An Acquisition And A Merged Technology Strategy

Synaptics plans combined LCD driver and touch sensor controller chip with buyout of Renesas SP Drivers.


A single chip capable of performing two different functions can reduce the amount of wiring needed to just one layer and it can reduce time to market by simplifying the supply chain and the planning process.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the LCD chip market, where two different manufacturers were used to supply chips for touch panels. But an effort to consolidate them into a single chip is proving to be a differentiator, and the same approach will be used in touch panels for tablets and smartphones. Synaptics is scheduled to distribute its first single-chip solution in 2016.

It takes good design knowledge, as well as skill, to build an LCD driver and touch sensor controller into a single chip. The driver sends an electrical signal via columns and rows of matrix wires, whereas a touch sensor detects its change of capacitance from columns and rows. The driver produces a noise, but the sensor may pick a noise. This is why it is essential to possess design knowledge and skills that also include anti-noise measures. Synaptics is hoping to combine those capabilities with its acquisition last month of Renesas SP Drivers (RSP).

According to Rick Bergman, president and CEO of Synaptics, a chip LCD driver and touch controller would be targeted at smartphones, tablets and personal computers, but the long-range plan also is to use them in car dashboards and GPS screen in the future.

Synaptics, founded in 1986 by Federico Faggin, renowned for designing the first commercial microprocessor at Intel (along with Masatoshi Shima, Ted Hoff and Stanley Mazor and Ted Hoff) and Carver Mead, a former professor of California Institute of Technology who solved VLSI design from architectural point of view. Faggin went on to found Zilog after leaving Intel. A collaborative book written by Mead and Lynn Conway’s, “Introduction to VLSI Design” is still recognized as the bible of LSI design.

At the press conference announcing the RSP acquisition, only Renesas CEO Ikuo Kudo attended as a representive of that company. He was flanked by Synaptics’ Bergman; Kevin Barber, general manager of the smart display department, and Bret Sewell, senior vice president of marketing and business development.

The announcement was followed by conflicting newspaper reports by Nikkei and Nikkan Kogyo about the value in the deal to Renesas—unexpected growth versus structural changes to improve profitability.

The Japanese version of this article is located here

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