel said that there are many processes to achieve smart manufacturing in a factory.

Industry 4.0 edge AI is driving the trends. The ability to draw data and drive inferences is the key to driving Industry 4.0 in the factory. Diagnostic analytics is used to decide the course of action. The factory is self learning and adapting with autonomous.

There are industrial use case opportunities. A lot of the companies have invested in legacy systems, and now, want to optimize them on the factory floor. To stand out from the competition, you need to answer questions such as: how can I meet rising requirements on product quality, or, how can I better predict and reduce downtime? Or, how can I optimize the factory operation for higher throughput, and how can I leverage the latest technology for better business outcomes?

Industrial machine vision use cases include factory production monitoring and factory operational monitoring. One of the challenges is accessing the right kind of data when we want to develop these solutions. An example is the arc weld use case. Porosity is the most common weld defect. Bad welds need rework, causing production delays, etc. The current manual weld defects detection are error prone as they generate lot of fault data.

Intel developed the real-time vision-based weld quality inspection. The weld pool is monitored in real-time. The PyTorch action recognition allows accuracy. There are software tools for model development. One of them is the OpenVINO toolkit. There are advanced capabilities to streamline deep learning deployments. They can help you to build, optimize, and deploy.

There is another use case for textiles. Current quality inspection in the textile industry is generally a manual process. Deep learning machine vision offers a viable solution that helps build a more intelligent textile factory. Intel use a multi-camera system for textile defect detection solution.

Scale and deploy industrial solutions
So, how do you scale and deploy industrial solutions? There are challenges for scaling AI solutions for industrial use cases. There are market gaps with the existing solutions. There is lack of general-purpose platform for multiple analytics use cases. There are also closed, existing proprietary systems that are vendor locked. The market seeks an open and flexible-base middleware stack to build the industrial use cases.

There are edge insights for industrial architecture overview. There is AI at the edge. You can have faster time-to-market, and be orchestration-enabled, which allows you to define and optimize the workflow. The solution is also scalable. You can scale complex workloads with powerful processors.

There are software tools for model development, such as the Myriad X VPU. It helps bring your next computer vision or edge AI project to life. This is the first Intel VPU to feature the neural compute engine, a dedicated hardware accelerator for deep neural network inference.

Intel provides AI solutions for the edge, end point, and the cloud. It is transforming the industrial landscape with leading partners.

Processor innovation to enable ubiquitous AI

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The Embedded Vision Summit opened today in the USA. Prof. David Patterson, UC Berkeley, delivered the keynote titled: New golden age for computer architecture: Processor innovation to enable ubiquitous AI.

He said that the instruction set architecture is where software talks to hardware using a vocabulary. Process designs are split between datapath, where numbers are stored and arithmetic operations computed. IBM built micro-programming in the IBM 360.

Prof. David Patterson.

In minicomputers, there are IC, microcode and CISC. There was a MPU evolution in the 1970s fuelled by advances in MOS. They imitated minicomputers and mainframe ISAs. Intel’s iAPX 432 was the most ambitious micro, started in 1975. Intel had a 16-bit MPU in 1978. IBM PC 1981 picked the Intel 8088 for 8-bit bus.

There was a move from CISC to RISC. RISC uses simple words. The big difference was in the clock cycles. RISC was 4X faster than CISC. There was also a need to measure performance. Benchmark suite was relative to the reference computer (SPEC).

The post-PC era saw the client/cloud game. There were >20 billion per year in 2017. The lessons from CISC vs. RISC are that less is more, the importance of software stack vs. the hardware, the importance of good benchmarks, and taking the time for a quantatitive approach vs. rely on intuition to start quickly.

There was a Moore’s Law slowdown. Power started showing up as the technology improved. There was the end of the growth of the single program speed. People still want doubling the performance over 18 months. They tailor to the domain-specific architectures (DSAs). You can achieve even higher efficiency by tailoring the architecture. DSAs can win with more effective parallelism for a specific domain. There is more effective use of the memory bandwidth. Domain specific programming language provides the path for software.

Deep learing causes ML revolution
Deep learning is now causing a machine learning revolution. Google was early in ML. It announced the Google-designed chip in 2016. Tensor processing units (TPUs) provided a high-level chip architecture. The reasons for TPUv1 success were two dimensional arithmetic unit with 64,000 multiplier/accumulators, etc. Later, Intel acquired DSA chip companies. There were Alibaba, Amazon inference chips as well.

Embedded computing and ML are becoming one of the most important workloads. MCUs are the most popular. There are several lessons for embench. It must be free, east to port and run, there must be a suite of real programs, there must be a supporting organization to upgrade it, there must be a single summarizing score, it should be summarized using geometric mean and standard deviation, etc. There was the Embench 0.5 launch at Embedded World. We are currently working on 0.6 version! The results are affected by the instruction set architecture, compiler, libraries, etc.

There are lots more things to do and explore with Embench. There are more compilers and optimizations. There are more architectures and processors. The benchmarking lessons must show code size with performance to get meaningful results. ML DSAs need hardware-software co-design. To measure progress, we need better benchmarks.

5G, Wi-Fi 6, cloud and AI providing growth opportunities: Christiano Amon, Qualcomm

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Qualcomm Inc. opened the IFA Berlin 2020 with a talk around “A Time to Innovate.” Christiano Amon, President, Qualcomm Inc., said: “Connectivity is essential! None of this would be possible without years of innovation from companies at IFA and across the world. The smartphone has enriched our daily lives and transformed the global economies. We have so much more ahead. Connectivity has enabled 1.7 billion students to get education remotely and allowed 1.8 billion telehealth visits in the USA during 2020.

“We all must ride this challenge. We don’t have to talk about a digital future any more. It is right before us! Everyone has recognized the benefits of technologies that would have, otherwise, taken 5-10 years. Technologies like 5G, Wi-Fi 6, cloud and AI are providing us growth opportunities. The mobile industry has built a foundation for all. Innovation is all around us.”

Digital and physical converging
It is about billions of devices working together. There will be a future of intelligent devices that would be always on and always connected. The devices will provide us with new capabilities. The value of digital transformation is here to stay. The next big innovation will be the converging of digital and physical worlds. The network will evolve to become more flexible and intelligent. The wireless edge will also expand into the home.

Christiano Amon

Amon added that with 5G accelerating globally, wireless has become the superior connectivity technology. Commercialization is moving fast! Today, there are over 80+ telecom operators across ~40 countries with 5G commercially deployed. And, 300+ operators are investing more in the technology. There are 100s of 5G products available, and in development.

Qualcomm projects that 750 million 5G smartphones should ship by 2022. 5G connections are forecast to be 2 years faster than 4G adoption by 2023, and surpass 1+ billion. By 2025, 5G connections are expected to be 2.8 billion. It will also include 45 percent of all mobile data calls.

There will be more innovation-driven economics driven by supply chains. In manufacturing, their is the promise of Industry 4.0, as well. The ICT sector will see 15 percent increase in market value by 2025. The economic impact of 5G will be fast. It will enable up to $13.2 trillion in 5G-enabled sales activity by 2035.

Future of entertainment
The future of entertainment will also change. Qualcomm has partnered with Live Nation, as the 5G Core Technology Partner, at Sportpaleis, Antwerp, Belgium.

Ms. Jackie Wilgar, SVP Marketing International, Live Nation said that a live concert will push the boundaries of 5G. The Qualcomm 5G Snapdragon platform will absolutely transform the live experience. There is AR, mixing sound from the stage, in real-time. It is a whole new way!

Amon said full 5G requires millimeterwave. 5G mmWave allows video streaming, cloud gaming, virtual presence and immersive entertainment. 5G FWA in private networks complements fiber broadband. The mmW performance is amazing. According to Ookla, the average download speed of 5G is four times faster than 4G. Over 120 operators are now investing to commercially deploy 5G using mmW.

In the USA, all the operators have launched 5G services using mmW. 5G auctions have been successful in Finland, Italy, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. In Germany, it should be available in 2021. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 5G modem-RF system provides 5G at full speed and support for sub-6GHz and mmW.

Marco Arioli.

Marco Arioli, Head of Engineering, FastWeb, Italy, talked about the 5G opportunities. We are entering a new era of services. It presents a unique opportunity to improve the quality of life. FastWeb has been focusing on network infrastructure to deliver high-quality broadband.

This year, FastWeb will launch 5G services to provide broadband services in Italy. It will also help them to reduce the digital divide in Italy. We have a partnership with Qualcomm. After two years of preparation, FastWeb is ready to launch 5G mmW services.

New 5G platform
Amon added that Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 5G mobile platform and Snapdragon 865+ 5G mobile platform are making all this possible. It currently has 165+ designs announced, or in development. Qualcomm is committed to make 5G available for everyone. Today, Qualcomm is bringing 5G Snapdragon 4 Series mobile platforms, to be launched in 2021.

Tony Chen.

Tony Chen, Founder and CEO, Oppo, said the pandemic has changed the way we work. Oppo has been involved in the evolution of 5G. Last May, it became one of the first to launch 5G smartphones in Europe. It has also collaborated with 37 carriers in Europe. The co-operation with Qualcomm has been since the early days.

Oppo has launched several 5G smartphones, such as the Oppo Find X2 powered by Snapdragon mobile platforms, as well as the 5G CPE for FWA in Europe and the other markets. Now, Qualcomm has scaled 5G to the Snapdragon 5 series. Oppo will continue to collaborate with Qualcomm to roll out 5G. It will evolve with XR and AI, and drive the new ecosystem of intelligent connectivity.

Xiaomi is another partner. Lei Jun, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Xiaomi M1, said that they have introduced several smartphones powered by Snapdragon 8 series and 7 series 5G mobile platforms.

Xiaomi will become one of the world’s first to adopt Snapdragon 4 Series 5G mobile platform. 2020 serves as a decade of Xiaomi. We have achieved every milestone along with Qualcomm’s support. Xiaomi’s products are available across over 90 countries and regions. The shipment is among the top 5 in 50 markets.

Focus on wearables and immersive sound
Amon added that wearables are continuing to grow in popularity. The Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 and 4100+ platforms enable you to stay connected. We are also seeing the growth of XR. Qualcomm is a leader in XR with 30+ devices from global manufacturers. Oculus and Microsoft are also the partners. The Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 5G mobile platform is geared for XR. Devices will be available in the coming months.

In immersive sound, Qualcomm is announcing the State of Play report 2020. It looks at: what drives buying decisions for audio consumers. About 45 percent surveyed said that audio devices help them with productivity. 73 percent of the end users are looking to go fully wireless. Noise cancellation is the fourth-most added feature. The Qualcomm aptX Adaptive gives smart, ultra, low-power audio. We are also announcing the Qualcomm Adaptive ANC designed to deliver premium noise cancellation.

Future of productivity
By the end of this year, 83 percent of all workloads are expected to be in the cloud. We are working closely working with Microsoft and the others to bring the best solutions. Today, we are announcing the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8CX Gen 2 5G compute platform. It has 5G and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity speeds. It provides enterprise-grade security, as well.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8CX Gen 2 5G platform has blazing fast and reliable connectivity. The Spectrum ISP supports 32MP camera. There is superior quality sound, as well. There is dual 4K display. There is AI, as well. There is also the loom.ai feature. Sophos provides the cybersecurity.

Jerry Kao.

Jerry Kao, Co-COO, Acer, said that Acer has worked with Qualcomm for many years. The Acer Spin 7 is among the first notebooks with Snapdragon 5G. It is a slim device, always connected. The power consumption is very low. Acer has an incredible notebook for mobile professionals. We are looking forward to continue the partnership with Qualcomm.

Amon said Qualcomm has also collaborated with HP and Microsoft. With HP, we are seeing a new era of devices. HP has designed a new notebook for the next era of business.

Panos Panay.

Panos Panay, Chief Product Officer at Microsoft, said that Qualcomm has been a catalyst that has been pushing. We are building the future of mobile computer together. The idea that you can use a product all day, on-the-go, is really inspiring. We also have momentum with the partners and customers. Amon added that they will collaborate for new devices, solutions and experiences.

Enterprises next!
Amon also talked about WFH. The changes we are experiencing right now, will change the enterprises for decades. There will be about 25 percent of the global mobile network data traffic by 2025. About 30+ OEMSs have chosen the Snapdragon X55 modem-RF system. There are 80+ FWA products coming up. Wi-Fi 6 will provide next-generation connectivity across Europe. There are partners such as British Telecom, Telecom Italia, Deutsche Telecom and Swisscom. The Qualcomm networking pro series will help.

The Wi-Fi mesh is next! There will be a combination of 5G and Wi-Fi 6. There is the multi-user MIMO as well. The Wi-Fi 6 solution from Qualcomm also supports sub-6GHz, where available. The 5G infrastructure needs to be dense, high performance, flexible, scalable and low power, for indoors and outdoors. The modern network will become more virtual and interoperable.

Qualcomm is also supporting a growing number of innovative OEMs, such as Airspan, Altiostar, Corning, T&W, Foxconn, Verizon, Keysight, etc. Qualcomm’s 5G RAN solutions will serve public and private networks and operators.

Masaki Taniguchi, SVP Mobile System Business, Fujitsu, said that the global expansion of 5G is continuing. Fujitsu and Qualcomm have a long history of providing mobile services.

Atsuo Kanawara, EVP and President, Network Services Business Unit, added that 5G will see innovative networks. There will be full potential of 5G, driven by digital transformation. We have a huge opportunity to deploy 5G for operators around the globe.

Ms. Claudia Nemat.

Ms. Claudia Nemat, Board Member, Technology and Innovation, Deutsche Telecom, added that 5G provides the best customer experience. About a year ago, we launched 5G. We cover nearly half of the German population. Dynamic spectrum sharing allows 5G and 4G to work together, seamlessly. We will cover two-thirds of the German population by the end of this year. 5G provides scalabiity and innovation. There is also the OpenRAN. We will all be able to take advantage of more innovation. The innovation will be from the new players and startups. This year, we also demonstrated the world’s first end-to-end network slice. We are well positioned to drive 5G.”

Industry 4.0 ahoy, and retail!
Amon said Qualcomm is also working with Siemens and Bosch. Siemens set up the Qualcomm 5G industrial test device with 5G modem. Qualcomm and Siemens established the first network in an industrial environment using the 3.7-3.8GHz band. This will also shape the future of transportation. 5G, AI and cloud will also help in re-inventing retail. The edge cloud delivers the highest quality processing.

Ms. Roanne Stone.

Ms. Roanne Stone, Corporate VP, Azure Edge+ Platform, Microsoft, said that the need for digital transformation is present to help us respond, recover and re-imagine. The devices in our home need intelligence. We are seeing some momentum.

Customers are also taking advantage of device capabilities. They are asking for more intelligent capabilities. They want devices that they bring to their homes are secure. With Qualcomm, we are working for end-to-end security. We will be sharing Microsoft edge AI devices very soon.

OTI’s ConducTorr CPM materials now compatible with all OLED display manufacturing!

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OTI Lumionics, a leader in the development of advanced materials for OLED displays, recently announced that the latest version of ConducTorr cathode patterning material (CPM) is ready for mass production. It will start shipping to display customers in Q4 2020 for use in next-generation mobile devices with under display camera and face unlock.

With the increasing demand for mobile devices with larger screens and smaller bezels, device manufacturers are looking for innovative solutions to make the display partially transparent. They can move front-facing camera and 3D facial recognition sensors (i.e., face unlock) under the display to eliminate having to make a notch or cut-out in the display.

Elaborating on the latest version of ConducTorr, Michael Helander, CEO of OTI Lumionics said: “We received a lot of positive feedback from our customers in regards to the performance of our ConducTorr CPM materials. However, one consistent pain point that we heard across the board was that our solution required some changes to their manufacturing process, which could slow down adoption in mass production.

Michael Helander, CEO, OTI (L) and Scott Genin, Head of Materials Discovery, OTI (R).

“Using our proprietary computational materials design platform, we were able to rapidly incorporate this customer feedback into the next-generation of ConducTorr CPM materials, that are now compatible with all the existing OLED display manufacturing, which makes it easier for our customers to adopt in mass production with minimal changes to their existing manufacturing process.”

Partially transparent displays
It would be interesting to know how the displays are made partially transparent. He said that the displays used in our mobile devices today are already partially transparent due to small gaps between all the various layers that allow a very small amount of light through. You can see this very limited transparency in optical based under display fingerprint sensors.

However, to move the camera and 3D facial recognition (e.g., Face ID) under the display, we need at least an order of magnitude higher transparency. To achieve this high level of transparency, we cut millions of tiny micrometer size holes in the display that fit between all the pixels.

These tiny holes allow more light to pass through the display, making it transparent, but still allows the display to function since the holes are positioned between the pixels. The manufacturing challenge is then making all of these tiny holes in the display without damaging the surrounding pixels, which is where the ConducTorr CPM materials come into play.

That leads to the query: how will the cathode layer work? He added that if you look at a cross-section of the OLED display used in most modern smartphones, it is made up of many different layers of material stacked on top of each other. Most of these layers are actually already transparent (or partially transparent).

OTI display being prepared.

However, the cathode layer is a thin layer of metal that covers the entire surface of the display blocking light. The ConducTorr CPM materials allow the cathode layer to patterned with the millions of tiny holes required to make the display transparent enough to move the camera and 3D facial recognition under the display. The holes are created through a self-assembly process, essentially atoms and molecules arranging themselves on the nanoscale using ConducTorr CPM.

Working with mobile device makers
It will be interesting to know about the mobile device makers that OTI has worked with, and in what areas. Helander said: “We work with the top mobile device brands (and their display suppliers) in Korea, China and USA that represent >90 percent of the combined market share. They are covering smartphones, smart watches, tablets, laptops, monitors and TVs. We are expecting the product announcements from our customers starting next year.”

Next, what is being done in the other areas, like transparent displays for AR, high-bright display with longer battery, etc. According to him, the large-area transparent displays are another major area of focus for us. To make a transparent display, you also need to cut millions of tiny holes in the display in between all the pixels.

“If you look at the recently announced Xiaomi transparent OLED TV, which is based on an LG transparent OLED panel, the transparency is only ~33 percent (based on the LG panel spec). The reason the transparency is this low is that the cathode layer is unpatterned, meaning that it actually covers all the millions of tiny holes in the display, absorbing a lot of light. With the ConducTorr CPM, the transparency can easily be increased by 2x or more. We actually demonstrated a transparent display at SID Display Week 2019 with >65 percent transparency in partnership with ITRI in Taiwan.”

What next?
Finally, a look at the areas where OTI will be working on next. Helander said: “We believe that rollable and foldable displays will enable exciting new form factors for mobile devices, but that current technology results in displays that have limited flexibility (i.e., large bending radius) and prohibitively high costs.

“To help address these barriers to mass adoption of rollable and foldable displays we are working on a new line of advanced materials that will help make these displays thinner, cheaper and more flexible.”