How to Deliver On Time at Lower Technology Nodes?

Over the years, we have seen a wide range of advancements in semiconductor design services. The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) announced that the global semiconductor industry posted sales of $468.8 billion in 2018 – the industry’s highest-ever annual total and an increase of 13.7 percent over the 2017 sales.As the demand for semiconductor services continues to increase and the industry witnesses a broader range of new technology innovations, we can clearly see a move toward lower geometries (7nm, 12nm, 16nm, etc.). The key drivers behind this trend are benefits in terms of the power, area, plus various other features that become possible with lower geometries.The proliferation of lower geometries has fuelled business in a number of areas, especially in the sectors of mobility, communication, IoT, cloud, AI for hardware platforms (ASIC, FPGA, boards).Delivering a lower technology design project on time is important in today’s dynamic and competitive market. However, there are many unknowns at lower geometry which impacts on project/product scheduled delivery. By keeping in mind the below elements, it is possible to ensure on-time delivery at lower geometry nodes.1. Lower technology node’s cost modelingA chip design leader provides the required strong technical leadership and has the overall responsibility for the integrated circuit design.For lower geometry design, engineers need to define the activities from spec-to-silicon, sequence them in the right order, estimate the resources needed, and estimate the time required to complete the tasks. At the same time, they need to focus on the reduction of the total system cost while also satisfying specific service requirements. Following are the actions that engineers can take for cost optimization:Use multiple patterningUse suitable design-for-test (DFT) techniquesLeverage mask making, interconnects and process controlOn different layout methods because node scaling down is not cost-economic anymore. For continuous performance improvement along with cost control, some companies are now pursuing a monolithic 3D ICs rather than a conventional planar implementation, as this can provide 30% power savings, 40% performance boost, and cut the cost by 5-10% without changing over to a new node.2. Advanced data analytics for smart chip manufacturingIn the chip manufacturing process, a large volume of data is generated on the fab floor. Over the years, the quantity of this data has continued to grow exponentially with each new technology node dimension. Engineers have played instrumental roles in generating and analyzing data with the aim of improving predictive maintenance and yield, improving R&D, enhancing product efficiency and more.Applying advanced analytics in chip manufacturing can help to improve the quality or performance of individual components, cut-down test time for quality assurance, boost throughput, increase equipment availability, and reduce operating costs.3. Efficient Supply Chain ManagementAs new technology is often released faster than the R&D timeline, everyone in the chip-making industry is facing a problem in IC supply chain management. The big question is: how to improve efficiency and profitability in this scenario.The answer is faster decision making and efficient integration of various suppliers, requirements of clients, distribution centers, warehouses, and stores so that merchandise is produced with end-to-end supply chain visibility and distributed in the right quantities, at right time to the right location to minimize total system cost.4. Process for timely deliveryImproved delivery to the customer is a core part of the semiconductor design services. It includes setting-up order capturing to work with orders at runtime, cloud computing optimization, logistics, and the transfer the end-product to a customer – while keeping them up-to-date with every required information at each stage. Planning the complete flow ensures that no critical deadlines for the project are missed.In order to overcome delays, semiconductor design companies can:

Minimize the use of custom flows and shift towards place & route flows for better physical data-path capabilities.

Set and adhere to quick response time to the client’s requirements and change requests.

Get real-time information from spec to silicon availability in terms of the semiconductor design flow, location, reservation, and quantity.

Ensure collaborative communication between teams working on the project.

Focus on criticality analysis – reducing the risk of functional failures of the design to prevent business stoppers.

Gain utilization expertise in multiple tools for managing the project.

Adopt better technologies (TSMC, GF, UMC, Samsung), better methodology (Low power consumption and high-speed performance), better tools (Innovus, Synopsys, ICC2, Primetime, ICV).
How is eInfochips positioned to serve the Market?Whether you want to design innovative products faster, optimize R&D costs, improve time to market, enhance operational efficiency or maximize the return on investment (ROI), eInfochips (an Arrow Company) is the right design partner.eInfochips has worked with many top global companies to contribute over 500 product designs, with more than 40 million deployments around the world. eInfochips has a large pool of engineers who possess specialization in PES services, with a focus on in-depth R&D and new product development.In order to deliver product at short time-to-market, eInfochips provides ASIC, FPGA and SoC design services based on standard interface protocols. It includes:

Sign-off services in the front end (RTL design, Verification) and backend (Physical design and DFT)

Turnkey design services covering RTL to GDSII and design layout

Use of Reusable IPs and framework that assist the company in short product development time and cost for faster and right time-to-market
This blog is originally published at eInfochips.com.

What Is the Relevance of Technology?

“Technology in the long-run is irrelevant”. That is what a customer of mine told me when I made a presentation to him about a new product. I had been talking about the product’s features and benefits and listed “state-of-the-art technology” or something to that effect, as one of them. That is when he made his statement. I realized later that he was correct, at least within the context of how I used “Technology” in my presentation. But I began thinking about whether he could be right in other contexts as well.What is Technology?Merriam-Webster defines it as:1a: the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area: engineering 2 b: a capability given by the practical application of knowledge 2: a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge 3: the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor Wikipedia defines it as:Technology (from Greek τέχνη, techne, “art, skill, cunning of hand”; and -λογία, -logia[1]) is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output relation or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, including machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species’ ability to control and adapt to their natural environments. The term can either be applied generally or to specific areas: examples include construction technology, medical technology, and information technology.Both definitions revolve around the same thing – application and usage.Technology is an enablerMany people mistakenly believe it is technology which drives innovation. Yet from the definitions above, that is clearly not the case. It is opportunity which defines innovation and technology which enables innovation. Think of the classic “Build a better mousetrap” example taught in most business schools. You might have the technology to build a better mousetrap, but if you have no mice or the old mousetrap works well, there is no opportunity and then the technology to build a better one becomes irrelevant. On the other hand, if you are overrun with mice then the opportunity exists to innovate a product using your technology.Another example, one with which I am intimately familiar, are consumer electronics startup companies. I’ve been associated with both those that succeeded and those that failed. Each possessed unique leading edge technologies. The difference was opportunity. Those that failed could not find the opportunity to develop a meaningful innovation using their technology. In fact to survive, these companies had to morph oftentimes into something totally different and if they were lucky they could take advantage of derivatives of their original technology. More often than not, the original technology wound up in the scrap heap. Technology, thus, is an enabler whose ultimate value proposition is to make improvements to our lives. In order to be relevant, it needs to be used to create innovations that are driven by opportunity.Technology as a competitive advantage?Many companies list a technology as one of their competitive advantages. Is this valid? In some cases yes, but In most cases no.Technology develops along two paths – an evolutionary path and a revolutionary path.A revolutionary technology is one which enables new industries or enables solutions to problems that were previously not possible. Semiconductor technology is a good example. Not only did it spawn new industries and products, but it spawned other revolutionary technologies – transistor technology, integrated circuit technology, microprocessor technology. All which provide many of the products and services we consume today. But is semiconductor technology a competitive advantage? Looking at the number of semiconductor companies that exist today (with new ones forming every day), I’d say not. How about microprocessor technology? Again, no. Lots of microprocessor companies out there. How about quad core microprocessor technology? Not as many companies, but you have Intel, AMD, ARM, and a host of companies building custom quad core processors (Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, etc). So again, not much of a competitive advantage. Competition from competing technologies and easy access to IP mitigates the perceived competitive advantage of any particular technology. Android vs iOS is a good example of how this works. Both operating systems are derivatives of UNIX. Apple used their technology to introduce iOS and gained an early market advantage. However, Google, utilizing their variant of Unix (a competing technology), caught up relatively quickly. The reasons for this lie not in the underlying technology, but in how the products made possible by those technologies were brought to market (free vs. walled garden, etc.) and the differences in the strategic visions of each company.Evolutionary technology is one which incrementally builds upon the base revolutionary technology. But by it’s very nature, the incremental change is easier for a competitor to match or leapfrog. Take for example wireless cellphone technology. Company V introduced 4G products prior to Company A and while it may have had a short term advantage, as soon as Company A introduced their 4G products, the advantage due to technology disappeared. The consumer went back to choosing Company A or Company V based on price, service, coverage, whatever, but not based on technology. Thus technology might have been relevant in the short term, but in the long term, became irrelevant.In today’s world, technologies tend to quickly become commoditized, and within any particular technology lies the seeds of its own death.Technology’s RelevanceThis article was written from the prospective of an end customer. From a developer/designer standpoint things get murkier. The further one is removed from the technology, the less relevant it becomes. To a developer, the technology can look like a product. An enabling product, but a product nonetheless, and thus it is highly relevant. Bose uses a proprietary signal processing technology to enable products that meet a set of market requirements and thus the technology and what it enables is relevant to them. Their customers are more concerned with how it sounds, what’s the price, what’s the quality, etc., and not so much with how it is achieved, thus the technology used is much less relevant to them.Recently, I was involved in a discussion on Google+ about the new Motorola X phone. A lot of the people on those posts slammed the phone for various reasons – price, locked boot loader, etc. There were also plenty of knocks on the fact that it didn’t have a quad-core processor like the S4 or HTC One which were priced similarly. What they failed to grasp is that whether the manufacturer used 1, 2, 4, or 8 cores in the end makes no difference as long as the phone can deliver a competitive (or even best of class) feature set, functionality, price, and user experience. The iPhone is one of the most successful phones ever produced, and yet it runs on a dual-core processor. It still delivers one of the best user experiences on the market. The features that are enabled by the technology are what are relevant to the consumer, not the technology itself.The relevance of technology therefore, is as an enabler, not as a product feature or a competitive advantage, or any myriad of other things – an enabler. Looking at the Android operating system, it is an impressive piece of software technology, and yet Google gives it away. Why? Because standalone, it does nothing for Google. Giving it away allows other companies to use their expertise to build products and services which then act as enablers for Google’s products and services. To Google, that’s where the real value is.The possession of or access to a technology is only important for what it enables you to do – create innovations which solve problems. That is the real relevance of technology.