Showing posts tagged 'semiconductor'
16 September 2022
India increasing chip manufacture
In recent years India has been increasing its share in the electronics industry, planning to become a hub in the future.
Currently India has a lot of dependence on imported chips, heavily relying on the Chinese supply chain. One of its goals is to be, in part, autonomous in its chip production. The supply chain issues brought about by covid and other global factors really highlighted this.
But it is not easy to just move production of something so complicated to another country. It would require massive amounts of funding to reshore production.
Make in India
In 2021 the Indian government announced funding equal to $10 billion to improve domestic production over the next 5 years. Several companies have put in bids for the funding, including Vedanta, IGSS Ventures, and India Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp.
The funding is part of the Government of India’s ‘Make in India’ plan, encouraging investment and innovation in the country. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi announced the initiative in 2014, focusing on 25 sectors including semiconductors and automobiles.
One of India’s goals is to move away from reliance on imports, on which they currently spend $25 billion annually. Only 9% of India’s semiconductor needs are met domestically. If production is reshored in part, this would increase local jobs and income for the country.
As it stands, India currently has more of a focus on R&D but don’t have fabs for assembly and testing. The nearby Singapore and manufacturing powerhouse Taiwan provide most of its current stock.
A change in the air, and in shares?
The recent approval of the Chips Act in the US means there may be a shift in industry shares. At the moment America has a 12% share, but if production is re-shored this may impact the Asian market.
However, India and the US, alongside the UAE and Israel plan to form an alliance. With financial aid from the bigger players, the alliance plans to focus on infrastructure and technology.
India was the US’s 9th largest goods trading partner in 2021, with $92 billion in goods trade in 2019. India is also the EU’s 10th largest trading partner, but with domestic semiconductor industry growth this might change.
India’s end equipment market revenue was $119 billion at the end of 2021. Its annual growth rate is predicted to be 19% in the next 5 years.
India is aware of the importance of the semiconductor industry, and set up an India Semiconductor Mission (ISM) in 2021. Its goal is to create a reliable semiconductor supply chain, and to become a competitor against giants like the US.
Relish the competition
India’s potential in the semiconductor industry is increasing, and there is likely to be more investment in the future. It is difficult to tell how much further down the line it would be before India becomes a competitor, but the coming years are sure to be interesting.
07 September 2022
The effect of AI on the electronics supply chain
AI and machine learning technology is improving all the time and, consequently, the electronics industry is taking more notice. Experts predict that the application of AI in the semiconductor industry is likely to accelerate in the coming years.
The industry will not only produce AI chips, but the chips themselves could be harnessed to improve the efficiency of the electronic component supply chain.
In an AI chip there is a GPU, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) specialized for AI.
CPUs were a common component used for basic AI tasks, but as AI advances they are used less frequently. The power of an AI depends on the number and size of transistors it employs. The more, and smaller, the transistors, the more advanced the AI chip is.
AI chips need to do lots of calculations in parallel rather than sequentially, and the data they process is immense.
Think about it
It’s been proposed by some that designing AI chips and networks to perform like the human brain would be effective. If the chips acted similarly to synapses, only sending information when needed, instead of constantly working.
For this use, non-volatile memory on a chip would be a good option for AI. This type of memory can save data without power, so wouldn’t need it constantly supplied. If this was combined with processing logic it could make system on a chip processors achievable.
What is the cost?
Despite the designs being created for AI chips, production is a different challenge. The node size and costs required to produce these chips is often too high to be profitable. As structures get smaller, for example moving from the 65nm node to the latest 5nm, the costs skyrocket. Where 65nm R&D cost $28 million, 5nm costs $540 million. Similarly with fab construction for the same two nodes, price increased from $400 million to $5.4 billion.
Major companies have been making investments into the R&D of AI chip infrastructure. However, at every stage of the development and manufacturing process, huge amounts of capital are required.
As AI infrastructure is so unique depending on its intended use, often the manufacturers also need to be highly specialized. It means that the entire supply chain for a manufacturer not yet specialized will cost potentially millions to remodel.
Beauty is in the AI of the beholder
The use of AI in the electronics industry could revolutionize how we work, and maximize a company’s profits. It could aid companies in supply forecasts and optimizing inventory, scheduling deliveries and so much more.
In every step of the electronics supply chain there are time-consuming tasks that AI and machine learning could undertake. In the sales stage, AI could assist with customer segmentation and dynamic pricing, something invaluable in the current market. It could additionally prevent errors in the manufacturing process and advance the intelligence of ICs and semiconductors manufactured.
We’re not quite at the stage where AI has permeated throughout the industry but it’s highly likely that it will in the coming years. That said, this blog post is all speculation and is in no way to inform decisions.
Cyclops can provide all types of electronic components, no matter what you’re building. See how we can help you by getting in touch today. Contact us at email@example.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website to get results fast.
27 July 2022
What is fabless production?
A fab is short for ‘fabrication’, which is a facility that produces electronic components. When it comes to fabless production, it refers to when companies outsource their manufacturing. The development of fabless production is a pretty recent development, but one that has flourished since its conception.
How did it come about?
Fabless production didn’t exist until the 80s, when surplus stock led to IDMs offering outsourced services to smaller firms. In the same decade the first dedicated semiconductor foundry, TSMC, was founded. It is still one of the biggest foundries in operation to this day.
In the following years many smaller companies could enter into the market as they outsourced manufacturing. More manufacturers, each with different specialities, also came to the fore.
One of the original reasons it became so popular was due to the cost reduction it provided businesses. With the actual semiconductors being manufactured elsewhere, companies saved money on labour and space.
With production outsourced, companies also had the ability to focus more on research and development. No doubt this gave way to many advancements in semiconductor technology that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
Having a choice of which manufacturers to work with is beneficial too. Depending on your requirements you can choose someone who best suit your needs.
When you outsource production, you are putting part of your business under someone else’s control, which can be risky. There could be a higher chance of defects if manufacture isn’t being directly overseen.
It also means that, in terms of quantity of product and price of production, you don’t have total control. If a manufacturer decides to change the quantity they produce or the price, customers are limited to their options. They either have to accept the changes, or search for an alternative which, in a fast-paced market, would be risky.
The fabless business model, as it is known, will probably continue long into the future. TSMC’s continued profit, among other companies, is a key indicator of its success. And with big names like Apple, Qualcomm and Nvidia working fabless, it would be safe to say it’s popular.
That’s not to say that an integrated business model, with every stage of production occurring in-house, is a bad choice either. There are many just as successful IDMs like Samsung and Texas Instruments.
For a ‘fab-ulous’ stock of both foundry and IDM components, check out Cyclops Electronics. We specialise in obsolete, day to day and hard to find electronic components. Send us your enquiry at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.
This blog post is not an endorsement of any particular business model, and is purely for informational purposes.
20 July 2022
Thermal management of semiconductors
Too hot to handle
Every electronic device or circuit will create heat when in use, and it’s important to manage this. If the thermal output isn’t carefully controlled it can end up damaging, or even destroying the circuit.
This is especially an issue in the area of power electronics, where circuits reaching high temperatures are inevitable.
Passive thermal dissipation can only do so much. Devices called heat sinks can be used in circuits to safely and efficiently dissipate the heat created. Fans or air and water-cooling devices can be used also.
Feelin’ hot, hot, hot!
Using thermistors can help reliably track the temperature limits of components. When used correctly, they can also trigger a cooling device at a designated temperature.
When it comes to choosing a thermistor, there is the choice between negative temperature coefficient (NTC) thermistors, and positive temperature coefficient (PTC) thermistors. PTCs are the most suitable, as their resistance will increase as the temperature does.
Thermistors can be connected in a series and can monitor several potential hotspots simultaneously. If a specified temperature is reached or exceeded, the circuit will switch into a high ohmic state.
I got the power!
Power electronics can suffer from mechanical damage and different components can have different coefficients of thermal expansion (CTE). If components like these are stacked and expand at different rates, the solder joints can get damaged.
After enough temperature changes, caused by thermal cycling, degradation will start to be visible.
If there are only short bursts of power applied, there will be more thermal damage in the wiring. The wire will expand and contract with the temperature, and since both ends of the wire are fixed in place this will eventually cause them to detach.
The heat is on
So we’ve established that temperature changes can cause some pretty severe damage, but how do we stop them? Well, you can’t really, but you can use components like heat sinks to dissipate the heat more efficiently.
Heat sinks work by effectively taking the heat away from critical components and spreading it across a larger surface area. They usually contain lots of strips of metal, called fins, which help to distribute heat. Some even utilise a fan or cooling fluid to cool the components at a quicker speed.
The disadvantage to using heat sinks is the amount of space they need. If you are trying to keep a circuit small, adding a heat sink will compromise this. To reduce the risk of this as much as possible, identify the temperature limits of devices and choose the size of heat sink accordingly.
Most designers should provide the temperature limits of devices, so hopefully matching them to a heat sink will be easy.
Hot ‘n’ cold
When putting together a circuit or device, the temperature limits should be identified, and measures put in place to avoid unnecessary damage.
Heat sinks may not be the best choice for everyone, so make sure to examine your options carefully. There are also options like fan or liquid-based cooling systems.
Cyclops Electronics can supply both electronic components and the heat sinks to protect them. If you’re looking for everyday or obsolete components, contact Cyclops today and see what we can do for you.
13 July 2022
Superconductivity is the absence of any electrical resistance of some materials at specific low temperatures. As a starting point this is pretty vague, so let’s define it a bit more clearly.
The benefits of a superconductor is that it can sustain a current indefinitely, without the drawback of resistance. This means it won’t lose any energy over time, as long as the material stays in a superconducting state.
Superconductors are used in some magnetic devices, like medical imaging devices and energy-storage systems. They can also be used in motors, generators and transformers, or devices for measuring magnetic fields, voltages, or currents.
The low power dissipation, high-speed operation and high sensitivity make superconductors an attractive prospect. However, due to the cool temperatures required to keep the material in a superconducting state, it’s not widely utilised.
Effect of temperature
The most common temperature that triggers the superconductor effect is -253⁰C (20 Kelvin). High-temperature superconductors also exist and have a transition temperature of around -193⁰C (80K).
This so-called transition temperature is not easily achieved under normal circumstances, hence why you don’t hear about superconductors that often. Currently superconductors are mostly used in industrial applications so they can be kept at low temperatures more efficiently.
Type I and Type II
You can sort superconductors into two types depending on their magnetic behaviour. Type I materials are only in their superconducting state until a threshold is reached, at which point they will no longer be superconducting.
Type II superconducting materials have two critical magnetic fields. After the first critical magnetic field the superconductor moves into a ‘mixed state’. In this state some of the superconductor reverts to normal conducting behaviour, which takes pressure off another part of the material and allows it to continue as a superconductor. At some point the material will hit its second critical magnetic field, and the entire material will revert to regular conducting behaviour.
This mixed state of type II superconductors has made it possible to develop magnets for use in high magnetic fields, like in particle accelerators.
There are 27 metal-based elements that are superconductors in their usual crystallographic forms at low temperatures and low atmospheric pressure. These include well-known materials such as aluminium, tin and lead.
Another 11 elements that are metals, semimetals or semiconductors can also be superconductors at low temperatures but high atmospheric pressure. There are also elements that are not usually superconducting, but can be made to be if prepared in a highly disordered form.
15 June 2022
Electronic Components of a hearing aid
Hearing aids are an essential device that can help those with hearing loss to experience sound. The gadget comes in an analogue or digital format, with both using electronic components to amplify sound for the user.
Both types of hearing aid, analogue and digital, contain semiconductors for the conversion of sound waves to a different medium, and then back to amplified sound waves.
The main components of a hearing aid are the battery, microphone, amplifier, receiver, and digital signal processor or mini-chip.
The battery, unsurprisingly, is the power source of the device. Depending on the type of hearing aid it can be a disposable one or a rechargeable one.
The microphone can be directional, which means it can only pick up sound from a certain direction, which is in front of the hearing aid user. The alternative, omnidirectional microphones, can detect sound coming from all angles.
The amplifier receives signals from the microphone and amplifies it to different levels depending on the user’s hearing.
The receiver gets signals from the amplifier and converts them back into sound signals.
The digital signal processor, also called a mini-chip, is what’s responsible for all of the processes within the hearing aid. The heart of your hearing, if you will.
As with all industries, hearing aids were affected by the chip shortages caused by the pandemic and increased demand for chips.
US manufacturers were also negatively impacted by Storm Ida in 2021, and other manufacturers globally reported that orders would take longer to fulfil than in previous years.
However, despite the obstacles the hearing aid industry faced thanks to covid, it has done a remarkable job of recovering compared to some industries, which are still struggling to meet demand even now.
Digital hearing aid advantages
As technology has improved over the years, traditional analogue hearing aids have slowly been replaced by digital versions. Analogue devices would convert the sound waves into electrical signals, that would then be amplified and transmitted to the user. This type of hearing aid, while great for its time, was not the most authentic hearing experience for its users.
The newer digital hearing aid instead converts the signals into numerical codes before amplifying them to different levels and to different pitches depending on the information attached to the numerical signals.
Digital aids can be adjusted more closely to a user’s needs, too, because there is more flexibility within the components within. They often have Bluetooth capabilities too, being able to connect to phones and TVs. There will, however, be an additional cost that comes with the increased complexity and range of abilities.
25 May 2022
Chip shortage impact on electric car sales
Many renowned car companies have, by this point, tested the waters of the electric vehicle (EV) market. However, thanks to the roaring success of electric car sales last year, and governmental and environmental incentives, the EV market is about to shift up a gear.
The vehicle market was not able to avoid the semiconductor shortage that has been prolific for the past few years. Safety features, connectivity and a car’s onboard touchscreen all require chips to function.
This, combined with the work-from-home evolution kick-started by the pandemic, meant that car sales decreased, and manufacturers slowed down production. New car sales were down 15% year-on-year in 2020, and the chips freed up by this ended up being redirected to other profiting sectors.
Even without the demand from the automotive industry, it has not been plain sailing for chipmakers, who not only had to contend with factory closures due to COVID-19, but also several natural disasters and factory fires, and a heightened demand from other sectors. Needless to say, the industry is still catching up two years later.
The automaker market
Despite new car sales having an overall decline in 2020, EV sales had about 40% growth, and in 2021 there were 6.6 million electric cars sold. This was more than triple of their market share from two years previously, going from 2.5% of all car sales in 2019 to 9% last year.
Part of the reason why EV sales were able to continue was due to the use of power electronics in the vehicles. While there is a dramatic shortage of semiconductors and microelectronics (MCUs), the shortage has not affected the power electronics market to the same extent. That is not to say that an EV doesn’t need chips. On the contrary, a single car needs around 2,000 of them.
It begs the question, how many EVs could have been sold if there weren’t any manufacturing constraints. Larger companies with more buying power would have been able to continue business, albeit at an elevated cost, while smaller companies may have been unable to sustain production.
The growth of the EV business in China is far ahead of any other region, with more EVs being sold there in 2021 than in the entire world in 2020. The US also had a huge increase in sales in 2021, doubling their market share to 4.5% and selling more than 500,000 EVs.
In Europe last year 17% of car sales in 2021 were electric with Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany being the top customers. Between them, China, the US and Europe account for 90% of EV sales
Predictions and incentives
Several governments have set targets to incentivise the purchase of electric cars, and to cut down on CO² emissions caused by traditional combustion engines. Many of these authorities have given themselves ambitiously little time to achieve this, too.
Biden announced last year that the US would be aiming for half of all car sales to be electric by 2030, and half a million new EV charging points would be installed alongside this. The EU commission was similarly bold, proposing that the CO² emission standard for new cars should be zero by 2035, a 55% drop from the levels in 2021.
Companies are also setting EV targets and investing in new electronic models. Some manufacturers are setting targets as high as 50% of their production being electric within the next decade, while others have allotted $35 billion in investment in their pursuit of EV sales.
Aside from the obvious issues there have been with semiconductor production and sourcing, there are also other factors that may make the future of EVs uncertain. One of the essential components of an electric car is its battery, and the materials that are used are increasing in price.
Lithium, used in the production of lithium-ion EV batteries, appears to be in short supply, while nickel, graphite and cobalt prices are also creeping up. However, research is underway for potential replacements for these, which may help for both supply times and the associated costs.
The shortages are affecting everyone, but thankfully Cyclops is here to take some pressure off. No matter what electronic components you are looking for, the team at Cyclops are ready to help. Contact us today at email@example.com. Alternatively, you can use the rapid enquiry form on our website.
18 May 2022
The Angstrom Era of Electronics
Angstrom is a unit of measurement that is most commonly used for extremely small particles or atoms in the fields of physics and chemistry.
However, nanometres are almost too big for new electronic components, and in the not-so-distant future angstrom may be used to measure the size of semiconductors.
It could happen soon
Some large firms have already announced their future plans to move to angstrom within the next decade, which is a huge step in terms of technological advancement.
The most advanced components at the moment are already below 10nm in size, with an average chip being around 14nm. Seeing as 1nm is equal to 10Å it is the logical next step to move to the angstrom.
The size of an atom
The unit (Å) is used to measure atoms, and ionic radius. 1Å is roughly equal to the diameter of one atom. There are certain elements, namely chlorine, sulfur and phosphorus, that have a covalent radius of 1Å, and hydrogen’s size is approximately 0.5Å.
As such, angstrom is mostly used in solid-state physics, chemistry and crystallography.
The origin of the Angstrom
The name of the unit came courtesy of Anders Jonas Ångström, who used the measurement in 1868 to chart the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation in sunlight.
Using this new unit meant that the wavelengths of light could be measured without the decimals or fractions, and the chart was used by people in the fields of solar physics and atomic spectroscopy after its creation.
Will silicon survive?
It’s been quite a while since Moore’s Law was accurate. The methodology worked on the theory that every two years the number of transistors in an integrated circuit (IC) would double, and the manufacturing and consumer cost would decrease. Despite this principle being relatively accurate in 1965, it does not take into account the shrinking size of electronic components.
Silicon, the material used for most semiconductors, has an atomic size of approximately 2nm (20Å) and current transistors are around 14nm. Even as some firms promise to increase the capabilities of silicon semiconductors, you have to wonder if the material will soon need a successor.
Graphene, silicon carbide and gallium nitride have all been thrown into the ring as potential replacements for silicon, but none are developed enough at this stage for production to be widespread. That said, all three of these and several others have received research and development funding in recent years.
How it all measures up
The conversion of nanometres to angstrom may not seem noteworthy in itself, but the change and advancement it signals is phenomenal. It’s exciting to think about what kind of technology could be developed with electronics this size. So, let’s size up the angstrom era and see what the future holds.
11 May 2022
What are GaN and SiC?
Silicon will eventually go out of fashion, and companies are currently heavily investing in finding its protégé. Gallium Nitride (GaN) and Silicon Carbide (SiC) are two semiconductors that are marked as being possible replacements.
Both materials contain more than one element, so they are given the name compound semiconductors. They are also both wide bandgap semiconductors, which means they are more durable and capable of higher performance than their predecessor Silicon (Si).
Could they replace Silicon?
SiC and GaN both have some properties that are superior to Si, and they’re more durable when it comes to higher voltages.
The bandgap of GaN is 3.2eV and SiC has a bandgap of 3.4eV, compared to Si which has a bandgap of only 1.1eV. This gives the two compounds an advantage but would be a downside when it comes to lower voltages.
Again, both GaN and SiC have a greater breakdown field strength than the current semiconductor staple, ten times better than Si. Electron mobility of the two materials, however, is drastically different from each other and from Silicon.
Main advantages of GaN
GaN can be grown by spraying a gaseous raw material onto a substrate, and one such substrate is silicon. This bypasses the need for any specialist manufacturing equipment being produced as the technology is already in place to produce Si.
The electron mobility of GaN is higher than both SiC and Si and can be manufactured at a lower cost than Si, and so produces transistors and integrated circuits with a faster switching speed and lower resistance.
There is always a downside, though, and GaN’s is the low thermal conductivity. GaN can only reach around 60% of SiC’s thermal conductivity which, although still excellent, could end up being a problem for designers.
Is SiC better?
As we’ve just mentioned, SiC has a higher thermal conductivity than its counterpart, which means it would outlast GaN at a higher heat.
SiC also has more versatility than GaN in what type of semiconductor it can become. The doping of SiC can be performed with phosphorous or nitrogen for an N-type semiconductor, or aluminium for a P-type semiconductor.
SiC is considered to be superior in terms of material quality progress, and the wafers have been produced to a bigger size than that of GaN. SiC on SiC wafers beat GaN on SiC wafers in terms of cost too.
SiC is mainly used for Schottky diodes and FET or MOSFET transistors to make converters, inverters, power supplies, battery chargers and motor control systems.
04 May 2022
semiconductors in space
A post about semiconductors being used in space travel would be the perfect place to make dozens of space-themed puns, but let’s stay down to earth on this one.
There are around 2,000 chips used in the manufacture of a single electric vehicle. Imagine, then, how many chips might be used in the International Space Station or a rocket.
Despite the recent decline in the space semiconductor market, it’s looking likely that in the next period there will be a significant increase in profit.
What effect did the pandemic have?
The industry was not exempt from the impact of the shortage and supply chain issues caused by covid. Sales decreased and demand fell by 14.5% in 2020, compared to the year-on-year growth in the years previous.
Due to the shortages, many companies within the industry delayed launches and there was markedly less investment and progress in research and development. However, two years on, the scheduled dates for those postponed launches are fast approaching.
The decline in investment and profit is consequently expected to increase in the next five years. The market is estimated to jump from $2.10 billion in 2021 all the way up to $3.34 billion in 2028. This is a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.89%.
What is being tested for the future
In the hopes of ever improving the circuitry of spaceships there are several different newer technologies currently being tested for use in space travel.
Some component options are actually already being tested onboard spacecrafts, both to emulate conditions and to take advantage of the huge vacuum that is outer space. The low-pressure conditions can emulate a clean room, with less risk of particles contaminating the components being manufactured.
Graphene is one of the materials being considered for future space semiconductors. The one-atom-thick semiconductor is being tested by a team of students and companies to see how it reacts to the effects of space. The experiments are taking place with a view to the material possibly being used to improve the accuracy of sensors in the future.
Two teams from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are currently looking at the use of Gallium Nitride (GaN) in space too. This, and other wide bandgap semiconductors show promise due to their performance in high temperatures and at high levels of radiation. They also have the potential to be smaller and more lightweight than their silicon predecessors.
GaN on Silicon Carbide (GaN on SiC) is also being researched as a technology for amplifiers that allows satellites to transmit at high radio frequency from Earth. Funnily enough, it’s actually easier to make this material in space, since the ‘clean room’ vacuum effect makes the process of epitaxy – depositing a crystal substrate on top of another substrate – much more straightforward.
To infinity and beyond!
With the global market looking up for the next five years, there will be a high chance of progress in the development of space-specialised electronic components. With so many possible advancements in the industry, it’s highly likely it won’t be long before we see pioneering tech in space.
To bring us back down to Earth, if you’re looking for electronic components contact Cyclops today to see what they can do for you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.
Enter Electronic Component part number below.