Coventor Blog

Virtual Fabrication: Not just for ICs. Better insight into manufacturing helps MEMS designers, too.

With the current focus on IC processing challenges at sub-20nm device length scales, interest in micron-scale wafer processing seems to be out of the limelight. However, in the world of MEMS, micron-scale processing is dominant for high-volume components such as gyroscopes and accelerometers. In a typical MEMS process flow, tens of microns of silicon are etched to release structural features that are a few microns wide. And while those in IC process integration may think that MEMS processing should be simpler than for leading-edge ICs, the increasing complexity and customization in MEMS designs raise a different set of processing issues, which demand further understanding for successful device manufacturing. read more…

Predicting the Future of MEMS

Technology market analysts have a long and storied history of making bold predictions and eye-opening forecasts for growth in the industries they follow. Many, if not most, of these tend to quietly get swept under the rug when unforeseen macro-economic events or truly disruptive technology innovations interrupt the smooth ‘up-and-to-the-right’ growth lines that analyst like to paint. This is especially true in long-range forecasts, where blue-sky predictions of double, even triple, digit growth can be made for several years hence, with little chance that there will be any long-term accountability held against the forecaster if and when the numbers fall short. read more…

Our persistent quest for more accuracy, speed and capacity

By Steve Breit, V.P. Engineering

During a visit to a prospective customer a few months ago, a MEMS design manager told me that her philosophy is that a simulation is not worth doing if it takes more than two hours. I don’t want to focus on whether two minutes, two hours or two days is the right threshold, the point is that all engineers have a time limit on how long they’re willing to wait for simulations to complete. That said, two to four hours sounds about right to me as an upper limit. The question is: what should engineers do when they can’t achieve acceptable accuracy within their self-imposed time limit?
Sometimes the right answer is to buy a faster, bigger computer. Thanks to Moore’s law, computers are continually getting faster and cheaper. It’s amazing how much computing power can be purchased for $5,000 these days. That may be a very smart investment compared to the cost of engineering time, not to mention lost time-to-market opportunity, squandered by using inadequate computers. If only it was this simple. Engineers have this pesky habit of wanting to simulate ever more complex designs with more complex physics, and do it accurately. Thus the expectations for simulation tools continue to outpace the increases in computing power.
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A Trillion Sensors? Not so unbelievable

There is no doubt that MEMS is an interesting market to watch within the semiconductor sector. Various market researchers forecast it to continue to outpace the growth of the overall semiconductor industry, expanding from its base of around $11 billion in sales to $22.5 billion within the next five years (source: Yole Development).

And there’s one school of thought that believes the opportunity for MEMS may be even greater than we might imagine. The Trillion Sensor Roadmap is a group of sensor industry visionaries and experts who predict that by 2023, the cumulative shipment volume of sensors will have reached one trillion. Some think the milestone will be reached even sooner. The group will explore this idea at its annual Sensor Summit event, held this year October 23-25 at Stanford University.
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When will we get 3D NAND Flash Memory???

Dr. David M. Fried – CTO-Semiconductor

It’s about time for 3D NAND Flash, the agreed-upon “future of memory technology” to stop being the future and start being the present. The concepts all make sense. DRAM scaling is getting more and more difficult, and the speed difference between DRAM and NVRAM (Flash) has closed to some extent. Flash technologies have been using finer geometries than other semiconductor technologies for several 2D nodes, and now they’re running out of steam. So, with these apparently obvious trends, and several massive corporations applying a decade of their research and development efforts to the problem, why are these technologies not in the mainstream yet?

Because 3D is difficult. Really, really difficult.

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Will there ever be a “standard” MEMS process?

By Steve Breit, V.P. Engineering

The lack of a standard MEMS process has long been bemoaned by those inside and outside the MEMS industry. Standard CMOS processes, after all, have been a key enabler of enormous growth in the ASIC market. If only MEMS could be more like CMOS…

To be sure, the MEMS industry has been making progress. Leading MEMS IDMs like ST, Bosch and Analog Devices have built whole product lines around their respective proprietary processes. Recently, major CMOS foundries like TSMC and GlobalFoundries have announced intentions to offer MEMS processing service. Presumably, they plan to offer standardized processes that will take them on the same path to success that they followed in the CMOS market. For now though, smaller MEMS-focused foundries appear to be leading the way.
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Rapid Yield Optimization at 22nm Through Virtual Fab
by Pawan Fangaria

Remember? During DAC 2013 I talked about a new kind of innovation: A Virtual Fabrication Platform, SEMulator3D, developed by COVENTOR. Now, to my pleasant surprise, there is something to report on the proven results from this platform. IBM, in association with COVENTOR, has successfully implemented a 3D Virtual Fabrication methodology to rapidly improve the yield of high performance 22nm SOI CMOS technology.

The CTO-Semiconductor of COVENTOR, Dr. David M. Fried was in attendance while IBM’s Ben Cipriany presented an interesting paper on this work at The International Conference on Simulation of Semiconductor Processes and Devices (SISPAD 2013). The paper is available at the link “IBM, Coventor present 22nm Virtual Fabrication Success at SISPAD” at the COVENTOR website.

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IBM, Coventor present 22nm virtual fabrication success at SISPAD

GLASGOW, Scotland – September 4, 2013 – IBM and Coventor jointly presented a paper at the 2013 International Conference on Simulation of Semiconductor Processes and Devices (SISPAD). The paper presents a technology development methodology that relies on 3D virtual fabrication using Coventor’s SEMulator 3D platform to rapidly improve yield by increasing tolerance to multilevel process variation. This methodology has been successfully implemented in the development and yield ramp of high–performance 22nm SOI CMOS technology. Based on virtual metrology, dedicated test site structures were designed and implemented, with electrical results corroborating virtual findings, validating the methodology. This 3D virtual fabrication technique was used to implement a delicate process change, and the same test site structures validated the improved process window yield. read more…