Thursday, February 28, 2013

Arasan announces eMMC 5.0 total IP solution

SPAIN: Arasan Chip Systems Inc. has announced support for the upcoming eMMC 5.0 specification, which is proceeding to ratification within the JEDEC standards organization.

With its November Pro Class 2000 Flash Memory Devices, Samsung announced that it would be submitting the specifications to JEDEC for standardization.  The upcoming eMMC standard revision is expected to double the maximum speed of the current eMMC 4.51 devices from 200MB/s to 400MB/s. Responding to strong customer interest, Arasan has expanded its eMMC Total IP Solution to support the upcoming specification.

The eMMC Total IP Solution comprises digital and analog IP cores, software stack, firmware and a hardware validation platform.  The eMMC 5.0 IP core is derived from Arasan's market leading, silicon-proven eMMC IP product line. Unlike previous eMMC specifications, the 400MB/s interface will require analog PHY components.   Arasan's eMMC 5.0 Total IP Solution includes an analog PHY, licensed as GDSII, comprising the 3 DLLs required for tuning, strobe, and hold time management.

Also included are pads, derived from existing Arasan silicon-proven technology, which support the new performance levels at the required voltage levels.  Arasan's eMMC software stack has been upgraded to support the new specification requirements and a new firmware driver designed to support booting from an eMMC 5.0 device. Completing the Total IP Solution is the hardware validation platform.

Arasan's ability to ship a working hardware validation platform provides an invaluable head start for software development and interoperability testing.

"Arasan has a track record of participating in standards development and delivering IP at the earliest possible time to satisfy customer needs," said Andrew Haines, VP of Marketing for Arasan. "In the case of eMMC, we are seeing tremendous interest in the anticipated specification change from our customer base which is consistent with the substantial 37% year over year growth forecast by market researchers at  iSuppli."

Arasan's  is currently engaging with early adopters for licensing of analog and digital IP cores, Verilog HDL for verification, software stack and firmware and sales of the hardware validation platform.

IESA on the Union Budget 2013-14

INDIA: The India Electronics and Semiconductor Association (IESA) welcome the budget for its boost to the Indian Electronics and semiconductor industry. We believe the steps outlined for this sector by the Hon’ble Finance Minister will help to boost this sector by attracting investments, promoting entrepreneurship and domestic manufacturing,

1. About the investment allowance of 15 percent, in addition to the current depreciation benefits, IESA believes this will significantly aid in attracting investments into this sector.

2. About the import duty on set-top boxes (STBs), the IESA welcomes the increase in import duty on this product, which is one the fastest moving electronics products today. There is a potential for  100 million STBs over the next two to three as a result of the digitization of cable act, and we believe this increase of import duty will help Indian manufacturers to address the Unfair advantage imported set top boxes are getting and will boost domestic manufacturing of Set Top Boxes in India.

3. About the fab, the IESA welcomes the 0 percent customs duty for import of equipment for the fab. IESA believes this will help in improving the viability of the project for the investors.

4. About the 17 percent increase in the outlay on education, IESA welcomes this move. Both skill development and R&D are areas that are critical to India. IESA also welcomes the Rs. 10,000 grant for youth who will undergo an NSDC approved Skill Development Course and obtain certification.

5. IESA also welcome the Rs 200 crore fund to be setup to help innovators and inventors scale up their inventions and develop products aimed for the masses.

6. About the support to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, IESA welcomes the support to kick start the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India, especially the following two initiatives:
a) investments in technology incubators established in academic institutions being recognized as CSR.
b) The decision to recognize angel investor pools under SEBI guidelines will also help to grow this segment and encourage HNIs to come forth and invest as Angel Investors, thus helping again to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

7. The budget will also benefit the MSME sector through the measure of doubling the SIDBI’s refinancing facility to MSMEs to Rs 10,000 crores

8. The IESA welcomes the strong commitment to infrastructure development, particularly the continued support to the DMIC and the two other infrastructure corridors of Chennai – Bengaluru and Bengaluru – Mumbai.

9. About the establishment of the National Clean Energy Fund, the IESA welcomes this initiative to provide low cost funding through IREDA to clean and green energy projects as it will help to boost the renewable energy sector.

10. Rules for safe harbor for the development centres – IESA also welcomes the announcement to notify the rules for safe harbor for the development centres based on the report of the Rangachary Committee, which wil submit its report March 31, 2013.

11. The setting up of a  Standing Council of Experts in Ministry of Finance to examine transaction cost of doing business in India is a welcome move which will help in ease of doing business in the country

Provisions yielding adverse impact
12. Higher excise duty on mobile phones above Rs 2,000. This is a  blow to domestic mobile handset makers, as excise duty on instruments priced above Rs 2,000 has been raised to 6 percent from the earlier rate of 1 percent.

Aptina enters into patent license agreement with Sony

USA: Aptina has signed a patent cross-license agreement with Sony, which provides each company with access to the other’s patent portfolio.

Aptina and Sony have built industry leading patent portfolios that include seminal image sensor patents covering image capture and processing methods. These technologies are fundamental to the world’s growing image sensor industry, with sales of over two billion units annually, and found in almost every consumer electronics device including smart phones, automobiles, tablets, televisions, gaming platforms, medical equipment and digital cameras.

This cross-license agreement enables these two innovation leaders to operate freely and use each other's patented inventions to advance the pace of development for cameras and other imaging applications. The cooperation fostered by the cross-license reinforces the ability of both companies to provide compelling imaging solutions to their customers.

“Patents and innovation are a critical component of Aptina’s strategy, and Aptina’s patent portfolio is the largest and strongest in the image sensor industry,” said Bob Gove, president and CTO of Aptina. “We believe that this powerful blend will advance technology to realize our goal of enabling consumers to capture beautiful images and visual information.”

Aptina, the foundational CMOS imaging company, began within Micron Technology in 2001 with acquisitions of early CMOS imaging companies Photobit and then Avago Technologies’ image sensor business. Aptina became an independent company in 2009. Aptina delivers advanced CMOS imaging solutions to all major imaging markets and is the leading supplier in many markets including the rapidly growing automotive market.

Micron announces Tokyo District Court approval of Elpida reorganization plan

USA: Micron Technology Inc. announced the Tokyo District Court's issuance of an order approving Elpida Memory Inc.'s plan of reorganization.

Elpida's plan of reorganization calls for Micron to sponsor Elpida's reorganization under which Elpida will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Micron. The Tokyo District Court's approval follows an Elpida creditor vote, concluded on Feb. 26, in which the creditors voted to approve the reorganization plan.

"We are very pleased with the Tokyo District Court's approval of Elpida's plan of reorganization. This is an important milestone that brings us a significant step closer to Micron and Elpida becoming the world's second largest memory company with the strongest product portfolio in the industry," said Micron CEO Mark Durcan.

The closing of the transaction remains subject to the satisfaction or waiver of certain conditions--including finalization of the Tokyo District Court's approval order under Japanese bankruptcy rules that could occur as early as four weeks from today presuming no appeal is filed, and recognition of Elpida's reorganization plan by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware (or the completion or implementation of alternative actions providing a substantially similar effect).

Elpida and Micron continue to target completion of the transaction in the first half of calendar 2013. Elpida's proposed reorganization plan was submitted to the Tokyo District Court on Aug. 21, 2012, and the Tokyo District Court approved the submission of Elpida's proposed reorganization plan to creditors on Oct. 31, 2012.

TI intros breakthrough InstaSPIN-FOC motor control solution

USA: Motor control system designers can now concentrate on differentiating designs rather than spending weeks and months tuning their motor control systems.

With the new InstaSPIN-FOC (field-oriented-control) solution from Texas Instruments (TI), designers can now identify, tune and fully control (through variable speeds and loads) any type of three-phase, synchronous or asynchronous motor in five minutes or less.

This new technology removes the need for a mechanical motor rotor sensor to reduce system costs and improves operation using TI’s new software encoder (sensorless observer) algorithm, FAST (flux, angle, speed and torque), embedded in the read-only-memory (ROM) on TI’s 32-bit C2000 Piccolo microcontrollers.

InstaSPIN-FOC joins the previously introduced InstaSPIN-BLDC technology and will be followed with future InstaSPIN variations to make motor control development easier and more efficient.

Many industries have delayed the use and adoption of sensorless FOC motor techniques because of the lack of motor control system knowledge, despite the many system benefits these techniques provide. InstaSPIN-FOC eases development and reduces system cost and complexity for designers — even those with limited motor control experience — and enables premium solutions that improve motor efficiency, performance and reliability in all variable speed and load motor applications.

In traditional FOC motor designs, the use of a rotor sensor can impact a system with increased costs (sensor, power supply, special cabling and connectors, installation and maintenance) and potentially lower reliability (performance degradation in harsh conditions, electrical noise, temperature and humidity).

In addition, using a sensor in many applications, such as an enclosed compressor or a large traction machine, is also completely impractical.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Violin Memory selects eASIC for flash memory arrays

USA: eASIC Corp. announced that Violin Memory, provider of one of the world’s fastest and most scalable FLASH memory arrays, has selected eASIC’s Nextreme-2T NEW ASICs for implementing FLASH controllers for its latest 6000 series enterprise-grade FLASH memory arrays.

Violin cites vastly superior power consumption and cost as the key reasons for replacing high-density FPGAs with eASIC Nextreme-2T devices within its FLASH storage arrays. In addition, the fast design and turnaround time of Nextreme-2T NEW ASICs enables Violin to ramp to high volume quickly and establish a strong market lead in the fiercely competitive market for FLASH memory-based enterprise storage appliances.

“We looked at a number of ASIC platform choices for implementing our custom FLASH controllers,” commented Kevin Rowett, VP of engineering for Violin Memory. “We opted to collaborate with eASIC for reducing cost and power consumption because their Nextreme-2T NEW ASICs enabled us to quickly migrate from FPGAs, and inexpensively ramp our solutions to high volume production.”

“There is tremendous innovation going on in the enterprise storage market and we are thrilled to be working with Violin, one of the fastest growing leaders in this space,” said Ronnie Vasishta, president and CEO, eASIC.

“OEMs need to continuously innovate and quickly ramp to volume production. We are starting to see a tipping point where FPGAs cannot be used in mission critical, power sensitive, volume applications and the ASIC alternatives do not meet the requirements. Traditional cell-based ASICs just take too long to design and ASSPs have limited flexibility for the NAND FLASH interface.”

Mentor Graphics deep submicron division launches Kronos cell characterization and analysis platform

USA: Mentor Graphics Corp. announced the availability of the Kronos Cell Characterization and Analysis platform. The Kronos platform quickly produces accurate performance models for standard cells, I/Os, and complex cells within an advanced, integrated environment.

Without correctly characterized libraries, an entire design project may be at risk, and designing at the wrong environmental corner or not taking advantage of a special operating voltage may lead to slower, larger designs that waste power or take longer to close on timing.

At 45nm and below, speed and power consumption are much more sensitive to environmental conditions including voltage and noise. Therefore, producing accurate models at the appropriate conditions is critical to achieving design success. The Kronos platform quickly generates accurate and complete timing/power models and incorporates unique methods for noise immunity and signal integrity to avoid design problems that otherwise might not be detected until failure analysis.

The Kronos Platform’s advanced algorithms and efficient job distribution reduces characterization time from weeks to days. During characterization, SPICE simulations are continuously monitored, and numerous data checks and recovery mechanisms significantly improve turn-around time by pinpointing specific model results and simulations if a problem is detected.

Kronos Characterizer is a high-throughput, general purpose cell library characterization tool for standard cells, complex cells, IO pad, and custom macros. The Kronos platform features high-performance integration with the best-in-class Eldo Classic SPICE simulator. Eldo Classic has been extensively optimized for cell characterization, offering quick simulation turnarounds and the industry’s most accurate results.

The tight integration of Kronos Characterizer with Eldo Classic delivers improved performance for shorter total characterization time through dedicated features in the Eldo simulator that support library characterization.

Kronos Analyzer is a library analysis and verification tool for ensuring high quality libraries whether qualifying libraries from an external supplier or developing library models internally. The tool enables design engineers and library qualification teams to compare and validate complex ASIC cell libraries for design-critical characteristics such as performance, area, and power. Kronos Analyzer can be used with any cell characterization solution for library validation and optimization.

“Our customers know that sophisticated and robust Standard Cell Library analysis and characterization are of critical importance,” said Robert Hum, VP and GM, Deep Submicron Division (DSM), Mentor Graphics. “Our SPICE simulator, Eldo, has been optimized for cell characterization and used to drive this type of solution for many years. Now we have the opportunity to deeply integrate Eldo into a best-in-class characterization technology for optimal accuracy and performance.”

ARM extends tool reach via Avnet's store

USA: Avnet Electronics Marketing announced the availability of ARM embedded development tools on the Embedded Software Store (ESS).

Launched in 2011 by Avnet Electronics Marketing and ARM, the online Embedded Software Store provides customer solutions in the embedded software community, providing easy access to available software that supports ARM architecture.

The offering will include the ARM Development Studio 5 (DS-5) tool chain, DSTREAM debug and trace unit, MDK-ARM microcontroller development kit and ULINK family of debug adapters.

In addition, Avnet Electronics Marketing Americas, a business region of Avnet Inc., will become an ARM authorized distributor for ARM developer tool products. Customers can now purchase ARM products through their local sales representative.

“With the addition of the ARM tools to the Embedded Software Store, our mutual customers can now access the leading embedded tools from ARM online,” said Tim Barber, senior VP, design chain global business development, Avnet Electronics Marketing. “Being able to acquire enablement IP through the Embedded Software store will accelerate engineers to develop robust and highly optimized embedded software for ARM devices. Through this franchise, Avnet will be able to provide support for ARM tools to ARM silicon partners who are targeting the embedded market segment with their solutions.”

“Embedded developers need more advanced software tools to move from 8-bit to 32-bit solutions,” said John Cornish, executive VP and GM, System Design Division, ARM. “These tools need to address complex design challenges to deliver always-on connectivity and dynamic graphical user interfaces, which are now commonplace in the embedded systems space. Delivering tools that are optimized for ARM processor-based embedded platforms, via Avnet’s distribution channels, enables more developers to meet next-generation design requirements and reduce design cycles.”

How will technology evolution impact semiconductor industry and its supply chain?

FRANCE: According to Yole Développement, “In the semiconductor industry, there are different ways of managing the technology evolution and doing business”. Indeed, key players like Intel are at the forefront of technological developments and adapt their capabilities by introducing new production lines. Such companies have vast financial resources for in-house development.

However, for most of today’s semiconductor companies, this is not the case. Instead, they’re limited by industrialization costs and have thus decided to subcontract this step to foundries. But regardless of which path a company takes, the semiconductor supply chain is moving swiftly and the fabless business model is becoming increasingly popular.
The fabless model has existed in the semiconductor sector for many years and has proven to be very successful. Today, the top 12 fabless semiconductor companies own 80 percent of the market. Due to their long-running, ever-growing success, we’ve seen the emergence of fabless companies in other sectors such as MEMS, Sensors, and Power Electronics. In fact, "Going fabless" has become a strategic choice.

So what are the options, and how are they best evaluated? When and how should they be re-evaluated?

Yole Développement and Serma Technologies have combined their industry knowledge to create a unique European event where companies can exchange information about supply chain evolution and discuss critical topics such as the impact of current and future technologies on the supply chain, the status of fabless companies, and the added-value of the fabless business model. The event is called Successful Semiconductor Fabless 2013 (SSF 2013), and it takes place in Paris from April 10-12, 2013.

Analog Devices and Bourns intro industry’s first complete evaluation board with certified RS-485 electro-magnetic protection

USA: Analog Devices Inc. and Bourns, Inc., a leading manufacturer and supplier of electronic components, introduced the industry’s first certified RS-485 evaluation board for protecting against EMC (electro-magnetic compatibility) events in industrial and instrumentation equipment.

Available through both companies, the EVAL-CN0313-SDPZ board incorporates ADI’s ADM3485E, 3.3-V RS-485 transceiver and various circuit protection devices from Bourns and meets IEC61000-4-2/4/5 ESD (electro-static discharge), EFT (electronically-fast transients), and power-surge specifications.

The board is offered as part of ADI’s Circuits from the Lab reference circuits library and includes circuit notes, test data and results to help engineers reduce design risk in applications such as motor controls, grid tied inverters, and programmable-logic controllers. The board is available from all authorized distributors of ADI and select authorized distributors of Bourns.

Microchip's BodyCom is world's first to use human body as a secure, low-power communication channel

USA: Microchip Technology Inc. announced the launch of its BodyCom technology, which provides designers with the world's first framework for using the human body as a secure communication channel.

Compared to existing wireless methods, BodyCom technology provides lower energy consumption, while further increasing security via bidirectional authentication.

Because no RF antennae are required, BodyCom technology allows for simpler circuit-level designs and a lower bill of materials (BOM).  All of this is enabled by the BodyCom Development V1.0 Framework, which is supplied through free software libraries that work on all of Microchip's more than 900 8, 16 and 32-bit PIC microcontrollers.

BodyCom technology is activated by capacitively coupling to the human body. The system then begins communicating bidirectionally between a centralized controller and one or more wireless units.  There are a broad range of applications where secure wireless communication is essential, and there is no more secure channel than the human body.  This is especially true when you add bidirectional authentication that supports advanced encryption, such as KeeLoq technology and AES.

For example, BodyCom technology helps prevent the "Relay Attack" problem that is typical in automotive passive-keyless-entry security systems.

Most secure, short-range communication designs are battery-powered and highly cost-constrained. BodyCom technology significantly increases battery life by eliminating the need for a wireless transceiver or high-power inductive fields.  It also simplifies development and lowers BOM costs by not only making antenna design unnecessary, but also by using a low-frequency framework with a common microcontroller and standard AFE frequencies (125 kHz and 8 MHz)—no external crystals are needed.

As it complies with FCC Part 15-B for radiated emissions, BodyCom technology eliminates the cost and complexity of certification.

Additional example applications include Access Control (security systems, home/industrial door locks, pet doors); Personal Safety & Security (equipment access/disable, power tools, firearms, computer systems); Medical (patient monitoring, hospital-room access, equipment tracking); and Consumer (profile management for gaming consoles and exercise equipment).

"BodyCom technology provides a more secure, low-cost and easy method for implementing short-range, low-data-rate wireless communication with the lowest power consumption," said Steve Drehobl, VP of Microchip's MCU8 Division. "Our BodyCom Development Framework is available via free download, and it works with any of our PIC microcontrollers, which presents a very low barrier of entry for designers."

ST and Soundchip intro components to create smart HF audio accessories that dazzle

SWITZERLAND: STMicroelectronics, together with Soundchip, a Swiss-based innovator in audio-systems technology and originator of the High-Definition-Personal-Audio (HD-PA) Reference, has introduced two HD-PA audio engines, STANC0 and STANC1, and an HD-PA microphone, the MP34AB01H, which enable the creation of exciting, feature rich, software-controlled smart audio accessories.

STANC0 and STANC1 are HD-PA audio engines designed to regulate the sound performance of over-ear, on-ear and in-ear headsets. Designed for stereo and monaural applications respectively, STANC0 and STANC1 incorporate Soundchip’s patented Soundcore R3 electronics, which implement a patented hybrid analog-digital architecture that is capable of processing sound at zero-latency with an unmatched 100 dB of dynamic range.

STANC0 and STANC1 incorporate the means to deploy powerful digitally configurable feedback and feed-forward active noise cancellation (ANC) processing for the removal of unwanted environmental noise, as well as digitally controlled binaural monitoring to provide natural, open ear listening with comfortable, occlusion-free speech.

Unlike competitor’s products, which configure active noise cancelling filters through the selection and placement of hundreds of passive components around a “noise cancelling” op-amp, STANC0 and STANC1 integrate these filters on-chip. Filter and device settings may be programmed digitally to optimize their performance with connected acoustics or configured in real-time by a complementary DSP, such as the STM32 F4, to enable exciting new features such as auto-active noise cancellation and augmented reality.

STANC0 and STANC1 are highly integrated devices supplied in a compact 4.5mm x 4.5mm LF-BGA package. Both devices can operate from a single AAA battery or host-supplied power source ensuring their suitability for the wired and wireless aftermarket, as well as in-box audio accessories.

Mark Donaldson, Soundchip CEO, said, “The latest HD-PA devices from STMicroelectronics present exciting new opportunities for customers to extend boundaries of innovation in personal audio and to realize a new generation of superior-sounding active noise-cancellation headsets and smart audio accessories.”

“As a global leader in the design and high-volume manufacturing of integrated circuits and MEMS, ST’s collaboration with Soundchip and the introduction of these new HD-PA components provide a tangible demonstration of our commitment to audio and smart audio in particular,” said Andrea Onetti, Audio and Sound Business Unit Leader at STMicroelectronics.

The MP34AB01 is a compact 3.76mm x 2.95mm analog, bottom-port, HD-PA-compliant MEMS silicon microphone designed specifically for combination with STMicroelectronics’ HD-PA audio engines. Featuring a flat audio response between 20Hz and 20kHz, market-leading 66dB SNR, zero-latency output, and surface-mount assembly, the MP34AB01H is the perfect companion to STANC0 and STANC1, providing an accurate and reliable measure of in-ear and ambient sound conditions necessary for the effective operation of feedback and feed-forward active noise cancelling.

HD-PA components are supported by a comprehensive suite of Soundstation computer-aided-design and manufacturing tools, which simplify product development and significantly improve manufacturing reliability. Component samples and evaluation boards are available to customers under a dedicated non-disclosure agreement.

New version of Analog Devices’ simulation tool significantly eases development of RF systems

USA: Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) has released a new version of its popular ADIsimRF design tool.

The free design tool is the software accompaniment to ADI's complete portfolio of RF-to-digital functional blocks, allowing engineers to model RF signal chains using devices from across ADI's RF IC and data converter portfolio. ADIsimRF Version 1.7 adds a number of new device models along with enhanced support for inter-stage mismatch calculations.

The design tool provides calculations for the most important parameters within an RF signal chain, including cascaded gain, noise figure, IP3, P1dB, and total power consumption. The ADIsimRF design tool contains embedded data from many of ADI's RF ICs and data converters, which designers can easily access using pull-down menus to assist in component selection.

The new version of the ADIsimRF design tool includes significant enhancements to inter-stage mismatch calculations. One of the tool’s unique capabilities as an RF signal chain calculator is its ability to calculate scalar mismatch loss that results when two adjacent devices have different output and input impedances.

In ADIsimRF Version 1.7, device models for many non-50 Ohm devices such as I/Q Demodulators, VGAs and ADC Drivers have been tweaked in order to take full advantage of the tool’s ability to factor the effect of inter-stage mismatch into cascaded IP3, P1dB, gain and noise figure calculations.

The new version also adds device models for ADI’s latest RF ICs, including the ADRF6755 I/Q modulator and the ADL5324, ADL5321 and ADL5320 driver amplifiers.

Freescale intros Kinetis KL02, world’s smallest ARM powered MCU

embedded world 2013, GERMANY: As the Internet of Things (IoT) expands to include greater numbers of small, intelligent, battery-operated devices, the MCUs that enable these devices must deliver performance, energy efficiency and connectivity in progressively smaller footprints.

Freescale Semiconductor is addressing the miniaturization trend with its new Kinetis KL02 MCU–the world’s smallest ARM Powered MCU. The KL02 holds great potential for ultra-small-form-factor products in applications such as portable consumer devices, remote sensing nodes, wearable devices and ingestible healthcare sensing.

Measuring just 1.9 x 2.0 mm, the Kinetis KL02 MCU is 25 percent smaller than the industry’s next-smallest ARM® MCU. Within this miniscule device, Freescale has included the latest 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0+ processor, cutting-edge low-power functionality and a range of analog and communication peripherals.

This enables system designers to dramatically reduce the size of their boards and products while retaining the all-important performance, feature integration and power consumption characteristics of their end devices. In addition, space-constrained applications that previously couldn’t incorporate an MCU now can be upgraded to become smart applications, adding a new tier of devices to the IoT ecosystem.

“Freescale has been a pioneer in many aspects of the ARM Powered MCU market with our Kinetis portfolio,” said Geoff Lees, senior VP and GM of Freescale’s Microcontroller business. “We were the first to market with MCUs based on the ARM Cortex-M4 and Cortex-M0+ processors, we set new standards for entry-level MCU energy efficiency, and we’ve now created the world’s smallest ARM Powered MCU, helping advance the Internet of Things era.”

“The Internet of Things will soon be a vast and diverse ecosystem of smart connected devices and screens that embed intelligence into many new areas of our lives. This could range from tiny sensors helping to monitor crops and deliver irrigation, to microcontrollers that enable entire buildings to be more energy efficient. Our mobile devices could be soon controlling and managing this data and making our lives easier to manage," said Richard York, director, Embedded Processor Products, ARM.

“The Kinetis KL02 CSP MCU brings the best ARM and Freescale technologies to applications at the very edge of the IoT and opens up exciting possibilities for a new tier of ultra-small, smart, power-efficient devices.”

Cypress’s TrueTouch solution with single-layer sensor powers touchscreen on Vanzo smart phone

Mobile World Congress 2013, SPAIN: Cypress Semiconductor Corp. announced that Vanzo Communication Inc., a provider of mobile handset solutions based in China, has selected the TrueTouch touchscreen solution for its X1 series Android smartphone.

The touchscreen uses Cypress’s SLIM (single-layer independent multi-touch) sensor to deliver high-performance accuracy and responsiveness with a true single-layer sensor panel. The SLIM sensor enables the phone to track common gestures such as pinch, zoom, flick, drag, swipe, and others requiring more than two fingers.

SLIM is the industry’s first true single-substrate, single-layer Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) touchscreen sensor in production. Unlike competitive solutions, it requires no additional insulation layers or bridges. The elimination of a second sensor layer can save mobile device manufacturers 40 percent or more on sensor costs, which is often the most expensive part of the touchscreen module. A single-layer structure also greatly reduces the thickness of the sensor module.

“Many smartphones on the market today in China do not offer capacitive touchscreens because of the cost, or they offer only basic touch features,” said John Carey, senior director of TrueTouch Marketing at Cypress. “The SLIM sensor enables outstanding multi-touch and gesture tracking for the Vanzo X1 series, and we believe the top-notch touchscreen interface will serve as a true differentiator for smartphones in high-volume markets.”

“The Cypress single-layer SLIM sensor delivers excellent multi-touch touchscreen performance and contributes to the sleek design of our X1 series phones, while still allowing us to offer them at a competitive price-point for the high-volume smartphone market in China,” said Liu Junming, GM of Vanzo.

Traditional capacitive touchscreens use a two-layer sensor to deliver the accuracy and linearity required for today’s user experience. Cypress’s proprietary algorithms interface with the single-layer SLIM sensor to deliver two-layer performance for an unparalleled combination of user experience and cost sensitivity.

The SLIM sensor can be deposited directly on the cover glass to create the thinnest touchscreen phones ever. The sensor pattern for SLIM is even more unique in that it can eliminate the requirement for a side bezel, normally about 2 mm on each side of the end product. This feature enables borderless display modules that allow OEMs to use larger displays without changing the form factor of the phone.

Elektrobit and Renesas Electronics provide platform for next-gen high-end infotainment systems

USA: The runtime solution of Elektrobit (EB)’s development platform for human machine interfaces (HMIs), EB GUIDE Graphic Target Framework (GTF), has been ported to the Renesas Electronics Corp. (Renesas) R-Car H1.

The collaboration enables car manufacturers to use the high-end Renesas chip in combination with the EB GUIDE GTF to utilize the advanced graphical capabilities of the SoC. The carmakers will benefit by a huge acceleration in development processes and will also be able to create cost effective prototypes of future HMI platforms.

Masayasu Yoshida, senior manager of automotive information systems solution department, Renesas Electronics said: “This powerful combination of one of the industry’s most comprehensive solutions for the development of multimedia infotainment systems and a leading SoC platform that offers one of the best graphical performances in the embedded market will be a decisive driver for future development.”

Benefits for carmakers and suppliers
The R-Car H1 SoC by Renesas, the leading supplier of semiconductors in the automotive sector, is particularly dedicated to high performance multimedia radio navigation head units. The integrated GPU (Graphic processing unit) is suitable for demanding 3-D graphics applications; it offers one of the best graphical performances in the embedded market.

Now, carmakers are able to use the high-end Renesas SoC with the EB GUIDE GTF for the early prototyping stage of instrument clusters, infotainment systems and navigation systems.

Thanks to the cooperation with EB, carmakers can estimate the R-Car H1's performance in the early development stages. Moreover they can save costs and time to build a prototyping environment due to the off-the-shelf GTF porting.

This means, they have immediate access to state-of-the-art technology for HMI development and can try out and evaluate their solutions through the specification process to the implementation process. Existing and future EB GUIDE users are free to concentrate entirely on their key area of expertise, the development of their own HMIs.

MEMS microphones turn up volume with 60 percent growth in 212

USA: Microelectromechanical system (MEMS) microphones that provide clear sound in mobile devices made a major splash last year with brisk shipment and revenue growth, thanks to four major applications that helped the market grow by leaps and bounds, according to an IHS iSuppli MEMS & Sensors Special Report.

Shipments of MEMS microphones in 2012 amounted to 2.05 billion units, up a remarkable 57 percent from 1.30 billion in 2011. Shipments this year will climb by another 30 percent to 2.66 billion units, to be followed by at least three more years of notable double-digit-rate increases. By 2016, approximately 4.65 billion MEMS microphones will be shipping.

Revenue also made big gains in 2012, up 42 percent to $582 million, on the way to a projected $1.0 billion by 2016.

“Microphones continue to be one of the biggest success stories in MEMS, with the rapid growth of the device due to its increasing penetration in the four areas of cellphones, laptops, headsets and media tablets,” said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and senior principal analyst for MEMS & sensors at IHS. “MEMS microphones also can be found to a lesser extent in applications such as gaming, cameras, televisions and hearing aids, contributing to their broadening use overall, with further utilization coming to set-top boxes this year and to automotive during the next three years.”

Microphones ring up cellphones
For cellphones—by far the top application—penetration of MEMS microphones rose to 69 percent last year, up from 52 percent in 2011 and 38 percent in 2010. In particular, multiple microphones are now being adopted in smartphones for noise suppression, in which the cancellation of ambient sounds is crucial for handsets when carrying out voice commands, like what Siri does in the Apple iPhones.

The total number of microphones per handset is also on the rise: While midrange to high-end smartphones mostly used two microphones in 2010 and 2011, three microphones are fast becoming standard ever since Apple introduced a third device on the back of the iPhone 5 for high-definition video recording.

MEMS microphones are likewise making major headway into media tablets, expected to become the second-ranked application by 2016. Even though the first tablets on the market, such as the initial iPad from Apple and the Galaxy Tab from Samsung Electronics, used electret condenser microphones (ECM), MEMS microphones had started to appear by the second generation of tablets. New use cases for noise suppression and voice commands are expected to add to the total device count moving forward, resulting in as many as four microphones in some tablets in the future.

MEMS microphones were also present in more than half of laptop computers last year, as well as in headsets for the iPhone 4 and 4S.

Manufacturers like mics
The MEMS microphone market is driven by both price and performance considerations. While MEMS microphones remain much more expensive than ECMs—over which MEMS microphones enjoy advantages in reliability, performance and ease of manufacturing—the price gap between the two has been narrowing. Moreover, sound quality and acoustics are becoming important differentiators in mobile devices, with manufacturers like Nokia and Apple willing to pay a significant price premium to obtain better performance and recently migrating to MEMS.

Apple, for instance, used ECMs exclusively for its first iPad and until the iPhone 3GS. Since the iPad 2 and iPhone 4, however, the California-based maker has switched to solely using MEMS microphones.

Both Apple and Samsung were the top consumers of MEMS microphones last year, accounting for a combined 54 percent of all shipped MEMS microphones, well ahead of other significant users like LG Electronics and Motorola.

The top supplier of MEMS microphones was U.S.-based Knowles Electronics, which continued to dominate even though its share of shipments last year slipped to 58 percent, down from 74 percent in 2011, on the face of increased competition. Knowles is a second supplier of MEMS microphones for the iPhone, and is a first supplier for the iPad mini.

Other important MEMS microphone suppliers were AAC and Goertek, both from China and ranked second and third, respectively. In fourth place was Analog Devices Inc. from Massachusetts, the sole supplier in the iPhone 5 of the third microphone—a high-performance, high-revenue-generating part.

Together the four top makers represented nearly 90 percent of MEMS microphone shipments last year, with the remaining portion of the market split among seven other suppliers, including Italian-French supplier STMicroelectronics in fifth place.

Chinese makers figure prominently in the industry—as do Chinese smartphones and handset manufacturers acting as consumers, emerging as a major driving force after utilizing some 200 million MEMS microphone units last year.

Source: IHS iSuppli, USA.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Five IC suppliers to hold one-third of 300mm wafer capacity in 2013

USA: It is a fact that semiconductor industry capital spending is becoming more concentrated with a greater percentage of spending coming from a shrinking number of companies.  As a result, IC industry capacity is also becoming more concentrated and this trend is especially prevalent in 300mm wafer technology.
The list was compiled and included in IC Insights’ updated report titled, Global Wafer Capacity 2013—Detailed Analysis and Forecast of the IC Industry’s Wafer Fab Capacity.

Samsung was by far the leader in 2012 having about 61 percent more 300mm capacity than second-place SK Hynix. Intel was the only other company that held a double-digit share of 300mm capacity at the end of 2012.  Assuming Micron is successful in acquiring Elpida in 1H13, the combined 300mm wafer capacity of the two companies will make the merged company the second-largest holder of 300mm capacity in the world behind Samsung.

Of the top 10 companies on the list, half are primarily memory suppliers, two are pure-play foundries, and one company, Intel, is focused on MPUs.  Samsung is expected to maintain its lead in installed capacity through 2017, with aggressive capital spending plans seen over the past few years continuing over the next five years.

However, in terms of growth rate, IC Insights expects the largest increase in 300mm capacity to come from the pure-play foundries—TSMC, GlobalFoundries, UMC, and SMIC. In total, IC Insights expects these four companies to more than double their collective 300mm wafer starts per month by 2017.

IC Insights believes that the companies listed will represent essentially all the advanced 300mm IC production and capacity in the future.  IC Insights believes that the top seven or eight companies—Samsung, “Micron-Elpida,” TSMC, SK Hynix, Intel, Toshiba/SanDisk, and GlobalFoundries—can be considered an “elite” group that is just about guaranteed to be a driving force in 300mm capacity additions.

The remaining companies are likely to participate in future 300mm capacity expansion, but all have varying degrees of risk associated with fully realizing their long-term 300mm IC production capacity goals.

Meanwhile, there is still much uncertainty as to when the industry will make the next wafer-size transition—from 300mm to 450mm—and how much it will cost to do so, but momentum continues to build and the transition can now be considered certain to happen.  IC manufacturers have yet to fully optimize the high-volume manufacturing cost structure for the 300mm wafer size.

However, the potential per-die cost savings that the larger wafer can provide is enough of a motivating factor to make the transition happen.

Yole recognizes ST as first $1 billion MEMS company

FRANCE: Yole Développement’s research has credited STMicroelectronics for capitalizing on the booming demand for MEMS in mobile devices by shipping a whopping 58 percent more MEMS units in 2012 to become the first company to reach $1 billion in MEMS sales. And that was in a year when the average prices of accelerometers and gyroscopes that are its core MEMS products dropped by 20-30 percent.

“The company was there and ready with its 8-inch fab when the volume demand started, as well as a large portfolio of products and low prices,” notes Laurent Robin, Activity Leader, Inertial MEMS Devices & Technologies at Yole Développement. “They could use a feed-the-fab-strategy to build volumes, and discounts for buyers of multiple devices to meet the price demands of the cell phone makers.”

“Even more than Yole Développement’s recognition of ST’s achieving the revenue milestone, we appreciate the endorsement from our customers, across a broad range of applications and segments, of our strategy of being a reliable one-stop MEMS partner,” said Benedetto Vigna, Executive Vice President and General Manager of STMicroelectronics Analog, MEMS and Sensors Group. “We remain fully committed to continuing to meet our customers’ expectations and to expanding the role of sensors in ways that augment all of our lives.”

The morphing of the MEMS industry into a high volume consumer smart phone business has played to the advantage of big IDMs with their ability to ramp volumes to price aggressively, and to offer customers a wide variety of products from a single source to simplify the supply chain. The inertial sensor business also drove healthy 14% MEMS growth at Robert Bosch, boosting that big IDM’s sales close to those of long time industry leader Texas Instruments in a further reshuffling of the top companies lineup. Yole Développement will release its complete listing of the Top 30 MEMS companies early in April.

ST is now churning out some 4 million MEMS devices a day, offering not only inertial sensors but also now consumer pressure sensors, microphones, and e-compasses. The fully-integrated supplier has been able to optimize all steps in the process to wring out costs, from its mature standard manufacturing process for all inertial sensors, to its in-house ASIC design, to its long expertise in common LGA packaging across all products, to its high volume parallel testing developed on commercial equipment with SPEA, to its sales force that can sell and deal on the whole smart phone sensor line.
The company has also pushed the manufacturing technology to bring down die size, replacing glass frit with narrower gold bonding frames and replacing big bond pads with smaller TSVs made by etching air gaps around polysilicon vias. And it turned to outside partnerships (microphone technology from Omron) and purchases (magnetometers from Honeywell) to get new products to market faster.

Gyroscopes were ST’s leading product, with Yole estimating sales increased by almost 10 percent to some $380 million – despite the 30 percent drop in industry average gyro prices for the year. ST remains the market leader in accelerometers, with some $280 million in sales on a healthy unit volume increase, though the 20-25 percent industry average fall in prices limited revenue growth.

The company also saw growth in its new products, including its 6-axis IMU with accelerometers and gyros, its e-compass with accelerometers and magnetometers, its MEMS microphone and its consumer pressure sensor.

Socle now offers Arteris FlexNoC platform

USA:  Arteris Inc., the inventor and only supplier of silicon-proven commercial network-on-chip (NoC) interconnect IP solutions,  announced that Socle Technology Corp. has licensed the Arteris FlexNoC interconnect IP for its internal technology platforms and will provide design and implementation services for high-end SoC design customers.

Socle Technology, design affiliate of GLOBALFOUNDRIES, offers leading-edge design and implementation services, enabling its customers to overcome obstacles in ultra-deep submicron SoC design. Socle taped out its first 28nm ASIC design using GLOBALFOUNDRIES' 28nm super low power technology (SLP) with Gate First High-K Metal Gate (HKMG) in 2012. The Arteris FlexNoC fabric IP platform  enables higher interconnect frequencies, solves routing congestion and provides faster time-to-market for Socle's customers.

"Our customers require the latest, most advanced technology and the Arteris FlexNoC interconnect IP is a necessary addition to our portfolio," said Stone Peng, president and CEO of Socle. "Acquiring the FlexNoC license strengthens our technology platform and design services offerings, and provides our customers with more options to future-proof their solutions."

"Arteris is very pleased to add Socle Technology as one of our design partners," said K. Charles Janac, president and CEO of Arteris. "Having a member of the GLOBALFOUNDRIES family offering our NoC interconnect IP will certainly benefit customers with bandwidth-critical applications who want to advance to next generation technology."

TI gate drivers target IGBT and SiC FET designs

USA: Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) introduced the industry's first 35-V, single-channel, output stage power management gate drivers for insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) and silicon carbide (SiC) FETs.

TI's new UCC27531 and UCC27532 output stage gate drivers with split output provide the most efficient output drive capability, shortest propagation delay and increased system protection for isolated power designs, such as solar DC/AC inverters, uninterruptible power supplies and electric vehicle charging.

Today's renewable energy applications require power components that safely deliver more power with greater efficiency. Designers prefer to use IGBTs or the latest SiC FETs that achieve lower power loss at greater than 400 V. Those devices also have standoff voltages up to 1,200 volts, and offer lower ON resistance than equivalent MOSFETs.

They are often managed by a TI microcontroller or dedicated digital power controller, such as the UCD3138. Next-generation IGBT- and SiC FET-based designs also require both power and signal isolation from the noisy switching environment of the power stage.

The UCC27531 and UCC27532 prevent the digital controllers from operating too close to the power circuitry, extending the lifetime of isolated power designs.

Key features and benefits of the UCC27531:
* Strong output drive capability: Peak current of 2.5A source and 5A sink allows fast charging of IGBTs and ensures reliable and efficient operation.
* Fastest propagation time: 17 ns typical delay improves driver efficiency.
* High reliability: UVLO settings and rail-to-rail output voltage provide system protection.
* Handles noisy environments: Negative input voltage handling allows the driver to support many industrial designs.
* System protection: Split-output configuration improves Miller turn-on immunity and prevents damage of IGBT/MOSFET.

Xilinx announces full production of entire Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoC family

USA: Xilinx Inc. achieved an important milestone as its entire Zynq-7000 All Programmable System-on-a-Chip (SoC) device family reached full volume production.

Demand for Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoCs is strong and growing with over 350 unique customers and more than 20,000 devices and 4,000 development boards from Xilinx and Avnet shipped since December 2011. Designs are now active across a wide range of markets, including automotive, industrial, communications, data center, and defense.

“Xilinx is clearly a generation ahead of its competition in every dimension; delivery to specifications, design enablement, ecosystem development, customer designs, and production delivery.  The momentum of the Zynq-7000 platform is accelerating as demand grows for highly integrated ‘smart’ and secure SoC devices offering hardware, software and I/O programmability,” said Larry Getman, VP of processing platforms at Xilinx.

The Zynq-7000 family enables customers to add increasing levels of software-based intelligence to their systems including control, communications, security, system management and analytics, closely coupled with high performance, hardware-based data, packet and/or pixel processing. Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoC designers also benefit from the combination of the ARM Connected Community and the Xilinx Alliance Program.

This combination constitutes one of the industry’s widest ecosystems providing support for most popular free and commercial embedded operating systems and RTOS, a large selection of free and commercial development tools, over 20 development boards, design services, training and other products and services.

Micron intros SAS solid-state drive

USA:  Micron Technology Inc. announced another addition to its growing lineup of solid state drives (SSDs) targeted at data center appliances and enterprise storage platforms.

The new Micron P410m SSD is a high-endurance, high reliability 6 Gb/s Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) drive built to provide the performance necessary for mission-critical tier 1 storage applications that require uninterrupted, 24/7 data access.

SAS is preferred in these applications due to its dual-port interface, which offers the high availability and accessibility customers have come to expect from a SAS drive. The new Micron P410m provides the consistent low latency and balanced read/write performance necessary for tackling the unique workloads of persistent data storage.

The P410m uses Micron's advanced 25nm MLC NAND flash technology. Micron ensures high reliability in this advanced media by integrating their Extended Performance and Enhanced Reliability Technology (XPERT), which closely integrates the storage media and controller through highly-optimized firmware algorithms and hardware enhancements. The end result is a set of market-focused enterprise features that deliver increased data performance and reliability.

Nextchip selects Cortus APS5 for automotive and security apps

GERMANY: Cortus, a technology leader in cost effective, silicon efficient, 32-bit processor IP, and multimedia fabless semiconductor company Nextchip, announced that Nextchip has licensed APS5 and other Cortus processor cores. The cores are intended for use in security and automotive applications.

Cortus S.A. licenses a range of 32-bit processor cores for embedded systems. The cores provide licensees with a scalable choice in embedded computational performance and silicon area to meet a wide variety of application needs.

“The Cortus APS5 processor core, caches and associated peripheral IP provides key building blocks for our future video processing designs” says Kyoungsoo Kim, CEO and president of Nextchip, “The combination of good processing power and low silicon area is just right for our designs”. He adds, “With a range of compatible processor cores, Cortus provides us with the options we need for future projects”.

“Nextchip is well known for its innovative products based on their core expertise in video processing”, says Michael Chapman, CEO and president of Cortus, “We are very pleased that they have licensed a variety of processor and peripheral products from Cortus”.

The Cortus family of APS processors starts with the world’s smallest 32-bit core, the APS1, and goes up to the high performance APS5 and floating point FPS6. All cores interface to Cortus’ peripherals including Ethernet 10/100 MAC, USB 2.0 Device and USB 2.0 OTG via the efficient APS bus. They also share the simple vectored interrupt structure which ensures rapid, real time interrupt response, with low software overhead.

The APS toolchain and IDE (for C and C++) is available to licensees free of charge, and which can be customised and branded for final customer use. Ports of various RTOSs are available.

ST showcases latest products and technologies augmenting the mobile experience for consumers

SWITZERLAND: STMicroelectronics will present its rich offer of products and technologies, available now, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on February 25-28 at Hall 7, Booth E110.

ST's new strategy addresses the wireless market, focusing on the fastest-growing segments and leveraging the already established strong customer relationships with the major wireless players in the industry. These growing segments--Sensors, Imaging and Opto, MCUs, Standard Logic, Display Drivers, and Discretes--are projected to grow at a compound annual rate of nearly 17 percent over the next four years, almost 40 percent faster than the rest of the mobile handset and media tablet market, according to market-research firm IHS.

ST's new efforts build on the Company's earlier successes in enabling important innovations for portable electronics in areas as varied as power management, gesture sensing, security and imaging.

Illustrating the breadth and depth of its portfolio, ST's demos cover five key themes in the mobile world:

* Sensing, where ST will build on its position as the world's leading manufacturer of MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) devices and will also introduce a revolutionary proximity detector that cures smartphone hang-ups;

* Security, where ST's Near Field Communication and related Secure Elements provide the optimum solutions for mobile payments, mobile ticketing, securing personal data or interacting with equipment. A demo will highlight ST's Secure Element hosting Google Wallet in Nexus devices;

* Sharing and interaction, where the world's smallest and most efficient image-projection engine uses red, blue and green lasers and MEMS micro-mirrors to project amazing images from a mobile device to any surface;

* Energy management; where ST's unique energy-harvesting EEPROM and other demos will emphasize the company's commitment to minimizing power consumption; and

* Enhanced audio experience, where industry-unique audio engines and MEMS microphones extend boundaries of innovation in personal audio to realize a new generation of superior-sounding active noise-cancellation headsets and smart audio accessories.

ST will also demonstrate the superior performance of its ground-breaking FD-SOI (Fully-Depleted Silicon-on-Insulator) technology at 28nm that is not only faster than the equivalent bulk CMOS technology but also much simpler to manufacture and allows consumer devices to run cooler and faster.

Altera and TSMC continue long-term partnership

HONG KONG: Altera Corp. and TSMC re-affirmed their commitment to a long-term partnership to set new milestones in FPGA innovation. TSMC is Altera’s primary foundry, supplying a wide array of processes to fulfill Altera’s product portfolio, including soon-to-be released 20 nm products, existing mainstream products, and long-lived legacy components.

Altera is fully engaged with TSMC on developing products based on next-generation process technologies. Altera’s next major product family leverages TSMC’s cost-effective 20SoC process for optimal power and performance and will include several significant product and technology innovations for both companies. Altera will continue to leverage future TSMC process technologies in its tailored product portfolio for performance, bandwidth, and power efficiency needs across diverse end applications.

“Over the course of our 20-year collaboration, Altera and TSMC have achieved many industry milestones that have greatly benefitted both companies," said John Daane, president, CEO and chairman of Altera. “TSMC remains an important part of our future product development. We look forward to continuing our close partnership to jointly develop technologies for next-generation products.”

Morris Chang, TSMC’s chairman and CEO added: "The history of collaboration between Altera and TSMC has exemplified the way fabless and foundry have nurtured each other to become a powerful force in the semiconductor industry.  TSMC would not be where it is today without customers like Altera, and I firmly believe this partnership will continue to flourish."

Altera to build next-gen high-performance FPGAs on Intel’s 14 nm tri-gate technology

HONG KONG: Altera Corp. and Intel Corp. have entered into an agreement for the future manufacture of Altera FPGAs on Intel’s 14 nm tri-gate transistor technology. These next-generation products, which target ultra high-performance systems for military, wireline communications, cloud networking, and compute and storage applications, will enable breakthrough levels of performance and power efficiencies not otherwise possible.

“Altera’s FPGAs using Intel 14 nm technology will enable customers to design with the most advanced, highest-performing FPGAs in the industry,” said John Daane, president, CEO and chairman of Altera. “In addition, Altera gains a tremendous competitive advantage at the high end in that we are the only major FPGA company with access to this technology.”

Altera’s next-generation products will now include 14 nm, in addition to previously announced 20 nm technologies, extending the company’s tailored product portfolio that meets myriad customer needs for performance, bandwidth and power efficiency across diverse end applications.

“We look forward to collaborating with Altera on manufacturing leading-edge FPGAs, leveraging Intel’s leadership in process technology,” said Brian Krzanich, chief operating officer, Intel.  “Next-generation products from Altera require the highest performance and most power-efficient technology available, and Intel is well positioned to provide the most advanced offerings.”

Adding this world-class manufacturer to Altera’s strong foundation of leading-edge suppliers and partners furthers the company’s ability to deliver on the promise of silicon convergence; to integrate hardware and software programmability, microprocessors, digital signal processing, and ASIC capability into a single device; and deliver a more flexible and economical alternative to traditional ASICs and ASSPs.

ST launches single-chip magnetometer

SWITZERLAND: STMicroelectronics has added a high-performance standalone 3-axis magnetometer to its MEMS sensor portfolio. The new sensor delivers high performance in a very small package.

Because of its small size and high performance, the sensor is ideal for mobile phones, tablets or personal navigation devices.ST’s standalonemagnetometeris also perfectly suited to indoor navigation applications where it reliably calculates dead-reckoning when no satellite signal is available

By introducing the 2x2x1mmLIS3MDLmagnetometer, ST now offers unique flexibility for designers to implement movement and position detection in space-constrained products such as smartphones and personal navigation devices.

The device can also be combined with other discrete sensors from ST such as 3-axis MEMS accelerometer or 3-axis MEMS gyroscope, to build sensors with as many as 9 degrees of freedom (DOF).

Using ST’s iNEMO Engine Sensor Fusion software, designers can further enhance location-detection capabilities by integrating additional miniature sensors from ST’s portfolio for multiple-DOF (M-DOF) sensing.Sensor Fusion software helps coordinate any combination of sensors from ST’s broad portfolio to create reliable, high-quality M-DOF systems quickly and efficiently for location-based services, enhanced motion-based gaming, and pedestrian dead-reckoning for indoor and multi-floor navigation.

For example adding a MEMS pressure sensor, for altitude sensing, can enhance in-building accuracy, as wellas support extendedsmartphone functionality and location-based operator services.

“By introducing our first discrete magnetometerand offering high performance and low power consumption, we can now offer customers a complete range of standalone and integrated miniaturesensors,” said Fabio Pasolini, GM, Motion MEMS Division, STMicroelectronics. “Designers can partition their multiple-degrees-of-freedomsensor designs with optimal performance.”

ST is the leading supplier of MEMS devices for consumer and mobile applications according to IHS, with 48% of the world market for motion sensors in mobile handsets and tablets in 2012. ST’s sensors are the most used sensors across all of the major portable operating systems (Android, iOS, and Windows).  Samples of the LIS3MDLare available and mass production is scheduled for Q2 2013.Unit pricing is US$0.60 for volumes in the range of 1,000 pieces.

Altera intros FPGA-based HSR/PRP reference design targeting smart grid automation equipment

HONG KONG: Altera Corp. has expanded its FPGA-based solutions targeting smart energy systems by announcing a High-availability Seamless Redundancy (HSR) and Parallel Redundancy Protocol (PRP) reference design targeting smart grid substation automation equipment.

Developed jointly with Flexibilis Oy, a provider of networking equipment and technologies for wireless and wired applications, the IEC 62439-3-compliant reference design includes Flexibilis Redundant Switch (FRS) intellectual property (IP) implemented on an Altera low-power, low-cost Cyclone-class FPGA or Cyclone V SoC. The reference design simplifies development and implementation of highly reliable mission-critical communications systems in smart grid substations.

“A key trend today in developing a smarter power grid is bidirectional communication and real-time control of the equipment in the grid’s transmission and distribution substations,” said Jason Chiang, senior strategic marketing manager in Altera’s Industrial Business Unit. “Our FPGA-based HSR/PRP reference design enables equipment manufactures to build flexibility, performance, reliability and product longevity into their systems while lowering system costs and future proofing designs.”

The Flexibilis HSR/PRP IP included in the reference design is a triple-speed 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet Layer 2 switch that is scalable from 3 to 8 ports and is compliant with the IEC 62439-3 standard. The IP is optimized for use on an Altera low-power, low-cost Cyclone IV FPGA, Cyclone V FPGA or Cyclone V SoC, which feature an integrated dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor subsystem.

Cyclone V SoCs enable customers to reduce component costs by implementing their HSR/PRP switch along with the associated software stacks running on the ARM processor subsystem in the FPGA. For timing synchronization, the HSR/PRP solution supports IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP) Version 2. Altera and Flexibilis are showcasing the FPGA-based HSR/PRP reference design in Altera’s booth at Embedded World 2013, located in Hall 4, Booth 436.

“The IEC 62439-3 standard is rapidly evolving, making the flexibility of an FPGA an ideal platform to base our FSR IP on,” said Heikki Ala-Juusela, chairman of the board at Flexibilis. “Altera’s highly integrated FPGAs and SoCs allow users to reduce their total cost of ownership while at the same time leverage the device’s performance to handle Gigabit Ethernet traffic. This HSR/PRP solution ensures designers can future-proof their substation automation systems by ensuring communication with future generations of intelligent electronics devices.”

The FPGA-based HSR/PRP reference design expands Altera’s reach into the smart energy market. Altera’s programmable solutions provide developers of smart grid equipment the means to adapt to evolving standards and increase their system’s performance and scalability.

Altera and Flexibilis make it easy to implement an FPGA-based HSR/PRP Ethernet switch. Combining Altera FPGAs with the FRS IP provides an easy and cost-effective way to implement highly reliable mission-critical communications systems in smart grid substations by offering no license negotiation, no up-front licensing costs and no per-unit royalty reporting.

LFoundry to acquire Micron wafer manufacturing plant in Italy

USA & GERMANY: Micron Technology Inc. and LFoundry have entered into agreements for LFoundry to acquire Micron Technology Italia, Srl. and all of its semiconductor fabrication facility assets in Avezzano, Italy.

Under the agreements, Micron will assign to LFoundry its four-year supply agreement with Aptina to manufacture image sensors at the 200 millimeter Avezzano facility. Micron will also grant LFoundry a
restricted technology license. Specific financial terms of the transaction, which is expected to close later this spring, were not disclosed.

"The manufacturing capabilities of Micron's fab in Avezzano, Italy, together with our own existing fab and technologies, make this a winning combination and an important part of our strategic goal in building LFoundry's business into a premier analog mixed signal and specialty foundry partner for our customers," said LFoundry CEO Gunther Ernst.

"This transaction provides a long-term bridge toward a successful future for the Avezzano facility," said Micron CEO Mark Durcan. "The transaction not only preserves the facility and jobs in Avezzano, but it also supports a stable and long-term wafer supply for Aptina, further enhancing the value of Micron's equity holdings in Aptina."

Pericom expands USB 3.0 signal conditioning family

USA: Pericom Semiconductor Corp., a leading supplier of high-speed connectivity, signal-conditioning and timing solutions, announced the expansion of its USB 3.0 5Gb ReDriver Signal Conditioning product family.

The new additions offer the industry’s smallest footprint at 2mmx2mm, and  lowest  power in both operating (158mW) and all important slumber mode (3.63mW), making them ideal for battery powered mobile devices, such as tablets, smart phones, and notebooks. AC powered platforms such as servers and networking switches also benefit since power and space savings are equally important.

Pericom’s USB 3.0 ReDriver family enables end customer platform designers to extend the PCB trace or cable length and preserve signal integrity.  The extra signal margin can help assure that the platform will properly recognize and connect to a peripheral USB 3.0 device at USB 3.0 speeds.

“Mobile device chipsets typically have lower signal strength, so our smaller, lower power ReDrivers are being adopted to handle the external cable and still meet USB3 standards compliance,” said Bill Weir, senior director for Pericom’s Connect Products Group. “Our product roadmap will soon offer even lower power and lower voltage options in the same pinout for seamless transition, and continue our performance tradition of full standards compliance.”

End customer platforms for Pericom’s USB 3.0 ReDriver products include tablets, smart phones, notebooks, desktop, docking stations, workstations, servers, storage, embedded, networking, consumer (camera, DVR, etc), HDD/SSD, and other platforms that are rapidly moving to the new and faster USB 3.0 serial protocol.

USB is by far the most widely used serial protocol in the world, offering transfer speeds up to 10 times faster than USB 2.0.  GII (Global Information, Inc - Nov, 2012) forecasts that global market for USB3 devices will grow more than 500 percent through 2016, with over 2.5 billion USB3 enabled products being shipped.

MegaChips completes design center agreement with Tensilica

USA: MegaChips and Tensilica Inc. completed a design center agreement that will enhance research and development (R&D) and expand marketing collaboration, enabling large-scale integration (LSI) product customers to get advanced functionality with shorter lead times.

On April 1, 2013, MegaChips is going to integrate its business operation with Kawasaki Microelectronics Inc., its consolidated subsidiary, for further expanding LSI business, and this agreement with Tensilica is one of the important measures to reinforce MegaChips R&D.

“Our partnership with Tensilica enables us to procure Tensilica’s outstanding IP cores with ease and accelerate advanced SoC development,” said Gen Sasaki, director, officer and GM of Division No. 2 at MegaChips. “This lets us deliver superior LSI products with shorter lead times to both domestic and international customers who constantly seek advanced functions.”

Using Tensilica’s customizable processor technology, MegaChips will develop original cores that are useful not only for voice and/or speech processing and codecs but also voice recognition, image processing and gesture recognition.

The MegaChips products developed based on Tensilica’s customizable dataplane processors (DPUs) are used in the family of image processing and recognition chips for the network security camera market, which is one of the fastest-growing markets with around 20 percent annual growth rate.

“The electronics and semiconductor industries are facing both longer development time and higher development cost with smaller process geometries, hence the need to partner with LSI design and service companies and programmable IP companies to speed up time to market and reduce development risk,” said Steve Roddy, VP of marketing and business development at Tensilica.

“Our partnership with MegaChips will accelerate the development of new technology and supply cutting-edge products that will fulfill future demand.”

CamSemi strengthens board

UK: CamSemi announced a further strengthening of its board with the appointment of Simon Knowles, co-founder of both Element 14 and Icera - two of the UK’s most successful venture-backed semiconductor companies.

Knowles joins as a non-executive director to provide CamSemi with additional strategic guidance as the company continues to experience rapid and sustained sales growth for its cost-efficient power management ICs.

David Baillie, CamSemi CEO, said: “CamSemi is very fortunate to have someone with Simon’s vision and track record join our board.  Simon brings nearly 30 years’ semiconductor industry experience, in the dual roles of engineering innovator and entrepreneur and has both invented and brought to market some breakthrough semiconductor technologies, including Nvidia's multi-standard cellular modem processor and Broadcom’s world-leading DSL processor.

"His strategic insight and in-depth knowledge of the consumer electronics sector will be invaluable as we continue to develop our business, strengthen our position in key markets and deliver new products.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

Rise of smartphones reshapes competitive order in cellphone chip market

USA: The competitive landscape of the cellphone core integrated circuit (IC) business has completely transformed over the past five years, with Qualcomm Inc. and Samsung capitalizing on the rise of smartphones and 4G.

In the market for application-specific mobile handset core ICs like baseband and radio-frequency semiconductors, Qualcomm in 2012 reigned supreme with 31 percent market revenue share, according to the IHS iSuppli Wireless Competitive Landscape Tool.

The San Diego-based chip maker has held the top position since 2007 and even enlarged its lead by 8 percentage points during the period. South Korea’s Samsung Electronics was the No. 2 vendor after Qualcomm, with a 21 percent share, after not even ranking in in the Top 10 in 2007.

Together, the two companies accounted for more than half of the total market, with the next eight vendors in the Top 10 accounting for another 34 percentage points of share. The other vendors among the leaders were, in descending order, MediaTek, Intel, Skyworks, Texas Instruments, ST-Ericsson, Renesas, Spreadtrum and Broadcom. The Top 10 enjoyed a collective 86 percent share of the market.

“As smartphones and the next-generation wireless standard known as 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) have gained popularity, the corresponding influences from both forces have created paradigm shifts that transformed competition in the mobile handset core IC market,” said Brad Shaffer, analyst for consumer & communications at IHS.

“The arrival of Apple Inc.’s iPhone five years ago changed the game and paved the way for the current market rankings. This change is dramatically illustrated by looking at the major differences in the cellphone core IC rankings from 2007 to 2012. The companies that benefited from the shift in market orientation rose to domination while others that were caught between changing market environments were left in limbo.”

Getting to the core
The cellphone core IC space encompasses semiconductors that provide mobile handsets with wireless wide-area-networking (WWAN) communication and application-processing capabilities.

The market segments here include handset core ICs for analog baseband, digital baseband, power amplifiers, radio and intermediate frequencies, high-level operating systems and software processors, and other multimedia or graphics coprocessors.

Changes sweep the industry
Of the companies that did not even rank back in 2007, Samsung has climbed the quickest, landing in the runner-up spot, driven by its presence in the applications processor space. Also among those making the jump from outside the Top 10 is Intel, in fourth position at the end of last year after acquiring Infineon’s wireless division.

It remains to be seen how successful Intel will be in utilizing the acquisition, finalized in 2011, in order to increase the breadth of its mobile product offering and increase the likelihood of winning design slots for those mobile products. Intel is also starting to see some signs of life with the Atom processor and its inclusion in handsets from Motorola along with other original equipment manufacturers.

Two other vendors also broke into the ranks of the Top 10 in 2012.

In ninth place, Spreadtrum expanded its digital baseband IC revenue by more than 370 percent within the five-year period. Broadcom likewise expanded revenue by a similar dizzying magnitude to land at No. 10—thanks to baseband IC revenue finally gaining traction by ramping design wins since 2011 at Samsung.

Everything’s smaller for Texas Instruments
While Qualcomm increased its lead at the top from 2007 to 2012, Texas Instruments fell from second to sixth place—down from a 20 percent share to 4 percent. TI’s proprietary OMAP product line of chips for portable and mobile multimedia applications has not taken off as quickly as expected, and the company as a result could not offset its planned exit from baseband products.

Another vendor near the top in 2007 that experienced a decrease in market share was ST-Ericsson, shrinking 2 percent to a 4 percent market share.

More changes ahead
The structure of the mobile handset core IC market will continue to shift, particularly as LTE becomes more widespread.

Baseband chips, already accounting for more than half the revenue of the total handset core IC space, will maintain their pre-eminence in determining the market-share gains and losses of industry vendors moving forward, IHS believes. Nonetheless, the future will also be driven by the ability of any given IC supplier to provide platform solutions that optimize the system-level design of all of the ICs, making up the handset’s core chip architecture.

Source: IHS iSuppli, USA.

Arasan Chip Systems re-affirms commitment to MIPI Alliance

USA: Arasan Chip Systems Inc. announced its presence in the MIPI Alliance booth at the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

As a contributing member of the MIPI Alliance, Arasan has had a 7+ year history of crafting Total IP Solutions that enable semiconductor design teams to realize the intent of several MIPI specifications in silicon products targeted for mobile platforms. Arasan's presence in the MIPI booth is an affirmation of the company's long term commitment to the MIPI standards based business.

Arasan's Total IP Solutions for MIPI specified mobile connectivity standards address the needs of silicon, software, system integration, and validation teams. These solutions are based on synthesizable RTL for link layer protocol controllers for mobile audio, camera, display, RF front end, storage, and inter-chip connectivity.

Where applicable, these solutions include GDSII for MIPI defined PHY's. To enable functional verification of these IP's, Arasan includes Verification IP. Where relevant, Arasan offers portable software stacks with API to enable function driver development. To enable system level validation, interoperability testing, and software development, the company offers hardware validation platforms. What originates as a paper specification is delivered as a ready to use, adoptable solution.

IESA presents budget recommendations to government

INDIA: The India Electronics and Semiconductor Association (IESA) presented its recommendation to the Government of India for the Union Budget 2013-14. The IESA’s recommendations cover two primary areas, namely, electronic system design and manufacturing (ESDM) and semiconductor design.

“For India to achieve self-sufficiency in electronics, the  Government of India needs to focus on: policies that enable India to become self-sufficient in making globally competitive electronics products. Given the talent in the country, I see no reason why India cannot become a global leader in electronics in the near future,” said Dr. Satya Gupta, chairman, India Electronics and Semiconductor Association (IESA).

PVG Menon, president, IESA, said: “The ESDM industry presents a $400 billion opportunity by the year 2020. Semiconductor content is increasing in the Bill of Materials (BoM) of electronic products. India has emerged as one of the leading countries in the semiconductor design, with 23 of the top 25 MNCs having their design centres in here. The semiconductor design industry generated revenues of $8.8 billion in the year 2011 and has witnessed a robust growth of 17.3 percent since the year 2009. Hence, we urge the government of India to take proactive steps to encourage this sunrise industry,”

In proposals relating to ESDM, the IESA has made the following recommendations:

Encouraging domestic electronics manufacturing and product development - Building the domestic electronics industry is a very important item for national agenda, from security, self-reliance as well as future business potential. There is an urgent need to take actions to stimulate the domestic electronics industry and build brand India by encouraging locally designed products for local and global markets.

The following proposals have been submitted:

Correction of anomalies in taxes and duties
i) Speedy implementation of GST: Urgent implementation of GST. Rationalised indirect tax structure of 12 percent GST (8 percent excise + 4 percent VAT) on the electronics manufacturing value chain.

ii) Correction of inverted duty structure: Anomalies in inverted duty structure should be removed. Import of finished electronic products should be subject to mandatory inspection and certification.

iii) Preference must be given to domestically manufactured electronics products in government purchases, to encourage local manufacturing. Aggressive targets should be set for domestic procurement, so that companies – both Indian and foreign – are encouraged to setup high-value add manufacturing units within India.

iv) Total exemption from service tax for SEZ and EMCs: Total exemption from service tax for SEZ has been restricted to only those services rendered inside the SEZ. Services rendered outside SEZ come under the scheme of refund by the Government. In order to obtain the refund, there is a cumbersome procedure and slow process, under which one has to submit all original supporting documents to the concerned authorities. It is suggested that units in SEZ as well as the proposed electronic manufacturing clusters (EMCs) be totally exempted from service tax.

Status of physical exports to locally manufactured ITA-I products sold in India
With signing of the ITA-I agreement, customs duty on 217 tariff lines were brought to zero between 1998-2005. Industry suffered on account of incidence of inverted duty structure for a prolonged period. This has resulted in severe erosion of ICTE manufacturing in the country.

Supply of ITA-1 products by DTA units into the domestic market should be made eligible for physical export benefits, and should be extended the following benefits to promote domestic electronics manufacturing:
* Refund of duties suffered
* Incentives under the Focus Products Scheme and
* Income Tax benefits.

Creation of fund to reduce disability cost
High cost of finance, power, logistics and procedural transactions add to disabilities. This discourages investments in electronics manufacturing, which require large and long term investments necessitating a supportive fiscal and infrastructural environment.

The IESA suggests that a fund be created to provide 4% interest subvention for working capital and term loan requirement of the ICTE sector. The IESA also recommends that procedural delays should be reduced to reduce transaction costs.

In the proposals for semiconductor design, the IESA has made the following recommendations:

Incentives for R&D
The Indian semiconductor design sector needs to be extended fiscal and regulatory support to grow. Semiconductor fabrication entails large capital investment of the order of few billion dollars, depending upon the technology node, which can only be looked at by large corporates, with requisite support from the government.

Currently, there is no state-of-the-art chip fab facility in the country, which can cater to commercial applications exposing India to both strategic and supply chain risks.

The IESA proposes that R&D benefits under Section 35(2AB) of the Income Tax Act be extended to the semiconductor design companies and that the current condition that this benefit be available only to the in-house design centres of manufacturing companies may be waived

These measures will immensely benefit the establishment of a large number of semiconductor design companies, which will help realize the important objective of NEP-2012 to achieve the turnover of $55 billion in semiconductor design by 2020.

MagnaChip selects Synopsys' Proteus LRC for lithography verification

USA: Synopsys Inc. announced the adoption of Synopsys' Proteus LRC by MagnaChip Semiconductor Corp., a Korea-based designer and manufacturer of analog and mixed-signal semiconductor products.

MagnaChip uses Proteus LRC in their production mask synthesis flow to identify hotspot locations in designs that are sensitive to variations in the manufacturing process. Detecting these locations early in the mask creation process improves yield by enabling hotspots to be mitigated prior to committing a design to manufacture.

"Our increasing design complexity requires a tool that accurately identifies manufacturing hotspots early in the mask creation flow when corrective action is most feasible," said Jung Lee, senior VP of Platform Technology for MagnaChip's corporate engineering division. "Proteus LRC provides a cost-effective lithography verification solution with the accuracy and reliability we need to avoid yield-impacting hotspots."

The industry-proven accuracy of Synopsys' Proteus compact models and Synopsys' Sentaurus Lithography rigorous models are combined in Proteus LRC to provide a highly accurate hotspot detection capability with optimized turnaround time. Proteus LRC uses this unique access to both compact and rigorous models to efficiently identify features that are sensitive to process variation.

Efficient analysis of results and fast disposition of hotspots is facilitated by Proteus' Error Analysis Module, which merges the compact and rigorous model simulations into a single environment for review.

Proteus LRC is built on the Proteus engine and is integrated into Synopsys' Proteus Pipeline Technology, enabling an efficient single-flow solution from design tapeout to mask fracture. The Pipeline delivers concurrent processing at all stages of the mask synthesis and fracture flow to minimize I/O time for optimized handling of large terabyte datasets encountered at leading-edge technology nodes.

The Proteus engine provides an industry-proven platform that is highly scalable to hundreds, even thousands, of CPUs. This enables control of turnaround time while maintaining the lowest cost of ownership through the use of standard x86 processor cores.

"The accuracy of Proteus LRC is a critical component for first-pass yield at companies like MagnaChip," said Howard Ko, senior VP and GM of the Silicon Engineering Group at Synopsys. "Proteus LRC delivers industry-leading accuracy with its unique access to compact and rigorous models while maintaining the lowest cost of ownership."

DSP Group unveils HDClear for mobile

USA: DSP Group Inc. unveiled its revolutionary HDClear solution, a comprehensive voice enhancement product for mobile devices.

Incorporating proprietary, groundbreaking noise cancellation algorithms, HDClear dramatically improves user experience and delivers unparalleled voice quality and call intelligibility.

"DSP Group brings more than 25 years of market leadership in voice processing to the mobile market. Today, we are taking our voice offering one step further with HDClear, a disruptive voice processing technology that addresses a pressing challenge in mobile voice experience," said Ofer Elyakim, CEO of DSP Group.

"Our roadmap is focused on reaching optimal voice enhancement performance, while creating an open architecture that provides our customers with the flexibility to differentiate their products."

When incorporated into smartphones and other mobile devices, this robust solution effectively isolates voice from the surrounding environmental sound leading to a noise-free conversation experience and dramatically improved accuracy for Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) applications enabling them to work the way they were designed to.

HDClear is now available on DSP Group's DBMD2, a new high-performance, low-power, small-footprint SoC for mobile devices, tablets, notebook PCs and SmartTVs.

ST proximity sensor solves smartphone hang-ups

SWITZERLAND: Smartphones are set to become even more flexible and more satisfying to use, thanks to a unique sensor system developed by STMicroelectronics.

Combining three optical elements in a single compact package, the VL6180 is the first member of ST's FlightSense family and uses a new optical-sensing technology that reduces the incidence of dropped calls and enables innovative new user interactions with smartphones.

The VL6180 uses a ground-breaking proximity measuring technology to offer unprecedented accuracy and reliability in calculating the distance between the smartphone and the user. Instead of estimating distance by measuring the amount of light reflected back from the object, which is significantly influenced by color and surface, the sensor precisely measures the time the light takes to travel to the nearest object and reflect back to the sensor.

This "Time-of-Flight" approach ignores the amount of light reflected back and only considers the time for the light to make the return journey.

"This marks the first time that Time-of-Flight technology has been made available in a form factor small enough to integrate into the most space-constrained smartphones," said Arnaud Laflaquière, GM of ST's Imaging Division. "This technology breakthrough brings a major performance enhancement over existing proximity sensors, solving the face hang-up issues of current smartphone and also enabling new innovative ways for users to interact with their devices."

The key to ST's patented new solution is an infra-red emitter that sends out light pulses, an ultra-fast light detector that picks up the reflected  pulses, and electronic circuitry that accurately measures the time difference between the emission of a pulse and the detection of its reflection.

Combining electronic, optical and packaging unique expertise from across the company, the VL6180 embeds both a robust ranging time-of-flight sensor and a wide dynamic ambient light sensor die, along with an infra-red emitter. Thanks to its all-in-one, ready- to-use architecture, the VL6180 is easy to integrate and saves the phone-makers long and costly optical and mechanical design optimizations.

Addressing dropped calls is not the only benefit that ST's new technology brings to the smartphone market. The ability to measure a reliable absolute distance from the phone to a hand or other object opens up new user interaction scenarios that phone manufacturers and app developers can rapidly exploit.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

NAND flash memory cards in short supply, Feb. TLC contract prices climb 1-3 percent

TAIWAN: According to DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce, although numerous end-products showed flat sales performances during Chinese New Year, NAND Flash contract prices are expected to continue on a stable trend due to the following supply-related factors:

1) During February, both Samsung's and Toshiba/SanDisk camps increased the proportion of MLCs produced as a means to satisfy the OEM orders for eMMC and SSD products. This resulted in tightened TLC production, and in turn contributed to a shortage of memory cards and a 1-3 percent increase in TLC contract prices;

2) Affected by the current shortage of the new 20nm-class-process chips intended for SSD applications, MLC contract prices have flattened out and remain largely stable during February.
As the shortage for the above-mentioned memory cards and 20nm-class-process MLC are likely to continue into mid-March, TrendForce expects NAND Flash contract prices to remain mostly stable in the short term. During Q2, the weakened demand for smartphone and tablet PCs is expected to make the off-peak season effect on numerous NAND Flash end-products appear more apparent than it was during the first quarter.
At the same time, following the potential improvements to the yield rate and reliability of the 20nm-class process technology, shipments for the 20nm-class-node SSD and eMMC are likely to increase and help put an end to the shortage of SSDs and memory cards in early 2Q13. Following the quarter-end settlement and promotion strategy effects expected by the end of Q1, NAND Flash contract prices are projected to begin on a mild downtrend starting from the end of March.

Friday, February 22, 2013

ARM and Synopsys collaborate to optimize ARM Mali GPU 20nm implementation

USA & UK: ARM and Synopsys Inc. announced a collaboration to optimize performance of ARM Mali graphics processing units  (GPUs) in 20-nanometer (nm) and smaller process geometries using the Synopsys Galaxy Implementation Platform.

The companies successfully taped out the first ARM Mali-T658 design using a 20nm process technology, ARM Artisan physical IP and shader functionality. The resulting RTL-through-sign-off design flow includes double-patterning support throughout. The ongoing collaboration will help designers optimize the implementation of Mali GPUs for their target applications.

"Mali GPUs are found in most Android tablets and smart digital TVs currently shipping, and are one of the most popular graphics solutions for smartphones. Users' demand for advanced graphics continues to increase, which means that optimizing GPUs for selected end devices is essential," said Pete Hutton, GM, Media Processing Division, ARM.

"Building on a long history of successful collaborations with Synopsys, this implementation will enable designers to optimally implement ARM Mali-T600 family GPUs using Synopsys tools in sub 20nm leading-edge process technologies."

The Mali-T600 series includes five members (Mali-T604, Mali-T624, Mali-T628, Mali-T658 and Mali-T678), which have all been designed to provide exceptional graphics performance and they feature the first graphics technology to bring GPU compute functionality into mobile devices. This combined functionality brings additional hardware complexity which is further compounded by the new double-patterning requirements introduced by 20nm and below technologies.

Smaller process technologies, such as 20nm and below, require a highly integrated design flow for fast closure while delivering optimal results. The collaboration used the Galaxy Implementation Platform to produce a methodology tuned for the Mali GPU with ARM Artisan physical IP in 20nm. Primary tools used included Synopsys' Design Compiler synthesis, Formality formal verification, DFTMAX and TetraMAX test, IC Compiler layout, StarRC extraction and PrimeTime timing analysis and signoff.

In addition, IC Validator In-Design capabilities for physical verification were used during the implementation process to speed design closure. The methodology also benefitted from the use of DC Explorer & Dataflow Analyzer to perform early exploration, especially of floorplans and macro placement so critical to GPU performance.

"Twenty-nanometer and smaller process technologies introduce new complexity requiring early and deep technical collaboration among semiconductor ecosystem partners," said Antun Domic, senior VP and GM, Implementation Group, Synopsys. "Through this collaboration with ARM, the Synopsys Galaxy Implementation Platform with In-Design physical verification combines with the ARM Mali IP and Artisan physical IP to provide a proven, DPT-compliant solution that will help accelerate the time to design closure on complex SoCs at 20 nanometers and below."