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.
Key takeaway #2: If you need a Goldilocks process node – where you’ll get just the right balance between active power, unit cost and investment – look to FD-SOI. And, btw, the IP landscape has improved dramatically. Those were just some of the great points made by Huibert Verhoeven (shown above), GM/SVP of Synaptics’ IoT Division in his talk at the recent SOI Symposium in Silicon Valley.
BTW, if you missed part 1 of our coverage —Silicon Valley SOI Symposium a Huge Success. Key Takeaways (Part 1) Here. – you’ll want to be sure to read it, too. Almost all of the presentations are now posted on our website – click here to access them.
In this post here, we’ll cover presentations by Synaptics, GlobalFoundries, STMicroelectronics, Anokiwave and Dolphin Integration. It was a really full, day, so be sure to stay turned for Part 3 of our coverage to follow shortly: it will highlight the remaining presentations and panel discussions.
Synaptics’ Verhoeven’s presentation Revolutionizing User Experience Through Secure Neural Network Acceleration at the Edge was about Smart Home and using SOI. Synaptics is a human interface (HMI) company that’s been doing neural networks since 1986. They’ve always been on the leading edge, from their first shipment of PC touchpads to becoming a dominant force in all things HMI today: they now ship over a billion units annually.
They currently have SOI products shipping with dedicated neural networks for voice, he said. European [privacy] regulations have played a part in driving their use of SOI, as have challenges regarding power and heat. Things are getting smarter at the edge. For example, not only do users want their coffee machine to offer the usual morning espresso, Synaptics says that the next step is for your coffee machine to recognize you’re looking extra tired and ask if you might want a double?!
For them Smart Home and multi-modal applications are the primary area of interest, as well as some automotive. Although their biggest customers have resources, others need guidance. Voice is a critical component, but now you also need video and display.
Why SOI? Their HMI vision requires low power, significant computation and dedicated neural network hardware, explained Verhoeven, so FD-SOI with RF meets their needs. “22nm SOI is a Goldilocks IoT Process Node,” he proclaimed. It gets the combination of active power, unit cost and investment just right. What’s more, he said, “The IP landscape has improved dramatically. Our choice of SOI was not an accident.” Be on the lookout for more products leveraging FD-SOI over the next six months, he concluded.
At this point on SOI, they’ve got 1 TOPS products with dedicated NPU for speakers, soundbars, Wi-Fi mesh, appliances, STBs and smart displays. These products have voice and sensor real-time (RT) AI. Next up is >4 TOPS on SOI with dedicated NPU, targeting STBs and smart displays with voice, video, imaging and RT AI.
“Our clients are at the forefront of changing the world,” declared Mark Granger, VP of the Automotive Product Line at GlobalFoundries. His presentation, Capturing High Growth Market Opportunities with SOI, detailed how mobility, automotive and IoT are the growth markets for SOI. So not unsurprisingly, GF’s 22nm FD-SOI technology, 22FDX, is seeing particular traction in mobile, edge, wearables and automotive.
They’ve got twice as many tape-outs this year as they did a year ago, he noted. GF’s SOI portfolio includes 22FDX®, 45RFSOI and 8SW/7SW RF SOI for 5G/mobility; 22FDX for automotive (fully qualified for automotive Grade 2, with Grade 1 on the way); and 22FDX, 130RFSOI and 8SW/7SW RF SOI for IoT.
GF has announced a stream of good news recently:
You might have heard about the Dolphin Integration news, as we covered it recently here at ASN (if not, be sure to read it here). Dolphin’s IP and methodology solutions address energy efficiency challenges. Automated transistor body biasing adjustment can achieve up to 7x energy efficiency with power supply as low as 0.4V on 22FDX designs. At the Silicon Valley event, Dolphin Integration CEO Philippe Berger provided additional information in his talk, FD-SOI IP Platform for Energy-Efficient IoT SoC.
In another GF-related talk, Nitin Jain, the CTO of longtime GF RF-SOI customer Anokiwave presented Unleashing the mmWave Phase Array Using SOI for 5G & Satcom. Anokiwave is a fabless semi IC company (you’ll find a good technical discussion of mmWave phase array written by their Chief Architect here). They do active antennas (aka phased array), something the military’s done for a long time, but now Anokiwave is bringing it to new markets and applications including radar, satcom and 5G. What they’ve been able to do is planarize the active antennas. They use GF’s 45RFSOI process technology for phased array systems because of the cost, performance, scalability and system enhancements it enables. 45RFSOI, he explained, is ideal for beam-forming FEMs (including the switches, LNAs and PAs). The move to 5G/mmWave is going to require a lot of antennas, so these Anokiwave ICs are headed to high volumes, concluded Jain.
As Roger Forchhammer, Director of Business Development at STMicroelectronics pointed out in his presentation, Automotive FD-SOI Microcontrollers with Embedded PCM, ST pioneered FD-SOI (and that was almost a decade ago, btw). Then in February 2019, they announced a world first: they’d begun sampling 28nm FD-SOI microcontrollers (MCUs) with embedded non-volatile memory (eNVM) based on embedded Phase-Change Memory (ePCM) to 10 alpha customers. These MCUs target powertrain systems, advanced and secure gateways, safety/ADAS applications, and vehicle electrification.
(In case you want technical details, the breakthrough ePCM eNVM was first presented at IEDM in December 2018 – you can get the presentation that accompanied the paper, Truly Innovative 28nm FDSOI Technology for Automotive Microcontroller Applications embedding 16MB Phase Change Memory, from the ST website.)
In his Silicon Valley presentation, Forchhammer said they’re now doing Stellar, a whole family of automotive products on FD-SOI. To do it, they’d taken an existing device and moved it to 28nm FD-SOI with ePCM, which they manufacture at their fab in Crolles, France. A major advantage for automotive he cites is that in software updates it’s bit-level programmable. “ST is fully behind FD-SOI,” he concluded, adding that we’re see more automotive as well as IoT products coming soon.
Well folks, that’s all for this post. We’ll finish up our coverage of the SOI Consortium’s 2019 Silicon Valley Symposium in the next ASN post (there was so much to cover!). So please stay tuned.
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.
The world’s SOI wafer leader, Soitec is posting strong sales and issuing a steady stream of compelling announcements. This is clearly good news for everyone in the SOI ecosystem, as the outlook for the various families of SOI wafers is excellent.
Soitec CEO Paul Boudre told ASN, “I’m excited because of the fundamentals behind the growth. Reaching down the supply chain gives us the ability to help our customers with the next generation. We’re not in a technology push, but in a technology pull. It’s long-term growth we’re seeing.”
Soitec has brought people from the device side into the company to better understand the solutions customers need, he said. They’re talking to the carmakers, telcos and more, working one-on-one with them to understand the constraints and the problems they are trying to fix, in order to deliver a solution based on the Soitec product roadmap. Boudre is particularly excited about 5G. It’s not just new handsets and systems: the entire infrastructure will require a massive upgrade, across which Soitec has a role to play supplying SOI wafers.
They also have other SOI and engineered substrates for specific markets like filters, displays, imaging and power. He adds that they’re seeing nice growth in SOI wafers for photonics, driven by cloud computing, and for smart power in markets like automotive and white goods.
Here’s a roundup of some recent developments. Chips made on RF-SOI wafers are in every mobile phone made on the planet these days, so lets look at what they’re doing there first. We’ll follow that with an update on the surge of activity on FD-SOI wafers.
It’s no secret that the runaway success of RF-SOI for front-end modules (FEMs) in mobile phones has stretched wafer capacity mightily. To help address this, in February 2019 Soitec and China’s SOI wafer leader Simgui announced an enhanced partnership and increased production capacity of 200mm SOI wafers in China, securing future growth. The two companies redefined their manufacturing and licensing relationship to better serve to better serve the growing global market for RF-SOI in mobile and Power-SOI in automotive and consumer electronics.
Since the two companies signed their original licensing and technology transfer agreement in May 2014, Simgui has mastered Soitec’s Smart Cut™ proprietary process to deliver world-class RF-SOI and Power-SOI products. Simgui’s strategic partnership with Soitec allows them to use the same tools and processes to deliver the same products meeting the same specifications.
Simgui has invested in their Shanghai fabrication line in order to double annual 200mm SOI wafer production capacity from 180,000 to 360,000. The fab is production ready, having been qualified by multiple key customers inside and outside China.
Simgui CEO Dr. Jeffrey Wang notes, “China has design, wafer manufacturing and good momentum in the IC industry. We are committed to our strategic partnership with Soitec to keep advancing SOI as China’s key differentiator.”
China Mobile’s interest in the SOI ecoystem is clear: they’ve presented at the SOI symposia in Shanghai for two years running now. In a February 2019 press release, Soitec announced that they’ve joined the China Mobile 5G Innovation Center – and they’re the first materials supplier to do so. The China Mobile 5G Innovation Center is an international alliance chartered to develop 5G communication solutions for China, the world’s largest wireless communications market with 925M mobile subscribers. The Center aims to accelerate the development of 5G by establishing a cross-industry ecosystem, setting up open labs to create new products and applications, and fostering new business and market opportunities.
Soitec’s RF-SOI wafers have been critical in the deployment of 4G communications, and the opportunity in 5G is even bigger. Plus the company’s FD-SOI wafers enable the technology that brings unique RF performance, making it an ideal solution for many applications including mmWave communications such as 5G transceivers. They are also enabling full RF and ultra-low-power computing integration for IoT and edge computing.
In January 2019, Soitec announced that they have expanded their collaboration with Samsung Foundry on the FD-SOI wafer supply, securing the high-volume Samsung needs to meet industry’s current and future demands in consumer, IoT and automotive applications. The agreement is built on the existing close relationship between the companies and guarantees wafer supply for Samsung’s FD-SOI platform starting with the 28FDS process.
“Samsung has been committed to delivering transformative industry leading technologies,” said Ryan Lee, Vice President of Foundry Marketing at Samsung Electronics. “FD-SOI is currently setting a new standard in many high-growth applications including IoT with ultra-low-power devices, automotive systems such as vision processors for ADAS and infotainment, and mobile connectivity from 5G smartphones to wearable electronics. Through this agreement with Soitec, our long-term strategic partner, we hope to lay the foundation for steady supply to meet high-volume demands of current and future customers.”
“This strategic agreement validates today’s high-volume manufacturing adoption of FD-SOI,” said Christophe Maleville, Soitec’s Executive Vice President, Digital Electronics Business Unit. “Soitec is ready to support Samsung’s current and long-term growth for ultra-low power, performance-on-demand FD-SOI solutions.”
In February 2019 Soitec announced they’d become a strategic partner in Silicon Catalyst’s start-up incubator. Silicon Catalyst is a Silicon Valley-based incubator providing silicon-focused start-ups access to a world-class network of advisors, design tools, silicon devices, networking, access to funding and marketing acumen needed to successfully launch their businesses.
Soitec will engage in this start-up ecosystem to gain insight into the newest technologies and applications across high-growth markets, and to guide nascent technologies to successful market penetration.
“As a Strategic Partner of Silicon Catalyst, Soitec has a unique opportunity to grow our visibility among early-stage semiconductor companies,” said Thomas Piliszczuk, Executive VP of Global Strategy for Soitec. “Engineered substrates give semiconductor related start-ups a competitive edge in developing new high-performance, energy-efficient solutions.”
Pete Rodriguez, CEO of Silicon Catalyst said, “Soitec is creating technical advances that are enabling the next generation of products across many market segments. Their SOI technology is a key ingredient to meet the diverse challenges for breakthrough differentiated semiconductor products, combining ultra-low power with excellent analog/mixed-signal performance.”
And finally, jumping back a few months, at the end of 2018 Soitec announced that their SOI wafers are at the heart of a new Renesas SOTBTM energy harvesting chipset, opening a self-powered future for IoT devices. SOTB is how Renesas refers to its FD-SOI technology.
(BTW, here at ASN we’ve been covering the work that Renesas has quietly done on this technology since 2005 (!). And we did a piece about an EETimes Japan article back in 2015 that revealed the launching of the 65nm work. )
Soitec supports the Renesas SOTB chipset with a special version of its FD-SOI wafer product line. The new Renesas SOTB-based chipset overcomes the energy constraints of IoT devices and reduces the power consumption to approximately one-tenth that of the existing products in the market today. That makes the chipset perfectly suited for extreme low-power, maintenance-free and energy harvesting applications including wearable devices, smart home applications, smart watches, portable appliances, infrastructure monitoring systems, industrial, business, agricultural, healthcare, as well as health and fitness apparel, shoes, drones and more.
Renesas has developed its energy harvesting chip using its unique SOTB 65nm process technology that achieves both low active current of 20 μA/MHz and deep standby current of 150 nA. As a result, Renesas’ SOTB chipsets offer enhanced control of the transistor electrostatics and reductions in both the standby and active currents to levels never before achieved. Additionally, Renesas has successfully delivered the dopant-less channel to suppress Vth variability for the ultra-low voltage operation, and the ultra-low power back bias control to reduce the standby current at the same time.
“To spur innovations in IoT and consumer applications, we have integrated our exclusive energy-harvesting SOTB technologies into our Energy Harvest Controller,” said Mr. Toru Moriya, Vice President of Renesas’ Home Business Division, Industrial Solutions Business Unit. “We are confident that our SOTB technology built on Soitec’s ultrathin substrates can deliver unmatched capabilities for developing maintenance-free IoT devices that never require power supply or replacement, giving rise to a new IoT global market based on endpoint intelligence.”
The new R7F0E Embedded Controller is the first device based on Renesas’ SOTB technology. Developers can now design applications that need no battery or recharging. The R7F0E features: an Arm® Cortex® -M0＋; operating frequency up to 32 MHz, and up to 64 MHz in boost mode (that’s body bias in action!); memory of up to 1.5 MB flash, 256 KB SRAM; and active current consumption while operating at 3.0V of just 20 µA/MHz, and in deep standby of 150 nA with real-time clock source and reset manager. As of this writing, Renesas indicates it’s engaging select customers through July 2019, with mass production in 4Q19. Read more about the R7F0E on the Renesas website.
It should be a good year across the SOI ecosystem, with new products, players, IP, technologies and tools — and high volumes.
What’s new? Let’s start with the people, as the Consortium welcomes new team members. Jon Cheek of NXP will join Carlos Mazure as Executive Co-Director. He’ll be replacing ST’s Giorgio Cesana in that role – and goodness knows those are some big shoes to fill. Giorgio has given of his time and expertise so tirelessly over many years. He’ll of course still be a key resource for the SOI ecosystem, and though we’ll miss him here at the Consortium, we know he’ll be doing great things in SOI at ST. So a heartfelt thanks to Giorgio Cesana from all of us.
Jon Cheek has a long history in engineering management at companies that have been leading users of SOI: AMD, Freescale and now NXP. As such, he understands what companies need to design great products, and how the Consortium can help further build, promote, connect and support the ecosystem. The Consortium team also welcomes Jean-Eric Michallet of Leti, who’ll bring deep bizdev expertise and a keen sense of what it takes to reach further into the ecosystem. (Astute long-time ASN readers might remember his post from five years ago about 3D monolithic integration – now dubbed “Cool Cube” by Leti.) And finally, look to hear more from and about the Consortium, as our team is rounded out with the addition of the comm & marketing savvy of Erin Berard of Soitec.
In addition to new team members, the Consortium is very pleased to welcome new member Applied Materials. Though new to the Consortium, AMAT has a long history in the heart of SOI ecosystem – in fact they’ve been working with SOI wafer-leader Soitec for over 25 years. AMAT ion implanters are a key enabler to what became and is Soitec’s industry-leading Smart CutTM SOI wafer manufacturing process. And of course AMAT equipment is used to make virtually every chip in the world, so their breadth of vision as a consortium member is clearly a fabulous addition.
2019 will also be marked by the expansion of the highly successful SOI Academy series, the first of which was held this past fall in Shanghai. We’ll keep you posted as these and other Consortium events are announced throughout the year. In fact, 2019 marks a decade of (excellent!) SOI Consortium events events around the world: our first symposium was held back in 2009. Kicking off this year, save April 9th on your calendar for our Annual SOI Silicon Valley Symposium. Then watch this page for more events across the globe.
What will the year bring? On the product side, RF-SOI for 5G is of course super hot. Last summer, a SemiconductorEngineering headline proclaimed RF-SOI Wars Begin. And what we heard at the International RF-SOI Workshop last fall in Shanghai (presentations here) certainly confirmed that in the coming year the race will continue unabated.
And for FD-SOI, you might want to read the SE series published over the last six months. The latest, published a couple of weeks ago looks at FD-SOI at the Edge. There are some great insights from SOI Consortium members there. In terms of products, too, there’s lots of activity.
Last summer, Samsung indicated they’d taped out over 60 products since they first began offering 28FDS three years ago. It’s a trend they see accelerating. Full production of 18FDS is slated for this fall.
And also last summer GlobalFoundries indicated they had over 50 client designs on 22FDX. “We’re only just beginning,” said GF CEO Tom Caulfield at the time. “We have found a way to separate ourselves from the pack by emphasizing our differentiated FD-SOI roadmap and client-focused offerings that are poised to enable connected intelligence. ”
For its part, ST, as we learned at the last SOI Consortium Japan Workshop, has been doing FD-SOI for five years now. And while we don’t have number, we learned that some of those products are now in their second and third generations, and that some big FD-SOI chips coming out this year with embedded memory and RF, with especially good traction in mmWave, automotive and IoT.
So while the outlook for the overall industry is anyone’s guess for the coming year, the outlook for chips built on SOI technologies is very good indeed.
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.
The presentations from the SOI Consortium sponsored workshop held during Semicon West are now posted and freely available on the website – click here to see the full agenda with links to the presentations. The workshop, entitled 4G/5G Connectivity: Opportunities for the SOI Supply Chain, was well-attended and generated excellent discussions.
If you don’t have time to look at all of the ppts, here are quick overviews.
Handel Jones is an industry veteran, China expert and longtime follower of the SOI ecosystem. High performance with low power consumption are the key requirements for the continued growth in the semiconductor industry, he said, making FD-SOI the right choice for a wide range of products. Here’s how he sees it:
He estimates the yearly TAM (total available market) for FD-SOI based products in the range of $46 billion over the next 10 years, largely driven by needs for ultra-low power and RF integration. He goes on to break out volumes by applications (including ISPs – image signal processors; and CIS – CMOS image sensors), foundry markets by feature dimension and to map out technology trends.
Mobile Radio Transformation in the Age of 5G: A Perspective on Opportunities for SOI, Peter Rabbeni, Vice President, Globalfoundries.
Peter Rabbeni is an RF expert par excellence, having overseen the shipping of over 35 billion RF-SOI products to date. In his presentation, he details how 5G NR (New Radio) sub-6GHz frequency band specifications significantly increase frequency range and channel bandwidth, and how new band support and MIMO complexity and die size per handset are driving complexity in RF FEMs. Furthermore, 5G/mmWave phased arrays are driving a paradigm shift in the approaches that can be taken, he explains, so greater integration is needed. Here’s a great slide showing where GF’s two main SOI technologies come into play:
Working in partnership with industry leaders around the world, Leti has been the research powerhouse behind all things SOI since the early 1980s. In fact Reuters ranks them #2 in their most recent list of the World’s Most Innovative Research Institutions. This presentation reviews the key technical benefits of FD-SOI for IoT and IMT (that’s international mobile communications, btw).
This presentation really puts the context around engineered substrates. Here are two excellent and useful slides here that identify which engineered substrates go where in the 5G world, and the engineered substrates that Soitec provides. Check these out:
Ultra-thin Double Layer Metrology with High Lateral Resolution, Bernd Srocka, Vice President, Unity GmbH.
In case you’re not familiar with them, Unity provides a wide range of solutions in metrology and inspection. Both the top silicon layer and BOX layer of wafers for FD-SOI applications have draconian requirements that have required new approaches in metrology to ensure the thickness and homegeneity control of these very thin layers.
Shanghai-based Simgui partners with Soitec, using SmartCut™ technology for the production of RF-SOI wafers. It is doubling its capacity to reach 400K over the next year, and expanding into 300mm. China is aggressively working on 5G and plans to deploy 5G commercialization in 2020. Jeff Wang’s is a terrific presentation detailing the rollout. (BTW, in addition to the massive funding effort underway, the government created the National Silicon Industry Group (NSIG) to support the semiconductor material ecosystem in China. You’ll want to keep up with what’s going on here). Here’s the slide that summarizes the SOI ecosystem in China – the presentation then goes on to detail who does what.
Inspection and Metrology Relevance in SOI Manufacturing, Jijen Vazhaeparambil, Vice President & General Manager, KLA-Tencor.
K-T has played a strategic role in the SOI story going back for decades (and in fact they wrote a piece for the third edition of ASN back in 2005!), ensuring metrology innovations for things that hadn’t previously need detection and measurement. With each new set of requirements, they rose to the occasion with wafer metrology solutions that helped increase quality and decrease costs. This presentation recaps some of them.
pSemi (formerly Peregrine, now a Murata company) has staked its claim for having the world’s first monolithic SOI Wi-Fi front-end module (FEM)—the PE561221. This 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi FEM is the first to integrate a low-noise amplifier (LNA), a power amplifier (PA) and two RF switches (SP4T, SP3T) on a single SOI CMOS die. pSemi says it’s ideal for Wi-Fi home gateways, routers and set-top boxes (read the full press release here).
Driving this is the new WiFi standard, IEEE 802.11ax, which launches next year. While it’s largely meant to tackle issues with WiFi in crowded places, it’s also going to be welcome in high-demand home situations. (There’s a good piece on the NetworkWorld site on what 802.11ax will do compared to the current 802.11ac – you can read it here).
With new standards come new challenges. pSemi explains their PE561221 uses a smart bias circuit to deliver a high linearity signal and excellent long-packet error vector magnitude (EVM) performance.
“Traditional process technologies struggle to keep up with both performance and integration requirements, and only SOI can offer the ideal combination of integration and high performance,” says Colin Hunt, vice president of worldwide sales at pSemi.
The monolithic die uses a compact 16-pin, 2 x 2 mm LGA package ideal for either stand-alone use or in 4 x 4 MIMO and 8 x 8 MIMO modules. It is based on pSemi’s UltraCMOS® technology platform—a patented, advanced form of SOI that offers superior performance compared to other mixed-signal processes. UltraCMOS technology also enables intelligent integration, notes pSemi—the unique design ability to integrate RF, digital and analog components on a single die.
Volume-production parts and samples of the PE561221 are now available from pSemi. And this is just the beginning: while the PE561221 is the first product in the pSemi Wi-Fi FEM portfolio, the product roadmap includes 5 GHz Wi-Fi FEM solutions.
The folks at pSemi have been doing RF-SOI for 30 years now, and recently shipped their 4 billionth chip. For the last five years, they’ve partnered with GlobalFoundries.
Specialty foundry TowerJazz is ramping a 65nm version of its RF-SOI process on 300mm wafers at Fab 7 in Uozu, Japan. To support the ramp, the company has signed a contract with long-term partner, Soitec, guaranteeing a supply of tens of thousands of 300mm SOI silicon wafers, securing wafer prices for the next years and ensuring supply to its customers, despite a tight SOI wafer market.
Five of TJ’s seven fabs do RF-SOI. LNA (low-noise amplifers) are a big market driver, and with RF-SOI they can integrate the LNA with the switch, CEO Russell Ellwanter said in his lead keynote at the SOI Consortium’s 5th International RF-SOI Workshop in Shanghai (spring, 2018). BTW, that was in fact a very inspirational talk about Value Creation, and the importance of treating your suppliers with respect. He credited his company’s close relationship with RF-SOI wafer-supplier Soitec for TJ’s claim to the world’s best linearity.
“We are delighted to see the strong adoption of 300mm RF SOI through this large capacity and supply agreement with TowerJazz to augment our already significant 200mm RF-SOI partnership,” said Soitec CEO Paul Boudre. “TowerJazz was the first foundry to ramp our RFeSI products to high volume production in 200mm and continues as one of the industry leaders in innovation in this exciting RF market with advanced and differentiated offerings.”
According to the TJ press release (you can read it here), with its best in class metrics the TowerJazz 65nm RF-SOI process enables the combination of low insertion loss and high power handling RF switches with options for high-performance low-noise amplifiers as well as digital integration. The process can reduce losses in an RF switch improving battery life and boosting data rates in handsets and IoT terminals.
It’s a high-growth market, to be sure. Market researchers Mobile Experts predict that the mobile RF front-end market will reach $22 billion in 2022 from an estimated $16 billion in 2018. TowerJazz says its breakthrough RF SOI technology continues to support this high-growth market and is well-poised to take advantage of next-generation 5G standards, which will boost data rates and provide further content growth opportunities in the coming years.
Customers are already getting into position. For example, Maxscend (WuXi, China), a provider of RF components and IoT integrated circuits, is ramping in this new technology. “We chose TowerJazz for its advanced technology capabilities and its ability to deliver in high volume while continuously innovating with a strong roadmap. We specifically selected its 300mm 65nm RF SOI platform for our next-generation product line due to its superior performance, enabling low insertion loss and high power handling,” said Maxscend CEO Zhihan Xu.
As longtime ASN readers will know, we’ve been covering the evolutions of TJ’s RF-SOI platforms since the beginning of the decade. It’s worth noting, too, that beyond RF, TowerJazz also offers foundry customers other SOI-based processes, such as the new 0.18μm BCD SOI, a 200V SOI technology platform (announced in 2017, press release here) for motor drivers, industrial tools, electric vehicles and more. The previous generation 0.18μm SOI for automotive power management also offers exceptional area savings and is well-suited for high temperature operation. Back in 2014, here at ASN we did a great interview with TJ SVP Dr. Marco Racanelli about when and why they use SOI – and while processes have advanced, the basic drivers are still there, so it’s a still a good read.
And finally, designers will want to know that the TJ Multi-Project Wafer (MPW) Shuttle Program offers the 65nm RF-SOI process, as well as other SOI-based processes. See the website for scheduling and details.
Leti and Soitec have announced a new collaboration and five-year partnership agreement to drive the R&D of advanced engineered substrates, including SOI and beyond. This agreement brings the traditional Leti-Soitec partnership to a whole new dimension and includes the launch of a world-class prototyping hub associating equipment partners to pioneer with new materials, The Substrate Innovation Center will feature access to shared Leti-Soitec expertise around a focused pilot line. Key benefits for partners include access to early exploratory sampling and prototyping, collaborative analysis, and early learning at the substrate level, eventually leading to streamlined product viability and roadmap planning at the system level.
Leading chip makers and foundries worldwide use Soitec products to manufacture chips for consumer applications targeting performance, connectivity, and efficiency with extremely low energy consumption. Applications include smart phones, data centers, automotive, imagers, and medical and industrial equipment, but this list is always growing, along with the need for flexibility to explore new applications starting at the substrate level. At the Substrate Innovation Center, located on Leti’s campus, Leti and Soitec engineers will explore and develop innovative substrate features, expanding to new fields and applications with a special focus on 4G/5G connectivity, artificial intelligence, sensors and display, automotive, photonics, and edge computing.
“Material innovation and substrate engineering make entire new horizons possible. The Substrate Innovation Center will unleash the power of substrate R&D collaboration beyond the typical product road maps, beyond the typical constraints,” said Paul Boudre, Soitec CEO. “The Substrate Innovation Center is a one-of-a-kind opportunity open to all industry partners within the semiconductor value chain.”
Whereas a typical manufacturing facility has limited flexibility to try new solutions and cannot afford to take risks with prototyping, the mission of the Substrate Innovation Center is to become the world’s preferred hub for evaluating and designing engineered substrate solutions to address the future needs of the industry, inclusive of all the key players, from compound suppliers to product designers. Using state of the art, quality-controlled clean room facilities, and the latest industry-grade equipment and materials, Leti and Soitec engineers will conduct testing and evaluation at all levels of advanced substrate R&D.
“Leti and Soitec’s collaboration on SOI and differentiated materials, which extends back to Soitec’s launch in 1992, has produced innovative technologies that are vital to a wide range of consumer and industrial products and components,” said Emmanuel Sabonnadière, Leti CEO. “This new common hub at Leti’s campus marks the next step in this ongoing partnership. By jointly working with foundries, fabless, and system companies, we provide our partners with a strong edge for their future products.”