Category: Chips

TSMC sets up advanced wafer plant in Nanjing

IBM engineers in a fabrication plant (fab)TSMC has signed an agreement with the Nanjing City Government to invest $3 billion building an advanced wafer manufacturing facility in China.

TSMC said in December it planned to set up its first wholly owned advanced fabrication plant in China with a $3 billion investment, highlighting the growing importance of the Chinese market for semiconductor giants.

Now TSMC Chairman Morris Chang has given out some details on the project saying that a 12-inch fab and our design service centre will be established in Nanjing.

“We aim to provide closer support to customers as well as expand our business opportunities in China in step with the rapid growth of the Chinese semiconductor market over the last several years,” said

The new plant will make 20,000 12-inch wafers per month.  Production will begin in the second half of 2018.

It was not that easy to get the deal past the Taiwan government. Taiwan has restricted manufacturing activities of its prized semiconductor sector in China, amid political tension between the neighbours. However, competition from China’s fast-growing, though fledgling chip industry has put pressure on Taiwanese companies to widen their mainland footprint.

TSMC had urged authorities to allow 12-inch facilities, which use more advanced technology processes than 8-inch plants, to be wholly owned out of concern for intellectual property protection. TSMC already has a wholly owned 8-inch chip making plant near Shanghai.

Ka-PAO! Intel kills its tock

Ka-Pow-logo-Halftone-SMALLChipzilla has decided that the world has had enough of its Tick-Tock strategy and is having its Tock removed and replaced with something with a longer rhythm called PAO.

Intel has produced chips on a yearly tick-tock cycle for the last decade. Thanks to the shrinking die sizes, that process may permanently become a three-step.

For those who came in late Chipzilla had significant issues going from 22- to 14-nanometers, and it extended the latter to a third generation with “Kaby Lake” CPUS. This was the first time that Intel had a break from tick-tock. Now it looks like the longer rhytum has a name which Intel calls “process, architecture, optimisation (PAO).” This will continue for its upcoming 10-nanometer chips.

During “tick” years, the chip giant upgraded its manufacturing technology to make circuits smaller — for its latest chips, for instance, the tick cycle reduced traces from 22- to 14-nanometers. During “tock” years, it uses the same circuit size and manufacturing technique, but changes the microcode, often drastically, to make chips faster and more energy efficient.

While Intel said that the latest 14-nanometer chips were on a “2.5 year cycle,” it plans to introduce three different 10-nanometer chips yearly.

With the three-step PAO, that slows the pace of innovation by effectively a third, meaning consumers will have to wait an extra year before they see significant speed improvements. The third year of a chip’s life cycle will likely see smaller performance gains, giving power users and gamers — who have become critical customers — less reason to upgrade.

Intel said that the new process is a direct result of the difficulty in building chips with traces that are just 20 silicon atoms wide.

“We expect to lengthen the amount of time we will utilize our 14nm and our next generation 10nm process technologies, further optimizing our products and process technologies while meeting the yearly market cadence for product introductions,” according to the document.

Intel has maintained that it will introduce 10-nanometer chips before its rivals. Furthermore, it says that “this competitive advantage will be extended in the future as the costs to build leading-edge fabrication facilities increase.”


FBI thinks it has cracked shooter’s Apple phone

maxresdefaultThe courtroom showdown between Department of Justice and Apple that was scheduled has been postponed and rumours are that the FBI has worked out a way to crack the iPhone and does not need Jobs’ Mob’s help any more.

The DOJ made the request after saying it may have found an alternative way into the iPhone used by Syed Farook, the gunman in the San Bernardino shooting and might not need Apple’s assistance.

After Apple had been telling the world that the phone was unhackable and that the FBI was demanding that it rewrite its operating system to do the job, a hacker apparently demonstrated to the FBI how he or she would do it.

Of course it is a lot easier than Apple claimed, and does not require any of the hoops that Apple claimed.  The hack probably just depends on exploiting one of Apple’s legendary security flaws.  The good part of this particular hacker’s work means that the FBI does not have to ask Apple again and is not obliged to tell Jobs’ mob where the hole is.

Had Apple done what it was told, it could have controlled how the FBI got the data and known exactly how to close any breach. It seems by carrying out the highly public war on the FBI, Apple has painted itself into a corner and forced the Feds to find a back door – the very thing that Apple claimed it did not want.

The senior law enforcement official said the DOJ is “cautiously optimistic” the method will work, and it will notify the results to the judge by April 5.

Toshiba wants to build chip plant

toshiba-11q4-C655D-S5330-cover-lgWhile it is selling off bits of itself to make up the money lost in accounting scandals Toshiba wants to invest $3.2 billion  to build a new semiconductor plant in Japan.

The company is investing in the plant, which will make its proprietary 3D flash chips, over a period of three years till March 2019, it said in a statement Thursday. Toshiba expects output to begin no earlier than 2018.

The outfit has indicated that it wants to grow its chip business even if its appliances and healthcare need to be sold off as soon as possible. Canon has already agreed to buy Toshiba’s medical equipment unit for $5.9 billion

The chip investment will take place over three years, Toshiba said.

It also said separately that it was delaying its planned adoption of international financial reporting standards (IFRS). It still planned to eventually adopt the global standard, it said, but efforts to do so had been held up since last year’s accounting scandal.

Intel’s Kaby Lake chips headed for third quarter

Sky-and-lakeIntel’s Kaby Lake processors will be launched in Q3 2016, according to a new industry leak.

A Chinese website Benchlife has published a leaked roadmap that suggests Kaby Lake processors will still be manufactured on a 14nm node, similar to Intel Skylake.

The initial lineup expected to launch in Q3 will consist of U and Y series mobility chips aimed at notebooks, ultrabooks, and 2-in-1s. Desktop Kaby Lake processors are also expected to be launched this year, possibly sometime in the fourth quarter.

Intel will also be replacing its N-series Cherry Trail lineup with Apollo Lake, while the Z-series Broxton lineup expected to be released in the fourth quarter.

The company’s first 10nm processor family dubbed “Cannon Lake” will apparently be released in Q3 2017, exactly a year after Kaby Lake’s introduction. Again, just like Skylake and Kaby Lake, the U and Y series Cannon Lake processors will be the first to launch.


Foxconn presses ahead with Sharp buyout

sharp2Although it seemed the deal was on the rocks, Foxconn has completed its due diligence into Sharp, but is seeking guidance from the loss making electronics maker on its latest quarterly performance.

Foxconn appears close to finalising a takeover of Sharp, estimated to worth nearly $6 billion and marking the largest purchase of a Japanese tech firm by a foreign company.

The deal may not happen this week as both outfits were working hard to reach a satisfactory agreement as soon as practically possible and have not set a signing date.

Investors are edge about the deal’s prospects after a last-minute hitch  over potential liabilities at Sharp and the display maker’s shares slid 9 percent on Wednesday.

Foxconn, the world’s largest contract maker of electronic goods and a major supplier to Apple is waiting for auditors and accountants of Sharp to confirm whether the liabilities it has uncovered in its due diligence through the end of 2015 are correct.

It is also seeking guidance from Sharp’s team about its latest quarterly performance, the person said.

In early February, Sharp said it expected an operating profit of$88 million for the year ending in March.


Applied Materials wants to expand into China

ChinaApplied Materials, which is the world’s largest supplier of equipment used to make semiconductor chips, plans to invest $615 million to expand in China.

The China Daily quoted company CEO Gary Dickerson as saying that China has been ploughing tens of billions of dollars into building a competitive chip industry in a bid to cut down on imports and support domestic demand.

“China’s pro-innovation environment for high-tech industries has given the semiconductor and display industries tremendous opportunities for companies such as Applied Materials,” he said.

The company last month forecast higher-than-expected profit and revenue for the current quarter, helped by rising demand in China.


US’s ZTE ban backfires

Great-Depression-Unemployment-Line-It seems that the US’s daft ban on ZTE gear is doing more harm to its home-grown businesses which are suffering more.

The U.S. Commerce Department decided to punish ZTE for selling coms gear to the Iranians years ago and issued an export ban on the outfit. However that seems to be punishing a lot of US companies who depend on ZTE’s components or business.

Jose optical-parts maker Oclaro saw its shares plummet because it sells multiple products to ZTE, a maker of mobile devices and telecoms systems.

Chipmaker Integrated Device Technology said the Commerce Department’s ruling “could cause changes to revenue trends” in its quarter ending July 3 its shares fell 1 percent.

Among other suppliers whose shares fell were Lumentum, down 3.3 percent; NeoPhotonics Corp, down 8.6 percent; Fabrinet, down 5.3 percent; Finisar Corp, down 7.7 percent; Inphi Corp, down 7.3 percent; and Skyworks Solutions Inc, down 4.1 percent.
ZTE distributor Avenet fell 1.5 percent.

Qualcomm slid 1.58 percent while its rival MediaTek Inc rose three percent. Any switch by ZTE to replace Qualcomm as a supplier might take several months, because of the need to work out need specifications.

However the worse it yet to come. The worst fallout for US suppliers around ZTE’s telecommunications-infrastructure equipment rather than its handset business.

Still while the US tech industry suffers, at least they can be re-assured that by stuffing themselves up they will be punishing that naughty Chinese telco for breaking a US embargo when the Americans hated the Chinese.

Hackers could hijack homes

Internet of thingsA security expert said that setting up your house based on the  ‘Internet of Things’ devices could lead to your house being hijacked by hackers.

Allen Scott, the head of strategic partnerships, for F Secure warned that the new wave of ‘internet of things’ devices could leave people ‘under siege’ from criminals that “want to find an easy way to make cash.”

He said that the current trend from hackers involves people are taking data, encrypting it and then holding it to ransom. There is no reason to think it is impossible with smarthouses.

The ‘Internet of Things’ essentially describes a new type of home product that now has internet connectivity, allowing it to update itself, be controlled remotely via smartphone or tap into millions of other devices to make itself more intelligent.

Currently these devices range from smart thermostats which let you remotely control your home’s heating to remotely controlled lighting to ovens which can be pre-set to turn on using a smartphone.

But they also include things like ‘smart locks’ use a fingerprint sensor on your phone to allow access to your house.

Scott warns that these new gadgets present hackers with a lucrative new source of income.

“They’re no longer kids in bedrooms hacking into the NATO website because they can do it, or challenging each other at school, you can make more money from hacking with ransomware. Every technology device that’ll be shipped in four of five years’ time will have an IOT connector in it, it still astonishes me that you can go to eBay and buy pretty sophisticated technology for under a £10. Without knowing it you’ve just bought yourself an IoT,” he said.

Adesto Technologies Launches IoTs Memory


Sunnyvale, CA – Adesto Technologies is introducing an ultra-low power memory solution with the ability to aid in the design of Internet-of-Things (IoT) applications that can run for years on a single battery.

Adesto also announced that the new 45nm based CBRAM Products will be manufactured by TowerJazz Panasonic Semiconductor Company  (TPSCo), 300mm, Hokuriku, Japan Fab.

There’s much to like with their selection of “Moneta” for the branding name. Moneta is the goddess of memory and money – also prosperity and finances. In fact the English word “Money” derives from this lovely goddess’s name.

Adesto went public last October on the NASDAQ Exchange with the call letters IOTS, a straight forward play on the companies intentions. Long thought a takeover target by many analysts the company seems to have convinced acquisition suitors that they are much better off by leaving Adesto an independent entity – this gives the company the ability to adapt their Resistive Conductive-Bridging Random Access Memory (CBRAM) to a multiplicity of special design requirements for the rapidly expanding IoTs segment. Adesto, in effect, has been able to dodge the takeover bullet by being much more useful by remaining small while offering their products through multiple avenues from discrete devices through BEOL SoCs.

Adesto, having completed their developmental stage, is now transitioning to the commercialization and expansion phase of their technology. Several analysts expect that the company will continue to capture a significant portion of the non-volatile memory outside of the commodity data storage market and enjoy profitable royalty licensing from a number of other markets.

The newly introduced memory is entering “…, a hardware landscape (that) is changing quickly,” according to Narbeh Derhacobian, chief executive officer of Adesto. “Off the-shelf memory products were appropriate for the smartphone and PC markets, but they cannot satisfy the requirements of a new world of connected things. Unless we can dramatically reduce power consumption, the cost of changing batteries will prevent the IoT from becoming a reality. At Adesto, we are focused on this emerging market, and Moneta demonstrates our ability to execute and deliver next-generation products to meet its requirements.”

Adesto is a case book example of a company that has been “tinkering away” with a technology that the greater market paid little attention to. Gaining traction has been a continuing mantra of Adesto’s management. Along the way they gathered a number of “Black Swan Outliers” helping them to steer their way to, and carve out an unoccupied niche in the ultra-low power, non-volatile memory for the Internet-of-Things market – a market that is now enjoying a sudden and near explosive growth rate. Let us all remember that there is no such thing as an “easy” technology.