A Horse of a Different Color

Advanced vs. Established Process Geometries

by Amelia Dalton

It's time to saddle up and ride into the semiconductor sunset! Whether you're hitchin' your wagon to a young whipper-snapper node, or lassoin' a long-in-the-tooth workhorse process, the time it takes to get your IC design up and out of the corral may depend more on the software you use to verify your design than on the silicon itself. In this week's Fish Fry, Mary Ann White (Synopsys) and I get down to the very heart of semiconductor design: process geometries. We have ourselves a good ol' time chatting about challenges of FinFET designs, the tricky bits of working with both advanced and established process nodes, and how the right tools can make all the difference when it comes to winning the big product-to-market rodeo.

 

Assault on Batteries

The Internet of Things is Going to Need a Lot of Juice

by Jim Turley

I had dinner with a real venture capitalist the other evening, and lived to tell about it. I can’t tell you everything we discussed that night (wink, wink), but I can say that we had a good talk about batteries. No, really.

The VC in question is a partner at one of the primo Sand Hill Road firms and, as usual, he was the smartest guy in the room. Or at least, at my table. The conversation ranged from food, to wine, to rusty cars, to a recent acquisition by Apple. He talks very fast, uses his hands a lot, and compulsively checks his phone during lulls in the conversation. I guess if I could make (or lose) millions of dollars on one call, I’d check my messages a lot, too.

 

Middle Child Syndrome

Is 20nm the Forgotten FPGA Node?

by Kevin Morris

28nm is a calm, mature node. Sure, everyone was excited when it was the first to reach modern price, performance, and cost levels. We applauded when ARM processing subsystems were integrated into 28nm FPGAs, creating a new class of device. And there were accolades when 28nm debuted interposer-based 2.5D packaging techniques. There is even a nice page in the scrapbook where 28nm SerDes transceivers hit 28Gbps speeds - a nice 28/28 symmetry that made everyone feel all warm and fuzzy.

We all know and love 28nm. It’s out there - proven and in full production, making our real-world designs really work today. It’s great! You really can’t go wrong with any of Xilinx’s or Altera’s robust 28nm offerings - from cost-optimized, higher-volume Kintex and Arria chips up to the biggest, fastest, most feature-laden Virtex-7 and Stratix V devices, 28nm FPGAs have you covered.

 

Life Under 20

New Equipment for the “1X” Process Nodes

by Bryon Moyer

We’re shrinking again. We’re moving past the 20-nm node into the 16 or 14 realm (depending on how you or your marketing team counts it). In fact, according to KLA-Tencor, some companies are skipping the 20-nm node altogether and moving directly into the teens.

It’s always been the case that new nodes spur new tools, but there are some trends underway at 16/14 that are more than just “smaller,” and they are providing yet more challenges to the semi equipment guys.

Tools for Building

3D NAND probably provides the biggest change, and it introduces a new layer cake onto the wafer. For those of you that are new to 3D NAND, Applied Materials (AMAT) provides a simple description of what it consists of: tipping a string of bits on end.

 

Driving Innovation

Model-based Design and Physics-based Acceleration

by Amelia Dalton

In this week's Fish Fry, we're taking the wheel, putting the pedal to the metal, and riding off into the EE sunset. My first co-pilot in the Fish Fry bucket seat is Noam Levine. Noam navigates us to a special place called Model-based Design. We discuss how this design methodology can help move your next design into the fast lane where you might even bypass a prototyping stage or two. Next up in our fast flying EE road trip is a saunter down Semiconductor Lane with Tom Flynn of Coventor. Tom and I investigate physics-based acceleration and check out how you can get your MEMS motor running in zero-to-sixty.

 

A Quantum Computing Milestone

UCSB Team Achieves >99% Reliability

by Bryon Moyer

With most of the articles I write, I try to do more than just parrot what someone else said: I really try to understand what it is I’m writing about, at least to some degree.

Not today, folks.

Not even close.

Today we go behind the looking glass into the world of quantum computing. I’m going to try to give a flavor of what I’ve learned in order to understand what’s significant about the news coming out of the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), but I’m not even going to try to pretend that I really know what I’m talking about.

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