Global semicon industry likely to grow +4.4pc in 2019: Dr. Wally Rhines, Mentor

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Happy new year, to all of you. 🙂 And, it gets even better, having a discussion with Dr. Walden C. Rhines, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Mentor, A Siemens Company, on the global semiconductor industry trends for the year 2019.

Semiconductor industry in 2018, and 2019
First, I needed to know how did the global semiconductor industry performed last year? And, what is the way forward in 2019.

Dr. Walden C. Rhines.

Dr. Wally Rhines said: “2018 was another strong growth year for the global semiconductor. IC bookings for the first 10 months remain above 2017 levels and silicon area shipments for the last six quarters have also been above the trends line, with fourth quarter YoY growth 10 percent. And, IC revenues overall continue to have strong double-digit growth for 2018, with fourth quarter YoY growth of nearly 23 percent.

“However, analysts are expecting much more modest growth in 2019. Individual analyst predictions for growth in 2019 vary from -2 to +8 percent, with the average forecasts at +4.4 percent.

“Much of this is due to the softening memory market, along with concerns about tariffs, inflation and global trade war. While the rest of the IC business has been relatively strong with Samsung and Intel noting solid demand for ICs for servers and PCs, sentiment by senior managers of semiconductor companies is near a record low level. So, I’m not expecting much growth, if any, in 2019 and more likely a decline.

EDA in 2019
On the same note, how is the global EDA industry performing, and what’s the path in 2019?

He said: “Revenue growth of the EDA industry continues to be remarkably strong, fueled by new entrants into the IC design world, like networking companies (e.g. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba, etc.) and automotive system and Tier1 companies, as well as a plethora of new AI-driven fabless semiconductor start-ups. Design activity precedes semiconductor revenue growth so it would not be surprising to continue to see strong EDA company performance even with a weak semiconductor market in 2019.

“EDA venture funding has rebounded, reaching a 6-year high of $16.5M showing a renewed confidence in the future of EDA. The major companies all have sighted better than expected results. On the semiconductor side of EDA there seem to be more technology challenges than the industry has faced in a long time.

“Some of those include new compute architectures, the emergence of photonics, increased lithographic complexities involving EUV and other techniques, new and more complex packaging, massive increases in data, and the multiplication of sources of design data (often created according to differing standards).

“The challenges on the system side of EDA are multiplying as expected. It is becoming more difficult to be at the leading edge when designing end-products in silos. Embedded software, mechanical, PCB, packaging, electrical interconnect, networking (access to the intranet) and security are just a few of the domains that need to work closer together in a more integrated manner. The increasing complexity is also making each of the domains more challenging. This all pushes new materials and methodologies into each of the domains listed above.”

Five trends in semicon for 2019
I wanted to find out about the top five trends in semicon for 2019.

He said: “The top five semiconductor technology trends include:
* the ongoing ramp of next-generation technologies, led by Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and cloud, and SaaS demand on the datacenter,
* the roll-out of IoT – especially in manufacturing,
* 5G development,
* computing on the edge, and
*the increasing semiconductor content within electrical devices.”


Global semiconductor industry trends 2019: Jaswinder Ahuja, Cadence

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Today happens to be my birthday! 😉 And, what better way to celebrate, with a discussion on the global semiconductor industry and the expected trends for 2019.

I caught up with my good friend, Jaswinder Ahuja, Corporate VP & MD of Cadence Design Systems India Pvt Ltd, and asked him about the global semiconductor industry trends for 2019. So, how is the global semicon industry performing this year? How does Cadence see it going in 2019?

Jaswinder Ahuja, Cadence.

Global semicon industry trends
Jaswinder Ahuja said: “The semiconductor industry is doing very well. Estimates say that it has crossed $400 billion in revenue. This growth is being driven by four or five waves that have emerged over the last couple of years. These are:

  • Cloud and data center applications are booming, and the top names in this space, including, Amazon and Google are now designing their own chips.
  • Automotive is (and has been) going through a transformation over the last few years. ADAS is just the beginning. From infotainment to safety, the whole vehicle is driven on precision electronics.
  • Industrial IoT is another wave. By incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) to manufacturing and industrial processes, we are looking at a revolution—what is being called Industry 4.0.
  • Mobile and wireless have, of course, driven growth in the last decade to decade-and-a-half, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
  • Consumer and IoT devices can also be considered a wave, although the consumer wave started some time ago. IoT is the game-changer there, with so many billion connected devices being forecasted in the next 5-10 years.

“Thanks to these technology waves, our sense is that the growth will continue into 2019, and probably beyond, especially as AI and ML become more prevalent across applications.”

Global EDA and memory industries
How is the global EDA industry performing this year? How do you see it going next year in 2019?

He said: “Cadence has seen strong results in 2018 so far across product lines. This is thanks to multiple technology waves, especially machine learning, that are driving increased design activity and our System Design Enablement strategy, as well as our continued focus on innovation and launching new products.”

And, what’s the road ahead for memory? Is memory attracting more investment?

He added: “The memory market is being driven by the data-driven economy, and the need to store and process data at the edge and in the cloud. Added to that is the huge demand for smart and connected devices, for which memory is crucial.

“There isn’t any data about investments, but keeping in mind the consolidation that is happening across the industry, it could well be that we may witness some industry M&A activity with memory companies as well. The merger of SanDisk and Western Digital is one such example.”

EUV lithography trends
Has EUV lithography progressed? By when is EUV lithography likely to get mainstream?

Ahuja noted: “As technology advances, both manufacturing and design complexity grow. Designs are being scaled down to meet the ever-increasing demand for more functionality contained in a single chip, creating unique implementation challenges.

“Manufacturing is facing huge challenges in terms of printability, manufacturability, yield ramp-up and variability. Unfortunately, restrictions on power, performance and area (PPA) or turnaround time (TAT) do not scale up along with these factors.

“Foundries have been talking about EUV for years now. However, the power and performance improvements with EUV don’t look very significant at this time. Clearly, there is still some distance to go, before EUV will become mainstream.

“On a related note, in February 2018, Cadence and imec, the world-leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, announced that its extensive, long-standing collaboration had resulted in the industry’s first 3nm test chip tapeout.

“The tapeout project, geared toward advancing 3nm chip design, was completed using EUV and 193 immersion (193i) lithography-oriented design rules, and the Cadence Innovus Implementation System and Genus Synthesis Solution.”

Trends in power and verification
Finally, what is the latest regarding coverage and power across all the aspects of verification?

He said: “Over the past decade, verification complexity and demands on engineering teams have continued to rise rapidly. Applying innovative solution flows, automation tools, and best-in-class verification engines is necessary to overcome the resulting verification gap.

“With regard to verification coverage, the challenge is always to know when you are done (the process of verification signoff). Cadence has a unique methodology and technology for measuring and signing off on the design and verification metrics used during the many milestones typical in any integrated circuit (IC) development, and it is called Metric Driven Verification (MDV).

“While milestones and metrics vary by design type and end-application, the final verification signoff will, at a minimum, contain the criteria and metrics within a flexible, human-readable and user-defined organizational structure. Automated data collection, project tracking, dashboards and in-depth report techniques are mandatory elements to eliminate subjectivity, allowing engineers to spend more time on verification and less time manually collecting and organizing data.

“Power-optimization techniques are creating new complexities in the physical and functional behavior of electronic designs. An integral piece of a functional verification plan, Cadence’s power-aware verification methodology can help verify power optimization without impacting design intent, minimizing late-cycle errors and debugging cycles. After all, simulating without power intent is like simulation with some RTL code black-boxed.

“The methodology brings together power-aware elaboration with formal analysis and simulation. With power-aware elaboration, all of the blocks as well as the power management features in the design are in place, so design verification with power intent is possible. Power intent introduces power/ground nets, voltage levels, power switches, isolation cells, and state retention registers. Any verification technology—simulation, emulation, prototyping, or formal—can be applied on a power-aware elaboration of the design.”

Menlo Micro ports DMS platform to 8″ wafer manufacturing line

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Menlo Micro announced that it has successfully ported Digital-Micro-Switch (DMS) technology platform from an R&D facility to a commercial 8” wafer manufacturing line, at Electronica 2018, Messe Munchen, Germany. 

Menlo is a GE spinoff that is re-inventing the electronic switch. Menlo’s DMS technology operates up to 1000x faster than a typical mechanical switch with 1000x longer lifetime. It can handle kilowatts of power and is built in a structure smaller than a human hair.

Working in partnership with Corning Inc. and Silex Microsystems, Menlo is now sampling product from this new manufacturing line and will begin scaling up the production of its unique micro-mechanical switches before year’s end.

Elaborating on the Digital-Micro-Switch (DMS) technology platform, Menlo’s senior VP of Products, Chris Giovanniello, said: “The electromechanical switch hasn’t experienced much change in the past 150 years, and many of the applications Menlo is addressing have seen little innovation in the last 25 years. Menlo Micro’s innovations have come to market by developing unique materials, designs and processing techniques to build an enhanced electronic switch that can handle high-temperature, high-stress conditions for products that require decades of useful life.

Menlo DMS

“Menlo Micro’s DMS platform is the re-invention of the most basic electronic function, the switch. It is a game changer for those who design electronic systems with a market opportunity of more than $20 billion.

“It has the potential to serve multiple industries, including: next generation 5G mobile networks, industrial IoT markets, battery management, energy management, enterprise building management, home automation, electric vehicles and medical instrumentation.

“The new switch operates up to 1000x faster than a typical mechanical switch with 1000x longer lifetime; it can handle hundreds of watts of power and is built in a structure smaller than a human hair.”

Some of the key attributes of Menlo Micro’s switch technology include:

Size: Board space and weight are at a premium in many applications. Traditional mechanical switches take up lots of space, have limited number of channels, and in some cases need to be manually assembled. Menlo Micro switching elements are smaller than the width of a human hair and are architected to be scalable, depending on the power ratings required. All switches are manufactured using automated wafer-level processes and tools. They are so small we can fit hundreds of them in a space smaller than 10mm2.

Speed: Making mechanical structures small also means you can make them move fast. A typical mechanical switch might operate in a few milliseconds, whereas Menlo Micro switches can operate 1000x faster, in only a few microseconds. This can have enormous implications on systems that were previously limited in performance by how fast they could reconfigure, or open and close critical circuits.

Power handling: This is an area where Menlo Micro completely throws conventional wisdom out the window. When faced with the prospect of handling higher power levels, most people think bigger. More mass, more metal, larger air gaps between conductors. We took a different approach. We make everything smaller and move the electrical contacts closer and closer together. Our miniaturized switches and scalable architecture allows us to handle 100s of volts and 10s of amps without arcing.

Power efficiency: In an increasing number of systems, power is getting more and more expensive. When you’re working off a battery, every 0.1dB and every microamp counts. Both RF and AC/DC losses need to be balanced with amplification and in some cases with extra power supplies. This is where the Menlo Micro technology really shines.

We can scale our switches to have ultra-low losses, from 1 ohm down to a few milliohms. Additionally, our electrostatic-driven actuator means that a single switch only needs a few pico amperes (pA) to function.

Reliability: When you are developing products to meet the needs of businesses that serve markets like healthcare, aviation, and other mission-critical industrial applications, reliability is not an afterthought; it’s the primary design criteria. In the end, that’s why we are here. Our mechanical switching device has lifetimes more than 1000x longer than traditional mechanical switches; not millions of cycles, but tens of billions of cycles without degrading performance.

“Even more important than the performance demonstrated to date, is the deep understanding in material science, reliability, and failure analysis that enables us to model and predict the failures, so that we can push the technology even further.”

Read the rest of this entry »

AddOn Networks disrupts status quo in optical transceiver market

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Data centers are set to be the driving force behind increasing optical transceiver sales, which are set to reach $6.87 billion by 2022. AddOn provides fully-functional, readily-deployable, fully-tested, compatible transceivers that outperform and outlast OEM equivalents – at a fraction of cost.

AddOn Networks, based in Tustin, California, USA, has launched a customer-first focus, state-of-the-art $20 million programming and testing lab. The testing lab enables AddOn to offer the proposition of transceivers guaranteed for functionality and performance.

So, how does AddOn deliver optical transceivers that meet and exceed OEM needs?

AddOnA company spokesperson said: “Since the OEMs may either batch test their transceiver products or not test them at all, customers are forced to adopt a ‘hope-and-pray’ stance when it comes to installing and using these critical components.

“Add On tests every single part we send out. Most OEMs do batch testing or they just test one or two parts in a lot. We also go the extra mile and test that part in what we call “intended-use” or in-environment testing.

“We ask our customers to verify what switches these transceivers will be plugged into. We mimic that in our lab and make sure that that transceiver is performing in the exact set up the customer will be using it for. When purchasing from AddOn, customers are assured that their new transceivers have been individually tested and serialized/MSA-compliant.”

How is AddOn providing cost-effective transceivers that put full optical deployment within the reach of more data centers? Aren’t there others?

He added: “Basically, we’re removing barriers to adopt optical transceivers and high-speed cabling, by providing trusted, tested and independent solutions that challenge current pricing models. We provide fully-functional, compatible transceivers that outperform and outlast OEM equivalents – at a fraction of the cost.

“These cost savings allows our customers to stretch their IT budgets beyond what they thought was possible. There are others, but they don’t offer the quality that we do. There’s still a concern about performance from a third-party optics company. We’ve taken that concern away with our process and testing.”

How does AddOn’s testing lab enable it to offer proposition of transceivers that are guaranteed for functionality and performance?

He said: “We’re fully aware that true quality and reliability come with a cost, and we’ve put our money where our mouth is here: in the form of a new, $20 million, state-of-the-art programming and testing lab. Here, we are able to test to specifications, OEM standards and within the intended environment.

“This attention to detail has led our products to achieve an industry-leading success rate of 99.98 percent for all transceivers shipped – compared to an average of 85 percent from competitors. This is critical, because small differences in failure rates create a large probability of failure at high unit volumes during deployment. Transceiver failure creates significant downtime and can halt expensive deployments. This is mostly due to our stringent testing process and Data Traveler process (programming and serialization).

Finally, what is the industry-leading Data Traveler process for optical transceivers?

He noted: “It’s our proprietary tracking system that creates a living manifest and allows us to uniquely serialize, track and ship every part. AddOn’s Data Traveler process tracks every part through unique serialization, programming, testing, labeling, boxing and shipping. We’ve set the blueprint for how to program, test and ship product at a high volume without sacrificing quality or performance.”

SnapEDA-Samtec to accelerate design process

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Samtec is releasing new digital models for over 100,000 of its products on SnapEDA, the industry-leading circuit board design library. Traditionally, designers have spent days creating digital models – such as symbols and footprints – for each component in their respective designs.

ElizabethWith this Samtec-SnapEDA collaboration, designers can now easily discover, download, and design with over 100,000 ready-to-use Samtec connector models, helping accelerate the design process. The new models include USB, card edge, board-to-board, headers, and RF coaxial connectors.

Elizabeth Bustamante, CAD Manager, SnapEDA, spoke from San Francisco, USA, on why Samtec chose to go with SnapEDA. She said: “We’re thrilled to work with Samtec because they are one of the most in-demand connector manufacturers on SnapEDA. Our users will benefit greatly from these new PCB libraries that will save them days of time, and allow them to quickly design-in Samtec parts.

“Samtec chose SnapEDA because over half a million engineers use SnapEDA each year to select and design-in parts into their designs. With our massive community of hardware designers, and their high-quality components that are high in demand with our community, it was the perfect match.”

Competing against existing models
How will Samtec compete against other such existing models? She added: “It’s not so much that Samtec is competing to get their models into a design, but rather, their physical products. The digital model (or, what are in fact, manufacturing files), are really when they design-in comes to fruition.
1 - Samtec Symbol _ Footprint
“Samtec has high-quality and reliable products, and an incredible focus on service and support. I think, that’s why so many engineers trust their products. Ultimately, engineers will make the decision based on which specs are right for them, and the model is really the ‘icing on the cake’, after they’ve made that selection decision as a reward to help them design it in more easily.”

Samtec has over 100,000 new models on SnapEDA. The new models include USB, card edge, board-to-board, headers, and RF coaxial connectors, because the new models include USB, card edge, board-to-board, headers, and RF coaxial connectors. Since Samtec focuses on connectivity solutions, that’s where the focus was for this project. However, SnapEDA has millions of models for all kinds of products.

Boosting electronics designers’ productivity
How can electronics designers boost their productivity with free symbols and footprints for Samtec products? Elizabeth Bustamante said: “Finding high-quality models for the exact part number, in the exact format and version you need is actually quite difficult. With these models, Samtec’s Signal Integrity Team is working directly with defining every element.

“Additionally, SnapEDA’s translation technology ensures that it is available in every format. The commitment to quality, and the breadth of our database and design formats supported is why we’re the #1 parts library on the web in terms of traffic.

“On top of this, creating connector models (which these are) are especially time-consuming, due to their non-standard shapes, pitches, pads, and cutouts regions. Having these models available to download, designers can spend more time in improving their design, allowing them to focus on optimization and innovation.”

Finally, how are newer, unreleased digital models going to be handled? She said: “We have a popular service, called InstaPart, which allows the engineers to request any models in 24 hours, and fulfilled by SnapEDA’s in-house component engineering team. Furthermore, the SnapEDA and Samtec teams are working closely to deploy new models to the SnapEDA platform as they become available.”

It is really great to have a lady address the queries on behalf of an organization. Many congratulations to the SnapEDA-Samtec combine.

SiFive presents RISC-V product overview

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SiFive recently presented the RISC-V product overview. Krste Asanovic, co-founder and chief architect, said: “Have you ever heard of a $1 billion hardware company with 13 employees? Instagram turned into a $1 billion acquisition with only 13 employees.

“SiFive provides RISC-V core IP. SiFive RISC-V core IP product offering includes E Cores and U Cores. E Cores are the industry leading 32- and 64-bit embedded cores. U Cores are the high performance 64-bit application cores.”

The Core Series offer unique design points which can be customized for application-specific requirements. Standard Cores are pre-configured implementations of Core Series, free RTL and FPGA evaluations.

E2 Series RISC-V Core IP
E2SiFive E2 Series RISC-V Core IP is SiFive’s smallest, lowest power core series. It provides clean-sheet design from the inventors of RISC-V. It has a new interrupt controller enabling fast interrupt handling. It also has support for coherent heterogenous MP with other SiFive cores. The E20 and E21 are Standard Cores within the E2 series.

E2 Series is the smallest, most efficient RISC-V MCU family. It is:
– RV32IMAFC capable core
– 2-3 stage, optional, Harvard Pipeline

It is configurable to meet application specific needs. It is the first RISC-V core with support for for the RISC-V Core local interrupt controller (CLIC). Drop In Cortex-M0+ and Cortex-M3/M4 replacement.

E21 is 12 percent higher performance per MHz vs Cortex-M4 in CoreMark, when using equivalent GCC Compilers. E20 is 28 percent higher performance per MHz vs Cortex-M0+ in CoreMark,  when using equivalent GCC Compilers.

SiFiveE3 and E5 Series RISC-V Core IP are high performance 32-bit and 64-bit RISC-V MCUs. Features include pipelined multiapplication unit, multicore support, fast interrupts and memory protection.

U5 Series RISC-V Core IP
SiFive U5 Series RISC-V Core IP is 64-bit RISC-V Multicore Linux-capable. The U5-MC allows for instantiation of up to 9 U5 and/or E5 cores as well a configurable Level 2 cache. Flexible memory system allows for application-specific resource partitioning.

It has broad market applications – general-purpose embedded, industrial, IoT, high-performance real -time embedded, automotive.

The U54 -MC4 Standard Core is also 64-bit RISC-V multicore Linux capable.

“RISC -V delivers a platform for innovation, unshackled from the proprietary interface of the past. This freedom allows us to bring compute closer to data to optimize special-purpose compute capabilities targeted at Big Data and Fast Data applications,” according to Martin Fink, CTO, Western Digital.

Faster-to-market processes key for success in automotives: Fisker

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There has been a partnership between global automotive design icon, Henrik Fisker, and Berlin-based automotive and mobility tech investment group, motec Ventures.

FiskerMotec Ventures has made the commitment to source talent from all over the world, beginning in Europe and branching out, to cultivate new and innovative tech companies and usher in the next generation of the automotive industry. It is also important for all automotive and technology talent based outside of Silicon Valley.

I asked Fisker how he is focused on discovering new, agile mobility technology companies in Europe and abroad to disrupt the automotive sector. Also, his joining the Board of Motec Ventures is to facilitate increased collaboration between promising new suppliers, SMEs and OEMs in an effort to lower manufacturing costs and enable smarter scale-up.

Fisker said: “I’m already engaged with Motech Ventures, and have had several discussion where we review new start-ups. We study the start-up’s technology, and I particularly see if it’s applicable to any of the future programs at Fisker Inc., as well as the global automotive industry.

“If we see that the start-up can contribute to part of the supply chain with a breakthrough idea, Motech Ventures will invest into the start-up and we use our network to help the start-up grow. If the technology is applicable to any of Fisker Inc.’s future products, Fisker Inc. may participate in the investment round and engage with the start-up directly.

“The automotive industry is changing forever, where much shorter development cycles and faster-to-market processes are necessary to be successful. By working with new start-ups, extreme short development cycles are possible, as they are not bogged down by traditional long automotive processes, and they must be faster to succeed.

“Several new technologies can be developed and tested faster today, due to extensive use of new software. If an OEM can make fast decisions, the technology can be implemented much faster. The days of 3.5+ year development cycles are over, it’s too long for the product to stay relevant.”

How will Fisker help guide efforts to increase collaboration between the suppliers, SMEs and OEMs to lower manufacturing costs and enable smarter scaling?

He added: “Motech is partly formed by e&Co., an automotive consultancy that works with many SMEs and OEMs including Fisker Inc. e&Co has the ability to make the introductions and actively work with the new start-ups.”

Fisker will co-invest in motec portfolio companies in sectors, ranging from smart manufacturing, AI-based process optimization to concrete autonomous driving applications.

He said that Fisker Inc. has the ability to co invest if the technology is applicable to a Fisker project. Fisker Inc. would engage with the start-up directly and have them work as a Fisker supplier on a program.

How is the project aimed at tapping into the hotbed of engineering and tech talent in Germany, Europe and abroad?

Fisker said: “Motech is actively seeking out start-ups with innovative technologies that the board of motec ventures can see the need for in the automotive industry. We are all actively working on future automotive programs in various ways.

As for helping drive down manufacturing costs and to enable smarter scaling, he noted: “Motech is focusing on the collaboration part. Fisker Inc. will focus on driving down cost and smarter scaling on our own Fisker Inc. programs. For competitive reasons, we are not sharing any details of those efforts. We are constantly reviewing and engaging with new start-ups.”