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Archive for January, 2020

EUV lithography and advanced process nodes: challenges and expectations

Friday, January 31st, 2020

On one side, a plethora of difficult technological hurdles – such as the ones that will be addressed by the upcoming SPIE conference on advanced lithography. On the other side, major companies developing or using EUV systems – such as ASML and TSMC – confidently expecting that all those hurdles will be overcome. The current status of EUV lithography can probably be considered as a good example of the unshakeable trust in technological progress that has always driven the semiconductor industry. And evidence shows that this trust is well placed: 7-nanometer chips manufactured with EUV lithography are now in volume production. January 2020 earnings conferences from both ASML and TSMC offered some interesting insights on what the industry is expecting from EUV lithography, and the program of the above-mentioned SPIE conference speaks volumes about the challenges implied in those expectations.

ASML results; epitaxy market; microdisplays; universal memory; perfect secrecy; NoCs in FPGAs; photonics events

Friday, January 24th, 2020

Equipment, materials and processes are in the spotlight this week – but innovative algorithms and architectures deserve their share of attention, too.

Strong EUV demand drives ASML growth

Several years in the making, EUV lithography is now paying off for ASML. Fourth-quarter and full-year results just announced by the Dutch equipment manufacturer look very good: Q4 2019 net sales totaled €4.0 billion, with net income of €1.1 billion and gross margin of 48.1%. As for full 2019 results, net sales amounted to €11.8 billion with net income of €2.6 billion. For the first quarter of 2020, ASML expects net sales of between €3.1 billion and €3.3 billion and a gross margin between 46% and 47%. “We shipped eight EUV systems in the fourth quarter and we received orders for nine EUV systems,” said ASML’s CEO Peter Wennink in a statement. “We expect that 2020 will be another growth year, both in sales and in profitability, driven by EUV demand and our Installed Base business. The Logic market is expected to remain strong in 2020, due to investments in 5G and high-performance compute applications. In the Memory market, our customers are starting to see the first signs of recovery,” Wennink added.

Camera-based driving; new AI chips; NeurIPS; GaAs-on-Si; integrated capacitors

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Last week and in late December we focused on the unified programming platforms recently introduced by Xilinx and Intel respectively. This week we try to catch up on some of the major news from the last thirty days or so. Let’s start by briefly mentioning that Facebook is reportedly planning to develop its own operating system. And now, more updates from industry and research.

No driver – and no lidar, too

CES, of course, was the biggest IT-related event of this new year’s start, and autonomous driving was obviously a major theme in Las Vegas. One of the hurdles delaying this technology is the high number and cost of sensors, such as lidars. But that could change soon: at CES 2020, Mobileye President and CEO Prof. Amnon Shashua discussed ‘Vidar’, Mobileye’s solution for achieving outputs akin to lidar using only camera sensors. He showed a 23-minute video of an autonomous vehicle navigating with camera-only sensors in a complex environment. Also focusing on enhancing camera performance for autonomous driving is the collaboration between ON Semiconductor and – the first company to roll out daily robotaxi operation in China and in California.

A closer look at Intel’s oneAPI

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

Last November Intel introduced oneAPI, described as “a single, unified programming model that aims to simplify development across multiple architectures – such as CPUs, GPUs, FPGAs and accelerators”. This week we take a closer look at oneAPI with the help of Herb Hinstorff, Director of Marketing, Software Developer Products Division at Intel.

Image credit: Intel

Before proceeding to our Q&A session, let’s briefly summarize what oneAPI is about. As described in the Intel’s fact sheet, there are two components of oneAPI: an industry initiative and the Intel beta product. The oneAPI initiative cross-architecture development model is based on industry standards and an open specification, to enable broad ecosystem adoption. The Intel oneAPI beta product is Intel’s implementation of oneAPI that contains the oneAPI specification components with direct programming (Data Parallel C++), API-based programming with a set of performance libraries, advanced analysis and debug tools, and other components. Developers can test their code and workloads in the Intel DevCloud for oneAPI on multiple types of Intel architectures today, including Intel Xeon Scalable processors, Intel Core processors with integrated graphics and Intel FPGAs (Arria, Stratix). The development flow devised for FPGAs – a target traditionally requiring Verilog or VHDL skills, as reminded by Kevin Morris’ article on EEJournal – is described in the following diagram.

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