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March 2011

Akustica AKU230: A Tiny Microphone with Huge Potential

Can you hear me? I’m using a microphone on a 0.7mm2 MEMS die in a package measuring only 3.76mm x 4.72mm x 1.25mm. It’s the Akustica AKU230 digital, CMOS MEMS microphone, announced on March 30, 2010. For anyone who still doesn’t speak metric, the package size is less than 3/16” X 1/8” X 3/64.” For anyone still having trouble visualizing it, the package is smaller than a 14 point font capital “A” stamped out of a penny as a rectangle. In the simplest terms, really small. Of course, I’m not really using the Akustica AKU230, but I could be. It is used primarily in notebook computers, just like the one I’m typing on. The AKU230 is manufactured using conventional CMOS processes. The microphone membrane is a metal/dielectric layer, manufactured just like every other metal/dielectric layer in a CMOS process. The ADC circuitry is located around the membrane and is fabricated at the same time as the membrane during the same conventional CMOS processes. This approach offers savings in silicon area compared to a MEMS microphone fabricated using more traditional MEMS processes. Some MEMS microphones have an analog audio output. Some have an analog audio output but can provide a digital output using a second semiconductor, essentially an ADC. Akustica MEMS microphones, including the AKU230, are the only MEMS microphones that combine the microphone and the ADC circuitry on one chip, offering a simpler, less expensive solution and one insertion cost rather than two.

Tom Deitrich of Freescale to Speak at Semico Summit 2011

Tom Deitrich
Senior Vice President and General Manager
Cellular Products and RF, Analog & Sensor

Phoenix, Arizona March 24, 2011 - Semico Research Corp. is proud to announce that Tom Deitrich will speak at the Summit 2011. The Summit will be held May 1-3, 2011 at the stunning InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Tom Deitrich is senior vice president and general manager of Cellular Products and RF, Analog & Sensor.

Semico Releases Free MEMS Bulletin

Phoenix Arizona March 22, 2011 - The MEMS market is changing and growing rapidly. Let Semico help keep you up to speed with the latest developments with our new bulletin, "MEMS Growth: Changing Markets, Changing Applications."
The bulletin presents a complete MEMS unit forecast by end-use market from 2005 to 2015, highlighting the following applications: Cell phones, Automotive, Computing, Digital Cameras, MP3 Players, and Video Games. MEMS usage in automotive and cell phones is discussed in detail.

More Base Station DAC Performance with Less Power and Size

As cell phones improve, offering more features and higher data transmission rates, base station manufacturers must provide more with less.  More bandwidth, more channels, more quality of service with less power, less space and less cost.  On March 21, 2011 Texas Instruments Incorporated announced the availability of three new 16-bit DACs that will help base station manufacturers accomplish exactly that.

Part number DAC3484 is a quad DAC with an interleaved 16-bit input bus.  It has a sample rate of 1.25 GSPS and 2X -16X interpolation, which allows a 312.5MSPS input each of its on four paths.   Part number DAC3482 is a dual DAC, also with 2X - 16X interpolation, which allows an input rate of 625MSPS on each of its two channels.  Finally, part number DAC34H84 is a quad DAC with a wider 32-bit input bus, which allows a sampling rate of 625MSPS on each of its four paths.

Let’s focus on the DAC3484.  Its sampling rate is 25% faster than its nearest competitor.  It needs only 250mw of power, 65% less than its competition.  It fits in a 9mm X 9mm multi-row QFN package, 40% smaller than its nearest competitor.  It has an internal low-jitter 2x to 32x phase locked loop timer, which eliminates the need for an external, low-jitter clock multiplier to match the interpolated rate.  This is doing more with less.

Analog Circuit Design to Go

Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re a design engineer at a company making an industrial control device or a medical instrument.  You’ve got the digital portion of your design pretty well nailed, but there is a 4mA to 20mA process control loop and some isolation issues that you’re a little concerned about.  Although you could design some analog circuits to solve these problems, you’re really a digit-head.  It would take a lot of your time, and you’re not sure you would get it right the first time.  What to do? Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI) has solved your problem.  ADI has recently introduced an expanded version of the company’s Circuits from the LabTM reference circuits.  These are not reference designs.  They don’t tell an engineer how to design an entire system.  Rather, they provide lab-tested circuit designs for some common analog circuits that give design engineers problems.  Some examples are ADC drivers, DAC outputs, RF or IF circuits or isolation circuits.  A complete list is available on the ADI website. In addition to the circuit design, ADI also provides circuit documentation test data and is now offering PCB layout files, software device drivers and, in some cases, evaluation hardware.  The purpose is to provide a deeper understanding of the circuit so that an engineer can easily trouble-shoot any glitches that might crop up.

SIP Market Mysteries Explored and Myths Exploded

Phoenix, Arizona March 15, 2011 - 2010 was a very good year for the 3rd Party SIP market which rebounded from its first ever revenue decline in 2009. Even though the market showed good growth in 2010, it essentially moved sideways with a 21.5% growth compared to a 21.6% decline in 2009. However, looking at only SIP market annual revenues obscures several very interesting trends in the SIP market and in the broader System-on-a-Chip (SoC) market.

Secondary Semiconductor Equipment Market Study

Written by Semico, in conjunction with SEMI/SESTG, provides data and analysis that defines the secondary equipment, services and technology markets. This study collected information from a wide variety of market players around the world, both large and small, from dealers to refurbishers to OEMs to IDMs. Secondary equipment sales are presented by vendor type, by wafer size, by region, and by equipment type.

Table of Contents: 

Wafer Demand Summary and Assumptions 1Q11

The Wafer Demand Summary and Assumptions is a quarterly publication. It includes an excel spreadsheet with annual wafer demand by product by technology from 2002-2015. Product categories include DRAM, SRAM, NAND, NOR, Other Non-volatile, MPU, MCU, DSP, Computing Micro Logic, Communications, Other Micro Logic, Programmable Logic, Standard Cell, Gate Array, Analog, Discrete, Optoelectronics, Digital Bipolar. In addition, there is a five-page summary write-up providing the major assumptions behind the forecast and changes from the previous quarter.

Table of Contents: 

The Impact of Japan's Earthquake on the Electronics and Semiconductor Industries

The strongest earthquake ever recorded in Japan occurred Friday at 2:46 PM local time.  The earthquake and resulting tsunami were so powerful, the island shoreline was moved 8 feet!  Following the massive 8.9 earthquake was a tsunami that unleashed further devastation.  In the ensuing hours, additional damage reports coming from Japan reveals how damaging this quake really was.  Two nuclear facilities with a total of five reactors received severe damage.  One facility that contains three reactors is an older GE design commonly found in the U.S. as well.

As of today, there have been two explosions.  An explosion shattered the building housing the nuclear reactor on Saturday.  Although government officials are claiming that the metal containment vessel surrounding the reactor is still intact, clearly the situation is getting worse, not better.  Rods have been exposed twice, resulting in a partial meltdown.  At this point, the best case scenario will be to stop the nuclear reaction, cool the facility down, encase it in concrete, and abandon the facility.  This would leave Sendai in an electricity deficit from the closure of 3 to 5 reactors.  This certainly will cause some problems for the semiconductor and related manufacturing facilities in this area as they are electric power hogs.

Is This Really the Post-PC Era?

The latest introduction of iPad2 and the rise of the tablet PCs has prompted once again the proclamation that we are now in the Post-PC Era.  It seems we have been living in a Post-PC Era for about the last 15 years.  Every time there is an innovation in consumer electronics it is hailed as a major shift that will adversely impact the PC market.  First it was PDAs such as the Palm Pilot.  The cell phones and subsequently smart phones resulted in people sounding the death knell.  Today it is the iPad2 and tablet PCs.  If this is in fact the Post-PC Era, why did Apple introduce a high end MacBook notebook featuring Intel’s Thunderbolt last week?  This was announced just before the iPad2 launch.

I will contend a more correct description is the PC Enhancement Era.  All of these devices have grown and provided a larger TAM for the semiconductor market.  But the PC market continues to grow and is a huge market for semiconductors.  In 1996 the total PC market of desktops and notebooks was 78 million units.  By 2010, including netbooks, the PC market has grown to 328 million units.  This year that number is expected to reach 368 million.  This is happening even with tablet PCs growing to between 30 and 40 million units in 2011.

All these electronic devices work with a PC and enhance each other’s capabilities.  Until there is a major change to the iPad platform you need a PC to work with it.


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