Monday, December 31, 2012

Round-up 2012: Best of electronics, semiconductors and solar

Friends, here is the round-up of 2012, where the best of electronics, semiconductors and solar PV are presented. Best wishes for a very happy and prosperous new year!

A word on the horrendous Delhi rape that has shaken up India. I am very ashamed to be a man and a part of India's society. My family and I are extremely sorry that the brave girl is no more! May her soul rest in peace. May God deliver justice, and quickly!

Opportunities in turbulent PV equipment market

Global semiconductor industry outlook 2013: Jaswinder Ahuja, Cadence

Next wave of design challenges, and future growth of EDA: Dr. Wally Rhines

Global medical image sensors market to grow 64 percent by 2017

Status of power semiconductor devices industry

Global solar PV industry to remain under pressure in 2013!

Dr. Wally Rhines on global semiconductor industry outlook 2013

Focus on monolithic 3D-ICs paradigm shift for semicon industry

Xilinx announces 20nm portfolio strategy

Elliptic intros world’s first commercial touchless gesturing technology!

Global semiconductor industry outlook 2013: Analog Devices

IMEC’s 450mm R&D initiative for nanoelectronics ecosystem

III-V high mobility semiconductors for advanced CMOS apps

Yet another electronics policy for India?

IEF 2012: Turning recession into opportunity!

Global semicon sales to drop 1.7 percent in 2012?

Virtual prototyping ready for masses

MEMS to be $21 billion market by 2017: Yole

TSMC on 450mm transition: Lithography key!

Cadence Allegro 16.6 accelerates timing closure

Dr. Wally Rhines on global EDA industry

Solarcon India 2012: Solar industry in third wave!

Apple wins big vs. Samsung in patent war!

Can being fabless and M-SIPS take India to top?

JULY 2012
Is Europe ready for 450mm fabs?

APRIL 2012
Xilinx intros Vivado Design Suite

MARCH 2012
Cadence releases latest Encounter RTL-to-GDSII flow

WLCSP market and industrial trends

Top 10 semiconductor growth drivers: Intersil

Ingredients for successful fabless Indian semiconductor industry: Dr. Wally Rhines

Tariffs will slow growth in domestic demand for PV systems: The Brattle Group

Wireless leads in global semicon spends!

India to allow imports of low-priced Chinese solar cells? Or, is it beaten?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Opportunities in turbulent PV equipment market

Ms. Fatima Toor, analyst, Lux Research, recently presented on opportunities in turbulent PV equipment market, in association with SEMI, USA.

Global PV market trends
Bankruptcies are galore. Eg. Solyndra, Abound Solar, Konarka, etc. Global trade wars are also on the rise. There are US tariffs on Chinese solar cells. There is also an EU investigation on Chinese solar panels. Then, there are Chinese investigations on US, EU and Korean polysilicon dumping. Government incentives have been lowered in the EU, but raised in Asia and Americas. Following Barack Obama's re-election in the US, the environmentalists are again upbeat about green energy.
Global PV demand increase will be driven by Asia and Americas in the coming years. Emerging markets will grow over six times in size from 2011-2017. Crystalline Si will be the dominant installed PV technology, at least till 2017. Gap between demand and supply will close.

The Q3-12 geographical capacity distribution would be across PV value chain. China leads in polysilicon, cells and modules supply. Chinese equipment manufacturers market share has been on the rise, ramping up competition for Western equipment suppliers.

Lux Research sampled 493 PV manufacturers. Of these, 40 percent are based in the EU, 28 percent are based in China, 17 percent are in the US and 15 percent are in the Rest of the World.

Opportunities for equipment manufacturers in current market state
Cost, efficiency and price are fundamental drivers of PV industry. Innovations across the value chain will enable higher margins for PV industry. The desire for cell and module manufacturers to reduce costs and differentiate will drive opportunities for equipment manufacturers.

Crystalline Si technology: Innovations across crystalline Si value chain would enable opportunities for equipment suppliers. Fluidized bed reactor (FBR) process requires 10 lWh/kg and is a continuous process. Why is FBR only 6 percent of total polysilicon capacity today? The reasons are:
* No off-the-shelf FBR reactors are available.
* Process complexity requires that Si granules can be polluted by impurities.
* There is an opportunity for equipment manufacturers to develop off-the-shelf FBR equipment that will enable reduced production costs for polysilicon.
* GCL announced developing its FBR technology.
* Samsung Fine Chemicals and MEMC have partnered to set up FBR polysilicon production due to its lower production costs.

Monocrystalline silicon (c-Si) ingot growth using Czochralski (CZ) method is high cost and results in pseudo-square c-Si wafers. Plate seed for qc-Si ingot growth with mc-Si grains on the edges and c-Si in the middle. ReneSola has technology with wafer capacity of 2GW of which 1.6GW is qc-Si Virtus wafers and 0.4GW are c-Si wafers. ReneSola is likely to be one of the Chinese companies to survive the shakeout due to its strategy and technology.

Opportunities exist to optimize qc-Si ingot growth. Modified directional solidification (DS) furnace makers claim 90 percent c-Si and 10 percent mc-Si yields during qc-Si ingot growth. In reality, 60 percent c-Si and 40 percent mc-Si results in high wafer binning and sorting costs. This provides an opp for equipment manufacturers to improve the c-Si yield to higher than 90 percent. The Qc-Si capacity is likely to increase in the coming years as DS furnace manufacturers innovate.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Global semiconductor industry outlook 2013: Jaswinder Ahuja, Cadence

How will 2013 turn out to be for the global semiconductor industry? Will there be growth for the global EDA industry? Importantly, how will the Indian semiconductor industry perform in 2013? I asked Jaswinder Ahuja, corporate VP and MD, Cadence Design Systems India these questions.

Outlook for global semicon industry in 2013
First, how is the outlook for global semiconductor industry in 2013 going to be? Ahuja said: "The long term outlook for the semiconductor industry remains positive, with mobility and cloud computing being the key drivers. The global economy is forecast to grow around 4 percent annually through 2016, according to an April 2012 report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"In its June 2012 report, Gartner predicted growth in electronics and semiconductor industries to outpace that of the world GDP growth, at 5½ percent annually to approach $2 trillion for electronics and 6 percent annually for semiconductors through 2016. So, the semiconductor industry outlook remains very positive overall.

"In the near term, multiple challenges will need to be weathered with respect to the global economic climate, especially in European markets. The JP Morgan/GSA Semiconductor Index of Leading Indicators points to a soft semiconductor industry in 2013. However, there are lot of new products in the mobile and tablet space that are driving demand, such as the iPhone 5, Microsoft Surface, and Samsung Galaxy S III.

"The China semiconductor space is emerging as a key market for semiconductor company revenue, and forecasts predict that it will show rapid annual growth rate. The consolidation and M&A activities that we are seeing in the global semiconductor industry also indicate a positive outlook for the upcoming year.

"In India as well, the semiconductor industry will continue to see growth. The injection of funds and other support outlined in the National Policy on Electronics will provide an impetus to home-grown design and manufacturing, which should start gaining traction in 2013."

Five trends for 2013
What would be the three or five trends likely to be visible in 2013? Ahuja said Cadence sees five big trends that will drive growth in the near and long term. These are: mobility, application driven design, video, cloud and security.

Probably, the most pervasive change in electronics recently has been mobility. When we talk about mobility, it’s just not about smart phones or tablets, but any kind of device which is mobile. Within the mobile space, software applications help system manufacturers and vendors differentiate themselves and stand apart from the competition. The need to have apps on all kinds of devices is driving rapid growth, as well as placing new demands on EDA companies.

The entertainment industry will be the key driver for video, and as the year progresses, we will continue to see more and more products and solutions introduced to tap into the demand. For the semiconductor industry, video will drive growth both in the end consumer market (mobile platforms) and the enterprise space (networking industry).

In many ways, the backbone to mobility is the cloud. With its network servers and infrastructure, the cloud is what delivers much of the content and value to all of those mobile devices. Statistics show that we need one server for every 600 smart phones and one for every 120 tablets. So there is a big need for data centers which can provide support for all the computing and back-end operations.

Security of data in mobile devices and the cloud will continue to be a challenge in the near future. There will be renewed calls to develop products that can protect critical infrastructure and sensitive information from security breaches.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Next wave of design challenges, and future growth of EDA: Dr. Wally Rhines

Today, EDA requires specialization. Elaborating on EDA over the past decade, Dr. Walden (Wally) C. Rhines, chairman and CEO, of Mentor Graphics, and vice chairman of the EDA Consortium, USA, said that PCB design has been flat despite growth in analysis, DFM and new emerging markets. Front end design has seen growth from RF/analog design and simulation, and analysis As design methodologies mature, EDA expenditures stop growing. He was speaking at Mentor Graphics' U2U (User2User) conference in Bangalore, India.

Most of the EDA revenue growth comes from major new design methodologies, such as ESL, DFM, analog-mixed signal and RF. PCB design trend continues to be flat, and includes license and maintenance.

The IC layout verification market is pointing to a 2.1 percent CAGR at the end of 2011. The RTL simulation market has been growing at 1.3 percent CAGR for the last decade. The IC physical implementation market has been growing at 3,4 percent CAGR for the last decade. Growth areas in EDA from 2000-2011 include DFM at 28 percent CAGR, formal verification at 12 percent, ESL at 11 pecent, and IC/ASIC analysis at 9 percent, respectively.

What will generate the next wave of electronic product design challenges, and the future growth of EDA? This would involve solving new problems that are not part of the traditional EDA, and 'do what others don't do!

Methodology changes that may change EDA
There are five factors that can make this happen. These are:
* Low power design beyond RTL (and even ESL).
* Functional verification beyond simulation.
* Physical verification beyond design for manufacturability.
* Design for test beyond compression.
* System design beyond PCBs

Low power design at higher levels 
Power affects every design stage. Sometimes, designing for low power at system level is required. System level optimization has the biggest impact on power/performance. And, embedded software is a major point of leverage.

Embedded software has an increasing share of the design effort. Here, Mentor's Nucleus power management framework is key. It has an unique API for power management, enables software engineers to optimize power consumption, and reduces lines of application code. Also, power aware design optimizes code efficiency.

Functional verification beyond RTL simulation
The Verification methodology standards war is over. UVM is expected to grow by 286 percent in the next 12 months. Mentor Graphics Questa inFact is the industry’s most advanced testbench automation solution. It enables Testbench re-use and accelerates time-to-coverage. Intelligent test bench facilitates linear transition to multi-processing.

Questa accelerates  the hardware/software verification environment. In-circuit emulation has been evolving to virtual hardware acceleration and embedded software development. Offline debug increases development productivity. A four-hour on-emulator software debug session drops to 30 minutes batch run. The offline debug allows 150 software designers to jumpstart debug process on source code. Virtual stimulus increases the flexibility of the emulator. As an example, Veloce is 700x more efficient than large simulation farms.

Physical verification beyond design for manufacturability
The Calibre PERC is a new approach to circuit verification. The Calibre  3DSTACK is the verification flow for 3D.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Global medical image sensors market to grow 64 percent by 2017

The global market of medical image sensors will grow from $68 million in 2011 to $112 million in 2017, a growth of 64.7 percent. Whereas the contribution in value of the global endoscopy market represents only a few 10 percent of the medical image sensors market in 2011, 90 percent is related to x-ray applications. These are some of the conclusions drawn by Benjamin Roussel, technology and market analyst - MedTech, Yole Développement, France, in a seminar on how CCD, CMOS and a-Si are reshaping the global medical imaging market.

He added that image sensor innovations are reshaping the medical imaging industry as it permit the entry of news market players, the development of news products in line with both patient and physicians requirements. The medical image sensors market is currently evolving. Emerging technologies are expected to go mainstream in the future, fueled by new applications with high growth rates.

Image sensor technologies overview
Comparing CCD vs. CMOS architectures, CCDs move photo-generated charge from pixel to pixel and convert it to voltage at an output node. CMOS imagers convert charge-to-voltage directly inside each pixel.

As for a-Si flat panels, electrons are accumulated in photodiodes and then transferred by switching a thin-film transistor addressed by a line pulse. The signal is readout by an external amplifier and analog-to-digital converter.

X-ray and endoscopy apps
Medical applications are vast and numerous, such as microscopy, endoscopy, x-ray based methods, MRI, ultrasound imaging and nuclear medicine.

Medical image sensors are integrated into larger products -- medical devices. Depending on the market the medical device aims for, the image sensors functions change. For example, while power consumption is critical for camera pill devices, for reusable endoscopes it’s temperature and humidity resistance.

The objective of the segmentation is to organize the medical image sensors market into well defined segments. Each one of those have their own drivers and set of requirements, and identify which applications present a real opportunity for micro-system technologies. X-ray image sensors price are, on average, 1,000 times larger than endoscopic image sensors.

Dynamics of image sensors
The global medical image sensor market will grow from $68 million in 2011 to $112 million in 2017. The global medical image sensors market in volume will grow from 1.4 Munits in 2011 to 4.6 Munits in 2017, fueled by emerging endoscopy products: camera pills and disposable endoscopes.
The CCD medical image sensors market dedicated to endoscopy will grow from $4 million in 2011 to $5 million in 2017. In parallel, the total CMOS medical image sensors market will continue to grow sharply from $1 million in 2011 to $3.5 million in 2017.

The medical IS market for x-ray application will grow from $63 million to $103 million in 2017. The CMOS x-ray image sensors revenue will continue to grow at a 12 percent CAGR 2012-2017 and reach $44 million in 2017.

Future perspectives
Medical image sensors technology is the gateway for new entrants in endoscopy market. CMOS camera, 3D imaging and multispectral are the three different trends that will shape the future of endoscopes.

Likewise, the current move to CMOS, the move from indirect to direct conversion of x-ray (no scintillator, no fiber optic plate), and the move toward single photon detectors are the trends likely to shape the future of x-ray systems.

Monday, December 10, 2012

New sapphire apps can trigger an investment cycle!

Too many new entrants on sapphire for LED market with unrealistic capacity plans. Most underestimated the technical challenges! Prices are likely to remain low through 2013. Many new entrants will fail in 2013-2014: rationalization (M&A, bankruptcy, attrition). In the long term, vertical integration is desirable to avoid margin stacking, said Eric Virey, senior market and technology analyst, LED Materials and Sevices, Yole Developpement. He was presenting a seminar on how new sapphire applications can trigger an investment cycle.

According to him, adoption of CFL and LED stretches the replacement cycle and cannibalizes lamp volume sales. As for LED manufacturing capacity, with respect to nitride MOCVD reactors, 2009 and 2010 saw increases in Taiwan and Korea in late driven by LCD display market. The years 2010-2012 saw phenomenal increase in China. Government subsidies are likely to build up epitaxy capacity in the mainland, which should be more than $1.5 billion.

Currently there are ~110 companies with epitaxy capacity. Many will likely disappear! The current excess MOCVD capacity will be fully absorbed by mid-2014. The MOCVD reactor installation will resume mid-late 2013. The global MOCVD utilization rate is 61 percent. There is wide variability between leaders and tier 2 players in China. The Q4-2012 LED sapphire consumption was worth 3.9 million two inch equivalent per month.
As for companies in sapphire wafer, 130+ companies are involved in the sapphire substrate (established or development stage). Less than 30 currently are deriving meaningful revenue from LED substrates. The capacity is ~80 percent higher than demand. It could get worse in 2013! Prices are likely to remain low. Many new entrants will disappear, and others will scale back. A few will succeed.

Conditions for survival through 2013 include, having a lot of cash, be qualified in supply chain, achieve <$4/mm cost (2” basis), and serving other market could be a plus.

As for wafer price trends, the finished wafers following similar trends. The 6” is now offered for <$200, but price can vary significantly based on specifications. There are said to be simulated 4” core cost structure for various manufacturers.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

FPGA design heads to the cloud!

Singapore based Plunify claims that chip design companies can design faster and better using cloud computing. Stressing on the company's go-to-market strategy, Plunify’s founder, Harn Hua Ng, said the Plunify partners with tool vendors, their distributors and complementary sales representatives.

Since pay-as-you-go business models are rare in the semiconductor industry, Plunify went through several steps, of which the first was to better understand the market, the available tools and stake-holders.

* How is the market reacting to cloud computing and licensing schemes?
* What are current tool capabilities with regards to multiple CPUs/servers? Which parts of the chip design workflow can best take advantage of scalable, parallel features?
* What tools are more suitable for a cloud environment?

With these in mind, the next step was to build the cloud platform and the application clients to address immediate concerns - security, accessibility and cost.

"Then, we partner with tool vendors, their distributors and sales reps to bring our solutions to end-users. Companies of different sizes view the advantages of cloud computing differently, so solutions need to be customized accordingly. Some see Plunify as solving longer term IT problems of scaling and provisioning; while others use us as an immediate way to speed up their design workflows. We are still in the process of learning about the market," he added.

How can the on-demand cloud computing platform dramatically accelerate chip design workflows According to Harn Hua Ng, one immediate benefit is an almost instantaneous fulfillment of peak demand IT requirements, for example, a urgent request to do 100 synthesis builds to fix a problem due yesterday. Or if the problem cannot be fixed, at least the design team will find out in a day rather than potentially in 3 months' worth of runtime without a cloud solution. The longer term acceleration is a gradual parallelization of the design workflow.

Currently, chip designers tend to visualize the design workflow as a chain of mostly serial steps with many dependencies, just because many steps can be time-consuming (both in terms of runtime and time taken to analyze intermediate results).

With an on-demand compute platform, designers can have more room to experiment and to optimize, more readily incorporating agile practices in hardware development.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Status of power semiconductor devices industry

There are more available solutions than ever in power devices, according to Alexandre Avron, market and technology analyst, Yole Développement. The landscape is moving, and its moving quite fast, from every region of the world.

There are many opportunities for power device manufacturers. This is the time for strong strategic planning and making the best choices. He was speaking at a seminar on the power semiconductor devices industry, in Lyon, France.

Silicon is not dead and will still live for a long time. Standard device design are slowly disappearing (planar IGBT, planar MOSFET). IGBT and SJ MOS are highly mature technologies. Rules of competition are evolving as well.
Historic players need to keep on innovating. New entrants have a different business model: there are more and more foundries, with fab-less and fab-light players. IGBT is still a key asset: master and secure IGBT supply is necessary for system makers. SJ MOSFETS will be used in more and more systems, taking market shares to planar MOSFET.

About SiC and GaN, there is still a big question mark: Where and when? With time, it is becoming clearer. SiC will target medium and high power. From our point of view, medium power (1200V base) is a mean to arrive to high power (+3.3kV). R&amp;D has to go through this to reach higher voltage. The main issue is still on current ratings (having a high impact on cost).
GaN will target low and medium power, and will probably allow extraordinary power supplies designs (Tiny supplies, very high frequency systems). It is almost ready for 600V, but not yet at 1200V. It leaves room for SiC to develop and expand.  Major players are involved on both fields — SiC and GaN. They need to be present on both domains, as there will be an overlap, but the split is unclear: we will probably experience a very fine segmentation, not only by voltage or current, but also by frequency, ruggedness, system size, temperature of operation or maybe culture or history.

SiC is now here. First full SiC PV inverters are available. First field tests for SiC in rail traction is ongoing. GaN is under qualification. According to the most advanced players, 600V GaN devices samples are tested by system makers.