Friday, March 30, 2012

Mobile device segment a shining light in lackluster semiconductor market

LONDON, UK: Mobile device semiconductors were one of the few bright spots in a chipset market that stalled in 2011. Revenue from chipsets designed for mobile devices increased by more than 20 percent to $35 billion, while the total semiconductor market limped out of 2011 with just 2 percent year-on-year growth.

“It’s tempting to describe this industry as lackluster,” says Peter Cooney, practice director, semiconductors. “But then, some segments of the semiconductor market are booming and vendors concentrating on the mobile device sector have delivered very healthy growth in 2011.”

Shipments of mobile devices such as smartphones, media tablets, and e-book readers are growing fast and are driving growth for a range of semiconductor components including modems, applications processors, wireless connectivity ICs, MEMS sensors, and audio ICs.

Platform ICs (including modems, applications processors, RF components, and PMUs) account for the bulk of overall revenues, but are becoming an increasingly competitive section of the market. Suppliers including Qualcomm, ST-Ericsson, MediaTek, Intel, Texas Instruments, Broadcom, Marvell, and Renesas Mobile have positioned themselves as platform solution suppliers and the top 10 suppliers now account for more than 75 percent of total revenues and their dominance will continue to build as niche suppliers are acquired or muscled out of the market.

Growth and opportunities will be more prevalent within wireless connectivity ICs (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC, etc.) as well as MEMS sensors and audio. Growth across the three segments will top a 30 percent CAGR from 2011 to 2016.

2012 semiconductors in automotive apps

DUBLIN, IRELAND: Research and Markets has announced the addition of the "2012 Semiconductors in Automotive Applications" report to its offering. While microcontrollers and automotive logic and analog ASSPs continue to drive the automotive market, new product categories are growing share, such as LEDs, image sensors, and power management.

Last year marked strong sales for the automotive community. Thanks to an ever increasing focus on improving gas efficiency and new generations of safety and infotainment systems, this market is expected to hold considerable opportunities for semiconductor suppliers in the years to come.

The year 2011 marked a major success for the global auto industry. Starting in the first half of the year most major automotive markets around the world began to show signs of stabilization and recovery, allowing for carmakers profits to recover. Then, in the second half of the year, sales quickly accelerated in areas like United States and China to the point where positive growth was attained for the entire industry for 2011 as a whole.

This study provides a comprehensive review and outlook for semiconductors consumed in the automotive industry. Forecasts are provided for vehicle production and semiconductor consumption by region, application, and product type. Market share is also given for the automotive semiconductor suppliers.

2012 timing devices report - market likely to be worth $3 billion by 2016

DUBLIN, IRELAND: Research and Markets has announced the addition of the "2012 Timing Devices Report" report to its offering. Clock generation and clock distribution as well as new technology including MEMs are an important market as more advanced circuits are being used for higher processing performance.

Timing Devices play a crucial role in electronics and provide the required circuitry to allow microprocessors, memory modules, and networks to run efficiently. They are used to generate a clock signal, align with a reference signal, and distribute that signal synchronizing components in the design. These devices are classified under logic.

The crystal oscillator market constitutes 68 percent of overall timing devices revenue while integrated circuits make up 32 percent. While the clock distribution market remains a large contributor to integrated circuit revenue, new clock generation ICs are driving overall growth as these devices continue to penetrate into the crystal clock market, replacing these traditional solutions with higher efficiency circuitry.

Great strides have been made in CMOS, PLL, and MEMS devices, such that they have been able to replace crystal devices entirely for many electronic timing functions. They have been able to equal crystal oscillators in accuracy and stability for some applications. Aside from those characteristics, remaining issues include the need to lower power efficiency and excessive noise and jitter as compared to quartz devices.

The clock generation and distribution (Timing ICs) market grows mostly due to demand from the communications, computing, and consumer electronics segments. This market currently ships around 1 billion units annually, with a resulting market value of $1.7 billion. Databeans expects a market worth $3 billion by 2016, assuming a yearly growth rate of 11 percent on average.

Open-Silicon integrates 25 Analog Bits IP cores into complex ASIC and SoC designs

MILPITAS & MOUNTAIN VIEW, USA: Open-Silicon Inc., a leading semiconductor design and manufacturing company, and Analog Bits Inc., the integrated clocking and interface IP leader, announced that Open-Silicon has successfully integrated 25 Analog Bits IP cores into complex ASIC and SoC designs. The IP cores are silicon-proven down to 28nm and across various foundry processes, and meet Open-Silicon's stringent IP qualification requirements.

Optimized for small area and low-power, Analog Bits' PLL IP cores are well suited for Open-Silicon's key vertical market applications of networking, telecom, storage and computing. Over the past several years, Open-Silicon has also licensed TCAMs and interface IP from Analog Bits, providing customers with silicon-proven high-bandwidth solutions. In one design example, Open-Silicon and Analog Bits worked together to craft a high performance memory interface using many rows of custom Analog Bits area IO buffers, allowing the design a high bandwidth interface to external memory without consuming a lot of die periphery for the interface.

"Analog Bits has been a strong resource for Open-Silicon with its revolutionary PLLs and custom IP. Analog Bits' high-speed TCAMs and interface IP, in particular, have provided the extra bandwidth our customers require, enabling them to achieve product differentiation in the market," said Colin Baldwin, senior director of marketing, Open-Silicon.

"Open-Silicon and Analog Bits have enjoyed a successful partnership for many years, that has benefitted both companies. Analog Bits delivers the highest quality core that not only meets the demands of the market, but also meets Open-Silicon's comprehensive IP qualification process," said Mahesh Tirupattur, executive VP, Analog Bits.

ST's energy-saving voltage comparators boast industry’s lowest current consumption

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: STMicroelectronics has introduced a general-purpose voltage comparator that consumes one third the current for the same response time, compared with currently available devices such as the LMV331.

ST’s latest voltage comparator addresses the demand for greater power efficiency and longer battery life in today’s portable electronics applications, in keeping with the Company’s ongoing commitment to sustainability. The ultra-low power device achieves a propagation delay of 200ns while consuming only 30µA of supply current, which is 66% lower than other solutions in the market. This unmatched energy efficiency allows ST customers to design products that use less power and have less impact on the environment.

The comparator delivers a stable response time over a wide temperature range, from -40°C to +125°C, and offers superior ESD (Electrostatic Discharge Protection) capabilities. It integrates an open-drain output and rail-to-rail inputs with the market’s widest operating voltage range, from 1.6V to 5V. This translates into greater design flexibility, enabling the integration of ST’s comparator in 1.8V, 3V and 5V systems.

Available in single, dual and quad versions in space-saving SMD packages, ST’s ultra-low-power general-purpose voltage comparator targets signal-conditioning applications in mobile communications, battery-operated portable electronics, and alarm and security systems.

The TS33 general-purpose voltage comparator is sampling now and ready to start volume production. Unit pricing in quantities of 1,000 pieces starts at $0.28 (TS331 - single), $0.35 (TS332 - dual) and $0.39 (TS334 - quad).

Amkor licenses proprietary TMV technology to SHINKO

CHANDLER, USA: Amkor Technology Inc., a leading provider of semiconductor packaging and test services, announced that it has granted SHINKO Electric Industries Co. Ltd a non-exclusive license to its proprietary Through Mold Via technology. The agreement provides for the transfer of Amkor’s TMV technology to SHINKO and a license under Amkor’s patents to enable SHINKO to manufacture packages based on this technology. The license also permits SHINKO to use Amkor’s registered TMV trademark in its sales and marketing activities.

“Technology innovation has always been a key component of our success, and our proprietary TMV technology has been widely adopted in the rapidly growing smartphone and tablet markets,” said Ken Joyce, Amkor’s president and CEO. “We are pleased to license our TMV technology to SHINKO, a respected outsourced assembly and test provider. This engagement will provide our customers the option of having multiple sources for TMV packaging services.”

“This licensing agreement is significant for SHINKO,” said Fumio Kuraishi, SHINKO’s president and representative director. “The availability of Amkor’s innovative TMV technology will provide SHINKO with a time-to-market advantage and enable us to provide our customers with state-of-the-art solutions for their 3D package stacking needs.”

Since their introduction, package-on-package components have been rapidly adopted for 3D integration of logic and memory. Amkor’s TMV technology enables leading-edge PoP designs for smartphone and tablet applications, delivering increased integration, miniaturization and performance without requiring the development of new surface mount stacking infrastructure or adding cost. Amkor’s TMV technology improves warpage control, reduces package thickness, facilitates finer pitch memory interfaces, enables both wirebond and flip chip interconnects and supports stacked die or passive integration requirements.

SÜSS MicroTec AG: Acquisition of Tamarack Scientific - expansion of technology competence in photolithography

GARCHING, GERMANY: SUSS MicroTec, a leading supplier of equipment and process solutions for the semiconductor industry and related markets, announced the acquisition of Tamarack Scientific Co. Inc. (Tamarack), Corona, California, USA. Both parties signed a corresponding purchase agreement. The agreement stipulates the purchase of 100 percent of Tamarack's shares for a total price of $9.34 million plus an additional variable earn-out component which depends on the development of revenues for the upcoming three financial years.

The requirement for more functionality and higher performance of electronic devices drives the increasing performance needs for semiconductor components and higher complexity at the same time. This trend will prevail in the future requiring the adoption of innovative technologies in the semiconductor backend.

In the last two years, necessary initiatives were undertaken to focus and reposition SUSS MicroTec to ensure that the company will remain in a position to respond to market and customer requirements in a fast and flexible manner. A further strategic step is the recent acquisition of Tamarack Scientific.

Tamarack develops, manufactures and distributes UV projection lithography systems as well as laser micro-structuring tools for the Advanced Packaging, 3D Integration, MEMS and LED markets. These systems are used in high volume industrial manufacturing as well as research and development. With the acquisition of Tamarack, SUSS MicroTec is pursuing a consolidation strategy in the semiconductor backend equipment industry by complementing its exposure technology portfolio with projection lithography.

'With this acquisition, we enlarge our company's lithography segment by adding a new product line and core technology, both of which are highly complementary to our existing exposure capability.' says Frank P. Averdung, president and CEO of SÜSS MicroTec AG. 'SUSS MicroTec thereby becomes the leading backend lithography equipment and solution provider by offering the most comprehensive set of products and technologies to the market. This enables us to uniquely satisfy a range of customer's needs and allows us to offer a broad product range to meet the different price and performance points required by the industry.'

'We are pleased to become a part of SUSS MicroTec, a company with a strong market position in semiconductor backend lithography, a global sales and service infrastructure as well as a solid financial position. Together with SUSS MicroTec, we can now expand our lithography and laser processing systems business faster and more successfully in our target markets.' says Courtney Sheets, chairman and CEO of Tamarack Scientific.

The TPL Group files second wave of ITC and District Court complaints on CORE flash technology

CUPERTINO, USA: The TPL Group has filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission and a corresponding Complaint in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas against 19 companies it believes are infringing its CORE Flash Patent Portfolio. CORE Flash technology generally relates to devices capable of reading multiple flash memory card types.

TPL continues to invest aggressively to protect its CORE Flash licensee community. More than 30 companies have purchased CORE Flash Patent Portfolio licenses, including, Lexmark, ASUStek, Royal Philips, Belkin, IOGear, Lenovo Group, Audiovox and Viewsonic.

This is the second group of complaints filed by TPL on its CORE Flash technology. TPL previously filed complaints with the ITC and in US District Court against 18 companies in August 2011. Eight of those companies have since purchased licenses. Five active respondents remain in the investigation. The remainder of the original respondents were either terminated based on findings of default or stipulated consent orders. Under the current schedule, trial commences in September 2012 and the target date for the completion of the investigation is February 2013.

The ITC Petition and the District Court Complaint filed this week name a total of 21 companies, including Acer Inc.; Brother Industries; Canon Inc.; Dane-Elec Memory; Dell Inc.; Falcon Northwest Computer Systems; Fujitsu; Jasco Products Co.; Hewlett-Packard; HiTi Digital; Kingston Technology; Lexar Media; Microdia; Newegg; Sabrent; Samsung Electronics; Seiko Epson; Shuttle Inc.; Systemax Inc..

The CORE Flash Portfolio contains intellectual property that was developed and productized by the OnSpec Division of The TPL Group. The Portfolio includes 32 US and international patents, and nine pending patent applications. The CORE Flash Portfolio technologies protect key aspects of flash-memory management and control, including software, firmware, hardware, and mechanical designs.

Alpha and Omega Semiconductor expands DFN2x2 portfolio with new 40V and 60V MOSFETs

SUNNYVALE, USA: Alpha and Omega Semiconductor Ltd (AOS), a designer, developer and global supplier of a broad range of power semiconductors, released the AON2240 and AON2260, the newest additions to its new 40V and 60V AlphaMOS medium voltage portfolios.

These new products are packaged in the small, ultra-thin (0.6mm) DFN 2mm x 2mm package and are well suited for a wide range of applications that include secondary side synchronous rectification in DC/DC and AC/DC converters, POL modules for telecom systems, POE networking applications, and small motors.

The 40V AON2240 and 60V AON2260 are based on AOS' proprietary AlphaMOS technology that offers the combination of very low RDS(ON) and fast switching characteristics. With the green DFN2x2 package, circuit designers now have more options in delivering power to space constrained applications. These devices are 100 percent Rg and UIS tested.

"Circuit designers are constantly optimizing space, performance and cost," said Stephen Chang, senior product marketing manager at AOS. "AON2240 and AON2260 provide the flexibility of the small DFN2x2 package. At the same time, these devices also deliver the benefits of low on-resistance and output capacitance to minimize power losses associated with conduction and switching."

AON2240 technical highlights
* 40V N-channel MOSFET in the DFN2x2 package.
* RDS(ON) < 21 mOhms at VGS = 10 V.
* RDS(ON) < 29 mOhms at VGS = 4.5 V.
* COSS = 112 pF (typ).
* Qg (4.5 V) = 3 nC (typ).

AON2260 technical highlights
* 60V N-channel MOSFET in the DFN2x2 package.
* RDS(ON) < 44 mOhms at VGS = 10 V.
* RDS(ON) < 53 mOhms at VGS = 4.5 V.
* COSS = 50 pF (typ).
* Qg (4.5 V) = 2.6 nC (typ).

The AON2240 and AON2260 are immediately available in production quantities with a lead-time of 12-14 weeks. The unit price for 10,000 pieces of each device is $0.30.

Aehr Test Systems receives follow-on production order for ABTS system from wireless IC manufacturer

FREMONT, USA: Aehr Test Systems has received a follow-on production order for its ABTS Advanced Burn-in and Test System from a leading provider of embedded wireless technology. The system is configured for burning-in and testing advanced logic devices.

"The follow-on order shows that the burn-in and test process using the ABTS system is effective for this customer's wireless devices for the automotive market, which requires that the ICs be qualified to operate very reliably in a harsh environment," said Carl Buck, VP of sales and marketing at Aehr Test Systems. "We see increasing demand not only for the standard ABTS system, but also for other members of the ABTS family that focus on high-power logic."

The ABTS family of products is based on a new hardware and software architecture that is designed to address not only today's devices, but also future devices for many years to come. It is designed to test and burn-in both logic and memory devices, including resources for high pin-count devices and configurations for high-power and low-power applications. It can be configured to provide individual device temperature control for devices up to 70 watts or more and it maximizes system uptime by using N+1 redundancy technology for many key components in the system.

Aehr Test Systems receives follow-on production order from automotive IDM for ABTS

FREMONT, USA: Aehr Test Systems has received an additional follow-on production order for its ABTS Advanced Burn-in and Test System from a leading Japanese semiconductor integrated device manufacturer (IDM). The system is configured for burning-in and testing advanced logic devices.

"We are pleased to receive this additional follow-on order for an ABTS system, as we have worked closely with this customer to meet their very demanding requirements for high volume burn-in and test of microcontrollers for the automotive market," said Carl Buck, VP of sales and marketing at Aehr Test Systems. "The system is for additional burn-in and test capacity at one of their Southeast Asian production sites, which helps them satisfy the demands of the automobile manufacturers for 'zero defects' in the components they purchase."

The ABTS family of products is based on a new hardware and software architecture that is designed to address not only today's devices, but also future devices for many years to come. It is designed to test and burn-in both logic and memory devices, including resources for high pin-count devices and configurations for high-power and low-power applications. It can be configured to provide individual device temperature control for devices up to 70 watts or more and it maximizes system uptime by using N+1 redundancy technology for many key components in the system.

ISCUG 2012 slated for April 9-10 in Bangalore

NAPA, USA & BANGALORE, INDIA: The Indian SystemC User Group (ISCUG) conference will take place in Bangalore on April 9-10, 2012 in affiliation with Accellera Systems Initiative, OCP-IP, IEEE and the India Semiconductor Association. The Indian SystemC User's Group organization aims to accelerate the adoption of SystemC as the open source standard for Electronics System Level (ESL) designs.

Day one of this event provides a platform for SystemC beginners, SystemC experts, ESL managers and ESL vendors to share their knowledge, experiences and best practices about SystemC usage. The event is designed on the pattern of similar events happening worldwide including North America (NASCUG), Europe (ESCUG) and Japan (SystemC Day Japan). There will be active discussion about next-generation design and verification methodologies for semiconductors and embedded software. The opening keynote will be presented by Tor Jeremiassen, Texas Instruments.

Day two of this event provides two in-depth tutorials. The morning tutorial, "SystemC and TLM-2.0 Introductory Tutorial," will introduce the main features of the SystemC class library and show how it can be used to model hardware structure, concurrency and time. It will also describe the main features of the TLM-2.0 standard and explain how TLM-2.0 can be used to achieve both speed and interoperability between the transaction-level models used to build a virtual platform.

The afternoon tutorial, "The New SystemC Standard - IEEE 1666-2011," will focus on the IEEE 1666 Standard SystemC Language Reference Manual, published early in 2012, which combines SystemC and TLM-2.into a single standard. The tutorial will teach the new features of SystemC and TLM-2.0 in full. In addition, the tutorial will provide an introduction to the forthcoming draft Configuration Standard which targets the configuration of SystemC models.

Aehr Test Systems receives order from Korean test lab for ABTS

FREMONT, USA: Aehr Test Systems, a worldwide supplier of semiconductor test and burn-in equipment, has received an order for its ABTS Advanced Burn-in and Test System from a leading test lab in Korea. The system is configured for burning-in and testing high-power advanced logic devices.

"We are pleased to receive this order for an ABTS-Li system from a leading Korean test lab that is targeting reliability qualifications of high pin-count ICs requiring individual temperature control per device, such as mobile and tablet microprocessors," said Carl Buck, vice president of sales and marketing at Aehr Test Systems.

"The ABTS system offers up to 256 universal pin drivers per device with up to 32 million test vectors per pin. Functional testing during burn-in helps ensure that the devices are receiving the proper stimulus during the entire reliability qualification process, which often lasts 6 weeks or longer. We expect the highly flexible and robust ABTS system to be an excellent fit for this environment."

The ABTS family of products is based on a new hardware and software architecture that is designed to address not only today's devices, but also future devices for many years to come. It is designed to test and burn-in both logic and memory devices, including resources for high pin-count devices and configurations for high-power and low-power applications. It can be configured to provide individual device temperature control for devices up to 70 watts or more and it maximizes system uptime by using N+1 redundancy technology for many key components in the system.

RFMD powers flagship LG smartphones

GREENSBORO, USA: RF Micro Devices Inc., a global leader in the design and manufacture of high-performance radio frequency components and compound semiconductor technologies, announced that LG has selected RFMD to supply multiple components in support of the LG Optimus 4X HD and the Optimus 3D Max smartphones. LG's Optimus 4X HD and Optimus 3D Max are expected to be available globally in 2012.

The LG Optimus 4X HD features a vibrant 4.7-inch HD display (1280 x 720), Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich," a quad-core 1.5GHz processor, 21 Mbps HSPA+ performance, front (1.3MP) and rear (8MP) cameras, and dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity, all within a sleek exterior that is only 8.9mm thick. The LG Optimus 3D Max features a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 8GB of storage, a 5MP dual-lens camera, Android 2.3 "Gingerbread," and LG's "exclusive brightened" WVGA 4.3-inch display, all housed in a compact 9.8mm shell.

The RFMD components enabling LG's flagship smartphones include RFMD's PowerSmart power platform, and RFMD's RF5501 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi front end module. RFMD's PowerSmart features a revolutionary RF Configurable Power Core that delivers multiband, multi-mode coverage of all cellular communications modulation schemes, including 4G, up to LTE 64QAM. RFMD's RF5501 Wi-Fi front end module satisfies smartphone and tablet manufacturers' requirements for aggressive size reductions in 802.11b/g/n front end solutions, while delivering high linear output power and reduced component count.

Bob Bruggeworth, president and CEO of RFMD, said: "RFMD is pleased to expand our relationship with LG and support these flagship smartphones with our industry-leading cellular and Wi-Fi components. RFMD's PowerSmart power platforms continue to lead a product category that is reshaping the future of multimode, multi-band cellular RF architectures, and we anticipate sequential growth in PowerSmart shipments throughout the calendar year."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Elliptic inks European distribution deal to boost embedded security

OTTAWA, CANADA & SAINT-GERMAIN-EN-LAYE, FRANCE: Elliptic Technologies, a leading supplier of security semiconductor IP and software, has partnered with ETesiAN Semiconductor a premier representative and distributor, to further strengthen Elliptic’s support for highly integrated embedded security solutions in the mobile, networking, consumer electronics and home entertainment European markets.

"We are very proud to partner with a global leader in security IP and software solutions", said Jean-François Lambert, VP Sales of ETesiAN Semiconductor. “Elliptic Technologies offers complete, proven and top-of-the-line embedded security solutions that are ideally suited for our European customers. We are very excited to develop our IP distribution business with these products and a company of Elliptic’s reputation and capabilities.”

"We are very pleased to partner with ETesiAN to better serve the needs of end-to-end security for our current and future customers in Europe,” said Vijay Dube, president and CEO of Elliptic. “ETesiAN’s proven track record of providing excellent quality and support to their customer base in Europe will further strengthen Elliptic’s ability to market and support its advanced security IP and software solutions in the strategic European market.”

ETesiAN Semiconductor is a representative company serving as a one stop shop for the EMEA semiconductors industry by promoting and offering services and products to fabless and IDM companies for a successful, cost effective, reliable and high performance design and manufacturing. ETesiAN’s core capability to understand and support advanced technologies is very advantageous for business development of IP solutions. ETesiAN strives to support and react quickly to customer needs and this will help increase the success of Elliptic security solutions in the European markets.

Elliptic is widely recognized as a top security IP supplier that provides highly tuned, customer specific security solutions built on a combination of software and semiconductor hardware engines. Elliptic offers the industry’s broadest portfolio of security engines ranging from random number generators, a wide variety of cryptographic cores such as AES, Snow 3G, Kasumi, ZUC and SHA, RSA and ECC public key accelerators, to protocol processors for IPsec, TLS/SSL/DTLS and MACsec.

Software solutions include highly integrated content protection solutions such as DTCP-IP and HDCP 2.1 built for trusted execution environments that integrate seamlessly with technologies like ARM TrustZone.

Elliptic’s products help SoC manufacturers, OEMs, network operators and content providers secure products in a wide range of markets, from wireless, networking, home entertainment, to smart grid, automotive, card payment and medical. They are perfectly suited to the requirements of European companies and Elliptic has successfully licensed cores to several established and startup customers in Europe.

RFaxis and Beken roll out first joint reference design for advanced wireless three-in-one solution

IRVINE, USA: -RFaxis, a fabless semiconductor company focused on innovative, next-generation Radio Frequency (RF) solutions for the wireless connectivity and cellular mobility markets, announced that its second-generation, pure-CMOS based single-chip/single-die, ZigBee RFX2401C RF Front-end Integrated Circuit (RFeICTM), has been released to end-customers for mass deployment and production as part of the Beken Corporation’s reference design for its latest BK2423 2.4GHz wireless transceiver, marking the first milestone along a multi-project collaboration between the two companies.

Headquartered in Pudong, Shanghai, Beken Corporation is a leading fabless integrated circuits (IC) provider to the burgeoning global wireless communications market. Since its inception in 2005, Beken has been consistently delivering highly integrated, high-performance semiconductor products wielding its leading-edge RF-CMOS transceiver and advanced DSP system innovations.

The BK2423 is a new addition to Beken’s BK24xx series 2.4GHz transceiver and SoC family which provide air data rate ranging from 250 kbps to 4 Mbps. BK2423 is pin-compatible to the company’s popular BK2421 GFSK transceiver, which has found numerous applications such as wireless keyboards/mice, wireless audio, wireless game controllers/gamepads, wireless security, home automation, and industrial control.

While the BK2423 transceiver itself provides up to +5 dBm output power, by inserting RFX2401C in-between the BK2423 RF pin and the antenna port with a simple 50-Ohm based PCB layout modification, the combined design delivered up to +20 dBm maximum transmit power, and achieved a significant improvement in receive sensitivity at the same time.

Dr. Pengfei Zhang, CEO of Beken, commented: “Today’s PC users are looking beyond the convenience of using wireless keyboards and mice. New features such as RF controllers for multimedia centers and high-quality wireless stereo audio are gaining popularity and are on solid path to becoming the next mainstream standard. A robust RF link with sufficient transmit power and excellent receive sensitivity is very crucial for users’ satisfaction.

“We are very pleased to work with RFaxis and utilize their cost effective and highly integrated, CMOS RFeICs. As we roll out new advanced products, including our 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz stereo-audio SoCs, we look forward to a continued partnership with RFaxis so that, together, we can deliver the most appealing products to the market in terms of cost and performance competitiveness.”

“We are pleased to see that our collaboration with Beken has started to bear fruits,” said Mike Neshat, chairman and CEO of RFaxis. “Both of our companies are firm believers in CMOS RF, our technology roadmaps are well aligned, and we see excellent synergy to work together on many different platforms. This is a great beginning and we are looking forward to taking several new reference designs into production in the coming weeks and months.”

RFX2401C is a fully integrated, single-chip/single-die RFeIC that incorporates all key RF front end functions necessary for 2.4GHz IEEE 802.15.4/ZigBee, AMR/AMI, wireless sensor network, wireless audio/video and many other applications in the license-free 2.4GHz ISM frequency band. The RFX2401C comes complete with a high-efficiency power amplifier (PA), low noise amplifier (LNA), transmit and receive port switch, antenna switch, impedance matching network, harmonic filters and CMOS control logic, all integrated onto a single silicon die and delivered in an ultra-compact 3x3x0.5mm 16-lead QFN package.

RFX2401C is designed using standard CMOS process and pin-compatible with its BiCMOS predecessor RFX2401. New users of RFX2401C can take advantage of the greatly improved on-chip RF decoupling scheme, which requires only one single decoupling capacitor on a single DC supply voltage pin for the entire chip. The RFX2401C is in volume production and available through RFaxis’ worldwide distributors.

TI ADC driver provides industry's highest performance-to-power ratio by 8x

DALLAS, USA: Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) has redefined the low-power amplifier market with today's introduction of a fully differential analog-to-digital converter (ADC) driver that provides more than eight times the performance-to-power ratio of similar devices.

The THS4531 fully differential amplifier uses only 250 uA of quiescent current while providing 36 MHz of bandwidth to support the high-performance, ultra-low power needs of portable and high-density systems, such as flow meters and portable medical devices.

Key features and benefits of the THS4531
* Bandwidth of 36 MHz, slew rate of 220 V/us and fast settling time of 150 ns to 0.01 percent reduces data acquisition time for driving high sample rate converters.
* Power-down mode to 0.5 uA, quiescent current of 250 uA, and 2.5-V to 5-V supply operation allows battery-powered operation and flexible power supply selection.
* Provides 16-bit accuracy to drive ADCs, such as the ADS8317 and ADS1278, as well other DC-coupled applications.
* Flexible negative-rail input common mode and rail-to-rail output enables simplified interface design with single-ended, ground-based signal sources and differential successive approximation register (SAR) and delta-sigma ADCs.
* Measuring only 2 mm x 2 mm, it is the industry's smallest, high-speed, fully differential amplifier, making it suitable for use in high-density applications.

The THS4531DGKEVM evaluation module is available to speed evaluation of the THS4531. It can be ordered today for $149. PSPICE and TINA-TI Spice models are also available, along with a TINA-TI reference design.

The THS4531 is available today in 2-mm x 2-mm QFN, 3-mm x 5-mm MSOP and 5-mm x 6-mm SOIC package options for a suggested retail price of US$1.10 in 1,000-unit quantities.

MediaTek releases MT7650 -- world's first and only 802.11ac plus Bluetooth 4.0+HS combo chip designed for mobile consumer platforms

HSINCHU, TAIWAN: MediaTek Inc., a leading fabless semiconductor company for wireless communications and digital multimedia solutions, announced the availability of its MT7650, the world's first and only 802.11ac plus Bluetooth 4.0+HS combo chip designed for mobile consumer platforms.

The MediaTek MT7650 combines the latest IEEE 802.11ac technology, Bluetooth 4.0 LE functionality, and the company's unprecedented Wi-Fi/Bluetooth coexistence algorithm onto a single die to support high quality voice, data and video transmissions up to 433 Mbps, while enabling ultra low power Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity with health, fitness and other sensors. Moreover, with the complete 802.11ac system (MAC/Baseband/Radio) integrated, customers adopting the MediaTek MT7650 also benefit from easier implementation, faster time to market and reduced manufacturing costs.

The MediaTek MT7650 is compliant with the new 802.11ac standard and leverages the strengths of MediaTek's industry leading Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth combo chip technologies that are currently shipping in laptops and smartphones. It dramatically improves user experience with 2.8x data rate increase from 150Mbps of single stream 802.11n.

This highly integrated chip supports dual band 2.4/5GHz configuration with 80 MHz channel bandwidth, 256-QAM modulation scheme for increased data transfer efficiency, receive beam forming for extended range and capacity, and Space-Time Block Codes (STBC) coding technologies for better wireless coverage. This chip also supports Wi-Fi Display, Wi-Fi Direct and TDLS for full peer-to-peer functionalities between mobile and home consumer products.

"With this advanced combo chip supporting dual band 11ac and dual mode Bluetooth Low Energy, we have further extended our technology leadership in the industry," said SR Tsai, GM of MediaTek's Wireless Connectivity & Networking Business Unit.

"The demand of high quality digital-content streaming and sharing has increased rapidly. At the same time, peer-to-peer data communication is shifting from wired to wireless connections. Therefore, mobile devices are relying heavily on high quality wireless connections, but the current Wi-Fi technology standard is overwhelmed by all the bandwidth needs. With the latest 802.11ac, the MediaTek MT7650 overcomes these challenges and allows consumers to stream and transfer heavy contents between mobile and home consumer devices much faster and much more reliable with ultra low power consumptions."

Key product features of the MediaTek MT7650 include:
* All-In-One (MAC/Baseband/Radio) 802.11ac Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth 4.0+HS single chip.
* Dual band 2.4/5GHz single stream 802.11ac support for up to 433 Mbps data rate (HT80) with antenna diversity.
* Supports Wi-Fi Direct and Wi-Fi Display.
* Compliant with Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, Bluetooth 3.0 + HS and Bluetooth 4.0 LE.
* Support for BT Class 1 operation for better Bluetooth range.
* Advanced WLAN + Bluetooth coexistence algorithm for optimized performance.
* Support single antenna configuration for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals to reduce system design cost.
* Shared Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signal receiving path to eliminate the need for an external splitter.
* Supports Wake-on-WLAN and Wake-on-Bluetooth for reduced power consumption of end devices.
Operating systems support: Windows 7, Windows 8 and Linux.

TowerJazz and UCSD demo first silicon wafer-scale 110 GHz phased array transmitter with record performance

SAN DIEGO & NEWPORT BEACH, USA: TowerJazz, the global specialty foundry leader, and The University of California, San Diego (UCSD), provider of a leading program in microwave, millimeter-wave and mixed-signal RFICs, have collaborated to demonstrate the first wafer-scale phased array with 16 different antenna elements operating at 110 GHz frequency range.

First time success was achieved for the RFIC using TowerJazz's own proprietary models, kit and the mmWave capabilities of its 0.18-micron SiGe BiCMOS process, SBC18H3. The device targets applications for automotive radar, aerospace and defense, passive imaging, security, and mmWave imaging. The collaboration of the phased array chip was partly funded by DARPA.

The wafer-scale SiGe BiCMOS chip is 6.5x6.0mm and combines the 110 GHz source, amplifiers, distribution network, phase shifters and high-efficiency on-chip antennas, allowing a new generation of miniature and low-cost phased arrays for W-band (75-110 GHz) applications. Such an advancement better serves the needs of the greater than $100M emerging markets of auto radar and passive imaging (security).

The antennae are integrated on-chip which removes the expensive and lossy transitions and distribution network between the phased array and the off-chip elements. This wafer-scale phased array with 16 radiating elements, together with all the necessary CMOS control circuits, is capable of electronic beam scanning to +/-40 degrees in all planes. The architecture could be scaled to 64 elements (8x8) or 256 elements (16x16) due to on-chip antenna integration and the single chip integration of multiple elements.

By developing this wafer-scale chip, UCSD has successfully demonstrated independent amplitude and phase control at 106-114 GHz for all 16 different antenna elements, and provides commercial availability of highly scalable (from 16 elements to 256 elements) RF-IC transmitters for W-Band and D-Band phased array applications.

The chip was designed and tested by Woorim Shin, Ozgur Inac, and Bonhyun Ku, all from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at UCSD under the supervision of Prof. Gabriel M. Rebeiz, and was partially sponsored by the DARPA GRATE program under the direction of Dr. Carl McCants. The work was done under a subcontract to UCSD from TowerJazz.

The phased array chip was developed using TowerJazz's SBC18H3 BiCMOS which offers both high-performance 0.18-micron SiGe bipolar and high quality passive elements combined with high density 0.18-micron CMOS, to enable high-speed networking and millimeter wave applications. The process offers SiGe transistors with peak Fmax of 280GHz and peak Ft of 240GHz, ideal for low-power, high performance millimeter wave circuits, while replacing the need for more expensive GaAs chips. SBC18H3 comes standard with 1.8 and 3.3 volt CMOS (dual-gate), deep trench isolation, lateral and vertical PNP transistors, MIM capacitors, high-performance varactors, poly-silicon as well as metal and N-well resistors, p-i-n and Schottky diodes, high-Q inductors, triple well isolation, and six layers of metal.

"This is yet another advancement in the area of phased arrays that we are proud to announce. We have a track record of successful collaboration with TowerJazz and the ability to bring this innovative design from UCSD to market depends strongly on TowerJazz's SiGe BiCMOS process which enables lower-cost phased arrays by integrating many functions and high efficiency antennas on the same silicon chip," said Dr. Gabriel M. Rebeiz, Prof. of Electrical Engineering at UCSD, the lead professor on this chip.

"We believe the results achieved by UCSD's phased array transmitter demonstrates the remarkable teamwork between TowerJazz, UCSD and DARPA to provide novel capabilities and technologies to both the aerospace and defense community as well as commercial markets," said Dr. David Howard, TowerJazz's executive director and principal investigator for DARPA GRATE Program. "TowerJazz enjoys the long term, very productive working relationship we have with Dr. Rebeiz, one of the top RF research professors in the world."

Analog Devices becomes Platinum Member of the Embedded Vision Alliance

NORWOOD, USA: Analog Devices Inc. has upgraded its membership in the Embedded Vision Alliance to the platinum level, strengthening its commitment to the premier organization for driving the adoption of embedded vision technology.

A member from the beginning (May 31, 2011), Analog Devices shares the goals of the Embedded Vision Alliance, believing that delivering components that enable products to “see” and act upon that input play a vital role in the development of today’s and many of tomorrow’s industrial, medical and consumer vision enabled applications.

“We are honored that Analog Devices has expanded its commitment to the Embedded Vision Alliance,” said Jeff Bier, founder of the Alliance. “Analog Devices is a pioneer in embedded vision applications. We are excited to have the opportunity to work more extensively with the Analog Devices team to help engineers incorporate embedded vision capabilities into their products.”

ADI’s embedded vision signal chain components such as digital signal processors, encoders, decoders, HDMI transceivers, amplifiers, and special power management ICs, facilitate the deployment of a broad range of vision-based applications. These include advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that make our cars safer, industrial applications such as barcode readers that can re-construct a damaged image, security systems that automatically identify intruders and more.

“Analog Devices has a great history in developing innovative video technologies and looks to do the same for the many new and emerging embedded vision based applications,” said Colin Duggan, director of marketing for the Processor Technology Group at Analog Devices. “By providing affordable, high performance, low power components, like the newly introduced Blackfin® ADSP-BF609 and ADSP-BF608 processors, we intend to drive broader adoption of sophisticated, multi-function analytics into many levels of embedded vision applications.”

Qualcomm establishes IC design and engineering R&D center in Singapore

SINGAPORE: Qualcomm Inc. announced plans to establish an Integrated Circuit (IC) Design and Engineering R&D center in Singapore. Qualcomm also will manage certain strategic business planning and development, sourcing, procurement and distribution, as well as other marketing and administrative functions, from Singapore for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies, the Company's chipset division.

The new IC Design and Engineering R&D operations will focus on chipset design and development – including analog and power design; mixed signal design; digital design; mask layout design; and pre and post silicon verification.

"We are delighted to expand our Singapore operations by establishing a world-class IC Design and Engineering R&D facility. This facility will deliver powerful and innovative chipset designs that will continue to improve the mobile experience for consumers," said Jim Lederer, executive VP and GM for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies.

Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, added: "Electronics is one of the largest industries in Singapore. We are excited that Qualcomm, the world's largest fabless semiconductor company, is setting up an IC Design & Engineering R&D Centre in Singapore, further establishing Singapore as an international hub for its chipset business. This is a significant addition to our electronics semiconductor ecosystem. It affirms Singapore as the choice location in Asia for companies to drive global operational efficiency and conduct R&D."

The new IC Design and Engineering R&D center aims to tap into local Singapore and regional talent to develop a wide range of hardware and software-related design support solutions, as well as augment Qualcomm's existing product test center in Singapore.

"Singapore is an important strategic hub for the Asia Pacific region and among the most vibrant and highest growth areas for the wireless and semiconductor industries in the world," said John Stefanac, VP of Qualcomm and president of Qualcomm Southeast Asia and Pacific. "The expansion of our presence in Singapore demonstrates Qualcomm's deepened commitment to the Asia Pacific region and builds on more than a decade of successful operations here."

Singapore has held a strategic importance to Qualcomm since 2000 when the Company set up its chipset distribution center in the country. In 2008, Qualcomm established its first test development center outside of the United States, enabling Singapore to become Qualcomm's development hub for the Asia Pacific region.

All bets on ultrabook in 2012, thin-and-light battle imminent, pushing 10 percent notebook shipment increase

TAIWAN: According to DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce, the year 2012 will mark the beginning of the ultrabook era. PC OEMs are eagerly working on ultrabook development, and the thin-and-light trend will spur overall PC growth in 2H12. TrendForce indicates that the additional support from ultrabooks will help total notebook shipment volume increase by 9 percent to a forecasted 213 million for 2012. Nearly 10 percent, or 20 million units, of which will be ultrabook shipments.

Furthermore, the focus of the notebook market this year will not only be on 18-21mm ultrabooks, but 22-25mm thin-and-light notebooks well. TrendForce forecasts thin-and-light notebooks, including both 18-21mm and 22-25mm models, will account for 15-20 percent of total notebook shipments in 2012.Source: TrendForce, Taiwan.

Acer makes first move, ASUS focuses on design
Major PC makers are jumping on the ultrabook bandwagon, hoping to shake the impact from mobile devices and return to the days of double-digit growth. Acer, who introduced the world’s first ultrabook in 2011, is expected to unveil four new ultrabook models in Q2 as well as a $699-799 product in Q3, and 25-30 percent of Acer’s notebook products will be comprised of ultrabooks in Q4.

ASUS, on the other hand, is focusing on ultrabook design. At Computex 2011, ASUS introduced ultrabook products UX21 and UX31, whose striking appearance garnered plenty of attention. In 2012, ASUS will continue offering the high-end UX21 and UX31 series, but will add a new product to their lineup in Q2, with a price that may reach a low of $799. If ASUS is able to stick to their production schedule and provide high, mid, and entry-level products, the maker’s ultrabook shipment momentum will be strong this year.

HP aggressive, Dell conservative
After HP’s 2011 release of its 13-inch ultrabook, Folio, the maker became more aggressive in terms of its ultrabook strategy. Not only did the company introduce the 14-inch, high-end product Spectre at the 2012 CES tradeshow, but several new ultrabook models are expected to hit the market in Q2 this year. TrendForce forecasts ultrabooks will account for nearly 10 percent of HP’s notebooks.

Dell’s ultrabook strategy is comparatively conservative. The maker’s first ultrabook product, the XPS 13, is scheduled to hit the market this month at a price range of $99-1,499. According to TrendForce’s supply chain research, Dell’s ultrabook will remain at this fairly high range for 2012. In addition to the fact that the maker’s new ultrabook models will not be unveiled until 2H12, penetration rate is not likely to increase much this year.

Samsung catching up, Lenovo laying the foundation
Samsung joined the ultrabook game relatively early on. In February 2011, before the ultrabook concept was presented to the world, Samsung unveiled its thin-and-light Series 9 – but with a high, $1650 price tag. Furthermore, with a non-ULV processor, the Series 9 cannot be categorized an ultrabook, strictly speaking. At the 2012 CES tradeshow, Samsung introduced an updated Series 9 model with a slight external change, as well as the new, more affordable Series 5 line that offers models starting at $899.

The switch in Samsung’s focus from high-end products, targeted to go up against Apple’s MacBook Air, to less expensive models indicates the maker is set to play the ultrabook game – if even lower-priced models are introduced in the future, Samsung’s ultrabook market penetration rate will likely increase.

In 2011, Lenovo introduced consumer ultrabooks U300 and U300s, and plans to release a business ultrabook, the ThinkPad T430u, as well as two new consumer models, U310 and U410, in the Q3 and Q4 this year. The consumer models will start at $699, while the business model will cost $849 and up.

Toshiba making slow progress, Vizio joins the game
In 2011 Toshiba introduced the thin-and-light Portege Z830 series – with a weight of merely 1.1 kg and a promotional sale price of $799, the product was well received by consumers. However, according to TrendForce market research, Toshiba’s ultrabook plans for 2012 are conservative, currently consisting of only a new Satellite 14-inch model. Any other new ultrabook products will likely not come out until the end of this year or early 2013 – thus, TrendForce forecasts Toshiba’s ultrabook penetration rate at only 5 percent.

The remaining brand manufacturers are also sparing no efforts when it comes to development of ultrabook products. Even television manufacturer Vizio unveiled its own ultrabook product at the CES tradeshow, ready to make a move on the notebook market. Major manufacturers will all have ultrabook products of some sort, and as the ultrabook concept gradually matures this year, TrendForce expects the market will see several new models pop up in Q2 and 2H12.Source: TrendForce, Taiwan.

Xilinx makes first shipments of transceiver-packed Virtex-7 X690T FPGAs

SAN JOSE, USA: Xilinx Inc. announced shipments of the Virtex-7 X690T FPGA, combining the industry's most reliable high-speed serial transceivers, highest system bandwidth, and market-optimized FPGA resources. The Virtex-7 X690T FPGA is the first of a set of devices in the 7 series to address advanced high-performance Wired Communication applications that require low power, single-chip solutions.

These devices enable fast, scalable and easy-to-implement chip-to-chip serial interfaces, robust 10GBASE-KR backplanes that maximize bandwidth while supporting the various board-to-board distances of next-generation communication systems, and high signal-integrity interfaces to the latest optical modules validated to support cable distances of up to 80km. Customers who need even greater system capacity and bandwidth can easily migrate to the Virtex-7 X1140T FPGA, built using 3D Stacked Silicon Interconnect technology on the 7 series FPGA scalable optimized architecture. Shipments of footprint-compatible Virtex-7 X1140T FPGAs with 96 GTH transceivers will follow in May.

"Xilinx has taken its years of experience in serial transceivers – having shipped to date over 75 percent of all FPGAs that include serial transceivers – and combined that with the innovative low power, 28nm 7 series FPGA architecture to deliver a highly optimized family for the Wired Communication marketplace," said Tim Erjavec, senior director of FPGA platforms at Xilinx. "Customers can confidently implement their designs starting with Virtex-7 X690T FPGAs today and move up to larger FPGAs that provide the market-optimized ratio of resources when higher integration is required."

Virtex-7 X690T FPGAs enable next-generation equipment
By 2015, data crossing the global IP network is expected to surpass the zettabyte threshold, representing a 32 percent CAGR over 2010 levels. In particular, demand for IP-based video services continues to see exponential growth and has become a driving force in the development of next-generation Layer 2 network switch equipment that achieves the low latency and improved Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities needed to satisfy this demand.

To deliver high definition video on demand directly to the home, equipment manufacturers serving cable operators are tasked with developing next-generation EdgeQAM equipment that is cost effective, maximizes power efficiency and is able to support for full spectrum switched digital video.

"As consumers demand more narrowcast services from cable companies, equipment manufacturers are faced with the challenge of providing future-proof solutions that adapt to emerging standards that are constantly evolving," said Ross Q. Smith, CEO at RADX Technologies. "The EdgeQAM solution being developed by Xilinx and RADX benefit from the compatibility, flexibility and density of the Virtex-7 X690T FPGA to provide systems that substantially increase QAM channel density while staying inside existing power envelopes."

The Virtex-7 X690T and X1140T FPGAs provide the greatest processing capacity and bandwidth per watt of any FPGA to implement advanced Packet Processing, FEC, Quality-of-Service, Switching, and Traffic Management algorithms as well as next generation EdgeQAM implementations. Engineers can design with confidence using the industry's most advanced dynamically controllable GTH serial transceivers that include fully programmable three-tap FIRs that enable the transmitter de-emphasis needed to deal with the widest range of environments, along with fully-adapting seven fixed and four sliding tap receiver Decision Feedback Equalization (DFE) circuits – the most DFE taps in the industry – to ensure the greatest margin over different topologies.

To accelerate design and debugging, each GTH transceiver also includes a non-destructive, high-resolution 2D eye scan circuit that allows designers to see and measure the receiver eye from within the FPGA. With 80 GTH transceivers that run up to 13.1 Gbps, the Virtex-7 X690T FPGA is first FPGA to break the 2 Tbps single FPGA device bandwidth barrier. By leveraging the advanced 7 series FPGA architecture built on the TSMC 28HPL process, customers can save greater than 25 percent total power over competing similar-density FPGAs, allowing them to achieve the integration they need to build next-generation systems that achieve performance and low power requirements.

Virtex-7 X690T FPGA engineering samples are available today. Samples of Virtex-7 X1140T FPGAs will be available in May. Download Xilinx ISE Design Suite 13.4 to get started on Virtex-7 X690T FPGA designs.

Dialog and TSMC create process platform to advance BCD power management leadership

KIRCHHEIM & TECK, GERMANY & HSINCHU, TAIWAN: Dialog Semiconductor plc, a provider of highly integrated innovative power management, audio and short range wireless technologies, is working closely with TSMC to develop its next generation of bipolar-CMOS-DMOS (BCD) technology specifically tailored to high-performance power management ICs (PMICs) for portable devices.

The BCD process can support the integration of advanced logic, analogue and high-voltage features, including FET type transistors. It will also enable Dialog to create even more highly integrated, smaller form factor single chip devices optimised for portable products such as tablet PCs, ultrabooks and smartphones. The transition to 0.13-micron greatly enhances a PMICs power efficiency through a significant reduction of Rds(on), leading to more energy efficient integrated circuit (IC) designs.

'Through close collaboration with TSMC we succeeded to increase our chip shipments by a staggering 61 percent last year, while at the same time accelerating the development of our next generation of PMICs through this BCD process partnership,' said Dr. Jalal Bagherli, CEO of Dialog Semiconductor. 'We will continue to work closely with TSMC to fuel our leadership position as the analogue industry moves towards 300mm wafers.'

'Dialog is one of the technology leaders whose advanced integrated circuits extend battery lifetime in portable devices, giving a great user experience,' said Jason Chen, senior VP, Worldwide Sales and Marketing, TSMC. 'Working with companies such as Dialog enables TSMC to consistently deliver cutting edge technology platforms for its customers. We are pleased to support Dialog's future success using TSMC's 0.13-micron technology.'

A broad range of proprietary Dialog IP blocks, based on the TSMC 0.13-micron BCD process, have already been developed for incorporation into Dialog's next generation PMICs, and are currently being qualified with the first devices expected to be available by the end of the year. The designs will deliver the industry's leading power management performance for portable devices.

Through the two companies' longstanding collaboration and development partnership, Dialog is able to provide its customers with validated low-power technologies that exceed their power management needs, meet aggressive time-to-market goals and support production that ramps to their high volume requirements.

SEMICOA announces first QPL power MOSFETs

COSTA MESA, USA: SEMICOA, a leading provider of high reliability discrete semiconductors for military, aerospace and commercial applications, achieved a key strategic milestone, announcing it has received QPL certification for its first power MOSFET products in accordance with MIL-PRF 19500 certification from the Department of Defense's Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime (DLA). The company's first high reliability QPL MOSFETs target demanding military and space environments – an arena SEMICOA has excelled in for more than 40 years.

The Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime (DLA) awarded the quality and reliability QPL certification to SEMICOA following a rigorous audit, and testing. The Qualified Parts List (QPL) is the Department of Defense's highest qualification process for ensuring end product quality.

The QPL is a list of qualified semiconductor products manufactured by qualified suppliers in accordance with the MIL-PRF-19500 quality and reliability standard. Suppliers are audited regularly to ensure that customers receive products that meet the government's demand for high reliability products that can perform in the toughest environments on land and sea, as well as air and space.

"In January, we announced our first high reliability power MOSFETs and today we are delighted to announce the first QPL MOSFETs for military and aerospace applications," stated Ramesh Ramchandani, president, SEMICOA. "This is another milestone in our company's strategic growth plan. The QPL Certification is a validation of our company's ability to tackle the toughest challenges and continue to excel at providing high reliability products that meet the requirements of our more than 650 military and aerospace customers."

SEMICOA's high reliability products are used in a variety of space and non-space applications. These include satellites, launch vehicles and in other mission critical military and aerospace applications. SEMICOA MOSFETs provide customers with an alternative and reliable source for JAN, JANS, JANTX, and JANTXV applications.
SEMICOA's MOSFET roadmap provides products from 60 to 500 volts.

SEMICOA MOSFETs are available in a variety of industry standard packages, including TO-205, TO-254, TO-257 through-hole and SMD-2, SMD-0.5 and UB surface mount packages.
With a certified qualification and manufacturing process, SEMICOA's new QPL parts eliminate the need for Source Control Drawings (SCDs) and the added costs and time-to-market constraints associated with them.

Aptina extends high definition portfolio with 1/3” image sensor solution

SAN JOSE, USA: Aptina, a global provider of CMOS imaging solutions that enable Imaging Everywhere, announced the launch of the AR0130CS image sensor. The 1/3” optical format HD (720p/60fps) sensor provides mainstream surveillance cameras excellent low light (0 lux) performance with its 3.75-micron near infrared (NIR) detecting pixel.

For day/night NIR applications the sensors’ increased sensitivity reduces LED illumination requirements resulting in camera bill-of-material savings. The AR0130CS compliments Aptina’s portfolio of HD surveillance products, shown in Figure 1, which includes successful wide dynamic range (WDR) solutions like the AR0331SR (1080p/60fps) and the MT9M034 (720p/60fps), and the standard dynamic range AR0330CS (1080p/60fps).

“The AR0130CS provides the surveillance market with a path to upgrade legacy CCTV cameras to high resolution 600-1000 TV line CCTV, or move directly to an HD IP camera solution,” says David Zimpfer, GM of Aptina’s Automotive Industrial Business Unit.

The AR0130CS image sensor’s low-light performance provides video centric applications with exemplary image capture using Aptina DR-Pix technology. The sensor includes sophisticated camera functions such as auto exposure control, windowing, and both video and single frame capture. Additionally, the sensor is programmable via serial interface and offers a parallel interface for compatibility with a variety of image processors.

Applications requiring day/night image capture will benefit from the AR0130CS’s near infrared performance which is enhanced in the 850nm to 900nm wavelength range. The sensor’s 1/3-inch optical format is an industry standard, making it easier to pair with cost-effective megapixel lenses.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

GSA Q1 wafer fab and back-end pricing reports available

USA: GSA released the Q1 2012 Wafer Fabrication & Back-End Pricing Reports that include written analysis, a downloadable MS Access database and interactive online results. Highlights from Q4 data include:

* Contrary to forecasts for YE 2011, utilization rates increased for the period 10/1/2011 to 12/31/2011.

* The median pricing for 200mm and 300mm production CMOS wafers decreased by 4.1 percent and 3.6 percent QoQ, respectively.

* Participants reported that the median mask set cost for 300mm CMOS wafers decreased QoQ for the period 10/1/2011 to 12/31/2011 at a rate of 24.3 percent, but increased at a rate of 3.9 percent YoY.

* For the type of foundry used, participants reported only 6.6 percent use an IDM when the previous quarter reported 20 percent use IDMs.

* For the median costs for the package/lead count combinations, xQFP packages with 65-128 leads reported the only QoQ increase at 16.42 percent.

Get2Volume selected as Singapore National Research Foundation incubator

SINGAPORE: The Singapore National Research Foundation (NRF) has selected Get2Volume for incubator cofounding under its Technology Incubation Scheme (TIS). The TIS was initiated to nurture early stage high-tech start-up companies in Singapore.
The TIS comes under the umbrella of the National Framework for Innovation & Enterprise (NFIE).

NFIE was formulated in 2008 with a $360 million budget to advance R&D-based innovation in Singapore with a view to commercialization. Under the TIS, the NRF will co-invest with Get2Volume in Singapore-based high-tech start-ups.
For the past 7 years, Get2Volume has been focused on growing semiconductor and microelectronics centric companies in Singapore. Noted successes include Semitech Semiconductor and ConnectedHealth.

Get2Volume's experienced team and partners enable the successful growth of emerging semiconductor and microelectronics companies. Get2Volume partners with industry leaders to provide advantages to early stage semiconductor companies. These partners include Synopsys (Semiconductor tools), Nanyang Technological University's VIRTUS Semiconductor Centre of Excellence, the Singapore Institute of Microelectronics (IME), and National University Singapore (NUS). The Get2Volume Accelerator is sponsored by the Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association (SSIA).

"There is a real opportunity here to help the semiconductor industry grow stronger and become more vibrant and supportive of growth and innovation," said Ulf Schneider, SSIA president. "Singapore, with its worldwide fabless semiconductor company revenue of $80 billion and an established semiconductor MNC capability, is the perfect place to facilitate the development of cutting-edge technology. Singapore has a strong semiconductor ecosystem that can be leveraged to enable a competitive advantage for start ups."

Dr. Francis Yeoh, CEO, NRF, noted: "Many innovative ideas originate from small high-tech start-ups with good intellectual property derived from R&D. It is thus important for Singapore, with our strong emphasis on research excellence, to create an environment that will allow such innovative startups to develop and flourish. The eight incubators selected under NRF's Technology Incubator Scheme will create more opportunities for budding entrepreneurs to come under the supervision of experienced mentors -- thereby increasing the chances of success."

Growth of opto, sensor, discrete devices outpace ICs

SCOTTSDALE, USA: Continuing a trend that started a few years ago, total sales of optoelectronics, sensors/actuators, and discrete components (collectively, the O-S-D market), increased 8.4 percent in 2011, far surpassing the 0.4 percent growth in IC sales, according to data compiled in the newly updated 2012 edition of IC Insights' O-S-D Report, A Market Analysis and Forecast for Optoelectronic, Sensor/Actuator, and Discretes components.

IC Insights forecasts the O-S-D market to grow faster than the IC market in 2012 as well, which would mark the third consecutive year for this achievement.

Collectively, O-S-D devices accounted for 17.9 percent of the world's $320.8 billion in semiconductor sales in 2011 compared to 14.7 percent of total revenues in 2001. O S D products are expected to represent about 18.2 percent of the world's $339.0 billion semiconductor market in 2012, based on IC Insights' forecast.Source: IC Insights, USA.

Throughout the 2011-2016 period, combined sales of O-S-D devices are expected to slightly exceed the growth rate of the larger IC market segment. O-S-D revenues are projected to grow at a CAGR of 10.6 percent in the forecast period while IC sales are expected to rise by an annual average of 9.4 percent between 2011 and 2016.Source: IC Insights, USA.

The sensor/actuator market is projected to grow at the highest rate among the semiconductor segments in the forecast period with its CAGR being 16.4 percent between 2011 and 2016. IC Insights anticipates stronger and more consistent growth in the sensor/actuator market due to higher volume shipments of these devices in consumer electronics and portable systems. In addition, the automotive industry continues to gain strength after the 2008-2009 recession, and that is adding additional stability and growth momentum to the sensor/actuator market segment.

In a highly unusual situation, the discretes segment, which is composed of low-priced commodity devices, actually outperformed the market growth of ICs in 2006-2011. The discretes sales volume grew at a CAGR of 5.6% compared to IC revenues rising by a CAGR of 3.3 percent in the last five years. Discretes sales grew at a stronger rate than ICs for a variety of reasons, including intense price erosion in memory integrated circuits, the strong 2010 recovery of discretes sales, and rising prices for many power transistor products.

Hon Hai establishes strategic partnership with Sharp with promising prospects

TAIWAN: According to WitsView, TrendForce’s display research division, the earlier merger between CMO and Innolux announced in November 14, 2009 was expected to encourage the lackluster Taiwan panel industry. However, due to varying internal opinions toward major operation strategies, CMI’s performance proved to be not as well as anticipated.

Hon Hai defended the merger idea initially; however, while facing the potential cooperation between AUO and CMI, Hon Hai promptly decided to have Innolux to merge with CMO, ranked 4th in terms of the global TFT LCD panel makers, through a share exchange based on long-term strategic considerations. However, when the EU hit CMI with 0.3 billion Euro penalty due to antitrust law violation in December 2010, Terry Gou was unaware of this situation prior to the official announcement. Thereafter, CMI and Hon Hai’s diverging stance towards resolving the penalty situation caused inherent breach in their future collaboration.

Moreover, since Hon Hai holds less stock shares than Chimei Group, Terry Gou’s operation strategies faced impediments internally within CMI. For instance, originally Hon Hai intended to spin off “mid-to-small panel”, “touch”, “large-sized panel” and “set OEM” business among CMI’s current organization, but the plans were challenged by CMI. At the same time, Sharp’s aggressive interaction with Hon Hai urged their strategic partnership officially on March 27, 2012.

Although Hon Hai places great emphasis on strategy and cost efficiency, CMI’s performance after the merger was not on par with Hon Hai’s expectations. Despite global economic downturns, Hon Hai continues to receive orders and remains Apple’s preferred strategic partner.

Following the spin-off failure, the Hon Hai’s founder Terry Gou actively pushes forth his “Eyeball” strategic plans, including plants in Chengdu, China and Brazil. Moreover, he also established an “Eyeball” business group consisting of Xincheng, Yecheng, Yexin, Ruizhida Photoelectric and Tianyi in the hope to establish vertical integration in this field; however, this arrangement continued to lack technical capabilities.

As such, WitsView research director, Burrell Liu indicates that Hon-Hai and Sharp’s collaboration are based on the following considerations:

1. Sharp can provide support for Oxide and UV2A technology.
2. Mutual Business Support:
A. Sharp will release more TVs OEM orders to Hon-Hai, creating greater cost effective edge for its TV production line.
B. Hon Hai has solid relationships with SONY and Vizio and possesses strong export outlets, allowing Sharp to have greater sales outlets for Sharp’s panels.
C. Sharp can benefit from Hon Hai’s China sales channel, thus expanding its market scale.
D. Hon Hai, Sharp and Apple have tight-knit supply chain relationship for smartphones and tablets. With this further collaboration, it is likely that they will continue to work together on i-TV, which is expected to be equipped with high resolution.
E. Hon-Hai’s financial support will alleviate Sharp’s financial pressure.
F. The collaboration is also another gradual step towards Terry Gou’s strategic plan of joining forces with Japan to compete against Korean makers.

Hon Hai’s recent announcement on March 27 indicated that it will also continue to purchase expanded capital stocks from CMI in the next 3 years. WitsView indicates that the move is more of a symbolic support for CMI since it purchased NT$2.7 billion CMI shares while its investment in Sharp reached NT$47.3 billion in stark contrast.

Fairchild's high efficiency, high power buck converter helps mobile designers reduce power consumption

SAN JOSE, USA: Mobile device designers are faced with changing standards and a need to increase battery life, and extend talk and data transmit time. In order to help designers address these challenges, Fairchild Semiconductor, a leading global supplier of high performance power and mobile solutions, has developed a power management product for the RF portion of mobile handsets and tablets.

As part of its ongoing mobile initiative and in close cooperation with customers, Fairchild developed the FAN5904, a high power, high efficiency synchronous buck converter that supports GSM/GPRS/EDGE, 3G/3.5G and 4G power amplifiers (PA). The device reduces power consumption in wireless-enabled mobile devices extending connection times by more than 60 minutes. Available in a small solution footprint occupying less than 23.5mm2, the FAN5904 also reduces the operating temperature of the PA by at least 20ºC while maintaining RF performance.

The FAN5904 supports high and low power modes for GSM/EDGE PAMs, 3G/3.5G and 4G PAs respectively. In high power mode, GSM Tx power is enabled and the FAN5904 can provide up to 35dBm of output power even when there is a 3:1 VSWR antenna mismatch for GSM/EDGE PAMs. The device operates in PWM mode at 3MHz switching frequency to handle 2.3A of output current while achieving up to 92 percent efficiency. For 3G/3.5G and 4G PAs, FAN5904 will operate in low power mode and enable up to 29dBm of output power including 3:1 VSWR conditions.

The switching frequency of the FAN5904 in low power mode is 6MHz in PWM mode for heavier current loads. Under lighter current loads of less than 100mA the FAN5904 will switch to PFM mode to further optimize efficiency when the PA’s output power is less than 20dBm. Since the FAN5904 operates at 3MHz in high power mode and 6MHz in low power mode, it can be implemented with a 470nH, 2520 inductor and two 4.7µF, 1508 capacitors on the output to achieve less than 20.5mm2 of PCB area. For further area reduction a 470nH, 2016 inductor can be implemented which results in less than 15mm2 occupied by the total FAN5904 solution.

The output voltage of the device may be dynamically varied from 0.4V to 3.5V, proportional to an analog input VCON ranging from 0.16V to 1.40V provided by an external DAC. This allows the PA to be supplied with the voltage that enables maximum power added efficiency. The FAN5904 also offers fast transition times, enabling changes to the output voltage in less than 10µs for power transitions. A current-mode control loop with fast transient response ensures excellent line and load regulation.

GEO Semiconductor announces new security camera reference design featuring AnyView technology

ISC WEST 2012, SANTA CLARA, USA: GEO Semiconductor Inc., the industry leader in programmable, high performance, video and geometry processing IC solutions, announced the availability of its new security camera reference design jointly created by GEO Semiconductor and Aptina. Code-named Janus, the reference design features GEO’s AnyView technology and will be demonstrated at the International Security Conference 2012 (ISC West 2012) being held in Las Vegas, Nevada from March 28th through 30th 2012.

Janus is a complete Full HD (1080p60) camera system that integrates GEO’s AnyView technology targeted at security and surveillance applications. Combining Aptina’s AR0331 high dynamic range sensor and Image Co-Processor ICP-HD with GEO’s sxW2 IC and Janus enables designers to implement advanced capabilities and features in security cameras not previously available in the marketplace. These features collectively referred to as AnyView, include:

* Elimination of multiple cameras by the selection and display of multiple (1-8) views of any size from the fish eye input view while performing real-time full HD De-warping with independent dynamic pan tilt and zoom capabilities in each of the windows;
* “Zero Pixel LossTM” panoramic views of the fish eye input at full HD (1080p60) resolution;
* Ability to auto calibrate and correct for lens distortions;
* Stitching together of multiple sensor image streams, to provide ultra-wide panoramic views;
* Reduction of system cost by use of inexpensive optics and plastic lenses; and
* Maximization of image capture area through the use of elliptical and custom lenses.

iPhone and iPad help spur near tripling of touch screen chip market by 2012

EL SEGUNDO, USA: Spurred by the runaway success of Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPad, shipments of touch screen displays in devices like smartphones and media tablets are booming, causing the market for touch controller integrated circuits (ICs) to almost triple in size during a five year span.

Shipments of touch controller ICs are set to reach 2.4 billion units in 2015, up from 865 million in 2010, according to an IHS iSuppli Display Electronics topical report from information and analytics provider IHS (NYSE: IHS). This year alone, shipments will surge 28 percent to 1.7 billion units, with strong double-digit growth projected for the next two years before the rate of expansion slows slightly in 2015.

“The expansion in touch controller IC shipments is due to the growing number of devices that employ touch technology,” said Randy Lawson, principal analyst for display & consumer electronics at IHS. “Apple almost single-handedly ignited the market for touch in 2007 when it introduced the iPhone, which featured a multi-touch screen based on a projected capacitive touch technology. Since the appearance of the iPhone, many other smartphone manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon by deploying sophisticated touch sensors for their products.”

Moreover, touch technology has branched out from being used mainly in mobile handsets to a wide array of consumer electronic items, expanding the aggregate universe of touch applications. Touch sensors now can be found in tablets, ereaders, all-in one PCs, portable media players, portable navigation devices, flat-panel TVs and monitors, handheld video game players, automotive applications, digital still cameras and digital picture frames. Together, the number of devices and appliances using some form of touch controller IC is predicted to hit 1.06 billion units this year, nearly double from 514.9 million units only two years ago.

Shipments of touch controller ICs exceed those of touch-screen-equipped mobile devices due to the use often of more than one IC in each product especially in tablets, and also because of the relatively low manufacturing yield frequently seen in advanced touch screen modules.

Projected capacitive touch screens like those first featured by Apple in its products made up 54 percent of the touch market in 2011. They also will remain the dominant implementation for the space in the years to come, ahead of other touch-sensor technologies like infrared, optical, resistive and surface acoustic wave.

Atmel, Cypress and Synaptics lead the market
The leaders of the touch controller space last year were Atmel Corp., Cypress Semiconductor Corp. and Synaptics, which together held more than 60 percent share of the market in revenue. Even so, competition abounds in this fast-growing industry, mainly from the Asian suppliers of display driver ICs such as Novatek Microelectronics Corp. and Himax Technologies of Taiwan, as well as Hong Kong-based Solomon Systech International Ltd.

Many Asian suppliers are developing their own touch IC solutions, hoping to eventually integrate touch functionality into existing single-chip driver ICs used in both mobile handsets and small liquid crystal displays smaller than 5 inches for the general mobile consumer electronics market.

But, while unit shipments of discrete touch controller ICs will continue to grow this year and beyond, revenue growth is expected to be more limited, IHS believes. Touch controller IC revenue this year will reach an estimated $1.5 billion, up 15 percent from $1.3 billion in 2011, a much lower rate of growth compared to the touch IC shipments. And in contrast to the continuing shipment growth in the years to come, touch IC revenue will peak in 2014 at $1.6 billion before starting to decline the year after.

The less robust revenue picture is due to several factors, including a decline in average selling prices, the falling number of touch ICs being employed per panel in medium-sized applications, and the increasing market pressure from integrated solutions like those offered by the Asian IC firms. ASPs are expected to drop by approximately 12 percent every year through 2015. Meanwhile, the number of touch controller ICs used in tablets larger than 7 inches will decline from three or more to only one in many cases.

The integration of touch functionality into the chip-on-glass mounted display driver IC also will present a challenge for touch MCU suppliers in the near future, though the impact of that design approach will be less significant from 2012 to 2015 than the other revenue-dampening effects on the space.

Mobile devices, especially smartphones and media tablets, will continue to lead the consumption of touch solutions and touch-related ICs. Both applications will account for a combined 61 percent of the touch controller market in 2011, and then go on to comprise more than 71 percent of the total touch IC market by 2015.

Source: IHS iSuppli, USA.

Applied Materials projects extended capital investment cycle driven by mobility trends

NEW YORK, USA: Applied Materials, the global leader in manufacturing solutions for the semiconductor, flat panel display and solar photovoltaic industries, forecast wafer fabrication equipment spending will exceed $30 billion for a record fourth consecutive year in 2013.

The semiconductor industry to date has not experienced more than two successive years of spending at that level. During the company's annual Investor and Analyst Meeting held today, chairman and chief executive officer Mike Splinter, along with senior leadership, also discussed how growing global demand for mobile devices is driving Applied's semiconductor and display businesses.

"The Age of Mobility is transforming the semiconductor industry as a growing global consumer base demands increasingly sophisticated devices. This trend is accelerating the adoption of smartphones, tablets and mobile PCs and driving our customers to deliver larger, more complex chips at higher unit volumes and on faster production ramps," said Splinter. "As a result, we are seeing sustained capital investment with an expected third, and likely fourth, consecutive year of wafer fabrication equipment spending in excess of $30 billion."

"Applied expects continued strength in our core semiconductor business to result in fiscal year 2012 revenue for the company in the range of $9.1 to $9.5 billion. We expect non-GAAP earnings per share of $0.85 to $0.95, including $0.07 to $0.08 of operating losses from our Energy and Environmental Solutions group," said George Davis, executive VP and CFO. "As a result of the sharp capacity-driven downturn in our solar and display equipment markets, these businesses are focused on reducing costs to improve profitability."

Synopsys' collaboration with industry consortium yields double patterning technology models for parasitic extraction

MOUNTAIN VIEW, USA: Synopsys Inc. announced that its collaboration with the members of the Interconnect Modeling Technical Advisory Board (IMTAB) of the IEEE Industry Standards and Technology Organization (IEEE-ISTO) has resulted in a parasitic variation modeling solution to address the effects of double patterning technology (DPT), targeted for use in 20-nanometer (nm) IC manufacturing.

The new DPT model extensions will be available to the EDA and semiconductor industries through the open source licensed Interconnect Technology Format (ITF) version 2012.06 ratified by IMTAB members, including Apache Design – a subsidiary of ANSYS, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, NVIDIA, Synopsys and others.

DPT is a critical technique for ensuring printability of device and interconnect layers in 20-nm IC manufacturing. However, splitting layers into two masks can introduce timing variations as a consequence of mask misalignment in the manufacturing process. To enable successful 20-nm design tapeouts and manufacturing, the IMTAB members determined that a DPT-aware modeling solution for parasitic extraction was needed to account for the timing impact and address it in the physical implementation and signoff design flow.

"The real challenge was developing a solution that accurately modeled the impact on timing with no productivity change to the flow," said Bari Biswas, chair of IMTAB and senior director of engineering for extraction solutions at Synopsys. "While working with IMTAB and leading foundries, Synopsys developed a novel modeling technique that eliminates the need to insert the time-consuming coloring step during the implementation and signoff flow, with negligible impact on extraction runtime."

"The manufacturing requirements at advanced process nodes, such as double-patterning lithography at 20-nanometers, are driving an industry-wide, intensive focus on newer parasitic modeling techniques to achieve signoff accuracy and performance," said Richard Trihy, director of design methodology at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. "GLOBALFOUNDRIES is pleased to be working with the industry-leading IMTAB member companies and lending our extensive knowledge of advanced processes to develop innovative solutions that address these common challenges. Our close collaboration has resulted in several enhancements to ITF modeling at the 28-nanometer node, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES is now driving silicon-validation of the latest DPT modeling at the 20-nanometer node."

In addition to DPT modeling, IMTAB has also approved enhanced trench contact device modeling extensions in the ITF to include evolving 20-nm characteristics. The trench contacts are used for local device interconnections that improve density and lower resistance. However, additional challenges are introduced in modeling co-vertical conductors and associated large fringe capacitances. To deal with these issues, specific 20-nm extensions were added to explicitly model silicon dielectric underneath the device and the special dielectric region between the gate and raised diffusion to enable accurate modeling of the new parasitic effects.

"IMTAB members continue to collaborate on challenges facing the semiconductor industry in new process nodes such as 20-nanometer," said Marco Migliaro, president and CEO at IEEE-ISTO. "To improve tool interoperability around ITF modeling, IMTAB will help the industry realize a single, proven format to help speed design flows."

The next IMTAB meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 22, 2012.

Synopsys, Altera and TSMC to deliver silicon-accurate parasitic modeling and extraction for 28-nm processes

MOUNTAIN VIEW, USA: Synopsys Inc. has collaborated with Altera and TSMC to silicon-validate modeling of key parasitic effects in Synopsys' StarRC solution for TSMC's 28-nanometer (nm) processes.

The StarRC solution achieved the stringent model-to-silicon accuracy criteria of TSMC's 28-nm process technology to enable high-performance designs at the advanced node. Altera Corporation, a pioneer in programmable logic, has successfully deployed StarRC to achieve signoff accurate extraction and accelerate the design cycle of its 28-nm FPGA designs.

"We have trusted StarRC as a standard parasitic extraction solution to realize our aggressive design and signoff analysis goals at the 40-nanometer node and above," said Eugene Chen, director of CAD engineering at Altera. "Our 28-nanometer collaboration demonstrated that StarRC continues to meet the rigorous accuracy and performance criteria we employ for tool selection to deliver high-quality products to our customers. StarRC is now fully deployed as the signoff parasitic extraction solution for our most advanced 28-nanometer Stratix V FPGA devices in production."

At advanced nodes (28-nm and below), process modeling complexity has increased significantly due to continued transistor scaling, the increasing number of metal and dielectric layers, new device structures and the increased field effects between devices and interconnects. Several second-order effects that could be ignored in the past must now be accurately modeled and extracted to ensure desired circuit behavior.

StarRC offers silicon-accurate modeling for the new 28-nm process effects as validated by foundries and customers on their taped-out designs. StarRC's key 28-nm features include: modeling of increased conductor width variation due to advanced retargeting and optical-proximity-correction (OPC) effects, via-faceting and coupling effects of larger via shapes; area-dependent via resistance and capacitance; and enhanced layout-dependent device parasitic extraction. In addition, the StarRC solution includes the Rapid3D field solver technology for fast, high-accuracy 3D extraction that is also qualified by TSMC for the 28-nm node.

"We have collaborated closely with Synopsys through several generations of process nodes to accurately model complex parasitic effects and qualify StarRC for TSMC's advanced process technologies including 28-nanometer," said Suk Lee, senior director of design infrastructure marketing at TSMC. "We are pleased to see our mutual customers, such as Altera, realize the benefits of this collaboration and deploy the solution to achieve a high standard of accuracy on their leading-edge 28-nanometer designs."

"Synopsys continues to collaborate with TSMC and Altera to ensure accurate parasitic modeling by our proven StarRC extraction solution and deliver technology for silicon success of next-generation designs," said Antun Domic, senior VP and GM of Synopsys' Implementation Group. "Altera's successful tapeout of Stratix V FPGAs demonstrates the success of our continued investment in StarRC's high-performance extraction technology."

Synopsys' StarRC extraction solution enables more than 150 successful 28nm tapeouts

MOUNTAIN VIEW, USA: Synopsys Inc. announced that its StarRC parasitic extraction solution has enabled more than 150 successful 28-nanometer (nm) tapeouts, delivering fast turnaround time and the signoff accuracy required for next-generation designs across computer, consumer, mobile and wireless communications applications.

StarRC's advanced modeling of complex process effects at the 28-nm silicon process technology node and its leading qualification by major foundries provides lower design risk and improved opportunity for one-pass tapeout success. StarRC is already used by more than 40 semiconductor companies for 28-nm design signoff, confirming its position as the industry's gold standard extraction solution through several generations of process technologies.

Companies that have qualified and selected the StarRC solution for use in their 28-nm signoff and tapeout flows include Altera, Bull, Fujitsu Semiconductor, HiSilicon Technologies, Imagination Technologies, LSI, Moortec Semiconductor, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Renesas Electronics, Samsung, STMicroelectronics, Toshiba and others.

"Delivering an extraction solution that enables our customers to achieve their aggressive signoff goals with confidence is a critical priority at each new process node," said Antun Domic, senior VP and GM of Synopsys' Implementation Group. "Crossing the 150-tapeout milestone at 28 nanometers is a strong validation of StarRC's strengths and our continued collaboration with foundries. It is also an excellent testimony to the broad range of customer designs benefitting from its capabilities."

Digital MEMS microphone market expands, partly driven by new iPad and iPad 2 design wins

EL SEGUNDO, USA: Driven by their widespread use in top-selling mobile devices like Apple Inc.’s new iPad and iPad 2, market revenue for digital microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) microphones is set to overtake the analog segment next year for the first time ever.

Revenue for digital MEMS microphones will reach $315 million in 2013, compared to $261 million for the analog MEMS equivalents, according to an IHS iSuppli MEMS Special Report. The market this year still will favor analog MEMS microphones, which are projected to achieve revenue of $267.4 million compared to $226.1 for digital. However, digital MEMS will gain the upper hand in 2013 when analog’s share dips below 50 percent.

“Apple once again is setting the pace in the adoption of innovative new MEMS technologies,” observed Jérémie Bouchaud, director and senior principal analyst for MEMS & sensors at IHS. “Having already established the market for MEMS accelerators and gyroscopes in the iPhone and iPad lines, Apple now is leading the transition to digital MEMS microphones by employing them in its iPad 2 and the new iPad.”

The IHS iSuppli Teardown Analysis of the new iPad indicates that the tablet uses a single MEMS-based digital microphone from AAC Acoustic Technologies Holdings Inc. The iPad 2 employs a digital MEMS microphone from Analog Devices Inc.

MEMS microphones crank up the volume
A MEMS microphone is a tiny device that employs a pressure-sensitive diaphragm etched on a semiconductor. These microphones are commonly employed in cellphones, headsets, laptop computers, video cameras—and since last year—in tablets.

First used in 2003 on cellphones, MEMS microphones replaced conventional electret condenser microphones (ECM) in half of mobile handsets last year. Since 2010, new acoustic applications requiring multiple microphones have been driving the further penetration of MEMS. Superior temperature stability, better matching and smaller form factors afforded by MEMS are key advantages here.

While analog MEMS microphones are less expensive and still are very much used for the acoustic function in handsets, the new digital alternatives are gaining greater utilization because of their various benefits. For instance, digital microphones provide advantages in the design phase. With analog signal processing, each new design iteration requires adaptation for resistors, capacitors, and speakers. For digital microphones, however, the changes in design are easier to implement, leading to a faster time-to-market.

Digital MEMS microphones also are less sensitive to electromagnetic interference, and their increased Power Supply Rejection Ratio (PSRR) simplifies the design and improves audio quality.

In the case of noise suppression with three or more microphones, the signal from digital microphones is easier to process than that from analog. And when used in laptops, digital MEMS microphones provide better immunity to electromagnetic interference caused by the large liquid crystal display (LCD).

Top digital MEMS microphone suppliers
Digital MEMS microphones have been available since 2006, when Akustica—now Bosch—started to ship them into laptops from Fujitsu. The following year, Knowles and Sonion—now part of TDK-EPC—also started shipments.

Overall, however, the penetration of digital MEMS microphones remained relatively modest because of the lack of a credible alternative source beyond Knowles, and their high price—typically 50 percent more expensive than analog MEMS.

Knowles had managed to keep the price high because of the lack of viable competitors.
All this changed in 2011 with the arrival of new players. STMicroelectronics entered the market and focused exclusively on digital MEMS microphones, allowing them to emerge as strong alternative volume suppliers in 2011, with more aggressive pricing policies.

Akustica introduced a new and more competitive digital MEMS microphone in early 2011 with a 30 percent die size reduction. As a result, Akustica grew its share in the laptop business from 4 percent in 2010 to 15 percent in 2011, grabbing share away from Knowles at customers such as Hewlett-Packard.

STMicroelectronics—already the No. 1 supplier of accelerometers to Nokia—started to deliver MEMS microphones to the Finnish original equipment manufacturer in 2011 and became the top source within one year ahead of Knowles. As a result, Knowles‘ share of digital MEMS microphone market revenue fell to 59 percent in 2011, down from 81 percent in 2010.

Overall, the arrival of new suppliers with more aggressive pricing boosted the penetration of digital MEMS microphones in laptops in 2011 from 18 percent in 2010 to 40 percent in 2011.

The top suppliers in 2011 for digital MEMS microphones included, in descending order: Knowles, for laptops, tablets and handsets; Analog Devices, for the iPad 2; Bosch (Akustica), for laptops; STMicroelectronics, to Nokia and also for laptops; Goertek, to Lenovo; AAC; and BSE.

Source: IHS iSuppli, USA.

TI announces complete solution for science classroom, lab and field

NSTA 2012 National Conference, DALLAS, USA: Texas Instruments (TI), already known for its leadership in math education technology solutions, is strengthening its foothold in science education with a complete solution for classroom, lab and field – including new digital science content which incorporates the TI-Nspire CX graphing handheld and software.

The TI Nspired Learning interactive science classroom, which is a versatile daily teaching system for the classroom, lab and field, is designed to increase student understanding with real-world simulations in the classroom and comprehensive data collection and analysis in the field or lab.

To further enrich the TI Nspired Learning science experience, TI has teamed up with some of the nation's top STEM content providers to create interactive and dynamic activities for science teachers and students. TI-Nspire CX handhelds and software help students more easily visualize concepts with rich, colorful lessons that integrate real-world scenarios of science in action– from skateboarding to space exploration to car racing. All of the free activities are classroom-ready, aligned to curriculum and assessment standards, and fully customizable.