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Top Stories For 2018

Which articles were the most popular during 2018? Some new categories are emerging.

popularity

Each year, I look back to see what articles people like to read. The first thing that has amazed me each year at Semiconductor Engineering is that what should be a strong bias towards articles published early in the year never seems to play out. The same is true this year. More than half of the top articles were published after July.

The second thing that remains constant is that people love to read about the latest process nodes and fabrication technologies. Packaging technology is quickly gaining in importance as well.

Bubbling under the surface this year were two topics that I am sure will be more prevalent next year – machine learning and new memory technologies. Both of these technologies are ready for broader adoption and when it does, there will be a lot more interest.

Thanks for your support throughout the year and happy holidays to all of you!

Manufacturing

Top honors this year goes to Transistor Options Beyond 3nm. Complicated and expensive technologies are being planned all the way to 2030, but it’s not clear how far the scaling roadmap will really go.

Runners up include:

  • Big Trouble At 3nm. Costs of developing a complex chip could run as high as $1.5B, while power/performance benefits are likely to decrease.
  • GF Puts 7nm On Hold. Foundry forms ASIC subsidiary as it focuses on 14nm/12nm and above.
  • Foundry Challenges In 2018. Growth will remain steady, but it’s getting harder and more expensive to move to the next nodes.
  • Nodes Vs. Nodelets. Growing number of process options is creating confusion across the semiconductor industry.
  • 200mm Fab Crunch. Shortages of used equipment and lower margins mean this problem isn’t getting solved anytime soon.

Packaging

  • Fan-Out Wars Begin. The number of low-density packaging options is increasing as the popularity of advanced packaging grows.
  • Packaging Challenges For 2018. Shortages, pricing pressures, rising investments and more packaging options add up to an interesting year for OSATs.

Design

Now we migrate to the areas in which I write.

  • Chip Aging Accelerates. As advanced-node chips are added into cars, and usage models shift inside of data centers, new questions surface about reliability.
  • Why Chips Die. Semiconductor devices face many hazards before and after manufacturing that can cause them to fail prematurely.
  • RISC-V: More Than A Core. Interest in the open-source ISA marks a significant shift among chipmakers, but it will require continued industry support to be successful.
  • The Impact Of Moore’s Law Ending. Chips will cost more to design and manufacture even without pushing to the latest node, but that’s not the whole story.
  • Big Changes For Mainstream Chip Architectures. AI-enabled systems are being designed to process more data locally as device scaling benefits decline.

Devices

New memory technologies and a broadening of FPGA devices are changing what people think can be put into an SoC. We will see a lot more articles about new memory technologies appearing on next year’s list.

  • 3D NAND Flash Wars Begin. Market overcrowding, more efficient manufacturing, and growing list of scaling issues create a challenging competitive landscape.
  • FPGAs Becoming More SoC-Like. Lines blur as processors are added into traditional FPGAs, and programmability is added into ASICs.

Competitiveness

And finally, the rate at which the China semiconductor industry is coming on-line interests a lot of people.



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