Research and consulting group Semico has issued a new report entitled SOI Update 2015: Finding New Applications (for information on getting a copy of the report, click here). As described on the Semico website: “With the recent growth in RF-SOI for switches and integrated solutions for RF functions such as power amplifiers and transceivers, the opportunities for growth in SOI wafer demand have once again garnered a lot of attention. In addition, as the industry transitions to very complex and expensive finFET technology, SOI is providing a high performance, low power option to semiconductor vendors who do not want take on the challenges of finFETs. This report explores the markets, products and outlook for SOI wafer adoption over the next five years.”
Semicon China (Shanghai, 17-21 March 2015) was an awe-inspiring event. The sheer size and the energy were dazzling. But it was the investment plans prompted by the government’s injection of RMB 120 billion (US$19.6 billion) last fall in seed money for the industry with supporting local funds pouring in that was clearly the source of a lot of adrenalin and M&A talk.
China’s industry is in high gear, still posting double-digit growth. But here’s the rub: while China consumes about half of the world’s roughly US$ $350 billion in chips (2015, WSTS), fabs in China only account for 2.5% of worldwide revenue. They’d like to see that change in a big way, and fast.
Hence Beijing’s IC Investment Fund, which is expected to continue to be expanded. SEMI estimates that the total government (central plus local) funds will reach US$100 billion, plus it’s prompting the creation and growth of additional local government and industry funds. (Dr. Adam He at SEMI has done an excellent job explaining Beijing’s investment strategy – you can see his summary here.) New VC funds are popping up everywhere, and existing ones are being augmented.
Which is why everybody was calling it the best time the industry’s ever seen. In his talk, Handel Jones of IBS, called it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
This should represent significant opportunities for the SOI ecosystem in China. China foundries are offering RF-SOI already (click here to read about the Shanghai RF-SOI Workshop). And it is worth noting that China’s R&D institutes have deep expertise in all things SOI.
FD-SOI is an important topic (click here to see an ASN piece on FD-SOI by a professor at a top Beijing institute from last year, and here for more about the recent Shanghai FD-SOI workshop). China’s designers are hot on FD-SOI, too. (Did you hear about how the Beijing cryptocurrency mining hardware company SFARDS is preparing to release its debut miner, which is built on a 28nm FD-SOI ASIC, by April 2015? Read about it here.)
SOI-based MEMS, power, and sensors products are also already produced in China’s foundries. In fact SOI was a strategic focus by key institutes like SIMIT under the national “Innovation 2020” 5-year plan launched in 2010.
In terms of SOI wafers, China’s wafer leader, Simgui also works closely with Soitec, the world’s SOI wafer leader. Not surprisingly, theirs was a busy stand at Semicon China.
The Hot Topic: M&A
During the keynotes and industry sessions, M&A were central themes, as China looks beyond its borders for expertise. Hardly a talk went by that didn’t touch on this topic, all emphasizing that 1 + 1 > 2, and hammering home the importance of holding on to top talent in takeover scenarios. With each new slide, a sea of smartphones raised above the crowd to capture the onscreen tips.
In fact, with the IC Investment Fund taking center stage, the head of China Merger & Acquisition at Goldman Sachs gave the audience a primer on the M&A process. China, he noted, is now number two for M&A worldwide, just behind the US. While in the past the activity was “inbound”, China’s companies are now active on a transnational scale. This year will be an M&A record breaker for the semiconductor industry in China.
China’s expats are returning in droves from abroad, founding new companies. New industrial parks like the one out by the Shanghai airport are attracting major investors.
Big Show, Small World
This was the biggest Semicon ever, with 2750 booths covering 57,000m2 (over 600,000 sq. ft – more than three times the size of West) and over 50,000 visitors (almost twice what they got at West+Intersolar last year).
But Semicon China also had its small-world moments that show just how far SOI is reaching. Consider this. I was on the metro in Shanghai, heading over to Semicon, reading the show program. The guy next to me asked a question about the show (he was heading there, too), and we got to chatting.
It turns out he’s the founder of Trinamic, a German company that designs chips for motion control. They have just started an SOI project with X-fab as the foundry. He’s very clear and enthusiastic about what he expects SOI to do for them. It’s for a high-volume app in small, precision motor control for things like video surveillance cameras.
This is an encouraging indication of just how far the SOI ecosystem is reaching! (We have an interview coming up with the folks at X-fab, btw, so keep an eye out for that.)
We’ll also have lots more from China, including interviews and profiles of the institutes and companies that are major players in the SOI ecosystem there. It’s truly an incredible place to be right now.
A dozen excellent presentations on FD-SOI and RF-SOI were made by industry leaders at the recent workshop in Tokyo. Here in part 1 of ASN’s coverage, we’ll take a quick look at the presentations by Samsung, ST, IBS, IBM and Lapis.
In part 2, we’ll look at Sony’s, as well as the presentations from the big EDA vendors and the IP and design houses.
All of the presentations are now freely available on the SOI Consortium website (click here for the complete listing).
28FD-SOI: cost effective low power solution for long lived 28nm node by Yongjoo Jeon, Principle Engineer in Foundry Marketing, Samsung
This presentation makes the point that cost and power are equally critical
factors in the long life foreseen for the 28nm node. (Samsung, of course, is offering ST’s FD-SOI technology on a foundry basis.) In particular, this presentation shows how FD-SOI is especially well-suited for low-power
IoT apps. (btw, Semiwiki just published an excellent analysis of this Samsung presentation – you can read it here.) The process was successfully qualified in September 2014.
FD-SOI advantages for applications and ecosystem by Kirk Ouellette, Director Digital Product Group, STMicroelectronics
As FD-SOI both improves power efficiency and brings high flexibility to SoC integration, this presentation points up the target app benefits:
RF-SOI: Redefining mobility through the Front End Module by Masashi Arimoto, Technical Executive, Mobile Platform, IBM Microelectronics Japan
In 2006, IBM started transforming a 200mm fab into a specialty foundry. RF-SOI and SiGe were key technologies for cell phone and WiFi front end modules (FEM). Mobile is key for driving the business of IBM: for infrastructure, for Cloud and for Big Data/analytics. Having shipped over 8 billion RF-SOI chips (>1300 tapeouts) to top mobile customers on its 7RF SOI technology, the company recently announced a new process: 7SW SOI, which packs 30% more performance into a 30% smaller space. They’re seeing ever stronger demand, which IoT will only increase. (Interesting to note that IBM also now sees 300mm FD-SOI as an opportunity for the heart and soul of the cell phone: the application processors.)
RF-SOI and FD-SOI Market Opportunities by Handel Jones, CEO, IBS
Industry guru Handel Jones (read his ASN pieces here) gets into the details of what IoT means in terms of chips, and where and when growth will be happening. Don’t miss his detailed slides on die and wafer cost for the various nodes of FD-SOI, bulk and FinFET (see slides 20-26) – FD-SOI comes out the clear winner in terms of cost benefits. He then explores the various RF segments.
ST H9SOI_FEM: 0.13µm RF-SOI Technology for Front End Module Integration by Flavio Benetti, DPG Group VP – Networking Products Division GM, STMicroelectronics
Starting with a review of RF trends, this presenation shows how evolutions in the LTE wireless standard for this high-growth market are driving RF Front End Modules (FEM) to unprecedented complexity. ST sees RF-SOI integration as the right answer to that complexity (RF-SOI is of course already the leading technology in smartphone RF switches.) Slide 7 (see illustration) shows the explosive growth in the total annual market (TAM) for RF-SOI wafers. ST’s H9SOI_FEM offering pushes FEM integration to new heights, integrating switching, power amps, antenna tuning, energy management, LNA and filtering, all with best-in-class performance. This is an area in which ST is offering high-capacity foundry services, handling billions of units/year. (ST did an excellent ASN article detailing H9SOI_FEM last year – if you missed it, click here to read it now.)
Development of X-ray Sensor with SOI Pixel Technology by Masao Okihara, Device Technology Development Division, Manufacturing Headquarters, LAPIS Semiconductor
This presentation gives on update of the ongoing and fascinating work by a major consortium developing a one-chip monolithic X-ray sensor device on FD-SOI (this was also covered in ASN when the project was first getting underway – you can read that piece here. Oki, which is now Lapis, is providing the foundry services).
~ ~ ~
The next FD-SOI/RF-SOI full-day workshop will be held in San Francisco at the Palace Hotel on Friday February 27th 2015, the same week as ISSCC. A broad range of technology and design leaders from across the industry such as Cadence, Ciena, GlobalFoundries, IBM, IMEC, Samsung, STMicroelectronics, Synopsys and VeriSilicon will present compelling solutions in FD-SOI and RF-SOI technologies, including competitive comparisons and product results. Registration is mandatory, free and open to everyone – click here to go to the registration page on the SOI Consortium website. (Lunch will be offered to all the attendees.)