Anandtech Teaches Some Physics

Subject: General Tech | October 13, 2014 - 11:57 PM |
Tagged: processors, microprocessor, FinFET, fab

Ah, Solid State Physics. Semiconductors are heavily based on this branch, because it explains the physical (mechanical, electrical, thermal, etc.) properties of solids based on how their atoms are organized. These properties lead into how transistors function, and why.

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Put it back, Allyn.

Anandtech has published a seven-page article that digs into physics and builds upon itself. It starts with a brief explanation of conductivity and what makes up the difference between a conductor, an insulator, and a semiconductor. It uses that to build a simple transistor. From there it explains logic gates, wafers, and lithography. It works up to FinFETs and then keeps going into the future. It is definitely not an article for beginners, but it can be progressed from start to finish given enough effort on the part of the reader.

While this was not mentioned in the article, at least not that I found, you can derive the number of atoms per "feature" by dividing its size by the lattice-distance of the material. For silicon, that is about half of a nanometer at room temperature. For instance, 14nm means that we are manufacturing features that are defined by less than 30 atoms (up to rounding error). The article speculates a bit about what will happen after the era of silicon. This is quite interesting to me, particularly since I did my undergraduate thesis (just an undergrad thesis) on photonic crystals, which route optical light across manufactured defects in an otherwise opaque solid to make an optical integrated circuit. It has the benefit of, with a mixture of red, orange, and maybe green lasers, being able to "go plaid".

If you are interested, be sure to read the article. It is a bit daunting, but much more manageable than most sources. Congratulations to Joshua Ho and anyone else who might have been involved.

Source: Anandtech

Exclusive partner is another word for single point of failure

Subject: General Tech | August 30, 2012 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: TSMC, apple, qualcomm, fab

If you believe the rumours, TSMC recently turned down offers from both Apple and Qualcomm to make those companies the exclusive partner of TSMC's smartphone chip production.  Now, that sort of deal does tend to line the pockets of the supplier quite nicely, as the customer must pay to recompense the lost business from other customers.  It also gives the manufacturer the ability to specialize their production lines for one specific type of chip which will eventually bring the cost per wafer down.  On the other hand, this type of deal can stifle innovation on a general level as the manufacturer doesn't need to worry about attracting other customers, nor designing fabrication plants capable of producing multiple types of chips.  Then there is TSMC in specific, a company which has a long history of providing supplies to companies both sides of the war, be it GPU, CPU or a mixed chip.  As arms dealers proved long ago it is far more profitable to sell to both sides than to only supply one belligerent.  Read DigiTimes take on this topic here.

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"A recent Bloomberg report cited unnamed sources as saying that Apple and Qualcomm had been rebuffed in separate attempts to invest cash in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) in a bid to secure exclusive access to smartphone chips. Digitimes Research analyst Nobunaga Chai has commented saying that he sees no good reason why TSMC should accept the investment."

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Source: DigiTimes

Know CPUs were made of sand? Yes, but I like your video.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Processors | May 30, 2012 - 06:42 PM |
Tagged: Intel, fab

Intel has released an animated video and supplementary PDF document to explain how Intel CPUs are manufactured. The video is more “cute” than anything else although the document is surprisingly really well explained for the average interested person. If you have ever wanted to know how a processor was physically produced then I highly recommend taking about a half of an hour to watch the video and read the text.

If you have ever wondered how CPUs came to be from raw sand -- prepare to get learned.

Intel has published a video and accompanied information document which explains their process almost step by step. The video itself will not teach you too much as it was designed to illustrate the information in the online pamphlet.

Not shown is the poor sandy bridges that got smelted for your enjoyment.

Rest in got

My background in education is a large part of the reason why I am excited by this video. The accompanied document is really well explained, goes into just the right amount of detail, and does so very honestly. The authors did not shy away from declaring that they do not produce their own wafers nor did they sugarcoat that each die even on the same wafer could perform differently or possibly not at all.

You should do yourself a favor and check it out.

Source: Intel (pdf)

ASUS finally bids farewell to Pegatron

Subject: General Tech | April 18, 2012 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: Pegatron, fab, asus

Back in the ancient past of computer history, also known as 2007, ASUS split its self into numerous specialized companies with Asustek as the parent company overseeing all of the subsidiaries.  Since 2010, ASUS has been slowly separating from one of their offspring, Pegatron who is an original design manufacturer of ASUS motherboards, laptops and graphics cards.  Since there are a limited amount of quality motherboard manufacturers, which have limited production capabilities ASUS has split the load between several companies including ECS for motherboards and graphics cards and reached out to Foxconn and a handful of others for their mobile products.  Over the coming year we will begin to see these products coming out and it will be interesting to see if there is any noticeable difference in the quality of ASUS products in the second half of this year.  Get more information on the coming changes at DigiTimes.

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"Asustek Computer plans to decrease ODM production of motherboards by Pegatron beginning mid-2012 and completely end their ODM relationship by the end of the third quarter of 2012, according to component makers."

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Source: DigiTimes

ARM aims to make TSMC the Fab of choice for their customers

Subject: General Tech | April 16, 2012 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: arm, TSMC, fab, cortex a15, cortex-a9, 28nm, 40nm

ARM has developed some optimizations for their chips, provided that the customer purchasing them uses TSMC to fabricate them.  ARM has licensed a large variety of fabrication companies to produce their chips but with their familiarity with TSMC's 28nm and 40nm processes they have been able to introduce performance enhancing optimizations specific to TSMC.  It could taste a bit like favouritism but is much more likely to stem from the volume of TSMC's production as well as the maturity of the 40nm process node.  The 28nm node could be a bit of a problem for ARM as we have seen that TSMC is not having an easy time producing enough good dies for their customers; this is why you cannot buy a GTX 680.  As The Inquirer points out, if ARM wants to make sure their customers can get their hands on reasonable volumes of chips, they will want to create optimizations specific to other manufacturers sooner rather than later.

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"CHIP DESIGNER ARM has released a slew of optimisation packs for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (TSMC) 28nm and 40nm process nodes.

ARM, which licenses designs to many chip designers, including Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Nvidia and Samsung, has given TSMC a boost by offering processor optimisation packs for the firm's 28nm and 40nm process nodes. ARM claims the optimisation packs for its Cortex-A5, Cortex-A7, Cortex-A9 and Cortex-A15 processor cores help designers make use of TSMC's process node nuances to get the most out of their designs."

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Source: The Inquirer

Take a pictorial tour of Kingston's SSD facility

Subject: General Tech | April 10, 2012 - 11:48 AM |
Tagged: kingston, fab, tour, ssd

Tweaktown was invited put on a bunny suit and take a tour of Kingston's SSD manufacturing facility in Taiwan.  Starting from a pile of surface mount transistors which are automatically soldered and inspected before being baked at up to 270C once all the components have been mounted to the PCB, they snapped pictures of as much of the process as they could.  From there it is off to the testing facility where Kingston ensures that all the drives that came off of a particular run are up to the expected standards.  TweakTown does mention a burn-in machine, but unfortunately they were told not to post them as Kingston wanted to keep at least a few trade secrets from getting out.  It could also be that they don't want the world to know that they cloned Al several times and use his SSD killing expertise as the final test before releasing a drive to the channel to be sold.

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"We were exclusively invited into the Kingston factory where few media have been and got shown the process of making an SSD from start to finish. Due to media restrictions, we were not allowed to produce a video of the tour, but we were allowed to take photos. Obviously Kingston is a market leader in memory and SSD products and there is plenty of sensitive machinery and such - and we needed to respect that and their rules."

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Source: Tweaktown

Intel / Micron Flash Technology Venture Expands, Micron Assumes Two Plants

Subject: Storage | February 28, 2012 - 05:40 PM |
Tagged: micron, Intel, imft, flash, fab

Earlier today we caught some news of Intel and Micron extending their joint agreement to develop and create flash memory under the IMFT name. Along with this extension came some rearrangements to the current plan. Intel will be selling off their stake in two of the smaller fabs, located in Singapore and Manassas, VA. The sale is for $600 million, half of which will stay with Micron as a credit that Intel can use to later purchase NAND flash produced from those factories.

The 'tip of the spear' IMFT fab located in Lehi, Utah, will remain jointly owned and operated. This makes good business sense as the Lehi fab is the first to shift to smaller process nodes. IMFT announced 25nm flash memory production at this very fab in early 2010.

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PC Perspective toured IMFT Utah during the 25nm launch announcement.

Some may see this as Intel taking a step away from flash memory, but I see it as quite the contrary. Micron has always tended towards being a bulk producer of memory products, while Intel are the promary innovators in the arena. This move allows Intel to focus on the bleeding edge plant while Micron handles the particulars of cranking out those technologies developed at the Lehi Plant. It is likely that the highest grade flash comes from the Lehi plant, and Intel's half of the output is more than enough to supply their SSD production lines.

Click to view full article for the press release.

Source: Micron

TSMC finds Samsung to be a competing Foundry

Subject: General Tech | January 19, 2012 - 11:51 AM |
Tagged: TSMC, Samsung, fab

When thinking of foundries one first tends to think of Intel, TSMC and GLOBALFOUNDRIES, but from what TSMC's Chairman revealed yesterday you might start thinking about the Fab 4 instead.  Samsung have been making DRAM and NAND memory for quite a while now as anyone who has inspected their DIMMs or SSD is well aware and their hard drive business is well known.  What has not been in enthusiasts' minds is the System LSI (Large Scale Integration), component of Samsung which designs logic chips for cellphones, SOCs, sensors and many other low powered tasks. 

While TSMC remains much larger than the System LSI portion of Samsung but TSMC feels that Samsung could become a major competitor over the coming year.  TSMC's product lines certainly do overlap some of Samsung's currently and there are new projects in the work that TSMC sees as vulnerable.  DigiTimes specifically mentions the TSV chips powering 3D TVs and the possibility of competition when Apple looks to source the 3D TVs they will be adding to the set top boxes they currently sell.

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"Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world's largest contract chipmaker, has now identified Samsung Electronics as a potential and formidable competitor in the market in which it still controls a dominant share.

During a Q&A session at TSMC's investors meeting on January 18, Morris Chang, TSMC chairman and CEO, said that Samsung will substantially expand what it calls the System LSI division. In addition to servicing its clients, the business also plays a major role in supplying Samsung's own-brand system products such as smartphones and tablets with logic chips, Chang indicated."

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Source: DigiTimes

Good news from TSMC, their new 12 inch Fab is ahead of the game

Subject: General Tech | May 6, 2011 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: fab, TSMC, 12, inch

At 10 million 8-inch equivalent wafers produced in 2010 and an expected 20 million by 2015 it is a good thing that not only is TSMC not having major production issues anymore but it also ahead schedule with the setup of Fab 15, which will be producing 28nm chips on 12 inch wafers.  Moving from 8 to 12 inches should also mean less cost per chip, though whether the savings will be absorbed by the costs of the new fab or if they will be passed straight on to the consumer is a question that cannot be answered until summer next year when they expect to get production capacity up to full speed.  DigiTimes has the scoop here.

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"Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has begun equipment move-in for the phase 1 facility of a new 12-inch fab (Fab 15) with volume production of 28nm technology products slated for the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the foundry.

TSMC previously said it would begin moving equipment into the facility in June, and expected volume production to kick off in the first quarter of 2012.

Pilot runs at the phase 1 facility of Fab 15 are expected to start in the third quarter of 2011, following by volume production in the fourth quarter, said Jason Chen, senior VP of worldwide sales and marketing for TSMC, at a company event held on May 5. With new capacity coming online, TSMC will see its combined 12-inch capacity top 300,000 units a month."

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Source: DigiTimes