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

Variation’s Long Tentacles


Today, most design engineers don't pay much attention to variation. It's generally considered to be a manufacturing problem. Even within the fab, various job functions are segmented enough that variation in one part of the process, such as the photomask shop, doesn't necessarily come to the attention of the people doing deposition and etch or those polishing the wafers. But increasingly, ... » read more

Will AI Drive Scaling Forward?


The almost ubiquitous rollout of AI and its offshoots—machine learning, deep learning, neural nets of all types—will require significantly more processing power as the amount of data that needs to be processed continues to grow by orders of magnitude. What isn't clear yet is how that will affect semiconductor manufacturing or how quickly that might happen. AI is more than the latest buz... » read more

2 Big Shifts, Lots Of Questions


The proliferation of AI everywhere, and ongoing efforts by big systems companies to develop their own chips, could have a profound effect on semiconductor manufacturing for years to come. AI is a multi-faceted topic, but what makes this particularly interesting from a semiconductor standpoint is the architecture of AI-specific chips. So far, most of these chips have been developed for data c... » read more

EUV’s Uncertain Future


The ground appears to be solidifying under EUV. Intel announced this week it is reducing its stake in ASML to less than 3%, the second such move in a year. Apparently ASML no longer needs outside help. According to the company's earnings report, ASML turned in net sales of €2.776 billion, a slight increase over the €2.447 billion (GAAP) the company reported in Q3 and way up over the €... » read more

The Big Blur


Chip companies, research houses, foundries—and more recently large systems companies—have been developing alternative technologies to continue scaling power and performance. It's still not obvious which of those will win, let alone survive, or what they will do to the economics of developing chips. For more than five decades, the biggest concern was scaling devices in order to save money... » read more

The Hidden Cost Of Tariffs


The impact of tariffs on the semiconductor industry is just now being assessed, but there's a lot more to this picture than import and export duties. In fact, the biggest and longest-lasting effects may have less to do with taxing imports than what happens across the global supply chain that includes everything from manufacturing equipment to materials to investment capital. Import duti... » read more

Scaling Sideways


The next steps in semiconductor technology don't follow the same vectors. While 3nm chips are likely to roll out at some point in the future, it's not clear what the business case will be for developing them. What's clear is the number of companies developing chips at that node will shrink to a handful (or less), because they're going to be far too expensive to design, verify and manufacture... » read more

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