More change for the chip industry

By Paula Doe, SEMI

As if scaling to 7nm geometries and going vertical with FinFETs, TSVs and other emerging technologies wasn’t challenge enough, the emerging market for connected smart devices will bring more changes to the semiconductor sector. And then there’s 3D printing looming in the wings.

Sometime between 2009 and 2010, there was a point of inflection, where the number of connected devices began outnumbering the planet’s human population. And these aren’t just laptops, mobile phones, and tablets – they also include sensors and everyday objects that were previously unconnected, says Tony Shakib, Cisco Systems VP IoE Vertical Solutions, who will talk about the impact of these changes on the chip industry at SEMICON West this summer in San Francisco.  Connected “things” may reach 25 to 50 billion by the year 2020, he projects. These connections of people, process, data and things will create opportunities for new revenue streams, new options for competitive advantage, and new operating models to drive both efficiency and value, potentially driving massive gains in efficiency, business growth, and quality of life, he suggests. “But as we connect the unconnected, this will require that we think differently about business strategy and IT, analytics, security, and more.”

Source: Cisco

Source: Cisco

Chip makers will need to provide easy-to-use IoT security for startups

One big change: some 50 percent of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions by 2017 will probably come from startups, according to Gartner’s projections.  “Whatever the exact percentage, the increased role of new and small players in the IoT edge devices will be a fundamental paradigm shift from the big companies that have conventionally dominated the electronics industry, says Gowri Chindalore, head of Technology and Business Strategy for Microcontrollers business group at Freescale, who will speak on the issue at SEMICON West’s “Monetizing the IoT: Opportunities and Challenges” session.  “And these startups’ knowledge of security is often very low.  So as IC makers we need to make it easy for them to do.” He suggests the best solution is to offer on-chip security features, such as secure storage, cryptographic accelerators, and tamper resistance mechanisms, and supplement them with a software dashboard that makes it easy for the systems maker to set up and enable the desired features appropriate for the application.  Though the encryption technology is very complex, by using library programs and selling in volume, the actual cost can probably be reduced to a few cents per chip.

Security for the internet will also improve markedly within several years as passwords are replaced by personal transmitters that automatically send secure codes to websites at log on. Similarly, local aggregator devices at the edge for all the IoT devices in the house or the factory will serve as the security gateway to screen users or devices by transmitted codes or biometric sensors. “We need proliferation of these security features into even all the benign IoT gadgets in the house to protect the network, but consumers will be willing to pay the small extra cost for security — especially after a few more highly publicized instances of hacking,” he notes.

Designers combining more IP blocks face challenges in reliability and verification

The key challenge across the board from the design side for successful IoT devices will be figuring out how to combine the right component capabilities of sensors and memory and processing and connectivity and size and power for a compelling application, and then making the right tradeoffs in the architecture to make it all work, explains Steve Carlson, VP marketing, Cadence Design Systems, another speaker at SEMICON West. “IP blocks will be especially useful for smaller companies to add functions without necessarily having the in house expertise,” he notes.  But combining the blocks will challenge many users by dramatically new issues of isolating noisy analog parts from the digital as they add RF and sensors that they haven’t had to deal with before, and all at near-threshold and ultralow power.  That will mean more issues with variation and reliability, and verification will increasingly need to include both hardware blocks and software together, so emulation will become more critical, he notes.

Fabs may need to deal with more diverse processes, but may improve productivity

“The IoT will drive demand for more IC manufacturing across a wide range of technologies, from the most advanced logic process to high voltage devices and MEMS, all with diverse requirements,” says Peter Huang, VP Field Technical Support, TSMC North America, another speaker. He notes that MEMS and other emerging devices, ranging from micro-lenses for machine vision to batteries to power wireless sensors, will require some unique tools and processes, and will be less easily scalable than CMOS.  Material handling and the need for isolated lines will create additional challenges. “Heterogeneous integration will require 2.5D packaging for both form factor and cost,” he suggests. “And the real challenge will be high volume manufacturing and IP interface at the package level.”

Though manufacturing equipment is already highly automated and interconnected, the availability of hundreds of low-cost, connected sensors may bring opportunities to increase tool automation and productivity, he adds.

IoT graphic 2

Compact integration of multiple chip and sensor technologies for IoT devices will demand more sophisticated system- in-package technology.  The new Apple Watch has 30 components in its core S1 SiP, all packed on to a 26mm x 28mm motherboard and overmolded with a conventional IC packaging resin compound. (from Chipworks)

Progress on technology for 3D printing of tooling and components

Then there’s the disruptive potential for 3D printing some of the tooling and components all along the supply chain to speed time to market, allow more customization, reduce weight and simplify dealing with legacy parts — if the process can meet the required quality and cost. Phillip Trinidad, president of service provider Proto Café, who has worked with semiconductor sector players,  argues that progress in optimizing designs now means additive manufacturing is increasingly becoming suitable not just for prototyping, but also for production of specialty parts in performance plastics.

In addition, there’s recent progress in 3D printing for challenging metal industrial parts, which will be addressed at SEMICON West “Factory of the Future: Disruptive Technologies from IoT to 3D Printing — Impact on the Semiconductor Manufacturing Sector” session. Ryan Dehoff, lead for Metal Additive Manufacture at Oakridge National Laboratory, will provide an update on the current state of the art for printing in metal, while Wayne King, director of the Initiative for Accelerated Certification of Additive Manufactured Metals, will talk about the progress on speeding qualification of the additive metal parts by modeling and inline process monitoring and control.

Along with the regular coverage of next-generation scaling technology, SEMICON West 2015 will also address the impact of the Internet of Things and 3D printing on manufacturing technology across the semiconductor supply chain, as well as related developments in MEMS, emerging non-volatile memory technology, and automotive and biomedical applications. Please visit


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