The semiconductor fabrication industry has been wandering in something of a wilderness recently, what with the continued delays in EUV lithography as a production-ready technology, 450mm gone quiet, ‘teenage’ FinFET costs zooming, and the baton in single-digit nanometer FinFET passing from Intel to IBM and its partners.

It’s a situation that made SEMICON West 2015 most interesting.

There was a certain aura of change hovering in the air.

It’s as if the semiconductor industry had taken a long voyage by ship and undergone a sea change along the way.

I sense we are experiencing, in real-time, punctuated equilibrium theory in action, and that there’s going to be as profound a change coming to chips as any change the commercial semiconductor industry has undergone in the previous five decades of Moore’s Law progress.

CladogenesisI sense it’s the time of a great cladogenesis in our industry – that we are moving from a relentless obsession with pursuing ever-smaller, ever-more transistors into an epiphany that we need to be pursuing new … somethings.

Somethings we have begun calling More-than-Moore.

It was obvious in San Francisco that the waters have pulled back, the clouds have parted, more has been revealed, and that that more is a many more, a more of MEMS and Sensors, a more of low-power electronics for the IoT, a more of FD-SOI, a more of heterointegration.  “Let a thousand flowers bloom.”

(Yes, this more moment is the moment when China has the chance to enter the global semiconductor fabrication conversation in a big, big way.)

The evolutionary pressure on CMOS IC is great because, as was said in the opening day keynote panel on Scaling the Walls of Sub-14nm Manufacturing, “Physics is not always with us.”

That’s why, according to Gary Patton, who now wears a GLOBALFOUNDRIES badge (more evolution!) 22nm FD-SOI, an IoT-friendly fabrication technology benefiting from the favorable leakage and operating voltage characteristics FD-SOI offers the chip design engineer, makes sense.

Physics is not always with us – that’s why co-integration of heterogeneous technologies, rather than consolidating more and more functionality on advanced System on Chip (SoC), makes sense.

(It’s great to know that someone like Bill Chen, ASE, is working on commercial heterointegration, in Bill’s case from a packaging perspective.)

3D PitchersAnd that’s why, thinks Calvin Cheung, ASE, 3D and 2.5D IC approaches to system density and functionality will be of great benefit for the mobile market.

Physics is not always our friend, but 3D IC plays nice. 

3D InCites Awards Trophies

And that’s why, from a Wall Street perspective, 3D IC has arrived, said Scott Jones, Alix Partners, in his keynote talk at the 3D InCites Awards Breakfast.

Cladogenesis: that’s why it was standing room only at the What’s Next for MEMS TechXPOT jointly organized by SEMI and MEMS Industry Group. (And about those MEMS entrepreneurs: they haven’t gone away, they’ve just gotten scrappier, according to Kurt Petersen, KP-MEMS, who knows from MEMS entrepreneurs. Innovation lives!)

And that’s why Dan Tracy, SEMI, said it’s a good time to be in the 200mm equipment business. Demand is high and prices are rising as device makers scramble to take make hay while the sun shines and the IoT land grab is on.

200mm hot in 2015? Yes, which reflects well the observation Dean Freeman, Gartner, made, about it being a good time to be a MEMS manufacturer, and a good time to be taking advantage of the decades of experience the semiconductor industry has perfecting 200mm fabrication tools and fabrication processes.Blooming Flowers

Let a trillion sensors bloom.

And congratulations to SEMI on its 45th SEMICON West!

The next 45 years will undoubtedly be as interesting as the first have been. Long may we run.

From Pittsburgh, PA, thanks for reading. ~PFW

Paul Werbaneth

Paul Werbaneth is a long-time Contributing Editor at 3D InCites. Since entering the semiconductor industry…

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