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InvenSense Developers Conference Tackles Sensor Security, New Technologies

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

The second day of the InvenSense Developers Conference saw presenters get down to cases – use cases for sensors.

There were track sessions devoted to mobile technology and the Internet of Things, with the latter featuring presentations on industrial and automotive applications, smart homes and drones, smartphones and tablet computers, and wearable electronics. InvenSense partner companies had their own track on New Technologies, fitting into the conference’s “Internet of Sensors” theme.

The conference also featured two developer tracks in parallel, providing five InvenSense presentations on its FireFly hardware and software, SensorStudio, and other offerings.

One of the presentations that wrapped up the conference on Wednesday afternoon (November 18) was given by Pim Tuyls, chief executive officer of Intrinsic-ID, the Dutch company that worked with InvenSense to develop the TrustedSensor product, a secure sensor-based authentication system incorporating the FireFly system-on-a-chip device.

TrustedSensor will be shipped to alpha customers in the first quarter of 2016 and will go out to beta customers in the second quarter of next year, according to Tuyls. “This is real,” he said.

The Intrinsic-ID founder briefly reviewed the company’s history, to start. It was spun out of Royal Philips in 2008 and is an independent company with venture-capital funding, Tuyls noted.

Intrinsic-ID was founded to provide “cyber physical security based on physically unclonable function,” or PUF, Tuyls said. “We invented PUF,” he added. “It has been vetted by security labs and government agencies,” among other parties.

Taking “The Trusted Sensor” as his theme, the Intrinsic-ID CEO said, “Sensors are the first line of defense. You want to make sure you can provide a certain level of security.”

It is critical to achieve “the right balance” in designing, fabricating, and installing sensors, with security, flexibility, and low footprint among the key considerations, according to Tuyls.

While whimsically describing PUF as “a magic concept,” Tuyls noted, “Chips are physically unique,” with no two completely alike due to manufacturing processes.

PUF can “extract a crypto key from any device,” he added. “You can authenticate any device.”

Intrinsic-ID has tested the PUF technology with a wide variety of silicon foundries, Tuyls said – namely, Cypress Semiconductor, GlobalFoundries, IBM, Intel, Renesas Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, and United Microelectronics. It has been implemented by Altera, Microsemi, NXP Semiconductors, Samsung, and Synopsys, he added, and process nodes ranging from 180 nanometers down to 14nm have been tested.

Tuyls concluded by emphasizing the importance of sensor security for the Internet of Things. “We should not wait; we should not try to save a few cents,” he said. “It is important, but it is hard.”

Earlier in the day, attendees heard from Sam Massih, InvenSense’s director of wearable sensors. “There’s a wearable solution for every part of the body,” he commented.

“Step count isn’t enough,” Massih said. “You need context for data.” He cited the example of a user who goes to the gym three times a week and spends an hour on the elliptical trainer machine for one hour on each visit.

“That’s data that can be monetized,” he said.

InvenSense announced last month that it would enter the market for automotive sensors. Amir Panush, the company’s head of automotive and IoT industrial, said in his presentation, “Sensors need to be smart enough.”

The megatrends in automotive electronics include the use of motion sensors for safety in advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), the smart connected car, and tough emission restrictions, according to Panush.

“We have signed a deal with a Tier One partner,” Panush said, meaning a leading automotive manufacturer, without identifying the company. “We are ramping up internal R&D in automotive.” InvenSense is presently opening design centers focusing on the $5 trillion automotive market, he added.

InvenSense was founded in 2003 and went public in 2011. The company posted revenue of $372 million in fiscal 2015 with a net loss of $1.08 million (primarily due to charging $10.55 million in interest expense against net income), after being profitable for the previous four years. InvenSense gets more than three-quarters of its revenue from mobile sensors and has a growing business in IoT sensors.

Customers in Asia accounted for 63 percent of the company’s fiscal 2015 revenue, according to InvenSense’s 10-K annual report. The company spent $90.6 million on research and development, representing about 24 percent of its net revenue.

GlobalFoundries and TSMC make nearly all of InvenSense’s wafers. Assembly packaging of its microelectromechanical system (MEMS) devices and sensors is outsourced to Advanced Semiconductor Engineering, Amkor Technology, Lingsen Precision Industries, and Siliconware Precision Industries.

The company had 644 employees as of March 29, 2015, with nearly half of them involved in R&D.

STMicroelectronics is InvenSense’s primary competitor for consumer motion sensors, the 10-K states, while the company also competes with Analog Devices, Epson Toyocom, Kionix, Knowles, Maxim Integrated Products, MEMSIC, Murata Manufacturing, Panasonic, Robert Bosch, and Sony.

Samsung Begins Mass Producing Industry First 256-Gigabit, 3D V-NAND

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015


Samsung Electronics has begun mass producing the industry’s first 256-gigabit (Gb), three-dimensional (3D) Vertical NAND (V-NAND) flash memory based on 48 layers of 3-bit multi-level-cell (MLC) arrays for use in solid state drives (SSDs).

Samsung’s new 256Gb 3D V-NAND flash doubles the density of conventional 128Gb NAND flash chips. In addition to enabling 32 gigabytes (256 gigabits) of memory storage on a single die, the new chip will also easily double the capacity of Samsung’s existing SSD line-ups, and provide an ideal solution for multi-terabyte SSDs.

Samsung introduced its 2nd generation V-NAND (32-layer 3-bit MLC V-NAND) chips in August 2014, and launched its 3rd generation V-NAND (48-layer 3-bit MLC V-NAND) chips in just one year, in continuing to lead the 3D memory era.

In the new V-NAND chip, each cell utilizes the same 3D Charge Trap Flash (CTF) structure in which the cell arrays are stacked vertically to form a 48-storied mass that is electrically connected through some 1.8 billion channel holes punching through the arrays thanks to a special etching technology. In total, each chip contains over 85.3 billion cells. They each can store 3 bits of data, resulting 256 billion bits of data, in other words, 256Gb on a chip no larger than the tip of a finger.

A 48-layer 3-bit MLC 256Gb V-NAND flash chip delivers more than a 30 percent reduction in power compared to a 32-layer, 3-bit MLC, 128Gb V-NAND chip, when storing the same amount of data. During production, the new chip also achieves approximately 40 percent more productivity over its 32-layer predecessor, bringing much enhanced cost competitiveness to the SSD market, while mainly utilizing existing equipment.

Samsung plans to produce 3rd generation V-NAND throughout the remainder of 2015, to enable more accelerated adoption of terabyte-level SSDs. While now introducing SSDs with densities of two terabytes and above for consumers, Samsung also plans to increase its high-density SSD sales for the enterprise and data center storage markets with leading-edge PCIe NVMe and SAS interfaces.

Solid State Watch: July 31-August 6, 2015

Friday, August 7th, 2015
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Samsung to put 10nm chips into mass production by end of 2016

Friday, May 22nd, 2015


By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

Samsung Semiconductor on Thursday announced that it will have 10-nanometer FinFET chips in volume production by the end of next year.

At an event in San Francisco, the Samsung Electronics subsidiary exhibited a 12-inch wafer with what it said were 10nm FinFET semiconductors. Over the next 18 months, Samsung will provide process design kits and multi-die wafers for the 10nm FinFET chips.

Samsung Semiconductor is also ramping up volume production of 14nm FinFET chips at its S1 wafer fabrication facility in South Korea and its S2 fab in Austin, Texas, while preparing the S3 fab in South Korea for 14nm FinFET volume production. In addition, GlobalFoundries will implement the Samsung 14nm FinFET process at its chip-making facilities in New York State.

“We are in business for 14-nanometer FinFET,” said Hong Hao, senior vice president for Samsung’s foundry business. “We have brought broad competition back into the foundry business.”

Samsung Foundry has closely matched Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing in providing 14nm and now 10nm chips.

Hao said Samsung will support “a broad range of applications” with chips coming out of its foundry fablines – consumer electronics, mobile devices, computing, networking, and data center infrastructure.

He also noted that Samsung is offering a 28nm fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator process, licensed from STMicroelectronics.

Samsung Semiconductor executives made brief presentations on other product areas for the chipmaker, and also reported on progress in constructing the company’s new facility in northern San Jose, Calif., which will be occupied this summer.

Proponents of EUV, immersion lithography face off at SPIE

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

By Jeff Dorsch, contributing editor

The two main camps in optical lithography are arrayed for battle at the SPIE Advanced Lithography Symposium in San Jose, Calif.

Extreme-ultraviolet lithography, on one side, is represented by ASML Holding, its Cymer subsidiary, and ASML’s EUV customers, notably Intel, Samsung Electronics, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.

On the other side is 193i immersion lithography, represented by Nikon and its customers, which also include Intel and other leading chipmakers.

There are other lithography technologies being discussed at the conference, of course. They are bit players in the drama, so to speak, although there is a lot of discussion and buzz about directed self-assembly technology this week.

ASML broke big news on Tuesday morning, reporting that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing was able to expose more than 1,000 wafers in one day this year with ASML’s NXE:3300B EUV system. “During a recent test run on an NXE:3300B EUV system we exposed 1,022 wafers in 24 hours with sustained power of over 90 watts,” Anthony Yen, TSMC’s director of research and development, said at SPIE.

While ASML was obviously and justifiably proud of this milestone, after achieving its 2014 goal of producing 500 wafers per day, it cautioned that more development remains for EUV technology.

“The test run at TSMC demonstrates the capability of the NXE:3300B scanner, and moves us closer to our stated target of sustained output of 1,000 wafers per day in 2015,” ASML’s Hans Meiling, vice president service and product marketing EUV, said in a statement. “We must continue to increase source power, improve system availability, and show this result at multiple customers over multiple days.”

The day before, Cymer announced the first shipment of its XLR 700ix light source, which is said to improver scanner throughput and process stability for manufacturing chips with 14-nanometer features. The company also debuted DynaPulse as an upgrade option for its OnPulse customers. The XLR 700ix and DynaPulse together are said to offer better on-wafer critical dimension uniformity and provide stable on-wafer performance.

Another revelation at SPIE is that SK Hynix has been working with the NXE:3300, too, and is pleased with the system’s capabilities. According to Chang-Moon Lim, who spoke Monday morning, SK Hynix was recently able to expose 1,670 wafers over three days, with uptime of 86.3 percent over that period.

“Progress has been significant on various aspects, which should not be overshadowed by the delay of [light] sources,” he said of ASML’s EUV systems.

The Korean chipmaker is exploring how it could work without pellicles on the EUV reticle, Lim noted. ASML has been developing a pellicle, made with polycrystalline silicon, in cooperation with Intel and others.

Nikon Precision and other Nikon subsidiaries didn’t issue any press releases at SPIE. The companies presented much information at Sunday’s LithoVision 2015 event, held at the City National Civic auditorium, across the street from the San Jose Convention Center, where SPIE Advanced Lithography is staged.

On offer at the Nikon conference was the claimed superiority of 193i immersion lithography equipment to EUV systems for the 14nm, 7nm and future process nodes. Donis Flagello, Nikon Research Corp. of America’s president, CEO, and chief operating officer, emphasized that message on Tuesday morning with an invited paper on “Evolving optical lithography without EUV.”

Nikon’s champion machine is the NSR-S630D immersion scanner, which was touted throughout the LithoVision event. The system is capable of exposing 250 wafers per hour, according to Nikon’s Yuichi Shibazaki.

Ryoichi Kawaguchi of Nikon told attendees, “EUV lithography needs more stability and improvement.” He also brought up the topic of manufacturing on 450-millimeter wafers, which has mostly gone ignored in the lithography competition. Nikon will ship a 450mm system this spring to the Global 450 Consortium in Albany, N.Y., Kawaguchi said. The bigger substrates could provide “an alternative option to reduce cost,” he added.

Erik Byers of Micron Technology observed, “EUV is not a panacea.”

Which lithography technology will prevail in high-volume manufacturing? The question may not be definitively answered for some time.

Solid State Watch: February 13-19, 2015

Friday, February 20th, 2015
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SEMICON Show Highlights Chip Manufacturing in South Korea

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015


By Jeff Dorsch

The SEMICON Korea conference and exhibition opens Wednesday in Seoul for a three-day run. The show highlights the importance of semiconductor manufacturing in South Korea, home to two of the biggest memory chip makers in the world, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix.

The DRAM market in 2014 posted a 34.7 percent increase in revenue, compared with 2013, as the total memory chip market grew 18.2 percent last year to $79.2 billion, according to World Semiconductor Trade Statistics. Samsung and Hynix together account for about two-thirds of the worldwide DRAM market, and South Korea holds 40 percent of the global memory output.

Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International forecasts Korean expenditures on front-end wafer fabrication equipment will be $7.8 billion in 2015, nearly 28 percent higher than 2014. Korean chipmakers will spend more than $14 billion on semiconductor equipment and materials this year, according to SEMI.

IC Insights estimates Samsung grew its semiconductor sales by 8 percent in 2014 to $37.26 billion, while Hynix boasted 22 percent growth to $15.84 billion, compared with the year before.

Samsung and Hynix (once the semiconductor arm of the Hyundai chaebol and now part of the SK Group) dominate the semiconductor scene in their home country, yet they aren’t the only chipmakers in South Korea. Dongbu HiTek is a specialty silicon foundry, emphasizing analog and mixed-signal chip fabrication. Its parent conglomerate, the Dongbu Group, has been seeking to sell its 37 percent ownership in the foundry for more than a year, without success. Samsung and Hynix haven’t been interested in Dongbu HiTek, although Samsung has a substantial foundry business, making chips for Apple and other customers. The LG Group at one point expressed interest in bidding for the Dongbu HiTek stake, but hasn’t advanced that interest.

There’s also MagnaChip Semiconductor, which designs and manufactures analog and mixed-signal chips for consumer applications. The company also provides foundry services.

SEMICON Korea is co-located with the LED Korea 2015 exhibition, featuring light-emitting diode manufacturing.

Applied Materials Introduces New Hardmask Process, Saphira

Monday, November 24th, 2014


A new hardmask material and process was introduced this month by Applied Materials. Designed for advanced logic and memories, including DRAM and vertical NAND, the hardmask is transparent, which simplifies processing. It also exhibits very high selectivity, low stress and good mechanical strength. It’s also ashable, so that it can be removed after etching is completed. Called Saphira, the process was developed in conjunction with Samsung and other customers. An Applied Materials-developed process for stripping the hardmask was licensed to Korea-based PSK.

Hardmasks are used for etching deep, high aspect ratio (HAR) features that conventional photoresists cannot withstand. Applied Materials first introduced an amorphous carbon hardmask in 2006, and now has a family of specialized films. The Advanced Patterning Films (APF) family now includes APFe, which enables deposition of thicker layers than APF (e.g., in capacitor formation and metal contacts for memory devices), and APFx, design to address patterning of metal lines and contacts at 5xnm and beyond.

The new Saphira APF process – which runs on the Applied Materials Producer XP Precision CVD chamber and works with PSK’s OMNIS Asher systems — introduces new film properties that include greater selectivity and transparency. The Saphira APF deposition and resolve major issues to improve patterning of more complex device structures at advanced technology nodes. “It’s a materials solutions,” said Terry Lee, vice president of strategy and marketing for the dielectrics systems and modules group at Applied Materials. “It’s delivered with the patterning film itself, Saphira, as well as the combination of technologies and processes, whether it’s in the CVD chamber or etch chamber, reducing process steps and simplifying process complexity.

Applied Materials isn’t saying exactly what the Saphira hardmask is composed of, but a recent patent filing describes it as boron-rich amorphous carbon layer. The patent notes that, compared to carbonaceous masking layers, boron-doped carbonaceous layers, which include between 1 wt. % and 40 wt. % boron provide even greater etch resistance.

Lee said the Saphira film “In general behaves very much like a ceramic. But unlike most ceramics, it’s ashable. It’s structurally hard like a ceramic, but it’s ashable like our standard carbon hard mask,” he said.

In general, the selectivity of Saphira is twice the conventional masking materials on the open market, Lee said.

The new process reduces process complexity and cost in a couple of different ways. Because it’s transparent, no extra step is needed to open the mask to find the alignment mark. And because the film has high selectivity, fewer masking steps are required. That all reduces the process complexity. Lee said that with conventional masks, in order to mask these high aspect ratio features, a thicker mask material is often needed. “When you have a thicker mask and you need to etch fine features, what you wind up with is a very narrow mask. In order to prevent the mask itself from collapsing or titling, you need very strong mechanical strength. With Saphira, we have that high mechanical strength and it resists the deformation,” he said.

Saphira can also reduce the need for multiple hardmasks. “Instead of having the hardmask, oxide and poly (see figure), it drops down to a one mask that’s thinner because the selectivity is higher,” Lee explained. “What we’re seeing is that we can reduce around 20 steps. When you reduce steps, you reduce cost. What we’re seeing based on our calculations is something like 35% reduction in cost of this one module. Across multiple modules, that adds up to a lot of money,” he added.

Solid State Watch: October 31-November 6, 2014

Monday, November 10th, 2014
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The Week in Review: October 10, 2014

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Samsung Electronics announced plans on Monday to invest $14.7 billion (15.6 trillion Korean won) in a new semiconductor fabrication facility in Pyeongtaek, South Korea to meet growing demand from smartphones, enterprise computing and the emerging “Internet of Things” market.

Soraa, a developer of GaN on GaN LED technology, announced today that one of its founders, Dr. Shuji Nakamura, has been awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics. Recognizing that Nakamura’s invention, the blue light emitting diode (LED), represents a critical advancement in LED lighting, the Nobel committee explained the innovation “has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources.”

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), representing U.S. leadership in semiconductor manufacturing and design, today announced that John P. Daane, President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of Altera, has been named the 2014 recipient of SIA’s highest honor, the Robert N. Noyce Award.

The Board of Directors of United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC), a global semiconductor foundry, this week announced a joint venture company focused on 12″ wafer foundry services with Xiamen Municipal People’s Government and FuJian Electronics & Information Group.

Emergence of new wide bandgap (WBG) technologies such as SiC and GaN materials will definitely reshape part of the established power electronics industry, according to Yole Développement (Yole).

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