Saturday, July 31, 2010

Is there a case for polysilicon manufacturing in India?

Friends, is there a case for polysilicon manufacturing in India? Would like to hear from you! This post is based on a discussion at Solarcon India 2010, organized by SEMI India, on polysilicon manufacturing in India by Lanco Solar's Alok Nigam.According to Nigam, there is considerable polysilicon market potential in India. The inevitable dependance on other Asian countries in the absence of any sort of domestic capacity will only worsen the balance of payments (BoP) situation. Upstream integration will help derisk business. Even in the absence of policy (JN-NSM) support, the impact on system cost will be marginal.

Now, as per the current manufacturing trends, polysilicon production remains concentrated with the top six players holding 70-80 percent of market share and new, large players emerging in China.

Technology has also enabled cost improvements across value chains -- such as increasing furnace/reactor size, use of diamond wire for slicing, efficiency gain in cells, economy of scale in modules, etc. More incremental capacity is said to be coming up in Asia, which includes players such as SunPower, MEMC, First Solar, etc.

Is there potential for polysilicon tightening?
Polysilicon supply for solar is said to be growing at a CAGR of 54 percent (2009-11). Nigam said that potential undersupply is expected in 2010, and polysilicon prices are also continuing to firm over the coming months. It is expected that polysilicon supply will be worth ~19GW in 2011 and the total solar PV supply wii be at ~21GW in 2011. This implies a potential for oversupply, if the demand numbers of 2011 are to be believed.

However, keep in mind that estimates for every single year have been revised up significantly, without exception. for example, in 2008, estimate for 2009 (darkest year in a long while), was 5.2GWp. The actual demand turned out to be 7.2GWp.

There has also been demand buoyancy despite the recession in Spain. In 2008, despite the credit crisis, the market continued to grow fueled by new emerging markets, including Italy and Germany. Also, in 2010, demand in Germany and Italy had become stronger, before a reset in FIT. New markets also continue to emerge.

RPPOs will be pushing the frontier further in India by 2013. The solar power purchase obigation for states start with 0.25 percent in phase 1 and goes on to 3 percent by 2022. The market size upto 2013 has been estimated at 1.6GW. There could be a polysilicon requirement of 6,000 tonnes considering that solar thermal will account for 40 percent.

The RPPOs situation will change further by 2022, RPPOs. While the solar power purchase obligation wil be the same, the installed solar capacity by 2022 at 38GW means India would have consumed more than 120,000 tonnes of polysilicon at 60 percent PV capacity.

Nigam also presented a comparison between India and China, where he showed the the total disadvantage/kilo at 2.84 percent. The difference is significant in the interest rates -- -- over 5 percent -- in the two countries. Nigam suggested that lowering the interest rate in India would help.

Lanco is currently developing a 35MW solar PV project in Gujarat, with 5MWp likely to be commissioned by end of September 2010. It is also offering third party EPC services for developing solar PV farms. Lanco is also setting up a 1250MT polysilicon plant and 80MWp wafering facility.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Need to develop indigenous manufacturing capacity in solar: Deepak Gupta

Delivering the valedictory address at Solarcon Iindia 2010, Deepak Gupta, secretary, MNRE, government of India, detailed the main agenda of JN-NSM for India as follows:

* Reduction of fossil fuels consumption.
* Improve access to electricity.
* Reduce the carbon footprint.

He said that solar provides the versatility to meet India's objectives. "When we talk of NSM, people only tend to see the target. There are several other important objectives. One of those being the target of 20 million rural household lights."

He added that the target of NSM should be seen in context of the fundamental objectves of the NSM. "We need to develop indigenous manufacturing capacity as well. Solar power must lead to cost reduction and technology improvement.

"We have seen the rush for 1MW, we are likely to see a similar rush for 5MW. We iwill go in for reverse auction. We hope that serious players with long term strategy will participate. On the grid side, we kept a 100MW as the target, of which 90MW has been proposed."

Off-grid opportunities significant
Gupta encouraged the Indian industry to look at the off grid opportunities more seriously. Off-grid opportunities are significant and must be strongly looked into, in addition to the grid-connected power projects. For instance, even if solar/PV is deployed for say, 50,000 telecom towers across the country, there can be huge savings -- in terms of energy savings and usage of diesel.

Actually, there is also a need to identify the various areas where diesel can be replaced. The telecom tower is just one example. This is a huge market opportunity waiting to happen. He urged the industry to develop expertise to do all this.

Gupta added: "When we talk about off grid, we should also look at rural lighting. The 20mn target, broadly means covering 4,000 households every day from the 15th of June over the next 12 years. Solar lighting is a revolution waiting to happen. We also need to find suitable business models of solar power for village community, and try and provide livelihood opportunities."

Next, the NSM is encouraging strong R&D programs. Much more needs to be done on this front. Quality control and certification will also be important. An international lab is said to be opening its facility in Bangalore in August.

Gupta pointed out that there is also a need for the Indian solar PV industry to develop a service infrastructure. All off the grid activities will require services. It is still a neglected area.

He added that critical elements required for success of the NSM would include human resources development -- building talent pool, R&D -- to reduce cost, besides policy support and finance. He urged the industry to stress on the importance of standards, accreditation and quality control mechanisms to help ensure the overall quality and reliability of the PV systems.

The MNRE also welcomes CSR programs of companies to join hands in setting up projects for off-grid applications in rural areas. Now that policy details have been published, the industry must act to implement the NSM and strive to achieve the targets.

Gupta concluded: "Correctives to the policy will be done as we go along. We will also monitor closely the implementation and timelines. The NSM cannot tolerate players who will delay."

I believe that those who delay their solar projects, they will have to forfeit their bank guarantees. Suggest that all project developers and players to please check the MNRE guidelines carefully. Best wishes!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Solarcon India 2010: Timely implementation of phase 1 critical to success of JN-NSM!

The inaugural function at the ongoing Solarcon India 2010 has sent out a significant message to the world -- India means business in solar! All eyes are now on phase 1 of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JN-NSM). Timely and successful implementation of phase 1 really holds the key toward future success of this ambitious Mission.Strong emphasis is now being placed on research and development, and rightly so. The Indian government is also working toward tackling issues involved with project financing.

The Union Ministry of Urban Development has now come up with a National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, which should provide many more opportunities for project developers. Just days before the conference, guidelines for new solar projects under the JN-NSM were announced. NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam signed MoUs with 16 project developers for solar power projects. On the state level, the initiatives undertaken by the Andhra Pradesh government are there for all to see and emulate.

Let's take a look at what the various dignitaries from Central and State governments, EPIA and SEMI, had to say at Solarcon 2010. Please bear with me, friends, as this is quite a long post!

India needs to develop research facilities
Delivering his address at the inauguration function of Solarcon 2010, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Hon’ble Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy highlighted that JN-NSM has been the vision of Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minster. Phase 1 is now underway -- a target of 1,000 MW, with 500MW for solar PV and 500MW for solar thermal.

Addressing the Indian solar PV industry, Dr. Abdullah stressed: "India should develop its technology right here! Don't import third rate technology!" He quipped "Sastaa roye bar bar, mehenga roye ek bar!" That is, it is better to buy expensive and quality technology rather than banking on cheap technology.

"Your technology has to work for 25 years! You must have your own research centers. Research is one of the goals of the NSM. You have to do your own research. You are going to the market, not only for India, but also for a unified world," he added.

The Minister remarked that by simply adding solar water heaters in several hotels had reduced their electricity bills by half. He added: "We want to encourage many players. We want true players!" Addressing the solar thermal and PV debate, he said: "When we started, we put 60:40 for thermal and PV. We changed that to 50:50." There may be a need to go down further. "Buy the best technology, don't buy cheap!"

He added that many states had missed the boat in phase 1 of the JN-NSM. Some examples include Bihar and Kerala. However, there is every likelihood that they will get included in phase 2 of the JN-NSM. "Look at the amount of fossil fuels we are importing at the cost of dollars and the country's health. Just look at the savings we can do for the nation if we can develop solar technology."

Bankers meet in Mumbai to address finance problems
The Minister admitted that finance has been a problem for some time. He advised the gathering about a bankers meeting that has been called for in Mumbai. "We have to take the risk to go forward," he said. He advised that each MP's house in Delhi has solar power heaters. Every government building will henceforth be green.

Dr. Abdullah added that his Ministry has requested the Urban Ministry for land, as solar as a segment within the MNRE needs to have its own identity. His Ministry is currently searching for a chairman who understands solar energy, who can head this initiative. This is indeed timely and very welcome, as and when it happens.

Solar energy and urbanization
S. Jaipal Reddy, Hon’ble Union Minister for Urban Development, said there has been a general consensus that human contribution by way of pollution to the process of climate change has been a major issue that needs to be addressed. Calling the JN-NSM a great initiative, he also voiced concern at the spread of pollution along with urbanization.

Only 30 percent of the Indian population is urban, which is relatively low than global standard of 50 percent. Hence, there is a huge requirement for energy consumption, which can be met by exploring and exhausting all avenues of utilization of non-conventional sources of energy.

He said: "There is a National Mission on Sustainable Habitat. We will see how we can reduce the dependance on conventional energy. We are focused on the utilization of solar energy, especially in urban and commercial projects. We want to encourage the energy audit of public buildings as well."

For those interested, this particular Mission will promote energy efficiency as an integral component of urban planning and urban renewal through three initiatives -- Energy Conservation Building Code; recycling of material and urban waste management; and better urban planning and modal shift to public transport.

One of the recommendations of this Mission is to use rooftop solar programs, as well as solar water heaters. Incentives will be provided for efficient lighting systems. There you go -- multiple opportunites are now made available, under the National Mission on Sustainable Habitat!

And, friends, why are you worrying about things like 'Made-in-India modules' condition for JN-NSM projects? I just don't get it! Don't you ever want your own, local industry to ever grow and prosper? Why do you still want to import more and more? What's the fun in taking short cuts?

Jaipal Reddy also highlighted a community complex in Kolkata, which runs on solar. Houses have been designed based on solar passive architecture.

He added that the CPWD has also adopted green building parameters in its 2007 manual. Every construction of CPWD will employ TERI’s Griha’ rating systems."Every CPWD building, henceforth, has to be green," the Minister added. Presently, all government buildings use solar water heaters. Nirman Bhawan in Delhi is based on such a concept. Even the PM’s residence uses10 percent of power from solar energy. He concluded, "In my ministry, I will do everything to develop solar power applications."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Solarcon India 2010 kicks off in Hyderabad!

Solarcon India 2010, the second edition of India’s largest solar-energy-focused event organized by SEMI India, the premier trade body of the Indian solar/PV industry, kicked off at HICC, Hyderabad today.Honourable Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Dr Farooq Abdullah, inaugurated the three day exposition and conference. Honourable Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, K. Rosaiah presided over the event. Honourable Union Minister for Urban Development, Jaipal Reddy, was the Guest of Honour.

The conference keynote was delivered by Dr Winfried Hoffmann, President, European Photovoltaic Industry Association.

India’s first solar industry directory, published by SEMI India was released on the occasion.

More details later… am still at the conference! ;)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Unique solution required for grid-tie inverters in India!

According to Venkat Rajaraman, CEO, Su-Kam Power Systems, there is a need for a unique solution for grid-tie inverters in India. The reason being: the grid itself is unstable, and isn't available most of the time. Also, it does not comply yet, to any of the known specifications.

Rajaraman was speaking during a workshop on solar inverters, organized by the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) on 23 July, 2010, in Kolkata, India.

Challenges and opportunities for solar inverters in India
He listed some other challenges as well facing the Indian solar inverter industry. These include a need for solar charge controllers that can take advantage of the existing inverters/HUPS that are already installed for off-grid applications. Also, there is a reqirement of low-cost, high-efficiency charge controllers (MPPTs) that can work with a variety of batteries.

Further, the inverters (solar/otherwise) are still designed with chips designed for motor control application. There is a need for inverter specific solution input PFC, battery monitoring/algorithms, charge current/mains sense, power device drivers, etc).

As and when these challenges be met, which should happen, hopefully, in the long run, the Indian opportunity is immense! For instance, the goal of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JN-NSM) is already well known -- to set up a capacity of solar power generation of 20,000 MW by 2022 in India.

Solar should be seen as a long term solution to India’s power deficit. The total capital outlay at today’s prices for adding 20,000MW capacity is Rs. 4 lakh crores ($90 billion)! Further, the share of electronics (balance of system) alone will be Rs 80,000 crores ($20 billion).

Solar inverters – R&D, future needs
Rajaraman also highlighted the R&D efforts going on in India as well as the future needs for solar inverters. As far as R&D is concerned, IIT-Mumbai boasts of a “Center of Excellence in PV.” We need a network of CoEs.

Next, the MNRE has a PV Research Council, which features industry experts, scientists, researchers, representatives, etc. There is also a CIIE (Center for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship) at IIM, Ahmadabad. Besides, there are innumerable solar start-ups in the country, who are also doing research in their own ways.

Highlighting the future needs for India, Rajaraman said that there is a pressing need to create a critical mass of researchers, as it is important to fill the link between the lab to plant.

India would also do well to engage in pre-competitive collaborative research through either the open domain or a consortium model. Some key research areas could be cost effective power electronics – MPPTs, micro inverters, etc. There should also be particular focus on batteries and storage technologies. Lastly, there is need for innovative solutions, and especially, business models.

While the first generation of players looked at early adoption and technology proofing, the second generation has focused on repeatability and efficiency. The third generation needs to focus on scaling up.

Rajaraman also called upon to customize the PV inverter testing standards for India.

Focus on new technologies
There is also a need to focus on new technologies. Some of these would be:
* Multi-string inverters - a single inverter to convert power input from several module strings, reducing inverter costs for PV systems.
* Maximum Power Point Tracker (MPPT) for each string, ensuring maximum energy yield.
* Modularity and N+1 redundancy.
* Improve mean time between failures (MTBF) to give better reliability.
* Improved higher KVA product range.
* Minor KVA adjustments in the lower end inverters.
* HF solar inverters.
* Micro inverters for maximizing the efficiency.
* Grid interactive solar inverters to be a part of the solar Power generation play – will be the dominant business in the coming years.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Need to overcome solar inverter challenges and issues in India

Did you know that Indian made inverters typically come with ia two-year warranty, while foreign inverters are generally availavle with a five-year warranty with AMC? It can be extended up to 10 years.

According to Dr. J. N. Roy, vice president (R&D/Engineering), Solar Semiconductor Pvt Ltd, while Indian made inverters could be mostly installed indoors, the foreign ones could be deployed both indoors and outdoors. In terms of durability, Indian inverters are expected to last at least 20 years, while foreign inverters had already proved that they can last this distance!

These limitations or challenges facing Indian made inverters were highlighted by Dr. Roy during a workshop on solar inverters, organized by the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) on 23 July, 2010, in Kolkata, India.

In terms of control, Indian inverters did not support wireless features as yet, while it is already available on foreign inverters. In terms of design and support, while Indian inverters were generally custom made, the foreign inverters were standardized and had simulation support. As for efficiency, while Indian inverters had efficiency less than 94 percent, their foreign counterparts boast efficiency higher than 97 percent -- a telling differentiator.

In terms of battery voltage, Indian made inverters were available supporting 24V, 48V, 96V, 120V and 240V, respectively. Foreign made inverters support 24V and 48V as fixed. They are light and compact, as compared to large and heavy for locally made inverters. While Indian inverters are generally EC and TUV approved, the foreign inverters are EC and TUV approved and UL listed, respectively.

Dr. Roy also highlighted the challenges faced by power control units (PCUs) in India and touched upon the desired features of inverters.

Roy said that inverters today have a mean time between failure (MTBF) of less than 10 years. The computed MTBF above 100 years has already been achieved in recent modular solar inverters. Incidentally, solar PV panels easily meet the 25 years life requirement.

He provided case studies, such as off-grid DC couple system, off-grid AC couple system, and off-grid pump systems. In the off-grid pump systems, there were no batteries/grid as buffer. Power consumption can be matched with power generation by controlling speed of the pump. He advised making power generation as close as possible to maximum power.

Dr. Roy provided several examples of inverters. While multi string inverter and central inverter were examples of classification based on installations, solar inverters with and without transformer were examples of classification based on topology.

PCU challenges
He touched upon challenges faced by PCUs. First, parallel operation of PCUs needs synchronizing. There should be some communication between the PCUs. Controlling should be done based on input from each PCU. The control should be based on inputs from each battery bank unit of the PCUs.

Next, load management control was necessary, while a master-slave mechanism should also be available. Control should take care of the optimal and safe operation of the PCUs. Failure of one or more of the PCUs should not affect parallel operation of others. He stressed upon the requirement and necessity of intelligent control.

Desired features of inverters
Dr. Roy also outlined the desirable features of inverters. They should be flexible in order to be easily installed indoor as well as outdoor. The inverter should be reliable -- with a life span of over 25 years. Durability is yet another important factor. There should preferably be a warranty for a period of five years and an AMC for a period of 20 years.

The control should be impeccable. The inverters would be required to be compatible with a broad palette of the most diverse components. Finally, support -- there should be design/simulation support.

Highlighting the limitations, Dr. Roy noted that the Indian supplier mainly manufactures the PCU. The PCU combines the inverter and battery charging unit. Next, the Indian PCU unit is custom made and not standardized to feed the customer requirements. Finally, engineering support has been minimal up until now.

All of these challenges and issues need to be addressed at the earliest, given that lot is at stake in order to make the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission a huge success in India.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Solar PV heats up in India -- NVVN signs MoU with 16 developers; new guidelines for solar projects

The solar photovoltaics segment has surely heated up in the past week in India and is currently the flavor of the year. And rightly so! Just take stock of the developments that have been happening since the past three to four days!

Let's start with Kolkata, Dominique Lapierre's City of Joy! Last week, the India Semiconductor Association (ISA), in association with Government of West Bengal, Webel and West Bengal Green Energy Power Development Corp. Ltd (WBGEPDCL) organized a workshop on solar inverters. Obviously, solar inverters are going to play a significant role in India's off-grid applications segment within the solar PV domain.

Dr Pradip K. Dutta, vice chairman, ISA, advised: “India offers a large market for solar inverters. However, the domestic companies need to improve product design and expand their capacities to be able to compete at a global level."

Today, there are two other significant news coming from New Delhi. First, NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam (NVVN), the nodal agency to purchase solar power generated by independent solar power producers, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with 16 project developers to set up to 84 MW capacity solar power projects.

Under migration 54 MW capacity will be through solar PV and balance 30 MW through solar thermal technology. These projects are expected to be commissioned by middle of next year. The table lists all of the 16 project developers.Source: Press Information Bureau, Government of India.

Second, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Hon'ble Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy and Sushilkumar Shinde, Hon'ble Union Minister for Power, jointly unveiled the guidelines for selection of new solar power projects under the 1,000 MW solar power scheme in the first phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JN-NSM).

This will definitely put India in league with countries like Germany, Spain and Japan who are leaders in harnessing solar power.

The ISA has welcomed this development. It is confident that these policy measures would give impetus to the growth of the domestic solar PV industry. This is a concrete step in realizing the targets set by the National Solar Mission and will provide a significant boost to the domestic solar industry.

Stefan de Haan, senior analyst, Photovoltaics, iSuppli, said in an email response: ”According to our latest analysis global PV installations will grow to 14 GW in 2010 and 20 GW in 2011. In view of these numbers and considering the enormous potential of PV in India, the ~500 MW targeted in your country through a three-years period appear rather modest.

“The really good news is that concrete measures have been taken. It is a starting point that raises hopes for more to come in the future. Incentive schemes supporting sustainable growth of PV in India (e.g., feed-in-tariffs) would in particular help your own industry. For the future, Indian PV components suppliers bank largely on their domestic market.”

India will likely generate 1,000 MW of solar power by the year 2013, with financial assistance from Power Finance Corp and Rural Electrification Corp, under the JN-NSM. "We would be able to generate 500 MW of solar-thermal power and another 500 MW from photovoltaic cells in the next three years," said Dr. Abdullah and Shinde.

Now, all of this is really great news. With Solarcon India 2010 about to kick off in Hyderabad -- the 'City of Pearls' or the 'City of Nizams', as you want to put it, these developments have set up the show for some great action and splendid finish.

Epic -- first ever web browser for India, from India!

The Epic Browser is said to be the first-ever web browser for India. It is also the first product from Bangalore-based Hidden Reflex, a software company. Hidden Reflex is a software product startup founded by Alok Bhardwaj in 2007.

Epic incidentally comes with a built-in anti-virus scanner. Some privacy features include one-click private data deletion, one-click private browsing, and flash cookie deletion built-in (Epic claims to be the first browser ever to kill them!).Quite nice and easy to use and surf the web, Epic has loads of sidebar applications -- a huge plus point! You can type in any Indian language. Next, you can skin your Epic. I selected Sunil Gavaskar (see top of image) for multiple reasons. One, I feel that he's the one man who changed the way India plays cricket today, starting from his epic performances in the West Indies in 1971! Two, whatever anyone wishes to say, he is India's greatest test cricket batsman ever!

Next, there's an application that lets you edit and save as text or HTML. There's another application called Snippets, which lets you highlight text, images, etc., and drag and drop into the sidebar to create a snippet. I tried developing one and it works quite well.

Users would be interested to know about a video sidebar. You can perform a YouTube search while working, and find and watch the video you like! The My Computer application opens all folders you'd like to see. So, you can open any folder and directly open any file or files, while surfing on the browser. Another application lets you create a To Do list, to remind you of the chores you need to do! Yet another interesting application has a timer, alerts and stopwatch.

There are direct links to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, as well as to Gmail and Yahoo -- all on the browser's sidebar. Okay, there's a Maps application as well. You can use the built in Google Map to locate places, find directions, etc.

There's a travel application, which allows you to book air tickets via Yatra, Cleartrip, etc. I clicked on the Trains, which showed up Cleartrip. Wish that Epic can add the IRCTC website as well at the earliest.

Now, there's a sidebar application on Jobs as well! I tried it out, and again, it works well! Games is yet another application of interest! I didn't try that out, lest I get sidetracked!

You can add tons of information, news, etc., on to the sidebars as desired. I happened to add CricInfo, since cricket is my (and I believe, all of India's) favorite game!

Interested, folks? You can add over 1,500 Epic applications to the sidebar. All are free! I tried adding the technology news. There are lots of choices.

Since my interests are largely information on subjects such as semiconductors, solar photovoltaics and electronic components, I was a bit disappointed that I didn't find what I was hoping for! I hope my blog also features in that list some day! ;)

Well done guys!

Friday, July 23, 2010

7 principles for bridging hardware and firmware divide: Gary Stringham

Embedded designers, are you having problems with the firwarre (embedded software) running on your hardware? For instance, do you wish to reduce chip respins? Or, would you like to improve on the hardware and firmware integration?

These and several related queries were answered by Gary Stringham, founder and president of Gary Stringham and Associates, LLC, USA, in an interactive session organized by the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC), in co-operation with the US Commercial Service, Bangalore, and in association with the India Semiconductor Association (ISA).Here are the seven principles Stringham highlighted during the session, which should be of great interest to designers of embedded systems in India, and elsewhere.

1. Collaborate on design.
2. Set and adhere to standards.
3. Balance the load.
4. Design for compatibility.
5. Anticipate the impacts.
6. Design for contingencies.
7. Plan ahead!

I will add some more stuff for each one of these points, time permitting.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reshaping the embedded world: Vivek Sharma, ST

It was great to catch up with Vivek Sharma, regional VP, Greater China & South Asia region -- India Operations and Director, India Design Center, STMicroelectronics, on the sidelines of the 4th Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) 2010 in Bangalore. We had a wonderful discussion on the trends that are reshaping today's embedded world.Sharma said: "Moore's Law has governed many new things. In fact, it has ruled the roost. The industry has been able to push up complexity within a chip and also bring down costs."

As an example, during the last two decades, cost and complexity have combined to create the mobile device -- which has turned out to be a disruptive application. The world recently added its 5 billionth mobile subscriber in July 2010. There is likely to be a whopping 50 billion connected devices by 2020!

SiP reshaping embedded world
Touching upon 'more than Moore", Sharma added that shrinking will keep on happening. System-in-package is a reality today and is reshaping the embedded world. It can allow more shrinking in size and push down costs.

Borrowing from wikipedia, for those interested, a system-in-a-package or system in package (SiP), also known as a chip stack MCM, is a number of ICs enclosed in a single package or module, and performs all or most of the functions of an electronic system.

3D heterogenous integration and TSV
3D heterogenous integration and through-silicon via (TSV) is another trend reshaping the industry. 3D packaging with 3D TSV interconnects provides another path toward "More than Moore", with relatively smaller capital investments.

3D-ICs stack multiple chips together and interconnect them using through-silicon via (TSV) structures, thereby providing much more functions in a smaller footprint.

MEMS key segment
MEMS is yet another sector which is reshaping the industry. Sensors play a major role in our lives. "If we can develop good sensors, they can change our lives," said Sharma. "Accelerometers and gyroscopes are two key segments with substantial growth. MEMS takes advantage of the electrical and mechanical properties of the silicon.' He added that all MEMS gyroscopes take advantage of Coriolis effect. In 2009, ST introduced over 30 multi-axis gyroscopes.

For the statistically inclined, earlier this year, Dr. Robert Castellano of the Information Network said that in their report 3-D TSV: Insight On Critical Issues And Market Analysis, analysis shows that while the overall equipment market will grow at a CAGR of nearly 60 percent between 2008-2013, the metrology/inspection sector is expected to grow nearly 80 percent. On the device side, TSVs for MEMS is expected to grow nearly 100 percent in this time frame.

Power of smart integration
According to Sharma, smart sensors will provide the new, high growth opportunity, especially, a combination of MEMS+RF+micro. "The future is with smart systens," he stressed.

He touched upon ST’s iNEMO family. It represents ST’s first inertial measurement unit devices with 10 degrees of freedom (DOF), offering combinations of 3-axis sensing of linear, angular and magnetic motion with temperature and barometer/altitude readings combined with a 32-bit processing unit and a dedicated software in a single package.

The modules contain a memory card socket for data logging and dedicated connectors for wired/wireless connectivity, including USB, ZigBee or GPS. "You can get a high quality, low cost and higher package density," he added.

Some applications of smart systems are:
* Smart systems in healthcare -- examples being MEMS based insulin pumps for diabetes, flexible eye lens for glaucoma, etc.
* Smart systems in energy -- examples being hybrid electric traction, PV panel converters, snart grid, thin film flexible batteries, etc.
* Smart systems in automation.
* Smart systems in automotive.
* Smart systems in consumers.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Time to "think about" June 2010 global semicon sales (and 2Q10 also)!

This is a continuation of my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, who has provided me the latest numbers.

Mike Cowan has shared with us an additional feature of the Cowan LRA Model for forecasting worldwide semi sales; namely, the capability to provide a "look ahead" scenario analysis for 2010's global semi sales forecast update as a function of next month's (in this case June's) actual sales normally published by the WSTS (expected on Thursday, August 5, 2010).

The specifics of the scenario analysis are discussed in the following paragraphs and detailed in the tables.

In order to illustrate this capability, Cowan selected a possible range in June 2010 sales -- in this particular scenario, a range from $24.29 billion to $29.79 billion in increments of $0.5 billion -- as listed in the first column of the table included below.

This chosen range of actual sales is "centered around" the actual June sales forecast estimate of $28.291 billion as determined by last month's May run of the model. The corresponding June 3MMA sales forecast estimate is $25.230 billion.

The overall year 2010 sales forecast estimate for each assumed, estimated sales number of the selected range of June actual sales is calculated by the model, and is shown in the second column of the table.

The third column reveals the resulting yr-o-yr sales growth estimates compared to year 2009 actual sales (of $226.3 billion).

Finally, the fourth and fifth columns show the corresponding 3MMA, three Month Moving Average, sales estimate and the associated yr-o-yr sales growth relative to June 2009's 3MMA sales (of $17.483 billion), respectively.

Table ISources: Cowan LRA Global S/C forecasting model and SIA/WSTS.

Therefore, as the table reveals, depending on the actual WSTS to-be-released June 2010 global semi sales number, the forecasted 2010 sales estimate, as determined by the model, could vary between $296.01 billion and $307.60 billion with the corresponding 2009=>2010 sales growth estimate could vary between 30.8 percent and 35.9 percent, respectively.

Note: The previously published Cowan LRA Model's 2010 sales forecast update, which was based upon May 2010's actual sales (of $24.007 billion), came in at $304.70 billion corresponding to a sales growth forecast estimate of 34.6 percent as presented earlier (on July 9, 2010).

Therefore, using this analysis capability, the model allows a "sensitivity output" of the "expected" 2010 sales (and year-o-year forecasted sales growth) as a function of the yet-to-be-published actual June sales number.

Therefore, employing the table below, one can a-priori "select" a June sales number (in the range shown) and immediately see what the model would predict for a 2010 sales forecast estimate along with its corresponding sales growth expectation in advance of the actual to-be-published final June sales result.

Stay tuned for the WSTS to publish (expected on August 5, 2010) their actual June 2010 sales number. One can then ascertain the model's latest forecast outlook as abstracted (or extrapolated) from the attached table even before Cowan publishes his updated monthly numbers.

PS: Relative to the possible 2Q10 sales estimate result, Mike Cowan has put together the following look-ahead table that summarizes the corresponding 2Q10 sales estimate for each of the a-priori selected June sales estimates.

Table 2Source: Cowan LRA global S/C forecasting model.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

RoseStreet Labs develops breakthrough multiband solar cell technology

This story is specifically meant for those either connected with or interested in the global solar PV industry. And, it concerns a wonderful technological breakthrough!

Now, I'm not sure how many of you heard this story -- late last month, scientists at Phoenix, Arizona, USA, based RoseStreet Labs Energy Inc. (RSLE), chairman and CEO, Bob Forcier, announced a breakthrough multiband solar cell technology.

A bit about the company: RoseStreet Labs has ventured into the semiconductor, renewable energy and life science markets with strategic investments, intellectual property development, three joint ventures and a successful spin out in personal health technology. RSLE's first commercialization business, FlipChip International (FCI), experienced double digit growth annually and opened its FCMS joint venture in Shanghai, China.

Naturally, this prompted me to get in touch with Bob Forcier at RoseStreet Labs, with the help of Dawn Cuevas, office manager - RSL/FCI.

But first, the breakthough achievement!

RoseStreet Labs announced a breakthrough lab demo of the first known multiband photovoltaic device featuring three distinct light absorption regions integrated into a single layer thin film device.

This breakthrough is based on RSLE's IBand technology and is the first known intermediate band solar cell reduced to practice in a laboratory demonstration. This technology illustrates great promise for high efficiency thin film solar efficiencies above 35 percent by potentially capturing the full spectrum of the sun's spectrum.

According to the company, the intermediate band solar cell developed by RSLE is a thin film technology based on the discovery of highly mismatched alloys. The simple and elegant three bandgaps, one junction device has the potential of significantly improved solar light absorption and higher power output than the III-V triple junction compound semiconductor devices that presently hold the world record for solar efficiency.

Three cells for the cost of one cell!
I quizzed Bob Forcier about the multiband solar cell technology. He said, "It involves a less complex approach that replaces the currently used triple junction approaches for full spectrum high efficiency capture."

So, what can RSLE's IBand technology do for solar? Well, once commercialized, the IBand technology has the potential to change the game in +30 percent efficient cells, claimed Forcier.

"Basically, going from complex and expensive triple junction devices to simple, single junction thin film devices, which are inherently much more cost efficient," he added. Very importantly, solar PV players can use the IBand technology in two formats -- terrestrial flat panels and terrestrial CPV formats, respectively.

Currently, all of this is said to be achieved in a complex and expensive technology in which several solar cells with different band gaps are connected in series. A much simpler approach in which a single semiconductor has several different gaps sensitive to different parts of the solar spectrum has been proposed but never realized. "Simply put, it is like getting three cells for the cost of one cell," said Forcier.

RLSE's intermediate band solar cell is a prototype cell that demonstrates the technology can work. "Its efficiency is low since the technology is quite new and we are still developing the technology," he noted.

On the technology promising high efficiency thin film solar efficiencies above 35 percent, Forcier clarified: "We are presently below 35 percent. However, we are testing our prototype cell with both single sun and concentrated sun illuminations. The 35 percent comes from modelling of the band structure with realistically achievable material parameters."

RoseStreet is anticipating and planning for IBand technology production in 2013. This is a reasonable amount of time for a disruptive technology like IBand, Forcier said.

A new class of semiconductor devices for photovoltaic conversion and other advanced semiconductor applications will also likely get opened up. These would mostly be in sensors and high performance switching, such as power amplifiers for wireless.

Friday, July 16, 2010

SAP's multi-fold sustainability strategy

According to Peter Gartenburg, managing director, SAP India, the company's sustainability strategy is multi-fold. "A lot of factors come together in India. India has the potential for innovation with sustainability," he said, while delivering the opening address at the SAP World Tour 2010 in New Delhi.

He added: "India has the skills in IT and services. India also has a culture of frugality, especially, the ability to work in scarce and complex environments. At SAP, we can be a key partner in India's quest for leadership.

Delivering the keynote, Peter Graf, chief sustainability officer and executive VP of Sustainability Solutions, SAP, said: "We are still finding new ways to use the Internet. What can you do with IT? It goes way beyond data centers."

He added that sustainability is inevitable. The reasons include population growth, western lifestyle and linear value chains. The symptoms are resource intensity, risk price volatility, climate change, etc.

The consequences can be pretty severe, such as growing consumer awareness, brands at risk, war for talent and growing customer and legal requirements.Graf said, "Sustainability is all about business, about profitability." Sustainability drives profitability!

Graf presented a sustainability business case. It includes:
* Reduce compliance and risk; comply with customer requirements.
* Attract, retain and effectively deploy the best people.
* Saving on material and energy costs.
* Drive competitiveness and resources.
* Sustain your business model -- especially by future proofing your strategy.

SAP reportedly saved €90 million in 2009 by reducing carbon footprint by 15 percent.

Graf also presented several examples, for instance, Valero, which saved $120 million in 2009; Lexmark, which reduced 52 percent in manufacturing costs; and P&G, which generated $13.1 billion in sales.

He added: "Sustainability touches all processes. IT is at the bottom of all of this!" Graf outlined SAP's dual strategy. This includes:
* SAP as an exemplar -- transform SAP into a role model for sustainability.
* SAP as an enabler -- lead the market of sustainability solutions.

"Sustainability transforms business and increases your profitability. It also drives competitive differentiation. Sustainability is a process challenge -- it requires integrated IT. It is a leadership imperative," Graf concluded.

Doing more with less!
Delivering the guest keynote, Neelam Dhawan, managing director, HP India, touched upon the need for enterprise CIOs to do more with less. The CIOs are already doing more with less!

She touched upon today's global business, which also requires everyone to do more with less.

Salient features of today's global business include -- the global economy is in recovery; there are shrinking to flat IT budgets; there's a data and resources sprawl; there is an inefficient infrastructure to handle growth; and overall, the business environment is dynamic.

She asked the CIOs and IT managers: "The main question is: are you prepared? Your actions today, will determine your future success."

She also touched upon how enterprises can thrive in a low carbon economy. Dhawan added, "Green IT creates efficiencies, increases productivity and drives innovation.:

She also recommended the industry to optimize resources, build an intelligent infrastructure and drive sustainable transformation.

Monday, July 12, 2010

VDAT 2010: Encourage Indian students to come up with product ideas and specs

I completely agree with headline! Yes, there is a pressing need to encourage our Indian students to develop their own product ideas and come up with the specifications as well. That will surely trigger off a new wave of product development in the country!

I am extremely grateful to the organizers of VDAT 2010, and specifically, to the VSI (VLSI Society of India) Secretariat for sharing these inputs on the panel discussion on electronic design for Indian markets, which was held during the VDAT 2010 event at Chitkara University Campus, Himachal Pradesh.

The panel discussion in VDAT 2010 focused on “Electronic Design for Indian Markets – Challenges and Opportunities.” Moderated by Dr. C.P. Ravikumar, secretary, VLSI Society of India, and technical director, University Relations, Texas Instruments India, the discussion intended to understand what the killer applications were for the Indian market, how the Indian markets were different from the world market, what the challenges of product design are, and whether the graduating engineers are ready to meet the challenges of product design.The panelists included Saugat Sen, vice president R&D of Cadence Design Systems, Aninda Roy, senior design leader from Intel, and Prof. M. Balakrishnan of IIT Delhi.

Need to inculcate skill sets in students to meet challenges
“Not only cost and power, the issue of customer support and post-sale service will also be important in India when we target the bottom of the pyramid,” said Dr. Ravikumar. He felt that the dream of “Made in India, Made by India, Made for India” should drive the Indian electronics industry.

“We need to inculcate a number of skill sets into our graduating engineers to meet the challenge of electronic product design – board-level design and optimization, embedded software development are two areas that need immediate attention."

He added: “Product design is a team effort. The Indian education system has traditionally not emphasized on team effort. We have rewarded individual effort and deeper understanding of building blocks and algorithms. In product design, which involves integration of building blocks to cut down design time, it may be necessary to take a black-box view of components and focus on system-level design issues.

"A change in the mindset and grading mechanism may be necessary if we have to encourage product design in the academic institutions. Over the years, electronic design kits have become affordable thanks to Moore’s law, and this should help the academic institutions enormously to set up innovation labs.”

Curriculum changes required to grow embedded system design
Prof. Balakrishnan sounded very optimistic about product design activities in India. He related his experiences working with students from IIT Delhi and other Indian colleges on electronic gadgets to help the disabled. "Changes in the curriculum are needed to grow talent in embedded system design. There is a great deal of talent in Indian students, which needs to be encouraged," he said.

Saugat Sen noted that VDAT has overseen the transformation of India from being a fledgling in the area of VLSI design to becoming a worldwide VLSI design hub. He felt that Indian engineers have already proved themselves in project execution. Now, it is the time to prove themselves as innovators.

He added: “Instead of waiting for someone to give the specifications, let us encourage our students to come up with product ideas and specifications. Only Indians can understand the Indian markets, Indian operating conditions and the Indian priorities. If we go out to our rural areas, we will see so many problems waiting to be solved through innovation. This opens up many opportunities for Indian electronic engineers to come up with innovations relevant to India.”

Need to mentor students
The panel also discussed the topic of mentoring students. While students in some selected institutions were lucky to find mentors, this is not the case in most colleges.

Aninda Roy felt that a six-month to one-year internships in industries can help bridge this gap. He also encouraged the faculty members to look for internship opportunities in the industry. Several industrial, as well as governmental organizations, are conducting design contests to encourage product innovations.

VDAT 2010: Real, but 'different' opportunity in emerging markets -- Jaswinder Ahuja, Cadence

The VLSI Design and Test Symposium 2010 (VDAT 2010) was held last week (July 7-9) at the picturesque Chitkara University Campus, Himachal Pradesh, located 32 kms from Chandigarh. VDAT is an annual activity of the VLSI Society of India, and was initiated to provide a discussion forum for Indian academicians and industry professionals working in the areas related to VLSI.Delivering the keynote, Jaswinder Ahuja, corporate vice president and managing director, Cadence Design Systems India, said: “There is a “real” but “different” opportunity in the emerging markets. One would have to immerse himself/herself to understand the market better. India is a great proxy for the emerging markets. It also has the design expertise to address this market.

“The next 10-15 years present a unique window of opportunity to India entrepreneurs to play a leadership role in the global economic growth.”

Elaborating on the “real” but “different” opportunity in emerging markets, he added: “The base of the pyramid opportunity is very real. As per World Resources Institute, there are four billion people in the developing world representing a $5 trillion market opportunity who have real needs and aspirations but are under served.

“At least 700 million of these people are in India and represent a real business opportunity as well as an opportunity to “do good” and help include them into the formal economy and enable India to achieve its aspiration of 9-10 percent “inclusive” GDP growth. This requires business innovation and a different mind-set presenting a transformative opportunity to marry low cost, good quality, sustainability and profitability at the same time.”

India a great proxy for emerging markets!
India is also said to be a great proxy for the emerging markets. Ahuja explained: “India is many markets — urban, semi-urban and rural) in one and presents a broad spectrum of challenges that need to be overcome to be able to reach the 700 million people market opportunity.”

“If we can make something (product or service) work in India, we can make it work pretty much anywhere else in the developing world – whether it is financing, distribution, logistics, operating environment or anything else.”

Opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs to play leadership role
The next 10-15 years present a unique window of opportunity to India entrepreneurs to play a leadership role in the global economic growth.

According to Ahuja: “The markets of the future are in our backyard and we have among the best design talent in the world. If we can immerse ourselves in the market to understand the real needs and opportunities and then leverage our design expertise to build products for this market we will be best positioned to serve the next 4 billion consumers of the world.

“Indian entrepreneurs have an opportunity to play a leadership role in the global economic growth across sectors, but especially in electronics. No other country in the world has this unique convergence of circumstances. This opportunity is once in a lifetime and ours to lose if we do not create the right environment and framework to leverage it.”

Growth drivers
Ahuja also outlined the R&D opportunities that the VLSI community in India can seize. India has come a long way in the area of VLSI design and has established itself as a hub of design activity.

According to him, some of the growth drivers could be 4G phones, smart grid power, medical electronics as well as emerging markets.

The various application opportunities for India and ‘like markets’ include connecting millions who lack wired communications, efficient management of energy usage, adopting distance learing to educate remote population and making use of medical electronics to improve health.

R&D opportunities for India
Ahuja focused on R&D opportunities that have been thrown open to Indian electronic designers and manufacturers as India stands at the threshold of unprecedented economic growth.

He said: “India has transformed into an electronic design hub. Now is the time to innovate and seize the opportunities in domains such as smart phones, smart grid, medical, and the emerging India-specific markets. Indian products are cost and power-sensitive. They must be more robust to work for Indian conditions. These requirements open up design challenges for Indian electronic industry.

“For the Indian market, the equation is not Price = Cost + Profit. We have to rewrite the equation as Profit = Price – Cost. The Tata Nano fixed the price at Rs 1 lakh and worked backwards to reduce the cost. We have to draw a lesson from the Tata Nano when we design electronic products for the Indian market.”

Ahuja illustrated a number of examples where Indians have come up with innovative solutions. “Let us take a lesson from the Shampoo industry who came up with the innovation of the sachet to reach a much larger market at the bottom of the pyramid.”

EDA opportunites and electronics design
Hasmukh Ranjan delivered a keynote talk on “Cloud Computing – Opportunities for EDA.” He explained the importance of cloud computing for VLSI design companies. Companies can get access to unlimited amount of computing resources through cloud computing without making a significant capital expense. A number of EDA companies are making available software as well as IP to design companies through the cloud. There are many R&D challenges to be conquered in the area of Cloud Computing, such as security and multi-vendor flows.

Prof. Anshul Kumar gave a keynote talk on the topic of ‘Harnessing the power of multicores.”

A panel discussion was held on the topic “Electronic design for the Indian market – Challenges and Opportunities,” which was moderated by Dr. C.P. Ravikumar. The panelists included Prof. M. Balakrishnan of IIT Delhi, Saugat Sen of Cadence Design Systems, and Aninda Roy of Intel. The panelists presented their views on what they feel is a killer product for the Indian market and what differentiates product design for the Indian market from product design for the American and European markets.

Finally, thanks a lot to Dr. C.P. Ravikumar, secretary, VLSI Society of India, and technical director, University Relations, Texas Instruments India, for his valuable inputs, and for always keeping me in the loop regarding VLSI related activities in India, as well as to the VSI Secretariat for its inputs regarding VDAT 2010.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

iSuppli raises 2010 foundry forecast; interesting lessons to learn for India from China’s story!

iSuppli recently raised its revenue forecast in 2010 for pure-play semiconductor foundry revenue, owing to the renewed demand for consumer-oriented electronics products.

“During the first three quarters of 2010, foundries were under intense pressure to meet customer demand,” said Len Jelinek, director and chief analyst for semiconductor manufacturing at iSuppli. “The pressure is leading to increased revenue, as consumer spending has come back with a vengeance following a dramatic downturn in the fourth quarter of 2008 and for all of 2009.”

iSuppli has raised its revenue forecast for all semiconductor foundry activity for 2010 to $29.8 billion, up 42.3 percent from 2009’s $22.1 billion. It had previously predicted revenue would rise 39.5 percent this year.

By 2014, total pure-play foundry revenue will reach $45.9 billion, managing a CAGR of 9.4 percent from $26.8 billion in 2008. Pure-play foundries are contract manufacturers whose business consists of producing semiconductors on behalf of other chip companies.

Thanks to my good friend Jon Cassell, I managed to hook up with Len Jelinek to find out more.

Enhancing foundry forecast
I started by asking Jelinek what were the chief reasons for enhancing the foundry forecast. Jelinek said: “The forecast increase is based on the anticipated strength in demand for products in Q2 and beyond. Additionally, it is also simple math. The foundry market had a good Q2, and last year, Q1 and Q2 were quite challenging. So, by having a good first half of the year, the percentage must increase.”

Also, given that there has been renewed demand for consumer electronics products, what are the specific CE products, besides netbooks, mobile phones, that have been seeing renewed demand, and why?

He added that televisions have shown significant growth. “Also, if you look at all of the consumer products that are growing — they are the new products that require advanced chips. The foundry suppliers are the primary suppliers of advanced technology 45nm and below. These are also the most expensive products that a foundry manufactures. This of course means that the revenue will go up.

“This trend will continue into the future because, with the exception of Intel, Samsung, IBM and Toshiba, there are no IDMs that have large volume production capacities at 45nm.”

Foundry spend directions
Let us now cast a look toward the foundry spend. Much of the foundry spending is going toward developing advanced semiconductor manufacturing processes — specifically, which ones and why? When will the older processes get phased out?

While specific numbers would be hard to unearth, generally speaking, minimal investments are being made in mature technology.

Jelinek clarified: “The only investments are for capacity constraints that can be resolved by adding a few key pieces of equipment. We are not seeing any foundry commit to building a 200 mm fab. If you look at GlobalFoundries and TSMC, of the $7.2 billion CAPEX for 2010, less than $250 million is being spent on expansion of fabs that produce 0.13-micron technology.

“Older process will not be phased out. Companies are always transitioning technology. Additionally, as IDMs decide to consolidate their manufacturing, they are moving those mature technologies into the foundries. I would say, a more accurate statement is that the capacity of the mature technologies is modest to meet the needs of clients at foundries.”

What should China do differently?
Very interestingly, it seems that China was unable to develop technology differentiation or expand during the downturn, a point made by iSuppli. Therefore, what should China now do differently, given that low prices alone do not promise profits!

Jelinek said: “China as a manufacturer has become limited to a fast follower. The Chinese companies should focus their efforts to growing internal business through association with emerging fabless design companies based in China. These companies are designing for the domestic market. Some of the foundries in China still believe that they can compete with the major foundries. However, this is highly unlikely.

“Foundries in China could also expand through alliances with specific IDMs that are looking to become nearly fabless rather than look to the general market.”

So, where’s the next wave going to be?
iSuppli also said that an ‘era may be coming to an end when fabless suppliers look to China for low-cost manufacturing.’ If that indeed is going to be the case, where is the next wave likely to be and why?

Jelinek added: “Fabless semiconductor companies typically go to a specific foundry because that foundry has a technology that is capable of meeting their needs. Fabless companies outside of China typically are looking for advanced technology or processes they need to develop a product that is specific for a market of application.

“Going to China will not provide state of the art technology. Going to China will result in lagging technology that is common place.

“Fabless semiconductor companies are not totally driven by cost. They need technology and China is not capable of delivering that technology in volume. As for the next wave of manufacturing, I believe that you will see a few regional specific fabs such as in Russia or Dubai, and possibly in South America. All of these fabs will be built for only one reason — to meet a local or governmental need (perhaps, even military).

“History has shown that the demand for cheap semiconductor products is unprofitable for investors of the company or group of companies.”

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cowan's LRA model: 2010 YoY semicon sales to grow 34.6 percent

This is a continuation of my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, who has provided me the latest numbers.

Here is the latest update to the Cowan LRA model-derived forecast results reflecting the just released "actual" May sales.

2010 YoY sales growth forecast of 34.6 percent
The actual May global semiconductor sales, as announced by the WSTS, came in at $24.007 billion, which is up 45.4 percent from last year's May sales of $16.509 billion and up 2.6 percent from last month's (revised) sales of $23.391 billion (revised upwards slightly from last month's released April sales number of $23.385 billion).

Therefore, the latest updated 2010 sales forecast estimate determined by the Cowan LRA forecasting model is $304.696 billion corresponding to a 2010 year-over-year sales growth forecast of 34.6 percent.

These latest forecasted 2010 sales and sales growth numbers increased from last month's reported forecast estimates of $301.865 and 33.4 percent, respectively. These improved results reflect the relatively strong May sales number as reported by the WSTS.

The full complement of the latest, updated sales and sales growth forecast estimates for 2Q, 3Q, 4Q and 2010 are detailed in the table below along with 1Q's actual numbers.Source: Cowan LRA Forecasting Model (July 2010).

Additionally, next month's June 2010 global semiconductor sales forecast estimate is projected to be $28.291 billion, which would result in a June 3MMA sales forecast estimate of $25.230 billion.

The 3MMA sales is normally published by the SIA in its monthly press release to characterize the semiconductor industry's monthly sales and sales growth posture. The SIA's June 3MMA is scheduled to be announced on Tuesday, Aug 3, 2010.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

TI on green power and MCUs

Here's the second part of the TI roundtable, held recently.

Green power and TI
Ramprasad Ananthaswamy, director, Power Management Products, Texas Instruments India, discussed the various aspects of green power. The notion of energy and power management has become central to every country’s foreign policy, including India. The current demand is 2.1 billion units, and rising, while only 1.85 billion units are currently available.

The power IC landscape is rapidly evolving – new technologies are being developed. Even well established mega-markets are changing process technologies that are used – driven, for example, by the integration of added sensor functionality.

Ananthaswamy highlighted TI's role in green power. TI, along with leading energy harvesting vendors, are creating a complete ecosystem allowing designers to not only envision but also create a battery-less world. Also, TI's LED lighting portfolio and worldwide technical support network are helping LED designers achieve their goals faster.

Think MCUs
Shailesh Thakurdesai, business development manager - Microcontrollers, touched upon the role of MCUs. For instance, are you aware that an average person touches approximately 300 microcontrollers in a day? Almost every electronic device that an average person touches through the course of the day features an MCU. MCUs are everywhere -- in applications like personal healthcare and fitness, security, automotive safety & infotainment and consumer electronics.

From energy harvesting to aiding cutting-edge medical applications to bringing healthcare into homes, MCUs have helped to make a difference in the way people use electronics. In the energy segment, MCUs are used in:

* Street/ commercial LED lighting, home lighting etc.
* UPS, battery chargers and inverters.
* Energy harvesting, renewable energy generation, solar micro inverters etc.
* Metering – energy, water, gas.
* MCUs help arm modern-day electronics with longer battery life, portability and functionality.

In healthcare, it can be used for applications like personal healthcare and fitness equipment, portable healthcare devices like digital thermometers, handheld ultrasound, blood pressure meters, etc. It is also used in consumer electronics like mobile phones, computers, TVs, toys, etc.

Turning his attention to alternative energies, he said that the world consumes 15 TW of energy every year. This is likely to go up to ~30 TW by 2030. While only 370 TW of wind energy is “harvestable” each year, a whopping 89,000 TW of solar energy is “harvestable” each year.

Thakurdesai presented an overview of solar inverters, and specifically discussed the role of TI's MSP430 MCU. Solar inverters could contain an MSP430 to keep the standby power consumption down. The most interesting MSP430 applications in solar inverters are external status displays or data-logging devices.

Metering is yet another application area. According to him, metering applications in a ‘smart grid’ set-up includes and adjacent segments in the home – electrical, water, gas meters, thermostats, smart appliances, in home display, demand response units, etc. The TI portfolio contains all ingredients for optimized metering system solutions.

Consumer applications and medical applications are two other interesting areas for MCUs.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Compound semiconductors substrates market to reach $1bn by 2010

Thanks largely to Yole Developpement's David Jourdan, in Lyon, France, it was great to be a part of Yole's latest seminar on the compound semiconductors substrates market.

According to Yole, in 2010, the compound semiconductors substrates market will reach a size of $1 billion, with only 1.14 percent of the overall semicon processed surface.

Presenting the general conclusions and perspectives, Dr Philippe Roussel, project manager Compound Semiconductors, Yole said that compound materials are now well established in the semiconductor world. Their intrinsic properties such as wide bandgap, thermal conductivity, voltage breakdown capability, electronic mobility, etc., are offering key added value that cannot be proposed by silicon.

However, silicon is still in the race where CS devices are installed, such as:
* high frequency silicon transistors above 20 GHz and over are under development in many places.
* blue/white LED for which people are trying to grow GaN epilayers on large diameter silicon wafers (6 inch and more).
* power electronics -- using technologies such as super junction and/or trench gate approach, silicon is able to offer very low power loss characteristics, always benefitting from large diameter possibility.

He added that the only way to make CS materials a success story for a long time and to secure attractive revenues is to increase the wafer size while decreasing price.

Further, new CS materials are now in pre-production, offering enhanced performance in different ways. Some of these are:

* Al nitride (AlN): It offers a very interesting capability for manufacturing UV LED sources. The first two-inch single crystal wafers are now availabe in the market and the teechnology is improving on a regular basis.

* Zinc oxide (ZnO): Native or epitaxial ZnO offers a perfect lattice matching to grow the GaN based blue or white LEDs. Small diameter wafers are already available and wider epiwafers are under consideration by LED makers.

* Diamond: It is also under investigation. So far, only small pieces of single crystal diamonds have been produced. However, polycrystal diamond is fully available and first demonstrators of RF or power devices have been exhibited.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

June '10 global semicon update: Forget 2010, ~30 percent’s in the bag! What about 2011?

Here are the excerpts from the Global Semiconductor Monthly Report, June 2010, provided by Malcolm Penn, chairman, founder and CEO of Future Horizons. There are a lot of charts associated with this report. The report also covers market trends. Those interested to know more may contact Future Horizons.

April set the ball rolling for a blockbuster second quarter making what will now be five successive quarters of growth. Our 3 percent Q2 growth forecast looks increasingly timid, with 6-8 percent more likely. Virtually all forecasters are now pitching 2010’s growth at the 30 percent level, so there is little left to argue about other than guessing the exact final number.

Whether the ‘final’ number is 28 or 38 percent really makes no odds; it is the underlying trend that counts, something we forecast correctly over 18 months ago.

The real issue now is “What about 2011?” We are clearly now in a boom and the next phase is bust, but when, how deep and how fast will it collapse? We are currently reappraising this and our 2011 forecast, with the analyses to be presented at our forthcoming IFS2011 Mid-Term International Forecast Seminar in London on 20th July.

Forget all of the intellectual arguments about expanded geographical customer base, broader application range and the smoothing effects these would have, all that is hogwash. The industry boom-bust cycles persist and will continue to do so all the while demand dynamics are measured in weeks and the supply-side in quarters making it impossible to ever balance supply and demand.

At this point it is pertinent to revive a slide I first presented at the IEEE meeting in Boston in 1975. This slide is as valid today as it was 35 years ago.Source: Future Horizons, UK.

After four quarters of growth, the industry now finds itself in the full flood of a classic market boom. Order books are full, customers are building stocks, double ordering is rife, capacity is strained, lead times increasing and deliveries are stretched.

Inventory replenishment started in Q2-2009, due to the severe inventory overdepletion in Q4-2008/Q1-2009, and was over by Q4-2009 to be replaced by inventory building in 1H-2010, driven by lead-time extension.

Typically every week of extra lead-time adds at least half a week to WIP. Double, even triple, ordering (due to supply shortages) only really started in 1H-2010 and is definitely getting worse, but double ordering is NOT double shipping, yet. For that to happen, supply needs to catch up with demand. That leaves just one item missing from the 1975 list … ‘prices stabilise’, the worldwide semiconductor and IC ASP trends.

Despite four quarters of growth, no spare capacity, long lead times, low inventory levels and double ordering rife, far from stabilising, no only are ASPs LOWER than they were pre-recession but they are still FALLING! Not so with memories, where pricing hit the increase button at the first sign of ‘sold out’ and are already not only BACK to their pre-recession level but also still RISING.

Time perhaps for a quick reminder on supply and demand economics. Price equilibrium occurs at the intersection of the demand and supply curve, at which point customers get the product they want, at a price they can afford and the seller sells all he can make with no spare capacity.

If demand then increases, but capacity cannot keep pace, the selling price rises until a new equilibrium is reached. Likewise if demand falls short of capacity (the normal case for the chip industry) prices will fall, the theory here being that price elasticity increases demand such that equilibrium is once again achieved.

In the real market place equilibrium can only ever be reached in theory, and the prices of goods less elastic, other than perhaps with memories, but one thing is clear. If demand exceeds supply, time to increase selling prices, if not for the economic theory then at least for return on investment.

Time to increase semiconductor prices everywhere. It is absolute business, economic and industry madness to keep decreasing prices in a tight supply market. As for the argument, what about loyalty to key customers? Ask them what their loyalty was like to you over the past several years, constantly playing off one supplier against another. Then sit down for a serious price negotiation selling capacity, not chasing purchase orders, based on a minimum five year rolling contract with cast iron, non-cancellable commitments. That way industry will finally have long-term order commitments, capacity planning can be improved and investment risks shared.

The chip industry always delivers more bang for the buck, selling on a cost plus not value basis (with few exceptions) and passing on 100 percent of all cost reductions to its customers. Its recent reward has been a decade of ‘no growth’ in value term as a result of five years or more ASP decline, doing more for less. It desperately needs to rebuild its cash, profit and investment position if it is to recover and survive both the trawl to even More Moore and More than Moore, let alone the transition to 450mm substrates and EUV lithography.

Time for a change in chip industry business practise; the current adversarial ‘business as normal’ model is as time expired as the Neolithic.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Infineon's wireless strategy focuses on low cost solutions and smartphones

Fairly recently, thanks to the great efforts of Infineon's Abhinav Alok, I was able to meet up with Dr Matthias Ludwig, Head - Wireless for APAC and Infineon Korea and Peter Schaefer, VP & GM, Head - Microcontrollers, Infineon.

However, post the meeting, to my horror, I misplaced my notes and only managed to locate them last week. My apologies to Infineon for being late with this blog post.

I was able to discuss Infineon's wireless strategy with Dr Ludwig and also managed a peek at Infineon's range of microcontrollers during my discussion with Peter Schaefer. First, let's have a look at the company's wireless strategy.

Dr Matthias Ludwig said: “We are good in RF and baseband. There are about 1.5 billion RF transceivers out there globally, from Infineon.” He added that one third of the market falls in the low cost mobile phone segment.

Infineon's wireless strategy is two fold -- low cost solutions and the smartphone platform -- where the company is focusing on the modem and the RF side, respectively. Infineon's Android based smartphone platform uses an ARM 11 baseband. “Customers can come up with their own application processor,” Dr Ludwig said. “Our strategy gives us a lot of flexibility.”

He mentioned that Infineon receives a lot of requests from customers for smartphones at $100 solutions. “We believe that we can manage our single core Android platform in the $100 segment.”

Thanks to Dr Ludwig, I had a first hand experience of some of the smartphones that Infineon is currently working on. Actually, think about it! A $100 dollar (and even sub $100) smartphone may be just the thing Indians would love to have.

As for Infineon's India strategy -- part of the focus is on low cost. “We know that there is tough competition out there," noted Dr. Ludwig. One other aspect that Infineon is focusing on is: how to develop and build an ecosystem in the country.

Of course, Infineon is also looking beyond the Indian market when it is developing solutions. In that respect, Dr Ludwig added that one of Infineon's focus is to find the sweet spots that are not only of interest to India. “There is a certain drive to have low end products. Safety and reliability of the products are also important,” he concluded.

I will add a separate post on the conversation with Peter Schaefer, VP & GM, Head Microcontrollers, Infineon.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Analog and MCUs stand out: Dr. Bobby Mitra, TI

It is always a pleasure to listen to Dr. Biswadip (Bobby) Mitra, president and managing director, Texas Instruments India. Therefore, when Texas Instruments India invited me to a media roundtable, it was an event to look forward too. However, the famous Bangalore traffic jam held me up so long that I missed out on most of Dr Mitra's keynote! Nevertheless, I did catch some bits of it toward the end.

Dr. Mitra noted that LEDs and lighting applications are becoming a key area for growth in India. He added that the industrial segment is just right in terms of applications in electronics growth.

In telecom, analog and MCUs stand out. "Every single customer has to use analog as part of its system design. Our no. 1 position in analog gives us a unique position," he added.

MCUs play a very important role in a huge number of areas -- from consumer appliances, energy meters, lighting products etc. There is a huge customer base in India where very large application specific innovation has been happening.

In India, TI has set up a strong sales network across 14 locations, giving it a pan-India presence. Dr. Mitra added: "We want to tap the India market with sales support and applications support. You need to work hand in hand with the OEMs. We also need to get closer to our customers." TI India supports both Indian and MNC OEMs.

"The amount of system designs being done by the MNC OEMs in India is pretty high. The third area -- design houses -- these OEMs are their customers. The fourth area belongs to the EMS players," he said.

The visit to TI was virtually a walk into TI India's 'kitchen.' The roundtable participants were shown demos of some really cool products and applications, especially the handheld pico projector, which also played 3D cinema!

The sessions were largely focused on analog, low power and energy efficiency, metering, solar PV/solar inverters, LEDs, medical electronics, etc. -- all key areas of focus for the Indian electronics and semiconductor industries.

I will add bits from the other speakers at this event later. Stay tuned folks!