Is There A Crossover Point For Mainstream Anymore?


Until 28nm, it was generally assumed that process nodes would go mainstream one or two generations after they were introduced. So by the time the leading edge chips for smartphones and servers were being developed at 16/14nm and 10/7nm, it was assumed that developing a chip at 28nm would be less expensive, less complex, and that the process rule deck would shrink. That worked for decades. Th... » read more

Who’s Watching The Supply Chain?


Every company developing chips at the most advanced process nodes these days is using different architectures and heterogeneous processing and memory elements. There simply is no other way to get the kind of power/performance improvements needed to justify the expense of moving to a new process node. So while they will reap the benefits of traditional scaling, that alone is no longer enough. ... » read more

Stacking Memory On Logic, Take Two


True 3D-ICs, where a memory die is stacked on top of a logic die using through-silicon vias, appear to be gaining momentum. There are a couple reasons why this is happening, and a handful of issues that need to be considered before even seriously considering this option. None of this is easy. On a scale of 1 to 10, this ranks somewhere around 9.99, in part because the EDA tools needed to rem... » read more

Why Scaling Must Continue


The entire semiconductor industry has come to the realization that the economics of scaling logic are gone. By any metric—price per transistor, price per watt, price per unit area of silicon—the economics are no longer in the plus column. So why continue? The answer is more complicated than it first appears. This isn't just about inertia and continuing to miniaturize what was proven in t... » read more

The Danger Of Twin Supply Chains


No matter how the ongoing dispute between the United States and China turns out, damage already has been done. It's not the kind of damage that is immediately visible to the outside world. It's more of the long-term, policy-shift kind of problem, which over time will likely prove much worse. Many executives have termed recent sanctions on Huawei and other Chinese companies "China's Sputnik m... » read more

Factoring Reliability Into Chip Manufacturing


Making chips that can last two decades is possible, even if it's developed at advanced process nodes and is subject to extreme environmental conditions, such as under the hood of a car or on top of a light pole. But doing that at the same price point as chips that go into consumer electronics, which are designed to last two to four years, is a massively complex challenge. Until a couple of y... » read more

The Arm-Huawei Disconnect


Arm's move to stop licensing its processor IP to HiSilicon, the captive chipmaker for Huawei, has set off a panic across the semiconductor industry. While the underlying threat to the entire chip industry is very real, many of the conclusions being drawn about this move are misleading or just plain wrong. When the U.S. government blacklisted Huawei, it imposed export restrictions on shipping... » read more

The Precision Knob


Precision used to be a goal, but increasingly it is being used as a tool. This is true for processing and algorithms, where less precision can greatly improve both performance and battery life. And it is true in manufacturing, where more precision can help minimize the growing impact of variation. Moreover, being able to dial precision up or down can help engineers see the impact on a system... » read more

A Different Kind Of Material World


The semiconductor manufacturing world is poised for big change, and the driver will be materials. Materials always have been a critical factor in semiconductors. Silicon is so important that an entire region of California is named after it. Rare earths have raised fears about nationalistic monopolies. And the shift from aluminum to copper interconnects at 130nm caused one of the most painful... » read more

The Mighty Sensor In The Fab


The days of scheduled maintenance on fab equipment are coming to an end. In fact, the entire service model as we know it is about to undergo a mammoth change. The addition of more sensors into manufacturing equipment may seem like an evolutionary step, but the impact is going to be much more significant than it might appear. Rather than just alerting fab managers or equipment makers when a p... » read more

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