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GSA Ecosystem Summit: Supply Chain Links Strengthened

Although news from Japan regarding the earthquake and tsunami recovery efforts comes less frequently than before, the ripple effects of the disaster can still be felt in the semiconductor industry’s operation strategies.

At the GSA Ecosystem Summit held in Santa Clara last week, Hugh Durdan from eSilicon moderated a panel on the best practices for successful supply chain relationships.  IBM, Intel, Qualcomm and Tensoft, Inc weighed in on some of the changes they’ve implemented since the disaster in Japan.  IBM’s Dale Miller said they’ve made some very subtle changes looking at the whole system.  IBM looks at their needs over a 2-year horizon, not just one year.  They take a longer forecast approach to plan for capacity needs and that involves getting closer to both suppliers and customers.

Intel ‘s Tim Lloyd said they created a hierarchy of suppliers looking at both their upside and downside capabilities.  A blanket increase in capacity, without a corresponding needs assessment, doesn’t always mitigate risk.  The supply chain reaction should be significantly different depending on if the change is due to an overall shift in the industry or limited to one company’s market share.

They all agreed that better communication with customers and suppliers is critical in today’s environment but the question now is how much information do you provide them?

Analog Will Reach $61.9 Billion by 2015

The semiconductor market may be experiencing a downturn, but that doesn't have to mean all news is bad news. Analog, within the Computing, Consumer, and Communications markets, will see some strong growth over the next few years, growing 13.8%, 8.6%, and 12.8% in 2011, 2012, and 2013 respectively.

These numbers are pulled from our MAP Model database, Semico's way to track semiconductor migration within end-use markets. This method accounts for about 80% of the overall market.

Our overall Analog numbers include the following categories:

  • Standard Linear
  • Amplifiers
  • Interface
  • Voltage Regulators and Reference Circuits
  • Data Conversion Circuits
  • Comparators
  • Application Specific Analog ICs (Small Scale Complexity)
  • Application Specific Analog ICs (Medium Scale Complexity)
  • Application Specific Analog ICs (Large Scale Complexity)

All of these categories combined will reach $61.9 billion, a 7.9% increase over 2010's $42.4 billion.

Breaking this number out farther, we can see that in 2010, the consumer market accounted for 33.3% of the Analog market, but in 2015, it will only account for 23.4%. Where is that Analog migrating?

To smartphones.

A Semiconductor Industry Stimulus Plan

Last week Semico released its industry forecast outlook for the balance of 2011 and 2012. Unfortunately, all the indicators have moved 2011 into the negative territory. Semiconductor sales will end the year 1.6% lower than 2010. That should not be too surprising as the Semico IPI began moving down in May of 2010, warning us of a sluggish second half 2011. The economic malaise, along with the natural disasters around the world has only made semiconductor sales even more challenging.

The good news is that the Semico IPI points to a bottom in the first quarter 2012. Not only are all the economic and supply chain indicators pointing to a better 2012, but it is also consistent with the industry technology cycles. Intel is rolling out their 22nm process technology by the end of this year. GLOBALFOUNDRIES and TSMC are ready with their 28nm processes.

New technologies mean new products or at least new features for our existing electronics devices. In addition, the good news is that GLOBALFOUNDRIES remains committed to their capacity expansion and technology development plans. Fab expansions at their Fab 1 in Dresden and Fab 8 in New York remain on schedule. And at their recent GLOBALFOUNDRIES Technology Conference in Santa Clara, company executives proudly discussed their continued push to develop 20nm processes and even 14nm.

Have Smart Phones Destroyed the Handheld Gaming Market?

It's an accepted fact these days that smart phones are rampaging through the handheld industry, wiping out single use products one after another.  Portable media players, GPS, satellite radio… are handheld games next? Handheld gaming has had problems over the last few years because high start-up costs keep competition at a minimum.  Microsoft, Sony, Nokia, and a score of small companies have tried, and only Sony has managed to compete against Nintendo.  This lack of competition could be a reason why this industry was so prime to be taken over by smart phones. The most popular Nintendo games can sell between 15 – 25 million units.  Angry Birds has had 200 million downloads. According to Guardian, some of the best smartphone games of 2011 (with their prices) are:

ComicCon 2011: Lots of Excitement, but not much 3D

Frequent readers of the Semico Spin know that I am a fan of ComicCon and attend it in San Diego, CA during my family vacation.  This is the eighth year in a row we attended.  As I say every year, there were more nerds than you can shake a light saber at.

For those unfamiliar with ComicCon ( it is the largest convention for comic books in the world.  However, it covers a great deal more.  Science fiction and fantasy TV and movies are heavily represented.  These are usually tied in with comics and animation.  There is also a strong tie in with video games.  For the fourth straight year ComicCon was sold out for all four days with attendance of 125,000 each day.  It is the largest convention throughout the year for the city of San Diego.

The show began 43 years ago as a small convention for Sci-Fi fans focused on comics and literature.  It has ballooned into a huge media event attracting TV and movie producers to promote their work.  These productions usually have a tie in with comics and Sci-Fi, but Comic-Con has expanded to pull in other pop culture media.

Content is King!  Without enough material there is little incentive to buy the hardware.  What consumers want to see and how they want to interact with it drives the development of the electronics.  It is not surprising that many attendees are technically savvy early adopters.

A Solution to the 450mm Equipment Problem

Another SEMICON West has come and gone.  This was a good year.  Although there are signs that things have slowed a bit, the general outlook was positive.  In addition to the need for more semiconductor capacity due to continued growth in tablets, cell phones and a host of other electronic applications, the increased complexity of advanced processes has created a positive outlook for equipment vendors.  More complexity has translated into more layers, more process steps, and more new equipment.  There continues to be significant interest in TSV, EUV, used equipment productivity and MEMS.  And finally, this year the discussion around 450mm wafers took a new turn.  It was not “if” it would happen but when and how.

Omedeto, Renesas! Congratulations!

On the heels of a highly spirited SEMICON West covering all the challenges of TSV, 450mm and EUV, it's great to hear how this industry can rally around a cause and accomplish what appears to be an impossible task. I’m referring to the monumental effort that was required to get the Renesas Naka facilities back up and running.
In the many briefings at SEMICON West, a few companies mentioned the contributions they made this year to the human relief effort in Japan’s recovery following the earthquake and tsunami. This week Renesas provided more information on the resumption of their fab operation and sent out messages of thanks to employees, customers, suppliers and competitors for all their support.

Renesas has 10 fabs in Japan, with one site suffering major work stoppage from the earthquake. The Naka site located in Ibaraki Prefecture accommodated a 200mm and 300mm fab, a wafer bump facility and two test facilities. Even though the site is 100 miles away from Fukushima, the hardest hit area, the Renesas Naka site suffered significant damage and had to be shut down. A week after the tragic earthquake, site inspections had to be completed with flashlights because there wasn’t any power to the facilities.

Freescale Technology Forum 2011 in Review

The Freescale Technology Forum was held in San Antonio, TX recently, June 20 to 23, 2011.  Freescale is a leading chip vendor focused on embedded control.  Once again the event drew a large number of attendees, about 2,000.  This is roughly the same as last year, quite impressive considering the current economic conditions.  The exhibit area was packed with numerous and wide variety of companies offering products and services tied to Freescale products.  This shows the diversity and scope of the third-party ecosystem that supports Freescale.

The theme of FTF 2011 presented by President and CEO, Rich Beyer, was connected intelligence and the “internet of things."  He pointed out that connectivity emphasizes efficiency and integration.  The data traffic continues to grow at a rapid rate. Throughout FTF presented solutions for various markets such as mobile communications and consumer products, networking and telecommunications, wireless infrastructure, automotive, smart grid, industrial control and health applications.  Embedded control is at the center of this surrounded and supported by connectivity, sensors, power and software solutions.


The following are some of the notable products presented at FTF 2011.

Impressions of DAC 2011

I attended the 48th Design Automation Conference in San Diego this past week and I came away from the conference with several main thoughts:

  • EDA tool vendors continue to enhance their products by listening to their customers and acting on those inputs.
  • There is mounting evidence that the discussion centered around the trend towards IP Subsystems is real and has substance behind it.
  • The Automotive Networking workshop on Sunday featured a lively discussion around what networking bus would come after Ethernet.
  • There seems to be growing dissatisfaction around the limited amount of data showing silicon and software design costs for SoCs.

At this DAC conference several IP vendors and EDA tool vendors were discussing the term ‘IP Subsystem’ in their booths and in presentations and panel discussions given throughout the time I was there.

Some of the notable vendors discussing the concept were: Sonics, Synopsys, Cadence, Atrenta, ChipStart, and eSilicon to name a few.

A Tiny but Mighty MEMS Infrared Temperature Sensor

Did you ever use your a laptop on your lap and get an unpleasantly warm sensation, even a burning, sensation, on the top of your legs?  Manufacturers of portable electronic devices would like to have a way of monitoring case temperature to insure that you don’t experience that sensation on your legs; or an unpleasantly warm hand if you’re using a handheld device.  But, until now, the only way to do that was to measure the temperature of the warmest component in the device and use that temperature to approximate the case temperature.  Now, TI has made it possible to measure case temperature directly using a very small, inexpensive MEMS infrared sensor. TI part number TMP006 is a MEMS infrared digital temperature sensor in a 1.6-mm x 1.6-mm package; approximately 1/16” x 1/16.  That is certainly remarkable! In this small package, the TMP006 integrates an on-chip MEMS thermopile sensor, signal conditioning, a 16-bit ADC (analog-to-digital-converter), a local temperature sensor, and voltage references.  This provides a complete digital solution for contactless temperature measurement.  The TMP006 uses only 240 uA quiescent current and 1 uA in shutdown mode.  It supports a temperature range of -40 degrees to +125 degrees C (Celsius) with an accuracy of +/- 0.5 degree C (typical) on the local sensor and accuracy of +/- 1 degrees C (typical) for the passive IR sensor.   It includes I2C/SMBus digital interface.