In the News

SoC Market to Reach $43.2 Billion by 2009

NORWALK, CONN. — To accommodate exponential growth demands for larger and faster transistors, chip designers and manufacturers have pushed the envelope of technological, physical, and design constraints. The system-on-chip (SoC) concept is one trend in this context, and will continue to push for the next 5 years.

The worldwide SoC market is currently estimated at nearly $14.4 billion, according to a report from Norwalk, Conn.-based Business Communications Co., 'RGB-304 System-on-a-Chip: Technology, Markets.' Expected to grow at an average annual growth rate of 24.6%, this market will reach $43.2 billion by 2009. Unit growth will average 18.4% on average per year to reach 2.2 billion in 2009, and average unit prices will increase from the current level of $15.2 to $19.6 by the end of the forecast period.

SoC components are being propelled by the following three factors:

  • SoC average selling prices are higher than standalone chips, as is to be expected due to integrated functionality.
  • SoC unit sales are taking over the consumption volume of the standalone microprocessor unit (MPU), application-specific IC (ASIC), field programmable gate array (FPGA), and digital signal processor (DSP). Therefore, there is the occurrence of SoC devices simultaneously penetrating into the existing markets of most other standalone chips.
  • The growth of SoC components has led to new end-use devices that had been deemed impossible to make or market. Examples include ultra-small mobile gadgets of the future, ultra-wideband Internet, and certain automobile gadgetry.

These three drivers led to a high projected growth for SoCs, compared to the overall IC realm for the period. The issue of process innovation has become significant, and economic and market forces are fueling the market. This environment calls for an assessment of current market and technology trends, as well as potential breakthroughs in the near- and long-term future.

FlipChip Intl. Opens Reliability and Design Center

PHOENIX, ARIZ.—FlipChip International has opened a Reliability and Design Center for wafer-level packaging and flip chip bumping technologies within its Phoenix, Ariz. facility. The Reliability and Design Center is equipped to support accelerated tests and analytical analysis of devices and packages.

“As our customers adopt wafer-level packaging and flip chip bumping as an alternative to traditional chip packaging, we are excited to work directly with the semiconductor design groups on their next-generation devices. The Reliability and Design Center is a key part of our ongoing expansion of flip chip services that continue to provide lower cost, smaller form factor, and higher performance solutions,” says Bob Forcier, president and CEO of FlipChip International.

The new Reliability and Design Center's accelerated test equipment includes state-of-the-art electromigration testing, temperature cycling, and autoclave chambers. Its analytical analysis capabilities include FTIR, DSC, UV-VIS for material characterization, wet lab, cross sectioning, x-ray and optical inspection, and state-of-the-art SEM/EDX. —LM

SEMI's September Book-to-Bill Reflects Expected Decline

SAN JOSE, CALIF. — In September, North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $1.36 billion in orders and the book-to-bill dropped to 0.96, despite high hopes in the industry that sales would continue to pick up.

“Total billings for semiconductor equipment by North American producers in the first 3 quarters of 2004 have increased 71% over the same period last year, affirming expectations for strong growth in 2004,” says Stanley T. Myers, SEMI's president and CEO. “The September data reflects the expected decline in bookings as IC companies have responded quickly to increased inventory levels and become cautious about new spending on equipment.”

The 3-month average of worldwide bookings for September 2004 topped out at $1.36 billion — 10% below the revised August 2004 level of $1.51 billion and 75% above the $778.8 million in orders posted in September 2003.

The 3-month average of worldwide billings in September 2004 was $1.42 billion, which is 5% below the revised August 2004 level of $1.50 billion. The good news is that this figure is 75% above the September 2003 billings level of $811.1 million.

Back in August, North America-based semiconductor manufacturers posted a book-to-bill ratio of 1.0.

SEMI says that although the bookings and billings have declined from the peak levels of earlier this year, the industry is still on track to exceed its overall forecast projection of $36 million this year. —SCJ

Research 'Surprise' May Advance the Nanoelectronics Field

UPTON, N.Y.— A short, organic chain molecule with dimensions on the order of a nanometer conducts electrons in a surprising way, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory recently discovered. It regulates electrons' speed erratically, without a predictable dependence on the length of wire. This discovery may help scientists learn how to use nanowires to create components for a new class of tiny electronic circuits.

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“This is a very unexpected and unique result,” says John Smalley, a guest scientist in Brookhaven's Chemistry Department and the lead researcher of the study.

The conducting chain molecule, or nanowire, that Smalley and his colleagues studied is composed of units of phenyleneethynylene (PE), which consists of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Like the links that make up a chain, PE units join together to form a nanowire known as oligophenyleneethynylene (OPE). PE, and therefore OPE, contains single, double, and triple carbon-carbon bonds.

Double and triple carbon-carbon bonds promote strong electronic interactions along OPE, such that it conducts an electric current with low electrical resistance. This property makes OPE nanowires good candidates for components in nanoelectric circuits.

In the experiment, the researchers created an OPE wire “bridge” between a gold electrode and a “donor-acceptor” molecule. To measure the electron transfer rate across the bridge, they used a technique they developed in which a laser rapidly heats the electrode. This causes a change in the electrical potential (voltage) between the electrode and the donor-acceptor, which disrupts the motion of electrons crossing the bridge. The group used a sensitive voltmeter to measure how quickly the voltage changed in response to the altered electron movement. From these measurements, they determined how fast the electrons were moving through the wire.

Smalley and his colleagues discovered that as they increased the length of the OPE wire from 1 to 4 PE units, the electrons moved across the wire faster, slower, then faster again, and so on. In this way, OPE does not behave like a similar nanowire the group has also studied, called oligophenylenevinylene (OPV), which contains single and double carbon-carbon bonds. When they made OPV wires longer, the electrons' speed remained the same. They observed the same result when they studied short wires made of alkanes, another group of hydrocarbon molecules that contains only single carbon-carbon bonds.

The researchers think that the unusual behavior of OPE may be caused by its tendency to slightly change its 3-D shape. Increasing the wire's length may trigger new shapes, which may slow down or speed up the electrons as they cross the wire. This variable resistance may prove to be a benefit. “If the odd behavior is due to the conformational variability of the OPE wires, figuring out a way to control the tendency of OPE to change its shape could be useful,” says Smalley. “For example, diodes and transistors are two types of devices based on variable electrical resistance.”

The scientists also discovered that if they dramatically increased the rate at which the electrons moved across the wire by substituting a methyl hydrocarbon group onto the middle unit of a 3-unit OPE wire.

Tessera Reports Earnings Are Up

SAN JOSE, CALIF. — Tessera Technologies Inc. reported positive financial news for the third quarter. Total revenue was $23.6 million, up 34% from the prior quarter and 157% over the third quarter of 2003.

“Broad-based demand from wireless and consumer electronics, coupled with greater-than-anticipated Product Development Services revenue, drove total revenue for the first 9 months of 2004 to $54.4 million, up 104% from the prior year's period,” says Bruce McWilliams, Tessera's chairman and CEO.

“Our third quarter results included the previously disclosed $6.0 million payment received from Samsung Electronics for royalties relating to past production,” explains Doug Norby, senior VP and CFO. “Payments for past production contribute to total IP.revenue, and essentially flow to the bottom line., with an obvious positive effect on our earnings per share. We finished the quarter with $96.4 million in cash and cash equivalents, up from the $76.3 million at June 30, 2004.”

Tessera expects fourth quarter 2004 total revenues to be approximately $16.5 million. The company also reports that for the full year 2004, it expects total revenues to be in the range of $70.4 to $70.9 million. Net income is expected to range from $33.2 to $33.6 million. —SCJ


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