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2019

04/26

Where is the direction of semiconductor industry in 2019?

In recent years, with the gradual slowdown of Moore's Law, the development of semiconductor industry has begun to slow down. As a result, the industry has also raised concerns about the future of the industry. In fact, driven by emerging industries such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, semiconductor industry has entered a new stage, that is, the era of heterogeneous computing. So what are the concerns in 2019?

Recently, the 8th Annual ICT Media Forum of China and the Symposium on Industrial and Technological Prospects 2019 sponsored by EEVIA were successfully held in Shenzhen. On the scene of the conference, Infineon, Amis, Sellings, ADI, Zhaoyi Innovation and Huahong Hongli discussed the industrial development from their respective perspectives.

Smartphones are still an important market

In the era of heterogeneous computing, first of all, the digitalization of applications, including industry, logistics, retail, home and many other aspects. As a result, perception of the real world will become very important, but it will also bring new industrial opportunities.

Taking smartphones as an example, since its birth, supply chain manufacturers have introduced various new technologies, such as fingerprint recognition, face recognition, AI beauty, 5G communication and so on. From the industrial point of view, although the overall growth of smartphone market has slowed down, smartphones will still become an important market in the semiconductor field in the transition period from 4G to 5G and the introduction of various new technologies.

In this regard, Infineon Power Management and Diversified Markets Division, Greater China, Director of Radio Frequency and Sensor Department, Mai Zhengqi, said: "4G has changed people's living habits, and more things have begun to be done on smartphones. In the 5G communication era, there will be more changes. Besides people, things and things will begin to connect. Sensors will become a very important part.

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Infineon Power Management and Diversified Market Division, Greater China Region, Director of Radio Frequency and Sensor Department, Michael Ching-chi


To this end, Infineon is also cooperating with LG to bring more advanced ToF technology into the smartphone field. ToF technology is a kind of 3D imaging technology, which can provide accurate and reliable depth information. Its working principle is to send near-infrared light to the target and receive the near-infrared light returned from the object by the sensor, then obtain the flight time of the light, and then calculate the target distance: d = ct/2. Simply put, the ToF image sensor adds Z-axis depth information to traditional 2D images to generate 3D images. More information can be obtained than other sensors。


According to McZhengqi, the high-end flagship front-end camera using Infineon REAL3 image sensor integrates the depth perception capability of 3D imaging and recognition functions to support highly secure mobile phone unlocking and payment recognition authentication. In addition to front-facing cameras, ToF technology will also appear in rear-facing cameras.


In 2018, OPPO, vivo and Glory Mobile have introduced ToF technology. Samsung and Apple are also expected to use the technology in new products. They have the opportunity to become standard functions in 2019, which also means new market opportunities for semiconductor manufacturers. At present, Infineon REAL3 image sensor has been put into mass production, and ToF will be seen in industry, consumer electronics, automotive and other applications in the future.

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Jennifer Zhao, Executive Vice President and General Manager of AMES Semiconductor Advanced Optical Sensors


In addition, according to Jennifer Zhao, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Advanced Optical Sensors Department of Amazon Semiconductor, the development of front-end function design, full screen and photographic enhancement is becoming the three main trends of smartphones, which need the support of a variety of sensors. Amazon Semiconductor can provide good solutions.


In addition to providing time-of-flight (ToF), structured light (SL), active stereo vision (ASV) and other 3D sensors, Amis Semiconductor is constantly exploring health monitoring, display management, e-commerce, camera enhancement, smart headphones and other fields. For mobile phone photography, if the light source flickers, then the photograph will appear ripple, affecting the photo effect.


According to Jennifer Zhao, Ames Semiconductor color temperature sensor provides accurate color temperature in all light sources, optical sensor can accurately measure ambient light, light source scintillation detection engine can automatically detect auxiliary algorithm of ambient scintillation, so as to solve the problem of white balance and scintillation in photography.


For the future development of smartphones, Jennifer Zhao believes that more sensor products will be integrated. For example, Ames Semiconductor Spectrum Sensor has been integrated into mobile phones to detect food sugar and so on.

Is FPGA the best choice for AI?

As we said at the beginning of this article, the way of computing has changed. "In the era of rapid development of AI, FPGA may be a better choice," said Liu Jingxiu, director of AI market at Salings.

From the perspective of computing chip technology, from 28 to 3 nm, Moore's law saturates the increasing speed of chip performance. Only high-end consumer products and fast iteration products (such as mobile phones) can support the high cost of chip iteration with the most advanced technology. From the perspective of technology and cost, the development of computing chips generally follows the general direction from CPU, GPU to FPGA, and finally to ASIC. But in the early stage, in order to quickly turn creativity into reality in the fierce market competition and win market opportunities, at this time, the best computing platform product is the FPGA.

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Liu Jingxiu, Marketing Director of Sales Intelligence


In the field of artificial intelligence, the iteration speed of the algorithm is much faster than that of chip development. If ASIC chip is still used, it is obviously unable to meet the rapidly changing market demand. On the contrary, the FPGA can cope well.


For this reason, Sales has also launched a new generation of Versal ACAP, a heterogeneous computing platform fully supporting software programming, which can combine scalar engine, adaptive engine and intelligent engine to achieve significant performance improvement. Its speed is 20 times faster than the current highest speed of the FPGA, and 100 times faster than the current fastest CPU.


According to Liu Jingxiu, the platform is mainly for automobiles, wireless infrastructure, wired communications, video, audio and broadcasting, aerospace, testing, measurement and simulation, consumer electronics and other aspects.


The Dilemma and Direction of Industrial 4.0


In recent years, the concept of industrial 4.0 has been mentioned constantly, and behind it is the improvement of networking and intellectualization. This has also brought new trends in ecosystems and partnerships, the Internet of Things and big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, more advanced robots and collaborative robots, augmented reality, network security, wearable devices, and autonomous driving vehicles.


Regarding the current situation of industrial 4.0, Yu Changtao, marketing manager of industrial automation industry in ADI Asia-Pacific region, said: "There are still many difficulties in industrial 4.0, including unclear path and timetable to achieve industrial 4.0, uncertainties brought about by many basic business factors that are playing a role, the inability to make outdated investments, and the inability to go too fast if customers are not ready, etc.

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ADI Asia-Pacific Industrial Automation Industry Marketing Manager Yu Changtao


"But these are great opportunities for the pioneers." Yu Changtao explained: "Industrial applications require higher technology and reliability, and relatively higher entry threshold. ADI has decades of history in the field of analog devices and mixed signal technology. It has long been cultivated in industrial applications. It can provide complete product coverage from front-end detection, various sensors, back-end measurement, data analysis, microprocessors, power supply, connection, security, industrial ethernet, etc. to provide strong support for industrial applications.


As for how industrial applications will develop in the future, Yu Changtao believes that "software configurable system, edge-to-cloud connection, equipment health monitoring, system-level security, robot integration and so on are all the key acceleration directions."





Memory Evolution Again


With the rapid development of the deployment of the Internet of Things, a large amount of data has been generated. In addition to computing, how to efficiently store and utilize these data is also a hot topic in the industry. Since 2004, SPINOR Flash has shipped more than 6 billion products worldwide, mainly for high reliability system code storage.


"Although NORFlash is in great demand every year, its technology itself is developing relatively slowly." Chen Hui, senior product marketing director of Zhaoyi Innovation Storage Division, said: "SPI interface was invented in the 1980s, and commercial use began around 2000. In the past decade, its data channel has also developed from 1 to 4, and its data throughput has also increased from 2.5 MB/s to 52 MB/s.

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Chen Hui, Senior Product Marketing Director, Zhaoyi Innovation Storage Division


According to Chen Hui, after more than ten years of development, the number of channels is increasing, the frequency of data reading is increasing, and the throughput of data is also increasing. JEDEC's latest xSPI electrical interface standard standardizes bus transactions, commands and a large number of internal functions. Eight-channel JEDEC xSPI with DTR data reading frequency as high as 200 MHz, data throughput as high as 400 MB/s, can be called fighter class. Data transmission rate. At the same time, considering the customer's concerns about its import time and cost, Zhaoyi Innovation has increased the data reading frequency of four channels with DTR interface to 200 MHz, and the data throughput can also be as high as 200 MB/s. This has led to another upgrade and evolution of SPINOR Flash.


At present, Zhaoyi's innovative and rich SPINOR Flash product line provides a series of products ranging from 512Kb to 1GB, covering all capacity types of NOR Flash market. Voltage covers 1.8V, 2.5V, 3.3V and wide voltage products. It provides several series of products with high performance, low power consumption, low cost and high reliability according to different application market demand. The products adopt leading technology nodes and advantages. The design, performance, cost, reliability and so on have significant advantages in various application fields.


"Last year alone, Zhaoyi Innovation's NOR Flash shipped nearly 2 billion units, and the cumulative shipment volume was as high as 10 billion units." Chen Hui is also confident about the future development: "Emerging markets are demanding higher and higher performance of products and faster response to various computations, which is good for SPI NOR Flash, such as Internet of Things, vehicular electronics and other applications."


Electric Vehicles Bring New Growth Points


"Auto electronization is the trend of the times. From the cost structure of automobiles, chip cost is expected to account for more than 50% of the total cost of automobiles in the future, which will bring huge market demand for the whole semiconductor industry." "When the traditional automotive manufacturing industry encounters semiconductor, it will lead to the next wave," said Li Jian, head of Huahong Hongli's strategy, market and development department.


Unlike traditional vehicles, the motor, battery, on-board charger, motor inverters and air conditioning compressors in new energy vehicles need a large number of power device chips. In addition to the changes of the vehicle itself, electrification also brings new demands to the afterloading parts market. At the same time, supporting electrical facilities, such as charging piles, also brings a large number of power device requirements.

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Li Jian, Chief of Huahong Hongli Strategy, Marketing and Development Department


According to Li Jian's analysis, taking IGBT as an example, 18 IGBTs are needed for both front and rear motors of electric vehicles, 4 chargers and 8 electric air conditioners. A total of 48 IGBT devices are needed for an electric vehicle. If the domestic electric vehicle sales reach 2 million units in 2020 and the afterloading repair spare parts market matches by 1:1, roughly estimates that the domestic market needs about 100,000 pieces/month of 8-inch gauge-level IGBT wafer capacity (converted by 120 IGBT chips/pieces). Based on the fact that the domestic electric vehicle market accounts for one third of the global market, the global automotive market may require a capacity of 300,000 IGBT wafers per month by 2020. In addition to the automotive market, IGBT is also popular in other application markets. There are views in the industry that 10 new IGBT wafer factories need to be built, which I think is also true.


At present, Huahong Hongli mainly focuses on the following four aspects. One is TrenchMOS/SGT, i.e. applications under 200 volts at low voltage, such as 12V/24V/48V for automotive auxiliary systems. The second is the superjunction MOSFET process (DT-SJ), which covers the range of 300V to 800V, the voltage of automotive power battery to 12V low voltage, and the DC charging pile power module. Third, IGBT is mainly used in 600V to 3300V or up to 6500V, such as automotive main inverters, on-board chargers, etc. Fourth, new GaN/SiC materials, which is the direction that Huahong Hongli has been paying attention to. In the next five to ten years, SiC power devices will become the main force in the automotive market, mainly used in the main inverter of electric vehicles and charging piles of high-power DC fast charging.


For future development, Li Jian said: "The company's overall strategy is still to adhere to the road of unique technology, adhere to the"8 + 12"strategic layout. The strategic positioning of 8 inches is "extensive grain", with emphasis on the word "accumulated grain". Huahong Hongli has accumulated more than 20 years of unique technology, including power devices, Flash technology, etc. At the same time, it has accumulated a lot of friendship for strategic customer cooperation. It has made profits for more than 32 consecutive quarters, and also accumulated a lot of capital for Huahong Hongli. Because of this accumulation, Huahong Hongli is starting to lay out 12-inch advanced technology. The strategic position of 12 inches is to build high walls, with emphasis on the word "high". Huahong Hongli will extend its 8-inch unique technological advantages through 12-inch advanced technology, widen the moat, improve technical barriers and widen the gap with its competitors behind us.