No Road, No Roadmap

It looks as if we’re about to hit the wall in the single-digit nanometer range.

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Happy holidays! It’s almost that time of year. Well-wishing and celebration are customary around now. I’ll get to that in a moment. But so are retrospectives and prognostication. Let’s focus on those for a moment.

What has 2012 brought us, and what lies ahead? While there have been many technology advances and exciting new product introductions this past year, one fact shines through as most important for me—the semiconductor technology roadmap is running out of road. The “final” lithography node has been looming for a while now. It looks like we’ll hit the wall somewhere in the single-digit nanometer range. It’s not that far off.

Figure-1

There is physical evidence that the end of the road is approaching. Advanced node adoption is slowing, and some even talk of skipping a node altogether. Alternate technologies are taking up some of the slack, most of them by going vertical. Silicon interposers, FinFETs and 3D stacked die are all methods to build more road for a different kind of roadmap—More than Moore, as it is called. These technology alternatives will have a substantial impact on the semiconductor industry and the configuration of its supply chain in the years ahead.

Figure-2

In the new More than Moore world, a system-on-a-chip becomes a system-in-a-package. Components of the design are now sourced as separately manufactured silicon slices, all integrated on chip-scale substrates. If you think IP procurement is difficult now, it’s going to get a lot harder in the system-in-a-package world. FinFETs will pose a whole new set of technology adoption challenges as well. Harmonizing these large-scale, independently manufactured subsystems will bring a new set of problems, as well, both technology- and business-related. Who will take the inventory risk for a new system-in-a-package design? Who will take the yield risk for assembly of the system? These questions will create significant business opportunities for those who think about the problem the right way.

I am personally excited about these coming changes. They bode well for stronger front-end planning and more careful system design and integration. This is the neighborhood where Atrenta lives and a lot of people are moving there.

So when you celebrate the holidays, raise your glass for all the exciting work ahead to build a new road for the semiconductor technology roadmap. All of us at Atrenta wish you and your families a happy holiday and a prosperous New Year. If you have a minute (literally), click here to hear the official version of our holiday greeting.