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Roberto Frazzoli
Roberto Frazzoli
Roberto Frazzoli is a contributing editor to EDACafe and a seasoned freelance journalist specialized in electronics. His weekly contribution to EDACafe – since early 2019 - includes news updates, coverage of major industry events, special reports, and interviews. Prior to joining EDACafe, Roberto … More »

GloFo to go public; Intel’s Risc-V-based soft processor; Chinese investments in Q3; pixel-shift for smartphones

 
October 13th, 2021 by Roberto Frazzoli

Geopolitical tensions made headlines over the past few days, with Chinese President Xi Jinping in his recent speech reportedly vowing to pursue reunification with Taiwan. Needless to say, this news is also relevant to the semiconductor industry as Taiwan is homeland of the world’s largest foundry. Let’s now move to this week’s updates, which include a quick look at some companies based in mainland China attracting significant investments.

GlobalFoundries to go public

GlobalFoundries has publicly filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC) relating to the proposed initial public offering of its ordinary shares. GF has applied to list on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker symbol GFS.

Intel offers a Risc-V-based soft processor for its FPGAs

The new generation of Nios, the soft processor for Intel FPGAs, is based on the open-source Risc-V Instruction Set Architecture. Called Nios V, the family currently includes a micro controller – Nios V/m – based on Risc-V: RV32IA, with atomic extensions, 5-stage pipeline, and AXI4 interfaces. Future releases will include a general-purpose processor, an application-class processor, and a Linux-capable processor. Benefits cited by Intel include the open-source ecosystem – toolchains, debuggers, real-time operating system – and performance improvements over the Nios II/e processor. The new Nios V soft processor is available in the Intel Quartus Prime Pro Edition Software starting with version 21.3.

Chinese semiconductor-related investments in Q3 2021

Market intelligence firm CB Insights has recently published its “State of Venture” report for the third quarter of 2021, showing record figures for global and US funding, exits, valuations, etc. The report includes several Top 10 charts collectively mentioning about one hundred companies or so; interestingly, only seven of them can be considered part of the semiconductor world. It’s no surprise that semiconductors make up just a little share of such a big pie – a pie that also includes large industries such as e-commerce, fintech, healthcare etc.; on the other hand, one would have probably expected stronger evidence of the current “silicon renaissance” in a record venture capital quarter. Even more interestingly, six of the mentioned semiconductor-related companies (out of seven) are based in China. So let’s take a quick look at these not-so-famous Chinese companies, by peeking in their websites. ROFS Microsystems is a supplier of Film Bulk Acoustic Resonators (FBARs), a category of MEMS-based radio frequency filters, duplexers, and multiplexers. According to CB Insights, in Q3 2021 ROFS received $61 million of seed VC funding; investors include CSC Group and Haihe River Industry Fund. Houmo.ai, founded in 2020, develops artificial intelligence chips based on a “storage-calculation integrated technology, using non-von Neumann architecture”. The company’s first generation chip is based on SRAM, while the second generation device employs “advanced storage technology such as RRAM” and claims a computing power of 1000 TOPS. Headquartered in Nanjing City, the company has R&D centers in Shanghai and Beijing. According to CB Insights, in Q3 2021 Houmo.ai received $46 million of seed VC funding; investors include Qiming Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital China, Hony Capital, Matrix Partners China, and IMO Ventures. Deer Technology, whose website we could not identify with certainty, is listed by the report in the semiconductor components category; according to CB Insights, in Q3 2021 it received $182 million of Series A funding from investors including Shenzhen Capital Group, Sequoia Capital China, Rich Land Capital, Cowin Capital, and Fortune Capital. Hangzhou Semiconductor Wafer, part of Ferrotec Holding, is a supplier of silicon wafers. According to CB Insights, in Q3 2021 Hangzhou Semiconductor Wafer received $510 million of Series B funding; investors include CCB International, China Cinda Asset Management, China Capital Investment Group, Orient Securities Capital Investment, and Sunic Capital. Eswin Technology Group, based in Beijing, is an integrated circuit supplier, also providing semiconductor materials and packaging and testing services. The company’s ‘IC and Solutions’ business unit focuses on mobile devices, home applications, transportation, industrial IoT etc., providing IC and solutions in six categories: multimedia systems, computing, connectivity, display interaction, automotive systems, power management. The ‘Silicon Materials’ business unit mainly provides 12-inch monocrystalline silicon polished wafers and epitaxial wafers. The ‘Advanced Packaging & Testing’ business unit offers services for ICs including COF tape, and more. The company’s website mentions R&D centers in nine Chinese cities, plus UK and South Korea. Eswin’s chairman Wang Dongsheng was the founder of display manufacturer BOE. According to CB Insights, in Q3 2021 Eswin received $464 million of Series B funding; investors include GoldStone Investment, Addor Capital, Triniti Capital, ZWC Partners, and China Internet Investment Fund. GalaxyCore Shanghai Limited Corporation – founded in 2003 – designs, develops and sells CMOS image sensors and display driver ICs, both targeted at mobile phones, wearables, mobile payments, tablets, notebooks, cameras, automotive electronics. According to CB Insights, in Q3 2021 GalaxyCore was valuated $5.5 billion in an IPO exit.

Pixel-shift solutions for smartphones

Canadian company Sheba Microsystems has developed a pixel-shift solution small enough to fit into a smartphone. Initially developed for professional cameras, pixel-shift technology employs a MEMS actuator to slightly shift the image sensor, achieving a substantial increase in resolution. The new solution can precisely shift the image sensor by a distance equal to 1/3 that of a pixel, with a repeatability of <20 nm, and an extremely high-speed response. According to Sheba, the solution multiplies the smartphone camera resolution by nine times.

Recent events

The International Conference on Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography 2021 took place from September 27 to October 7. Presentations are now available on demand.

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