The world’s SOI wafer leader, Soitec is posting strong sales and issuing a steady stream of compelling announcements. This is clearly good news for everyone in the SOI ecosystem, as the outlook for the various families of SOI wafers is excellent.
Soitec CEO Paul Boudre told ASN, “I’m excited because of the fundamentals behind the growth. Reaching down the supply chain gives us the ability to help our customers with the next generation. We’re not in a technology push, but in a technology pull. It’s long-term growth we’re seeing.”
Soitec has brought people from the device side into the company to better understand the solutions customers need, he said. They’re talking to the carmakers, telcos and more, working one-on-one with them to understand the constraints and the problems they are trying to fix, in order to deliver a solution based on the Soitec product roadmap. Boudre is particularly excited about 5G. It’s not just new handsets and systems: the entire infrastructure will require a massive upgrade, across which Soitec has a role to play supplying SOI wafers.
They also have other SOI and engineered substrates for specific markets like filters, displays, imaging and power. He adds that they’re seeing nice growth in SOI wafers for photonics, driven by cloud computing, and for smart power in markets like automotive and white goods.
Here’s a roundup of some recent developments. Chips made on RF-SOI wafers are in every mobile phone made on the planet these days, so lets look at what they’re doing there first. We’ll follow that with an update on the surge of activity on FD-SOI wafers.
It’s no secret that the runaway success of RF-SOI for front-end modules (FEMs) in mobile phones has stretched wafer capacity mightily. To help address this, in February 2019 Soitec and China’s SOI wafer leader Simgui announced an enhanced partnership and increased production capacity of 200mm SOI wafers in China, securing future growth. The two companies redefined their manufacturing and licensing relationship to better serve to better serve the growing global market for RF-SOI in mobile and Power-SOI in automotive and consumer electronics.
Since the two companies signed their original licensing and technology transfer agreement in May 2014, Simgui has mastered Soitec’s Smart Cut™ proprietary process to deliver world-class RF-SOI and Power-SOI products. Simgui’s strategic partnership with Soitec allows them to use the same tools and processes to deliver the same products meeting the same specifications.
Simgui has invested in their Shanghai fabrication line in order to double annual 200mm SOI wafer production capacity from 180,000 to 360,000. The fab is production ready, having been qualified by multiple key customers inside and outside China.
Simgui CEO Dr. Jeffrey Wang notes, “China has design, wafer manufacturing and good momentum in the IC industry. We are committed to our strategic partnership with Soitec to keep advancing SOI as China’s key differentiator.”
China Mobile’s interest in the SOI ecoystem is clear: they’ve presented at the SOI symposia in Shanghai for two years running now. In a February 2019 press release, Soitec announced that they’ve joined the China Mobile 5G Innovation Center – and they’re the first materials supplier to do so. The China Mobile 5G Innovation Center is an international alliance chartered to develop 5G communication solutions for China, the world’s largest wireless communications market with 925M mobile subscribers. The Center aims to accelerate the development of 5G by establishing a cross-industry ecosystem, setting up open labs to create new products and applications, and fostering new business and market opportunities.
Soitec’s RF-SOI wafers have been critical in the deployment of 4G communications, and the opportunity in 5G is even bigger. Plus the company’s FD-SOI wafers enable the technology that brings unique RF performance, making it an ideal solution for many applications including mmWave communications such as 5G transceivers. They are also enabling full RF and ultra-low-power computing integration for IoT and edge computing.
In January 2019, Soitec announced that they have expanded their collaboration with Samsung Foundry on the FD-SOI wafer supply, securing the high-volume Samsung needs to meet industry’s current and future demands in consumer, IoT and automotive applications. The agreement is built on the existing close relationship between the companies and guarantees wafer supply for Samsung’s FD-SOI platform starting with the 28FDS process.
“Samsung has been committed to delivering transformative industry leading technologies,” said Ryan Lee, Vice President of Foundry Marketing at Samsung Electronics. “FD-SOI is currently setting a new standard in many high-growth applications including IoT with ultra-low-power devices, automotive systems such as vision processors for ADAS and infotainment, and mobile connectivity from 5G smartphones to wearable electronics. Through this agreement with Soitec, our long-term strategic partner, we hope to lay the foundation for steady supply to meet high-volume demands of current and future customers.”
“This strategic agreement validates today’s high-volume manufacturing adoption of FD-SOI,” said Christophe Maleville, Soitec’s Executive Vice President, Digital Electronics Business Unit. “Soitec is ready to support Samsung’s current and long-term growth for ultra-low power, performance-on-demand FD-SOI solutions.”
In February 2019 Soitec announced they’d become a strategic partner in Silicon Catalyst’s start-up incubator. Silicon Catalyst is a Silicon Valley-based incubator providing silicon-focused start-ups access to a world-class network of advisors, design tools, silicon devices, networking, access to funding and marketing acumen needed to successfully launch their businesses.
Soitec will engage in this start-up ecosystem to gain insight into the newest technologies and applications across high-growth markets, and to guide nascent technologies to successful market penetration.
“As a Strategic Partner of Silicon Catalyst, Soitec has a unique opportunity to grow our visibility among early-stage semiconductor companies,” said Thomas Piliszczuk, Executive VP of Global Strategy for Soitec. “Engineered substrates give semiconductor related start-ups a competitive edge in developing new high-performance, energy-efficient solutions.”
Pete Rodriguez, CEO of Silicon Catalyst said, “Soitec is creating technical advances that are enabling the next generation of products across many market segments. Their SOI technology is a key ingredient to meet the diverse challenges for breakthrough differentiated semiconductor products, combining ultra-low power with excellent analog/mixed-signal performance.”
And finally, jumping back a few months, at the end of 2018 Soitec announced that their SOI wafers are at the heart of a new Renesas SOTBTM energy harvesting chipset, opening a self-powered future for IoT devices. SOTB is how Renesas refers to its FD-SOI technology.
(BTW, here at ASN we’ve been covering the work that Renesas has quietly done on this technology since 2005 (!). And we did a piece about an EETimes Japan article back in 2015 that revealed the launching of the 65nm work. )
Soitec supports the Renesas SOTB chipset with a special version of its FD-SOI wafer product line. The new Renesas SOTB-based chipset overcomes the energy constraints of IoT devices and reduces the power consumption to approximately one-tenth that of the existing products in the market today. That makes the chipset perfectly suited for extreme low-power, maintenance-free and energy harvesting applications including wearable devices, smart home applications, smart watches, portable appliances, infrastructure monitoring systems, industrial, business, agricultural, healthcare, as well as health and fitness apparel, shoes, drones and more.
Renesas has developed its energy harvesting chip using its unique SOTB 65nm process technology that achieves both low active current of 20 μA/MHz and deep standby current of 150 nA. As a result, Renesas’ SOTB chipsets offer enhanced control of the transistor electrostatics and reductions in both the standby and active currents to levels never before achieved. Additionally, Renesas has successfully delivered the dopant-less channel to suppress Vth variability for the ultra-low voltage operation, and the ultra-low power back bias control to reduce the standby current at the same time.
“To spur innovations in IoT and consumer applications, we have integrated our exclusive energy-harvesting SOTB technologies into our Energy Harvest Controller,” said Mr. Toru Moriya, Vice President of Renesas’ Home Business Division, Industrial Solutions Business Unit. “We are confident that our SOTB technology built on Soitec’s ultrathin substrates can deliver unmatched capabilities for developing maintenance-free IoT devices that never require power supply or replacement, giving rise to a new IoT global market based on endpoint intelligence.”
The new R7F0E Embedded Controller is the first device based on Renesas’ SOTB technology. Developers can now design applications that need no battery or recharging. The R7F0E features: an Arm® Cortex® -M0＋; operating frequency up to 32 MHz, and up to 64 MHz in boost mode (that’s body bias in action!); memory of up to 1.5 MB flash, 256 KB SRAM; and active current consumption while operating at 3.0V of just 20 µA/MHz, and in deep standby of 150 nA with real-time clock source and reset manager. As of this writing, Renesas indicates it’s engaging select customers through July 2019, with mass production in 4Q19. Read more about the R7F0E on the Renesas website.
Under a new agreement, Simgui now has the exclusive right to promote, distribute and sell Soitec’s 200-mm SOI wafers in China (see press release in English here; Chinese version here). Soitec is the world’s leading producer of SOI wafers. Shanghai Simgui Technology Co., Ltd. (Simgui), a Shanghai-based semiconductor materials company, is a spinoff of the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology (SIMIT/CAS).
Available in different product families, the 200mm SOI wafers are used in chips such as RF ICs broadly used in smartphones and power ICs for automotive applications. This agreement, which follows a previous licensing and manufacturing partnership between the two companies, represents another key step in establishing a Chinese SOI ecosystem while also strengthening Soitec’s presence in this double-digit-growth semiconductor market.
Soitec and Simgui (Shanghai, China) are partnering on SOI wafer production for RF and power applications. The newly signed deal (read press release here) includes a licensing and technology transfer agreement. Simgui will establish a high-volume SOI manufacturing line using Soitec’s proprietary Smart Cut™ technology to directly supply the Chinese market. In addition, Simgui will manufacture Soitec’s 200 mm SOI wafers for the global market outside China, expanding Soitec’s supply to customers worldwide. Beyond this initial cooperation, the two companies plan to expand their collaborative efforts in the future to take advantage of their synergies.
The SOI Consortium and member companies had a significant presence at two important events in China recently: the World Semiconductor Congress (WCS) in Nanjing and the SOI Academy, including an FD-SOI Training Day in Shanghai.
Nanjing is especially known as a leading RF chip design hub in China, but WCS went well beyond RF. The three-day 2019 event was held at the Nanjing International Expo Center. It attracted over 30,000 visitors, 5000 of whom attended the various summit forums.
The SOI Consortium organized the SOI Forum, which was part of an afternoon Innovation Summit. Presentations were given by members of the SOI Consortium team, and by leaders from our membership, including Simgui, NXP, Incize, ST, IBM, Cadence and Xpeedic. Some of those presentations are now available from our website — click here to get them.
Earlier in the day, SOI Consortium member VeriSilicon participated in a morning session on AI and IoT Wireless Communications. They presented their low-power Bluetooth design platform for GlobalFoundries 22FDX, and CEO Wayne Dai moderated a lively round-table discussion.
Following hard on the heels of the Nanjing event, the SOI Consortium team and members headed to Shanghai for the SOI Academy 2019, hosted for the second year in a row by member SIMIT (Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and IT under the Chinese Academy of Sciences). The two-day event attracted more than 250 professionals from more than 100 domestic and foreign IC companies and research institutes.
Keynotes by SOI Consortium Executive Director Carlos Mazure, SITRI CEO Mark Ding and Jean-Eric Michallet, Head of the Microelectronics Components Department at Leti and bizdev director for the SOI Consortium focused on the SOI ecosystem. The SITRI and Leti talks also gave updates on their research and industrialization alliance. Further talks were given by leaders from Soitec, GlobalFoundries, VeriSilicon, IBM and Xpeedic. These addressed the growing FD-SOI ecosystem, applications in automotive electronics, 22 nm and 10 nm FD-SOI devices, advanced SOI substrate technology, China’s FD-SOI development, the FD-SOI manufacturing process, product design, EDA tools and all aspects of industry’s software and modeling value chain.
Several speakers noted that more and more local Chinese customers are actively adopting FD-SOI for low-power, high-performance chips.
The second day was devoted to hands-on professional training, given by experts from Leti using an actual PDK and punctuated by in-depth discussions. This helped the IC designers to fully understand the advantages and flexibility of FD-SOI in low-power logic, analog/mixed-signal and RF.
All in all, “It was a great success,” concluded Jean-Eric MICHALLET, Head of the Microelectronics Components Department at Leti and bizdev director for the SOI Consortium. Plans for the next SOI Academy are already underway, with plans to extend the topics to include more on photonics, RF, power and MEMS.
Join us! In partnership with our members, the SOI Consortium is co-organizing and participating in two key SOI events coming up in China over the next few weeks. On May 18th, we’ve put together an SOI Forum at the World Semiconductor Congress (WCS) in Nanjing. And on May 23rd & 24th, we’ve teamed up with our members SIMIT, Sitri and Leti for another in our series of SOI Academies, including an FD-SOI Training Day. (The last one this past winter was a terrific success – read about that here if you missed our coverage at the time.)
At WCS, the SOI Forum (sub-forum #8) is part of the afternoon Innovation Summit. We’ll cover the broader SOI ecosystem, including both RF-SOI and FD-SOI – from wafers to design through manufacturing. Presentations will be given by members of the SOI Consortium team, and by leaders from our membership, including Simgui, NXP, Incize, ST, IBM, Cadence and Xpeedic. Click here or scan the QR code for the full program and registration information.
Also at WCS, SOI Consortium member VeriSilicon will be participating in a morning session on AI and IoT Wireless Communications (sub-forum #4). They’ll be giving a presentation on their low-power Bluetooth design platform for GlobalFoundries 22FDX, and their CEO Wayne Dai will be moderating a round-table discussion. You can get more information on that (in Chinese only, tho) here, or follow VeriSilicon on WeChat.
The SOI Academy in Shanghai is an opportunity for experienced designers to gain solid expertise in FD-SOI. The event begins in the afternoon of May 23rd with a series of informative plenary talks by members of the SOI Consortium team, and by experts from our members Leti, Soitec, VeriSilicon, GlobalFoundries and NXP. The FD-SOI Training starts the next morning, on May 24th.. This is a hands-on event lead by top experts from Leti. The morning is devoted to digital design in FD-SOI, and the afternoon to RF design (including for 5G) in FD-SOI. Attendees will get a comprehensive understanding of design techniques for low-power chips leveraging the multiple benefits and flexibility of FD-SOI technology. Get more information here, or from the WeChat QR code.
We’ve got a busy schedule! To keep up to date with where we and our members will be promoting the SOI ecosystem, be sure to check our Events page regularly.
SOI Platforms for Automotive, IoT, 5G, AI/Edge Computing
>The Perspective of China SOI Ecosystem, Jeffrey Wang, CEO, Simgui
>SOI platforms for automotive, IoT, 5G; Jian Zhang, VP, NXP
RF-SOI ecosystem”; Mostafa Emam, CEO, Incize
>Automotive SOI with embedded PCRAM; Giorgio Cesana, Sr. Director, STMicroelectronics
EDA/IP infrastructure and innovation
>Design transparency with FD-SOI; Christophe Tretz, IBM & Design Expert, SOI Industry Consortium
FDSOI Foundry Enablement – From Concept to Mass Production, Mao Liu, Product Manager, Cadence
Mixed signal computing with FD-SOI for AIoT; Hongjie Liu, CEO, Reexen
>EDA Enablement for RF- and FD-SOI; Feng Ling, CEO, Xpeedic
>SOI EDA/IP Overview; Jon Cheek, Executive Director, SOI Industry Consortium
There were over 220 participants at the recent SOI Academy FD-SOI Training event organized in Shanghai. The event extended over two days, with the first day covering a basic introduction to the technology as well as the ecosystem worldwide and in China. The second day was hands-on professional training. Attendees got a comprehensive understanding of how to leverage the benefits and flexibility of FD-SOI design techniques for low-power chips including logic, mixed-signal/RF and analog blocks.
They had a great line-up of experts from whom to learn – check out the agenda here. There was also a follow-up press release (in Chinese) from SITRI here. There will be more of these SOI Academy events in cities across China in the year to come – we’ll keep you posted (and of course, keep checking back for news on the Consortium’s Events page).
The two-day seminar and hands-on FD-SOI design training was (superbly!) co-organized by SITRI and Leti, with the support of the SOI Industry Consortium at the Jiading SIMIT campus outside of Shanghai.
Just to put this in perspective, SIMIT and SITRI are absolutely key players in China’s chip ecosystem. SIMIT is the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology, one of the most venerable institutes in the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) and one of the world’s earliest pioneers in SOI. SITRI is the Shanghai Industrial μTechnology Research Institute, an international innovation center focused on globally accelerating innovation and commercialization of More-than-Moore for IoT. Both institutions are under the aegis of Dr. Xi Wang, Chairman of SITRI, Director General of SIMIT, Academician of CAS, and champion of all things SOI in China.
At this Shanghai event, the participants came from industry (including big companies, SMEs and startups) and technical institutions. In fact as well as attendees from Shanghai people voyaged from other cities such as Shenzhen and Chengdu.
The designers participating to the FD-SOI training day were all experienced in design and highly motivated in learning FD-SOI design, notes Carlos Mazure, Chairman & Executive Director of the SOI Industry Consortium, and Executive VP of Soitec. “This made it possible to dive into the specificities of FD-SOI,” he said, adding that, “The focus on RF was very timely.”
The first afternoon opening keynotes were made by SITRI CEO Dr. Mark Ding and Leti EVP Dr. Julien Arcamone. These were followed by overview talks by execs from Soitec, Verisilicon and GlobalFoundries.
After a lively networking break, three talks delved into FD-SOI technology. The first was by Professor Sorin Cristoloveanu, Laureate of the IEEE Andrew Grove Award and Director at the CNRS (the French National Center for Scientific Research – the largest governmental research organization in France and the largest fundamental science agency in Europe). He covered device physics and characterization techniques. This was followed by talks on the technology by Soitec Fellow Bich-Yen Nguygen, and by Dr. Christophe Tretz, IBM Sr. Engineer on product design methodology.
The day ended with a dinner, where Professor Cristoloveanu says enthusiastic technical discussions continued unabated (and continued even further in follow-up emails), lots of business cards were exchanged, and opportunities for further education were explored.
The second day, designers got hands-on training from Leti experts using FD-SOI PDKs, first in the morning on digital, then in the afternoon on RF. Everyone loved the lively discussion and in-depth exchanges between the experts and the designers. They agreed that FD-SOI has important applications and differentiated competitive advantages for IoT, 5G, automotive, AI and other fields. At the end of the training, Leti and SITRI jointly issued SOI Academy certificates of completion to the designers.
Feedback from participants was very good. Some asked for further education and for hands-on testimonials from companies that are already designing and manufacturing products on FD-SOI.
“The participants were focused, motivated, involved, with good knowledge, which helped make the three hours of Digital training effective,” said Dr. Alexandre Valentian, Leti Sr. Expert, Digital Design. “The IT team was very helpful in setting up the training, the students accounts and the hardware infrastructure.”
“The training on Basics of FD-SOI RF circuit was a great success thanks to the efficiency of our Chinese partners and also thanks to the enthusiasm and the good level of our trainees. As senior Expert of CEA Leti I was really impressed by the professionalism of the organization team. For all these reasons, I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to contribute to the 2018 SOI Academy,” said Dr. Baudouin Martineau, Leti Sr. Expert, RFIC Design & Technologies.
“The professionalism, efficiency and enthusiasm of our Chinese partners and the level and technical relevance of all trainees made the training on Basics of FD-SOI RF circuit a great success and fruitful experience,” added Frédéric Hameau, Sr. RF Research Engineer, Leti Project Leader, Architecture, IC Design & Embedded Software Division, RF Architectures and ICs Laboratory. “It was a pleasure to get the opportunity to be part of this first edition of SOI academy 2018.”
The organizers would like to thank the sponsors, including: the SOI Consortium and its members Soitec, VeriSilicon, GlobalFoundries, Simgui and Cadence, as well as Mentor, ProPlus and other companies and institutions in China and worldwide. Dr. Mazure notes that special recognition must go to Dr. Julien Arcamone, EVP, Leti-CEA and to Qing Wang-Bousquet, SITRI representative, for the perfect and smooth organization, and to the Leti instructors, who are international experts and highly committed.
“As one of the main initiators and organizers of the 2018 SOI Academy, I wanted to personally thank all of you for your respective contribution to this first edition of the SOI Academy,” concludes Dr. Arcamone. “Undoubtedly, it was a great success, very well organized and fluid and we can be proud of that.”
Gain Expertise in FD-SOI
During two days, around 200 experienced Chinese designers interested in gaining a solid expertise in FD-SOI got a comprehensive understanding of design techniques for low-power chips including digital, mixed signal – RF & analog blocks, leveraging the multiple benefits and flexibility of FD-SOI technology.
The training was offered by world-class Leti and industrial experts.
The presentations from the SOI Consortium sponsored workshop held during Semicon West are now posted and freely available on the website – click here to see the full agenda with links to the presentations. The workshop, entitled 4G/5G Connectivity: Opportunities for the SOI Supply Chain, was well-attended and generated excellent discussions.
If you don’t have time to look at all of the ppts, here are quick overviews.
Handel Jones is an industry veteran, China expert and longtime follower of the SOI ecosystem. High performance with low power consumption are the key requirements for the continued growth in the semiconductor industry, he said, making FD-SOI the right choice for a wide range of products. Here’s how he sees it:
He estimates the yearly TAM (total available market) for FD-SOI based products in the range of $46 billion over the next 10 years, largely driven by needs for ultra-low power and RF integration. He goes on to break out volumes by applications (including ISPs – image signal processors; and CIS – CMOS image sensors), foundry markets by feature dimension and to map out technology trends.
Mobile Radio Transformation in the Age of 5G: A Perspective on Opportunities for SOI, Peter Rabbeni, Vice President, Globalfoundries.
Peter Rabbeni is an RF expert par excellence, having overseen the shipping of over 35 billion RF-SOI products to date. In his presentation, he details how 5G NR (New Radio) sub-6GHz frequency band specifications significantly increase frequency range and channel bandwidth, and how new band support and MIMO complexity and die size per handset are driving complexity in RF FEMs. Furthermore, 5G/mmWave phased arrays are driving a paradigm shift in the approaches that can be taken, he explains, so greater integration is needed. Here’s a great slide showing where GF’s two main SOI technologies come into play:
Working in partnership with industry leaders around the world, Leti has been the research powerhouse behind all things SOI since the early 1980s. In fact Reuters ranks them #2 in their most recent list of the World’s Most Innovative Research Institutions. This presentation reviews the key technical benefits of FD-SOI for IoT and IMT (that’s international mobile communications, btw).
This presentation really puts the context around engineered substrates. Here are two excellent and useful slides here that identify which engineered substrates go where in the 5G world, and the engineered substrates that Soitec provides. Check these out:
Ultra-thin Double Layer Metrology with High Lateral Resolution, Bernd Srocka, Vice President, Unity GmbH.
In case you’re not familiar with them, Unity provides a wide range of solutions in metrology and inspection. Both the top silicon layer and BOX layer of wafers for FD-SOI applications have draconian requirements that have required new approaches in metrology to ensure the thickness and homegeneity control of these very thin layers.
Shanghai-based Simgui partners with Soitec, using SmartCut™ technology for the production of RF-SOI wafers. It is doubling its capacity to reach 400K over the next year, and expanding into 300mm. China is aggressively working on 5G and plans to deploy 5G commercialization in 2020. Jeff Wang’s is a terrific presentation detailing the rollout. (BTW, in addition to the massive funding effort underway, the government created the National Silicon Industry Group (NSIG) to support the semiconductor material ecosystem in China. You’ll want to keep up with what’s going on here). Here’s the slide that summarizes the SOI ecosystem in China – the presentation then goes on to detail who does what.
Inspection and Metrology Relevance in SOI Manufacturing, Jijen Vazhaeparambil, Vice President & General Manager, KLA-Tencor.
K-T has played a strategic role in the SOI story going back for decades (and in fact they wrote a piece for the third edition of ASN back in 2005!), ensuring metrology innovations for things that hadn’t previously need detection and measurement. With each new set of requirements, they rose to the occasion with wafer metrology solutions that helped increase quality and decrease costs. This presentation recaps some of them.