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 »
War impact on EVs; China’s AI chips investments; Meta-Broadcom deal; ORNL’s exaflop computer
June 2nd, 2022 by Roberto Frazzoli
China is among the themes of this week’s roundup, with news concerning both its richly funded AI chip providers and – despite growing geopolitical tensions – its attractiveness for European investments.
Merck to build a new site in China
Germany-based Merck KGaA has reportedly signed a contract to open a base in the Chinese city of Zhangjiagang, describing it as its largest single electronics business investment in the country. In the new site, a 69-acre lot, Merck will build production facilities for thin film materials and electronic specialty gasses, along with a warehouse and operation centers. “China is currently the fastest growing semiconductor manufacturing market worldwide,” Merck China President Allan Gabor reportedly said in a statement. “We believe a golden era for China’s semiconductor industry has just begun,” he added.
Will Ukraine war accelerate transition to electric vehicles?
War in Ukraine is causing a shortage of wire harnesses – the complex and heavy cable bundles connecting all the electrical/electronics components of a vehicle – as the Eastern European country is a major supplier of these products. The shortage could accelerate transition from traditional vehicle network architectures based on “domain ECUs” to the new architectures based on “zonal ECUs”, which enable a dramatic simplification of vehicle wiring. This, at least, is the opinion of the industry experts quoted in a recent Reuters report. Simpler and lighter cable bundles would reduce carmakers dependence on Ukraine and other countries with a low labor cost, but their adoption would require redesigning the vehicles’ data and power networks. This could prompt a quicker phase-out of gasoline and diesel vehicles, as carmakers would rather not invest money in redesigning products that are approaching the end of their lives. Zonal ECUs are also paving the way to new wiring technologies such as the flexible circuits developed by CelLink (San Carlos, CA), already being used in ‘native’ electric cars.
China leads the ranking of top-funded AI chip vendors
Market intelligence firm CB Insights has recently released a report on artificial intelligence trends that includes a focus on the top-funded chip providers for AI workloads. Interestingly enough, six out of ten companies in this group are headquartered in China: Horizon Robotics, Eswin, Enflame, Vastai Technologies, Moore Threads, and Biren Technology. Despite attracting sizeable investments, some of these companies are not-so-well-known in the Western world, at least in terms of participation to AI hardware conferences or coverage from technology analysts.
Meta to reportedly use Broadcom chips for its metaverse hardware
According to analysts at J.P. Morgan, quoted by Reuters, Facebook parent Meta Platforms will use Broadcom’s custom chips to build its metaverse hardware. Analysts believe these wins are primarily at 5 nanometer and 3 nanometer nodes. As a result of this deal, over the next three to four years Meta would become Broadcom’s next $1 billion-a-year ASIC customer after Google.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s supercomputer breaks the exaflop barrier
The 59th edition of the TOP500 HPC list has revealed that the Frontier system – at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee – is the first true exascale machine with an HPL score of 1.102 Exaflop/s. Based on the latest HPE Cray EX235a architecture and equipped with AMD EPYC 64C 2GHz processors, the system has 8,730,112 total cores, a power efficiency rating of 52.23 gigaflops/watt, and relies on gigabit ethernet for data transfer. However, a recent development to the Frontier system has allowed the machine to surpass the 1 exaflop barrier. According to the list compilers, with an exact HPL score of 1.102 Exaflop/s, Frontier is not only the most powerful supercomputer to ever exist – it’s also the first true exascale machine. The list compilers also noted that, once more, AMD processors seem to be a preferred technology for HPC systems. Frontier utilizes 3rd Gen AMD EPYC CPUs optimized for HPC and AI. Finland’ LUMI system, the new number 3 system in the list, also relies on AMD 3rd Gen EPYC processors, while number 7 Permutter uses AMD EPYC 7763 processors and number 8 Selene uses AMD EPYC 7742 processors. Oak Ridge National Laboratory also ranked first in the June 2022 Green500 list with its Frontier Test & Development System (TDS), with a power efficiency of 62.8 gigaflops/watt.
Stellantis-Samsung joint venture to build a battery plant in Indiana
Carmaker Stellantis and Samsung SDI will establish an electric-vehicle battery manufacturing facility in Kokomo, Indiana, U.S. Targeted to start in 2025, production will aim to an initial annual production capacity of 23 gigawatt hours, with the intention to reach 33 GWh in the next few years. The total capacity would increase further as demand for Stellantis electric vehicles is expected to rise. The joint venture company will invest over $2.5 billion; the investment could gradually increase up to $3.1 billion. At the Indiana factory, Samsung SDI will be applying its PRiMX technology to producing EV battery cells and modules for the North American market.
Micron Ventures to invest $200M in deep tech startups
Micron Technology has announced that its venture capital team, Micron Ventures, will be investing $200M in deep tech startups with its Fund II. Micron’s Fund II builds on the success of the initial AI-focused Fund I by targeting broader deep tech innovations. Since its inception, Micron Ventures has made investments in 25 startups in areas such as AI-assisted manufacturing, edge security and autonomous vehicle development. According to the company, Fund I yielded strong financial returns and added multiple unicorn companies to the Micron Ventures portfolio.
The Si2 Technology Interoperability Trajectory Advisory Council (TITAN) has made available a video of its recent meeting concerning interoperability for silicon-to-systems solutions in critical vertical markets. The video includes plenary keynotes given by guest speakers from Arm and Synopsys on the 2.5D/3D landscape and interoperability challenges ahead, as well as a round table on the Secure Processed Data API (SPEED) with speakers from Ansys, IBM, Intel, Intento Design, Microsoft, and NC State.