The Week In Review: Manufacturing

MRAM MCUs; high-res radar; Astronics’ ATE VP; fabless boom.

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Chipmakers
Semiconductor IP startup eVaderis has demonstrated a design platform through an ultra-low-power microcontroller (MCU) in Beyond Semiconductor’s BA2X product line. The software, system and memory IP developed by eVaderis make Beyond Semiconductor’s new MCU ideally suited for battery-powered applications in IoT and wearable electronics.

By incorporating the latest STT-MRAM technology from Imec, Beyond Semiconductor’s new MCU can achieve non-volatile operation with high-speed read/write and low voltage. In addition, the device is designed for manufacturability using GlobalFoundries’ 40nm low-power CMOS production process.

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High-resolution radar is a hot market. A dozen or so companies are developing high-resolution radar chips that use various modulation schemes and processes, such as CMOS, FD-SOI and even metamaterials.

NXP is the latest entrant in the emerging field. In fact, NXP has announced a high-resolution radar chip for use in automotive applications.

The chip, dubbed the MR3003 Radar Transceiver, is a 77GHz radar device. Based on a silicon germanium (SiGe) process, the device is developed for front or corner radar applications in automated driving, where high resolution and long-range capabilities are needed.

The high-resolution imaging radar device is based on a 12 channel TX and a 16 channel RX design. Capable of tracking thousands of targets simultaneously, this radar technology enables real-time sensing of the surrounding environment, essential for L4/L5 autonomous driving. “The MR3003 radar transceiver delivers superior RF output power, low noise, and multi-channel operation to enable radar sensors with increased range and improved resolution,” said Patrick Morgan vice president and general manager of product line ADAS modems at NXP.

In addition, NXP has announced the availability of its so-called NXP Automated Drive Kit, a software enabled platform for the development and testing of automated vehicle applications. The kit enables car makers and suppliers to develop, test and deploy autonomous algorithms and applications on an open platform.

Now available for order on the AutonomouStuff website, the Kit includes the NXP BlueBox 2.0, ROS workspace, and position and perception sensors. The Kit framework also supports Baidu’s Apollo Software Platform and a host of autonomous development tools and sensors.

Test and fab tools
Astronics, through its subsidiary Astronics Test Systems (ATS), has named Samer Kabbani as executive vice president of sales and business development. He joins Astronics Test Systems after a 14-year tenure at Cohu, where he served in key senior management roles, including president of Delta Design Systems. Kabbani led the strategy and overall execution of the business unit’s automation, thermal and vision product lines.

Nordson has acquired Sonoscan, a designer and manufacturer of acoustic microscopes and acoustic micro imaging systems used in a variety of microelectronic, automotive, aerospace and industrial electronics assembly applications.

Market research
Fabless IC company sales topped $100 billion for the first time in 2017, according to IC Insights, which also ranked the top fabless companies. Two Chinese companies—HiSilicon and Unigroup—are among the top 10 fabless IC sales leaders.

Meanwhile, Worldwide semiconductor revenue was $419.7 billion in 2017, a 22.2% increase from 2016, according to preliminary results by Gartner. “The largest memory supplier, Samsung Electronics, gained the most market share and took the No. 1 position from Intel — the first time Intel has been toppled since 1992,” said Andrew Norwood, research vice president at Gartner. “Memory accounted for more than two-thirds of all semiconductor revenue growth in 2017, and became the largest semiconductor category.”

The current rankings may not last long. “Samsung’s lead is literally built on sand, in the form of memory silicon,” said Norwood. “Memory pricing will weaken in 2018, initially for NAND flash and then DRAM in 2019 as China increases its memory production capacity. We then expect Samsung to lose a lot of the revenue gains it has made.”