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TSMC envisions the next big thing

Posted: 11 Nov 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MEMS? TSMC? system-on-chip?

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd. (TSMC) is positioning itself to be the one-stop shop for "the next big thing."

According to the company, the framework for the next big thing is being cast at advanced foundries that offer one-stop shopping for fabless innovators who want to integrate micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) sensors and actuators alongside complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) circuitry on the same system-on-chip (SoC).

Besides offering faster turnaround and more reliable sourcing from a single well-oiled supply chain, these advanced foundries will eventually offer dirt-cheap prices at cents per chip, according to George Liu, director of Corporate Development at TSMC at the MEMS Executive Congress 2014 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"The next big thing will not just be one idea, but all the next big things will come from a framework of sensors integrated on CMOS chips," said Liu.

He offered as evidence the whole history of system integration since the mainframe. The original mainframes were built on simple devices wire-wrapped togetherin fact the original Crays were made from thousands of copies of the same type of chipa NAND gate. From there minicomputers like Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) built different chips for different computing functions and integrated them on a single printed circuit board at a fraction of the price of mainframes.

Next, the microcomputer integrated all the computing functions onto a single chip surrounded by support chips and boards. From there, the display was integrated into notebook computers which held all their chips on just a few circuit boards. Finally, tablets and smartphones integrated MEMS sensors alongside the CMOS chips onto a single circuit board. The next big thing will be integrating all the MEMS sensors and CMOS functions onto a single SoC.

"The only way forward is by collaboration to insure profitability," said Lui. "We need to move towards the notion of not-invented-here to encourage the practise of sensors driving processor design."

Mind the gap

According to Liu, the foundries will produce the next big things by filling in the SoC gap by integrating MEMS and CMOS, by filling in the packaging gap by offering sub?m interconnects, by filling in the capacity gap by manufacturing in the millions or even billions, by filling in the price gap by underpricing all other solutions, by narrowing the R&D gap by offering their own process design kits, by filling in the supply-chain gap with dependable delivery schedules, and by narrowing the return-on-investment (ROI) gap by offering all the types of MEMS and CMOS sub-systems needed to build any smart wearable, smart-home device, smart-car device, or smart-city device with cheap integrated smart sensors.

- R. Colin Johnson
??EE Times

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