Showing posts tagged 'texas instruments'
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.
23 March 2022
The History of Transistors
Transistors are a vital, ubiquitous electronic component. Their main function is to switch or amplify the electrical current in a circuit, and a modern device like a smartphone can contain between 2 and 4 billion transistors.
So that’s some modern context, but have you ever wondered when the transistor was invented? Or what it looked like?
Going way back to when Ohm’s Law was first discovered in 1820s, people had been aware of circuits and the flow of current. As an extension of this, there was an awareness of conductors.
Following on from this, semiconductors accompanied the birth of the AC-DC (alternating current – direct current) conversion device, the rectifier, in 1874.
Two patents were filed in the 20s and 30s for devices that would have been transistors if they had ever reached past the theoretical stage. In 1925 Julius Lilienfeld of Austria-Hungary filed a patent, but did not end up releasing any papers regarding his research on the field-effect transistor, and so his discoveries were ignored.
Again, in 1934 German physicist Oskar Heil’s patent was on a device that, by applying an electrical field, could control the current in a circuit. With only theoretical ideas, this also did not become the first field effect transistor.
The invention of transistors
The official invention of a working transistor was in 1947, and the device was announced a year later in 1948. The inventors were three physicists working at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey, USA. William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain were part of a semiconductor research subgroup working out of the labs.
One of the first attempts they made at a transistor was Shockley’s semiconductor triode, which was made up of three electrodes, an emitter, a collector and a large low-resistance contact placed on a block of germanium. However, the semiconductor surface trapped electrons, which blocked the main channel from the effect of the external field.
Despite this initial idea not working out, the issue was solved in 1946. After spending some time looking into three-layer structures featuring a reversed and forward-biased junction, they returned to their project on field-effect devices in a year later in 1947. At the end of that year, they found that with two very close contact junctions, with one forward biased and one reverse biased, there would be a slight gain.
The first working transistor featured a strip of gold over a triangle of plastic, finely cut with a razor at the tip to create two contact points with a hair’s breadth between them and placed on top of a block of germanium.
The device was announced in June of 1948 as the transistor – a mix of the words ‘transconductance’, ‘transfer’ and ‘varistor’.
The French connection
At the same time over the water in France, two German physicists working for Compagnie des Freins et Signaux were at a similar stage in the development of a point contact device, which they went on to call the ‘transistron’ when it was released.
Herbert Mataré and Heinrich Welker released the transistron a few months after the Bell Labs transistor was announced but was engineered completely without influence by their American counterpart due to the secrecy around the Bell project.
Where we are now
The first germanium transistors were used in computers as a replacement for their predecessor vacuum tubes, and transistor car radios were produced all within only six years of its invention.
The first transistor was made with germanium, but since the material can’t withstand heats of more than 180˚F (82.2˚C), in 1954 Bell Labs switched to silicon. Later that year Texas Instruments began mass-producing silicon transistors.
First silicon transistor made in 1954 by Bell Labs, then Texas Instruments made first commercial mass produced silicon transistor the same year. Six years later in 1960 the first in the direct bloodline of modern transistors was made, again by Bell Labs – the metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect Transistor (MOSFET).
Between then and now, most transistor technology has been based on the MOSFET, with the size shrinking from 40 micrometres when they were first invented, to the current average being about 14 nanometres.
The latest in transistor technology is called the RibbonFET. The technology was announced by Intel in 2021, and is a transistor whose gate surrounds the channel. The tech is due to come into use in 2024 when Intel change from nanometres to, the even smaller measuring unit, Angstrom.
There is also other tech that is being developed as the years march on, including research into the use of 2D materials like graphene.
If you’re looking for electronic components, Cyclops are here to help. Contact us at email@example.com to order hard-to-find or obsolete electronic components. You can also use the rapid enquiry form on our website https://www.cyclops-electronics.com/
26 May 2021
Who are the biggest players in the semiconductor industry?
Over the next decade, demand for semiconductors is going to go supersonic thanks to secular and cyclical tailwinds.
Semiconductors are the building blocks of the information age; every device that will be ‘connected’ needs a semiconductor. The companies that manufacture semiconductors are the unsung heroes of the future. But who are they?
In this article, we will briefly cover the biggest players in the semiconductor industry.
Foundries concentrate on manufacturing and testing physical products for fabless companies. Some companies, like Intel, are both fabless and foundry, meaning they design and make their chips. Foundries often serve as a non-competitive manufacturing partner for fabless companies. The following list contains the biggest foundries:
TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) is the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer by a significant margin. They are expected to capture 56% of the semiconductor market in 2021 (up from 54% in 2020).
UMC (United Microelectronics Corporation) is a Taiwanese company. They are the second largest semiconductor foundry in the world behind TSMC. UMC specialise in mature nodes, such as 40nm nodes and other speciality logic.
SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation) is a Chinese company. They are the third largest semiconductor manufacturer in the world. They specialise in process nodes from 0.35 micron to 14 nanometres.
Samsung Electronics is a South Korean company. They are the world’s largest manufacturer of DRAM and the world’s fourth largest semiconductor manufacturer. They are expected to occupy 18% of the semiconductor market in 2021.
Micron is an American company. They are the second largest manufacturer of DRAM (dynamic random-access memory) behind Samsung. DRAM is semiconductor memory used in consumer electronics, computing equipment and IoT devices.
SK Hynix is a South Korean company. They are the world’s third largest manufacturer of DRAM and a leading manufacturer of NAND flash memory. In 2019, they developed HBM2E, the world’s fastest high bandwidth memory.
NXP Semiconductors is a Dutch-American company. They manufacture ARM-based processors, microprocessors and logic across 8, 16 and 32-bit platforms. Their products are used in automotive, consumer, and industrial markets.
Powerchip Technology Corporation is a Taiwanese company. They manufacture DRAM and memory chips, semiconductors and integrated circuits. They use a 300mm wafer production technology which can produce advanced and mature chips.
ON Semiconductor is an American company. They design and fabricate chips and microprocessors for automotive, aerospace, industrial, cloud and Internet of Things devices. They have over 45 years’ of experience in the foundry business.
“Fabless” means outsourced fabrication. Fabless companies concentrate on the research and development of chips and semiconductors. They then outsource the manufacturing of the product to a foundry. This relationship is non-competitive, and the foundry is normally a silent partner. The following list contains the biggest fabless companies:
MediaTek is a Taiwanese company. By market share, they are the world’s leading vendor of smartphone chipsets. They are also a leading vendor of chipsets for other consumer electronics including tablets and connected TVs.
Qualcomm is an American company. They are the world’s biggest fabless company. Their product catalogue includes processors, modems, RF systems, 5G, 4G and legacy connectivity solutions. They are best-known for Snapdragon Series processors.
Broadcom is an American company. Depending on which figures you read, they are either the first or second largest fabless company in the world. Broadcom's products serve the data centre, networking, software, broadband, wireless, and storage and industrial markets.
NVIDIA is an American company. They are the market leader for high-end graphics processing units (GPUs). In 2020, NVIDIA GeForce GPUs accounted for 82% of GPU market share. This is significantly more than AMD Radeon graphics cards, which accounted for 18%.
AMD is an American company. They design high-performance GPUs and processors for computers, where they command the second biggest market share behind Intel. Their GPUs compete against NVIDIA’s but are not considered as powerful.
Himax is a Taiwanese company. They are a leading vendor of automotive chips and semiconductors for connected devices. Their semiconductors are used in TVs, monitors, laptops, virtual reality headsets, cameras and much more.
Realtek is a Taiwanese company. They are a fabless semiconductor company focused on developing IC products (integrated circuits). They are best-known for SoCs (System-on-Chips) network (Ethernet) and wireless (Wi-Fi) interface controllers.
Integrated device manufacturers
Some companies have foundry and fabless arms. These companies often design and fabricate their own products or design and fabricate chips for others. These integrated device manufacturers (IDMs for short) blur the line between foundry and fabless with an in-house production process that utilises little if any outsourcing. IDMs include:
Intel is an American company. They design and manufacture their own chips which they package into CPUs. Intel’s market share in the CPU market has declined in recent years, but they remain one of the top semiconductor manufacturers.
Analog Devices is an American company. They have a 150mm wafer fab and a 200mm wafer fab. They have fabless production facilities and have made numerous fabless acquisitions over the years, such as OneTree Microdevices in 2017.
Texas Instruments is an American company. They have 14 manufacturing sites including silicon foundries. They specialise in the production and manufacture of wafers, digital signal processors, integrated circuits and embedded processors.
You may have noticed that the US and Taiwan dominate the semiconductor industry on the foundry and fabless side. Among the biggest semiconductor companies, the largest proportion are based in the United States. However, Taiwan is the foundry king, with the two biggest players based there (TSMC and UMC).
Semiconductors are used in all electronics that require computing power, including smartphones, PCs, and data centres and cars. A surge in demand for chip-based products will fuel the need for more semiconductors in the future. It will be up to the big players on this list to meet that demand and power our future.
06 May 2021
Top Manufacturer Lead Time Update
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25 June 2015
Texas Instruments Acquisition
Are Texas Instruments next in line for a big acquisition?
Will Texas Instruments be next in line to take on a huge acquisition? It’s no secret they have been after something new for a while. They made a bid on Freescale but were beaten to it by NXP, and TI tried to purchase Maxim but this didn’t work out as Maxim pulled out and decided not to sell after all. TI’s main competitors Intel, NXP and Avago have each had high profile acquisitions worth billions of dollars this year alone.
Texas may be feeling the pressure now, knowing that their peers are one step ahead of them. With the company worth $56 billion, and a desire to expand its share in the analog market, the right deal could see TI expanding their manufacturing and seeing a healthy increase in profits. The last big acquisition for TI was the purchase of National Semiconductor back in 2011. But, the company are very particular about what kind of company they purchase; the target company must be an analog chipmaker and the deal must provide a strong rate of return. TI is in a good position and has already evolved the company almost beyond recognition of where they were in the 1990s. The focus on analog, and particularly on digital will serve them well and can allow them to be fussier than some of their main competitors.
We’ll keep you up to date with any updates regarding Texas Instruments, or any other acquisitions that occur! And don’t forget you can search and order all Texas Instruments’ parts direct from Cyclops Electronics.
13 January 2015
CES 2015 Semiconductor Round Up
Lots of really interesting and innovative things have come out of CES 2015, particularly in regards to new semiconductor releases. Here's a quick round up of some of the big chip releases:
Broadwell 5th Generation
This is the 5th Generation 14nm Broadwell Y Dual core which has been highly anticipated for some time now, but the results don't disappoint! It will increase battery life by up to 1.5 hours, will run faster and is more energy efficient than previous generation models. The die size has shrunken 37% and can fit 35 more transistors than other Intel chips.
The Broadwell 5th Gen chips should be ready to ship later this month and are ideal for the 2in1 laptop and tablet devices which are increasing in popularity. Intel are also expanding their Pentium and Celeron CPU ranges and further foraying into the wearable device world with Fossil and Oakley.
ON Semiconductor have been working with 3D stacking technology to create better 3D image sensors. Using stacking technology gives a smaller die and means each part of the sensor can be optimised, so they have improved pixel performance and better power consumption.
“3D stacking technology is an exciting breakthrough that enhances our ability to optimize ON Semiconductor’s future sensors,” said Sandor Barna, vice president of Technology for ON Semiconductor’s Image Sensor Group. “This technology provides manufacturing and design flexibility to ensure continued performance leadership across our entire sensor product portfolio.”
The Tegra X1 Superchip packs a humongous 1 Teraflop of processing power into a device the size of a thumbnail and uses under 10 watts of power. The Tegra X1 is twice as powerful as Nvidia's previous superchip, the Tegra K1, rendering 4k at 60Hz. This superchip should begin appearing in the first half of the year and has been designed for use in
Tegra X1's technical specifications include:
- 256 core Maxwell GPU
- 8CPU cores
- 60 fps 4K video (H.265, H.264, VP9)
- 1.3 gigapixel of camera throughput
- 20nm process
Passive Keyless Entry
The NCF29A1 is primarily being used for Passive Keyless Entry for cars, It is a radio frequency transmitter and immobilizer in one. This chip can allow for extra features to be added to car remote keys such as auto locking when walking away from the vehicle and even a welcome light when approaching!
The NCF29A1 has longer ranger, lower power consumption, 40% longer battery life and 70% smaller form factor than previous chips. This smaller size and better battery life means PKE can be built into smartphones and wearable tech so you never have to worry about losing your car keys again!
Texas Instruments are working with Comcast on their Xfinity remote control, which uses TI's voice-over-RF4CE™ ZigBee® remote control technology to allow voice control to search for channels, shows and set DVR Recordings. No more pushing buttons and endlessly searching for what you want to watch – just say what you are looking for and it will appear on screen as if by magic!
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