Showing posts for July 2015
21 July 2015
World events impact semiconductor market
The instability of the Eurozone and the weakness in the Yen has impacted a number of industries, now it is the tech industries turn to take a hit. There is a lower projected growth for the semiconductor industry according to research firm Gartner. While there is still growth in capital spending predicted at 2.5%, this is down from the 4.1% growth predicted in the previous quarter’s forecast.
Gartner cited the weaknesses in the Euro and Yen have contributed to their reduction in the growth prediction: “With over half of all equipment being produced by either Japanese or European suppliers, the weakness in their currencies has been the primary factor in reducing our overall outlook for 2015,” Bob Johnson, research vice president at Gartner said about their projections.
The dip in PC and smartphone sales has also made an impact on the semiconductor sales. The semiconductor market can be used as a performance indicator for the rest of the tech industry in general. This is because components and hardware are used in so many different areas including PCs, televisions and even military grade applications. The consumers of the electrical products have a huge impact on the semiconductor industry – if they don’t buy products, semiconductors just aren’t needed.
It isn’t all bad news though, there is still a growth predicted, even if it is slightly smaller than initially thought, and the predictions further into the future look very promising for the industry. There is a 2.8% growth predicted for 2017 and a rather nice 5.2% increase in 2018. As the internet of things market grows and memory continues to expand, the semiconductor market will follow.
Source: Blouin News
17 July 2015
A number of European semiconductor firms are working on an ambitious project called NewP@ss which aims to develop next generation e-passports in the EU.
NXP, Infineon and STMicroelectronics are working together on the project creating advanced microelectronics, embedded software and secure platforms for the project.
This is more than just creating a new online passport – it’s a whole system of next generation travel documents. More and more people are checking in online when going abroad or using their smartphones for e-tickets etc. The NewP@ss system is looking at integrating all of this together in one place.
As well as the usual information found on a passport now, the system would also have the ID holder’s biometric data, travel documents such as visas and also arrival and departure stamps. The system would also be easier to update and make changes to rather than reissuing an entirely new passport for name changes or address changes.
There are multiple challenges facing the team from security and safety to convenience and ease of use. Of course security is a huge concern where passports are concerned and this is the number one priority for the companies involved. They are working on highly advanced embedded software platforms and secure 32 bit microcontrollers to run it all.
This is a huge task which will hopefully make travelling around Europe much easier and more secure for us all. The new systems will be introduced gradually, starting this year and running until 2020 and beyond.
Source: NewP@ss Project
17 July 2015
Powerful clothing enhances more than just your look!
A team from Cornell University have created the ultimate in wearable technology – clothing which can charge phones, measure heart rates, kill bacteria and keep mosquitoes at bay. Led by Juan Hinestroza, the team work from the Textiles Nanotechnology Lab at Cornell.
Rather than just adding sensors or attaching electronics to the fabric, the actual fibres in the cotton become an electronic component! By taking advantage of cotton’s irregular topography, coatings of gold nanoparticles are added, along with semiconductive and conductive polymers to tailor the behaviour of natural cotton fibres.
“Creating transistors and other components using cotton fibers brings a new perspective to the seamless integration of electronics and textiles, enabling the creation of unique wearable electronic devices,” Hinestroza says.
The team have already started making clothing using the fabric, which could have real world applications. One of the team have created a dress made with the conductive cotton which can charge your phone. Ultrathin solar panels are added to the trim and a USB charger sits neatly in the waistband. Whilst it might not work quite as well in rainy England, the dress did capture enough sunlight to charge your smartphone, no more panicking about battery life – you can still take selfies in your brand new dress!
It can also be used with other items of clothing to measure heart rate or analyse sweat. The fabric can be made into pillows to monitor brain activity or into blankets to heat and cool as needed. This technology really changes how we think about wearables and just how advanced our everyday items will be in 5 years, 10 years or even just a year’s time.
Source: Cornell University
14 July 2015
IBM Chip Breakthrough. Taking Computers to the Next Level
The future of computer chips has taken a bold step thanks to IBM. The company have announced they have been working on high capacity chips which have 4 times the capacity of anything else available today. Collaborating with Global Foundries, Samsung and SUNY Polytechnic Institute on the project, this is a big deal for the computer and electronics industry as a whole.
The technology they have showcased is of particular significance as there were questions about Moore’s Law and whether transistor density can keep doubling. Currently the industry is switching from 14nm to 10nm but IBM’s latest chip is an absolutely tiny 7nm.
Each new generation usually reduces the area required for components and circuits by about 50%, speeding up the time between switching currents. This latest development from IBM suggests the technology could keep shrinking until at least 2018. These advancements in speed and reduction in size have been made possible by the use of silicon-germanium rather than pure silicon.
After IBM’s manufacturing arm was acquired very recently by Global Foundries, they will be licensing their technology to make chips for Qualcomm and AMD, amongst others. Whether the industry decides to enter the future using silicon-germanium is still up for debate. Whilst it does allow for these ‘super chips,’ it is unknown whether it can be used viably in a manufacturing facility. The wafer that IBM have shown is not a working part or even a prototype, they are test chips with functioning transistors. Even though they have made this big announcement, it is just experimental at this stage.
The race is now on for other manufacturers to catch up with IBM. The big competitor is Intel who have already said they will be working towards 7nm production, but have not specified a date for production or development.
09 July 2015
A different kind of woodchip
University of Madison-Wisconsin have published a paper proposing the use of wood to create semiconductors.
We all want to have the latest technology and must have new products and upgrades are released constantly. Most electronic products whether they be phones, laptops, tablets or even shavers and washing machines are made from non-renewable and non-biodegradable materials. The rate at which we consume new products is ever growing and clearly isn’t good for the environment in the long run.
A solution may come from a surprising place - trees, specifically a material called cellulose nanofibril (CNF) which is made from wood. Wood, when scaled to microfibers, is used to make paper, but if scaled to nano size, CNF becomes very strong and transparent – ideal for creating semiconductors with. The Wisconsin team have been developing sustainable nanomaterials for the past 6 years, but there have been numerous challenges when trying to create electronics from wood. The biggest issues are creating surface smoothness and stopping thermal expansion.
Luckily both these problems were fixed using just one product - the team coated the chips with an epoxy coating which is water resistant, acid resistant and solvent resistant. This creates a smooth surface on all sides of the chip and creates a moisture barrier to alleviate any expansion which may occur. Most impressive is the fact that these chips would be fully biodegradable – they can be put back in the forest and will decompose naturally.
Yei Hwan Jung, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering and a co-author of the paper has worked extensively with the CNF chips:
"I've made 1,500 gallium arsenide transistors in a 5-by-6 millimeter chip. Typically for a microwave chip that size, there are only eight to 40 transistors. The rest of the area is just wasted," he says. "We take our design and put it on CNF using deterministic assembly technique, then we can put it wherever we want and make a completely functional circuit with performance comparable to existing chips.”
If these wooden chips become commonplace we can continue our reliance on technology and gadgets and look after the planet too. What a great combination! As long as the performance can be matched and the prices kept low, CNF fibres could realistically be used to create semiconductors in the very near future.
Source: Science Daily
09 July 2015
Latest Semiconductor Sales
Global semiconductor sales for May have just been released from the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) Worldwide the figures paint a great picture – the industry was up 5.1% year on year rising to an impressive $28.2 billion!
Global sales for May 2015 were also up on April 2015 by 2.1%. However that figure isn’t reflected across all markets. While the Americas have increased by 11.4%, Europe’s year on year sales are down by -7.8%. Compared to April they have also dropped by -0.6%.
The 1st quarter sales for Europe were more promising as the area was up 2.7%. Hopefully the industry will continue to grow as a whole and Europe will be able to catch up soon. Keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry by following us on Twitter, subscribing to the blog or connecting on LinkedIn.
07 July 2015
BBC Microbit Revealed
Will the new design get 11 year olds excited about coding?
The design for the BBC Microbit has finally been revealed – the pocket sized computer which is to be given to 11 and 12 year olds to teach them how to code.
The mini computer is slightly different from the original prototype announced back in March. The device includes programmable LED lights, 2 buttons and a built in motion sensor. However the battery slot has been removed and an add on power pack will be needed to use it as a standalone project.
A new website is being set up to run alongside the Microbit where children will be able to write code and create programs to run on the Microbit. There are lots of things they will be able to do with their new devices, including creating a metal detector or even a DVD player remote!
The BBC are working with the Make it Digital campaign to get kids excited about coding and programming. Other companies involved with the campaign include ARM, Samsung and Microsoft.
The Microbit is set to build on the legacy of the BBC’s original computer education programme which it ran in the 1980s. For kids today, knowing how to code and program will be an invaluable skill for the future, regardless of their final career path. Living in a digital world, where technology is only set to grow and expand, coding is becoming a “new type of literacy.”
Source: BBC News
03 July 2015
Qualcomm are rumoured to be looking at buying envelope tracking chipset firm Nujira. Qualcomm are already close to completing the $2.5 billion takeover of wireless company CSR and look to be adding another company focusing on mobile technology. Nujira’s main technology optimises the radio transmitter power of mobile phones. The ideal scenario was for Nujira to get their silicon IP into several 4G smartphones – but it was finding it hard to compete with other chipsets like Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.
Qualcomm do make envelope tracking chips but don’t specialise in them the way Nujira do. The deal would be great for both companies; Qualcomm already have strong links with Samsung and Apple, the two biggest smartphone manufacturers, and Nujira are already working hard on creating next gen envelope tracking chips. The chips reduce power consumption by optimising power flowing through the RF chip, leading to a longer battery life.
More is expected to be released about the deal later in the month. Of course we will keep you updated on this story and any other developments in the world of electronics!
Enter Electronic Component part number below.