Electronics technology and market trends for 2019:
Markets: The Future of the Semiconductor Industry is Bright. Demand is rising for AI and automotive, flat for mobile phones, with trade uncertainty looming over everything. Foundries see growth and new issues in 2019. WSTS industry forecast projects annual global market growth of 2.6 percent in 2019.
Politics: Superpower politics may start to unravel semiconductor industry. China – USA market war is going on or starting. Trade Disputes Increase Market Uncertainty. The need to impose tariffs on U.S. imports of semiconductors is perplexing and frequently confusing. For example GoPro says it will move production of US-bound cameras out of China by summer 2019 due to fear of future tariffs, as US-China trade war escalates.
More-Than-Moore Markets: Software developers have come to expect ever-growing compute and memory resources, but the CPU no longer can deliver the kinds of performance benefits that scaling used to provide. CPUs no longer deliver the same kind of of performance improvements as in the past, raising questions across the industry about what comes next. The growth in processing power delivered by a single CPU core began stalling out at the beginning of the decade. The escalating costs of following Moore’s Law have shifted the semiconductor industry’s focus to More-than-Moore (MtM) technologies, where analog/mixed-signal, RF, MEMS, image sensing, power or other technologies may be integrated with CMOS in a variety of planar, 2.5D and 3D architectures. New Metrology and Inspection Technologies Needed for More-than-Moore Markets. Maximum flexibility is no longer the reliable path to product success. With scaling no longer happening for many companies, competitiveness now comes from better design, better performance and lower power.
Memory: DRAM fastest growing market in four of past six years, demonstrating very cyclical market. For the last two years, DRAMs have been sold more than any other semiconductors and market has been strongly growing. DRAM growth ends in 2019. New memory technologies like GDDR6 and HBM2 impacts system design. By 2018, embedded memory has become pervasive in a system-on-chip (SoC) and the area devoted to memory has risen to 72% and Semico Research predicts that this will rise to 79% by 2021.
AI: AI/ML/DL is now cropping up everywhere, and that trend shows no sign of abatement. AI and machine learning were considered distant future technologies until a few years ago, but now AI is suddenly pushed into the mainstream. ML support is showing up at all levels. The almost ubiquitous rollout of AI and its offshoots—machine learning, deep learning, neural nets of all types—will require significantly more processing power as the amount of data that needs to be processed continues to grow by orders of magnitude. What isn’t clear yet is how that will affect semiconductor manufacturing or how quickly that might happen. Your Next SoC Will Probably Include AI Acceleration. China has never had a real chip industry, but in making specialized AI chips, though, it’s got a head start. Today, selling custom chips for artificial intelligence is still a small business – the current market at $2.5 billion which is one half of one percent of the estimated value of the 2018 global semiconductor market). It could be worth $20 billion in 2021.
Heterogeneous processing: It used to be that the only processing device was an x86. Now almost all data centers have added both FPGA and GPU processors in various configurations. This heterogeneous approach is particularly apparent in AI/ML designs. This means that processors are no longer the one-size-fits-all answer for processing which means faster rate of innovation. Addition of multiple processing elements and memories is causing design challenges. System-on-chip (SoC) solutions continue to get more complex as more specialized hardware is added to optimize the SoC for new applications. Designers today are faced by a “whole system” problem: a problem of systemic complexity. Making Sure A Heterogeneous Design Will Work is hard. While existing tools still work well enough, no one has yet figured out the most efficient way to use them in a variety of new applications. A growing push toward more heterogeneity and customization in chip design is creating havoc across the global supply chain.
Prototyping: Faster innovation is what every engineering team is striving for. The speed of progress, however, can be hindered by how fast you can iterate through a prototyping cycle. Electronics prototyping is constrained by PCB manufacturing which is often opaque, slow and error prone.
Equipment: After a period of record growth, the semiconductor equipment industry is facing a slowdown in 2019, in addition to several technical challenges that still need to be resolved. Both DRAM and NAND vendors are expected to push out their equipment orders. On the positive side, foundry vendors continue to ramp up their 7nm processes, propelling equipment orders in the logic space. Still, the demand for leading-edge and mature tools can’t make up for the downturn in memory. Total fab equipment spending in 2019 is projected to drop 8 percent.
Advanced nodes: Intel plans to ship products based on 10nm in the second half of 2019. TSMC and Samsung are ramping up 7nm, which is equivalent to Intel’s 10nm. 7 nm is important node. It’s becoming harder to prepare a wafer at advanced nodes. There are considerable challenges of planarizing a thin film on a wafer for etch and optical control at 7nm and beyond. Intel is working on 7nm and 5nm.
MEMS: Small but mighty, micro-electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) were the driving force behind many of the most surprising devices at this year’s CES. MEMS are tiny machines made of components between 1 and 100 micrometers in size. Event-driven MEMS sensors consume no power while standing by. A triggering mechanical or thermal event closes a contact within the sensor to activate its circuitry and telemetry. Compared to traditional RF relays, RF MEMS switch technology can provide a relay replacement solution that is smaller, faster, more reliable, and use less power than conventional electromechanical relays.
Packaging: Although IC packaging industry braces for slower growth in 2019, advanced packaging remains a bright spot. Intel has demonstrated a new Foveros 3D ‘stacked’ packaging technology for face-to-face stacking of logic. Foveros extends the 3D packaging concept to include high-performance logic such as CPU, graphics, and AI processors.
Printed electronics: Printing electronics using conductive ink rather than lithography is starting to move out of the research phase, with chipmakers now looking at how to commercialize this technology across a broad range of sensor applications.
Sensors: New sensors could vastly extend the reach of electronics, creating new markets and new opportunities within existing markets. The sensors market be segmented on the basis of technology, named as CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor), MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical System), NEMS (Nano Electromechanical System) and others. It is expected to increase due to increasing adoption of sensors in automotive sector, escalating use of sensors in industrial products, strong demand for sensors in smart home and building applications, growing adoption of sensors in healthcare equipments, etc. Yet the market faces some challenges such as declining personal computers (PCs) shipments.
EDA: Digital circuit design is largely automated today, but most analog components still are designed manually. Analog electronics design is needed very much today, especially in IoT applications where same chips need to have both analogue and digital functionality. As analog design grows increasingly complex and error-prone, design teams and tool vendors are focusing on how to automate as much of the design of analog circuits as possible. We need new ways to find defects in multi-technology devices.
Power consumption: Today, information and communication technologies globally consume 8% of electricity and doubles every year. New low power technologies are needed in both hardware and software.
2019 Will Be the Year of Open Source from software and even hardware. It seems that it is the time for RISC-V to rise to the challenge. It is possible that there is a bright future for RISC-V, as the biggest concern isn’t even choosing “the core” as designers today are faced by a “whole system” problem. Open hardware/software platforms like Arduino and Raspberry Pi are inresingly important in many applications.
Compliance: The IEC 62368-1 standard represents an important transition for designers of ICT and audio-visual equipment because it is set to supersede the outgoing IEC 60950-1 and IEC 60065 electrical safety standards. It applies to to the end systems and also to components such as power supplies. The implementation date is by the December 2020.