Electronics trends for 2019

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 architecturesNew 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 configurationsThis 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 sizeEvent-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.

Regulations: More restrictive regulations like those from EU’s REACH are pushing companies to produce products free from halogens and phthalate.

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.

282 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How China is still paying the price for squandering its chance to build a home-grown semiconductor industry
    https://www.scmp.com/tech/big-tech/article/3024687/how-china-still-paying-price-squandering-its-chance-build-home-grown

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Jack Pitcher / Bloomberg:
    As the drone market matures, many of the startups which raised hundreds of millions in aggregate have either closed or pivoted to services — – Commercial market for unmanned aircraft is slow to take flight — Some companies gain by buying up rivals to broaden focus

    Drone Bubble Bursts, Wiping Out Startups and Hammering VC Firms
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-30/drone-bubble-bursts-wiping-out-startups-and-hammering-vc-firms

    New commercial drone businesses flooded into the market at the start of the decade, flush with venture capital and giddy with visions of unmanned aircraft being used for everything from delivering packages to fertilizing farmland.

    Unmanned aircraft are still seen as a pillar of the future. But for now, all that over-heated enthusiasm is getting a cold blast of reality.

    Some of the biggest startups began closing their doors last year after burning through hundreds of millions in venture capital poured into a fledgling industry that, despite forecasts for explosive growth, is taking longer to mature than expected. Dozens of others are getting swept up in a consolidation wave as drone companies search for a profitable niche in a rapidly shifting marketplace.

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  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    It’s Happening Again: Maersk Halts Asia-Europe Loop Amid Global Slowdown
    https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-09-05/its-happening-again-maersk-halts-asia-europe-loop-amid-global-slowdown

    Growth in the world continues to collapse into late summer, so much so that Maersk and Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) had to “temporarily suspend” their AE2/Swan Asia to North Europe loop until mid-November, removing 20,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) a week from trade, reported The Loadstar.

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  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Tiny gallium nitride laptop chargers are upon us
    https://boingboing.net/2019/09/02/tiny-laptop-charger.html

    There’s nothing I hate in my bag so much as my laptop charger, a heavy Lenovo-grade brick of black plastic with two thick cables sticking out of each end, invariably forming a coiled knot of nonsense three times larger still. So I ordered this alarmingly small universal charger from RAVpower as soon as I saw that Wirecutter didn’t recommend it. It’s smaller than an iPad charger, but charges a MacBook Pro or Thinkpad.

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  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    U.S. Energy Department is First Customer for World’s Biggest Chip
    https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/computing/hardware/us-energy-department-is-first-customer-for-worlds-biggest-chip

    Last month, Cerebras Systems unveiled a 46,225-square millimeter chip with 1.2 trillion transistors designed to speed the training of neural networks

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  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A Silicon Valley firm overcame the final hurdle for a nascent chip-making technique called inverse lithography. This breakthrough reduces the amount of time needed for a critical step from several weeks to a single day.

    Custom Computer Makes Inverse Lithography Technology Practical for First Time
    https://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/materials/custom-computer-makes-inverse-lithography-practical-for-first-time

    inverse lithography technology, or ILT. The breakthrough could speed the process of making chips and allow semiconductor fabs to produce more advanced chips without upgrading equipment. The solution, a custom-built computer system, reduces the amount of time needed for a critical step from several weeks to a single day.

    In most of the photolithography used to make today’s microchips, light with a wavelength of 193-nanometers is shown through lenses and a patterned photomask, so that the pattern is shrunk down and projected onto the silicon wafer where it defines device and circuit features. (The most modern chip making technology, extreme ultraviolet lithography, works a bit differently. But, only a few chipmakers have these tools.

    Until now, using ILT across the entire chip layout has been so impractical and time consuming that even the most advanced chipmakers use it only for small areas and fixes.

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    MIT Researchers Extend Pick-and-Place to Tiny, Microscopic Components
    https://www.hackster.io/news/mit-researchers-extend-pick-and-place-to-tiny-microscopic-components-0d850d2db10a

    Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have built an “electroadhesive stamp” system which can extend the pick-and-place concept into the microscopic scale — potentially easing the assembly of smaller, more powerful circuits in the future.

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Goodbye, Motherboard. Hello, Silicon-Interconnect Fabric
    https://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/hardware/goodbye-motherboard-hello-siliconinterconnect-fabric

    Our research shows that the printed circuit board could be replaced with the same material that makes up the chips that are attached to it, namely silicon. Such a move would lead to smaller, lighter-weight systems for wearables and other size-constrained gadgets, and also to incredibly powerful high-performance computers that would pack dozens of servers’ worth of computing capability onto a dinner-plate-size wafer of silicon.

    Microsize Lens Pushes Photonics Closer to an On-Chip Future
    https://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/optoelectronics/microsize-lens-pushes-photonics-closer-to-an-onchip-future

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  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Devil’s advocate: Instead of having it place the components, why not just print them? It seems we’re dangerously close to completely skipping all of this and going to straight proto-type manufacturing.

    https://all3dp.com/2/3d-printed-electronics-5-most-advanced-companies/

    Reply
  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Researchers have designed a soft circuit printing process that can be created by using a conventional inkjet printer.

    Engineers Create Soft Circuits Using Conventional Inkjet Printer
    https://www.hackster.io/news/engineers-create-soft-circuits-using-conventional-inkjet-printer-b47f5eb6b09a

    A multi-ink functional printing process on a desktop printer for multi-material devices, including conductive and isolating inks.

    Reply
  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Physicists Have Identified a Metal That Conducts Electricity But Not Heat
    FIONA MACDONALD30 NOV 2019
    https://www.sciencealert.com/physicists-identify-a-metal-that-conducts-electricity-but-not-heat

    Researchers have identified a metal that conducts electricity without conducting heat – an incredibly useful property that defies our current understanding of how conductors work.

    Reply
  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    What Chipmakers Tell Us About the Great Global Unwinding
    The U.S.-China trade war is fracturing the world’s semiconductor manufacturing base, and that won’t stop even if the tariffs do
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-10-21/the-chipmaker-industry-is-headed-for-a-global-unwinding

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  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    What’s the mystery ingredient that helps boost the performance of chips made using TSMC’s next generation 5-nanometer process? “Those who know, know” was all that the company would say.

    TSMC’s 5-Nanometer Process on Track for First Half of 2020
    https://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/devices/tsmc-5-nanometer-process

    N5, TSMC’s 5-nanometer process, is on track for high-volume production during the first half of 2020, Yeap told engineers at the IEEE International Electron Device Meeting in San Francisco, Wednesday.

    Compared with the company’s 7-nanometer process, used to make iPhone X processors among other high-end systems, N5 leads to devices that are 15 percent faster and 30 percent more power efficient. It produces logic that is 1.84 times as small as the previous process and produces SRAM cells that are only 0.021 square micrometers, the most compact ever reported, Yeap said.

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  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    N5 is the first TSMC process designed around extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV). Because it uses a 13.5-nanometer light instead of 193-nanometers, EUV can define chip features in one step—compared with three or more steps using 193-nanometer light.

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  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A Renaissance in the Emulation Business Is Nigh
    https://www.eetimes.com/a-renaissance-in-the-emulation-business-is-nigh/#

    It is reasonable to predict that hardware-assisted verification revenue will break through $600 million by the end of 2019.

    Hardware emulation was conceived in the mid-1980s by a few pioneers who identified an opportunity for field programmable gate-array (FPGA), then a new type of device. They envisioned building prototypes of digital designs by interconnecting several FPGAs in large arrays before the actual silicon was returned by the foundry. Two companies emerged with working solutions, Quickturn Design Systems and IKOS Systems, giving birth to a new industry.

    For the first 10 years, hardware emulation remained a niche business with a questionable future. While the concept was promising, the actual implementation was a minefield of issues — and its deployment a nightmare — requiring technical experts with multiple degrees in various disciplines.

    It took years to improve and ease the deployment. All along, brilliant engineers devised solutions to alleviate the problems via software enhancements and/or hardware architectural innovations.

    Fast forward. The hardware emulation market today is thriving, boosted by state-of-the-art systems offered by the three major electronic design automation (EDA) providers, Synopsys, Cadence and Mentor, a Siemens Business.

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  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    IBM Research Created a New Battery That Outperforms Lithium-Ion—No Problematic Heavy Metals Required
    https://gizmodo.com/ibm-research-created-a-new-battery-that-outperforms-lit-1840535845

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  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Kioxia: 3D Stacked Storage Class Memory, like 3D XPoint, Isn’t the Future
    by Dr. Ian Cutress on December 30, 2019 2:00 PM EST
    https://www.anandtech.com/show/15259/kioxia-3d-stacked-storage-class-memory-like-3d-xpoint-isnt-the-future

    One of the key battlegrounds of the next decade is going to be storage: density, speed, and demand. Naturally all the major players in the space want to promote their own technologies of that of their competitors, and Kioxia (formerly Toshiba Memory) is no different. This year during their plenary talk at the International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) the company set forth its promotion of its BiCS flash product family, as well as its upcoming XL-Flash technology. What was interesting during this talk is a graph that seems to slam the long-term prospects of any of the upcoming Storage Class Memory (SCM) technologies like 3D XPoint from Intel and Micron.

    ‘DRAM’ time memory has always been a 1-bit per cell medium, however storage has been going through the motions of increasing the number of bits per cell. Moving to more bits per cell gets extra storage capacity, in effect, for ‘free’, however it requires the materials to have tighter tolerances and the detection circuitry to be more precise, and one way to do both of those is to increase the size of the cell, decreasing the density overall. The more bits per cell, the difficulty becomes in distinguishing between the property levels in 2 to the power of the number of bits. It’s an interesting conundrum.

    Kioxia’s current BiCS flash storage technology relies on stacking multiple layers of floating gate cells in a tower, and then repeating that design in the x-y directions to increase capacity. Kioxia currently ships a lot of 3-bit per cell and 4-bit per cell products, with the company looking at 5-bit per cell for special applications.

    Kioxia is also building a new type of Flash called XL-Flash, which again adds another layer of parallelism to the concept of flash.

    Storage Class Memory is slightly different to traditional flash memory. Memory works at a ‘bit’ level of access, while flash memory works at a ‘page’ and ‘block’ level. This means that while DRAM can access each bit and modify it, in flash it means that any write operation to the flash requires a whole page to be written at once.

    This means that every read-modify-write operation needs to read the full page, choose which bits are going to change, and re-write the page in full. This increases the wear on the drive (the number of read/write cycles), and there are many techniques in play in order to reduce the wear through wear levelling, spare storage area, and such.

    The benefit of memory is meant to be its seemingly infinite (>10^18) cycle lifetime and low access latency, however it isn’t always that easy.

    3D Stacked storage-class memory cells work a little different to flash. The easiest example here is 3D XPoint, which uses a phase change material to alter the resistance of a memory cell, and is accessed through an ovonic selector switch. The memory is built up through alternating the direction of word lines and bit lines to retain the bit-addressable nature of the SCM.

    Why does Kioxia think that 3D Stacked SCM isn’t the future?

    Putting numbers in spits out an effective cost-per-bit as the layers add up.

    Now, 3D NAND is a proven technology. We have seen 90+ layers from multiple vendors in the market, and no-one is denying that adding layers is an effective way to go here, as the area loss is near to zero and the yield loss is similarly extremely low. This is because some of the etch-and-fill steps in the manufacturing process can cover many layers at once.

    But for 3D Stacked SCM technologies, we still haven’t seen them expand beyond a single layer device in the market. Kioxia’s data shows that while its BiCS flash reduces down to an asymptotic value at cost per bit as we go past 10 layers, the company says that 3D Stacked SCM will at best only reduce to 60% of the cost per bit for a 4-5 layer device compared to a single layer – with the data rising from there.

    In the case of 3D SCM, the cost per bit at around 12 layers became the same as the cost per bit of a single layer, which is at the key of Kioxia’s commentary: if SCM was ever to hit the number of layers that NAND flash would, it would become prohibitively expensive (50x cost per bit of a single layer for a 64-layer SCM device).

    Now of course, if we were to take the side of 3D Stacked SCM vendors, they will likely point out that just because of the price predictions today of >4 stacked layers seem cost-prohibitive, it doesn’t take into account what potential advancements will happen for the technology in the future.

    Reply
  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    EUV will use plasma and lasers to make next-gen chips
    Extreme ultraviolet lithography is the next phase of chip manufacture.
    https://www.engadget.com/2020/01/01/euv-intel-tour-upscaled/

    Reply
  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Long-lasting Lithium-Sulfur Battery Promises to Double EV Range
    https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/batteries-storage/lithium-sulfur-battery-news-ev-electric-vehicle-range

    Lithium-sulfur batteries seem to be ideal successors to good old lithium-ion. They could in theory hold up to five times the energy per weight. Their low weight makes them ideal for electric airplanes: firms such as Sion Power and Oxis Energy are starting to test their lithium-sulfur batteries in aircraft. And they would be cheaper given their use of sulfur instead of the rare-earth metals used in the cathode today.

    https://www.uusiteknologia.fi/2020/01/10/uusi-li-s-akku-peittoaa-nykyiset-litium-ioni-akut/

    Reply
  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Semiconductor Revenue Declined 11.9% in 2019

    Worldwide semiconductor revenue totaled $418.3 billion in 2019, down 11.9% from 2018, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. Intel regained the No. 1 position in the market as the downturn in the memory market negatively impacted many of the top vendors, including Samsung Electronics, the No. 1 vendor by revenue in 2018 and 2017.

    Gartner Says Worldwide Semiconductor Revenue Declined 11.9% in 2019
    Intel Reclaimed Top Spot in Global Semiconductor Market; Samsung Moved to No. 2
    https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-01-14-gartner-says-worldwide-semiconductor-revenue-declined-11-point-9-percent-in-2019

    Reply
  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    GaN has made inroads in applications requiring 600 volts and below, while SiC has made inroads in applications requiring 1,200 volts and above.”

    https://semiengineering.com/sic-foundry-business-emerges/

    Reply
  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    5/3nm Wars Begin

    New transistors structures are on the horizon with new tools and processes, but there are lots of problems, too.
    January 23rd, 2020 – By: Mark LaPedus

    https://semiengineering.com/5-3nm-wars-begin/

    Reply

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