But for all this talk about chips and semiconductors, few people understand how the industry is made up. The best way to understand complexity is to illustrate it step by step. So here’s a quick image tutorial on how the industry works.
we see digital transformation allSemiconductors – chips that process digital information – are embedded in just about everything, including computers, cars, home appliances, and medical devices. $600 billion This year’s tip value.
Looking at the chart below, the industry looks pretty simple. Companies in the semiconductor ecosystem manufacture chips (left triangle) and sell them to corporations and government agencies (right). These companies and government agencies design chips into systems and devices (iPhones, PCs, airplanes, cloud computing, etc.) and sell them to consumers, businesses, and governments.Earnings for products containing chips are worth dozens tMillions of dollars.
But given its sheer size, the industry remains a mystery to most. When you think of the semiconductor industry, you might think of a worker in his bunny suit holding a 12-inch wafer in a factory clean room (chip factory). That said, it is in the business of manipulating materials one atom at a time, and building that factory would cost tens of billions of dollars. (By the way, there are two wafers Trillion Transistor on it. )
If you can look inside the simple triangle that represents the semiconductor industry, you can find an industry in which not one company that manufactures chips but hundreds of companies depend on each other. It’s pretty overwhelming to look at as a whole, so let’s cover one part of the ecosystem at a time. (Warning – this is Simplification It’s a very complex industry view. )
Semiconductor industry segment
There are seven different types of companies in the semiconductor industry. Each of these different industry segments contributes its resources further down the value chain until finally the chip factory (“fab”) has all the designs, equipment and materials needed to manufacture the chip. increase. A bottom-up look at these semiconductor industry segments looks like this:
- Chip Intellectual Property (IP) Core
- Electronic design automation (EDA) tools
- special material
- Wafer fab equipment (WFE)
- “Fabless” chip companies
- Integrated Device Manufacturer (IDM)
- chip foundry
- Outsourced Semiconductor Assembly and Test (OSAT)
The following sections provide more detail on each of these eight semiconductor industry segments.
Chip Intellectual Property (IP) Core
- of design Some of the chips may be owned by a single company. or…
- Some companies license their chip designs as software building blocks called IP cores for widespread use.
- There are more than 150 companies selling chip IP cores
- For example, Apple licenses its IP cores to arm As a component of the iPhone and computer microprocessors
Electronic design automation (EDA) tools
- Engineers design the chip using specialized electronic design automation (EDA) software (adding their own designs on top of purchased IP cores).
- The industry is dominated by three US vendors. Cadence, mentor (now part of Siemens) and synopsis
- It takes two to three years for a large engineering team to use these EDA tools to design a complex logic chip like the microprocessors used inside phones, computers, or servers. (See the design process diagram below.)
- Today, as logic chips become more and more complex, all electronic design automation companies have started inserting artificial intelligence assistance to automate and speed up the process.
specialty materials and chemicals
So far our chip is still in software. But to turn it into something tangible, it has to be physically produced in a chip factory called a “fab.” Factories that manufacture chips must purchase special materials and chemicals.
- Silicon wafers – make what you need for crystal growth furnaces
- 100+ gases Used – bulk gases (oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, argon, helium), and other exotic/toxic gases (fluorine, nitrogen trifluoride, arsine, phosphine, boron trifluoride, diborane, silane, and list continues…)
- fluid (photoresisttop coat, CMP slurry)
- Wafer handling equipment, dicing
- RF generator
Manufacture of chips by Wafer Fabrication Equipment (WFE)
- These machines physically manufacture chips
- 5 companies that dominate the industry – Applied Materials, KLA, rum, Tokyo Electron and ASML
- These are some of the most complex (and expensive) machines on the planet.They take a slice of an ingot of silicon and manipulate the atoms above and below its surface.
- We’ll see later how these machines are used.
“Fabless” chip companies
- Systems companies that previously used off-the-shelf chips (Apple, Qualcomm, Nvidia, Amazon, Facebook, etc.) now design their own chips.
- They create chip designs (using IP cores and their own designs) and send the designs to a “foundry” who has a “fab” that manufactures them
- Apple, Google, Amazon, etc. may only use chips in their own devices.
- Or you could sell chips to everyone: AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Broadcom.
- They do not own wafer fab equipment and do not use special materials or chemicals
- They use chip IP and electronic design software to design their chips
Integrated Device Manufacturer (IDM)
- Integrated Device Manufacturers (IDMs) design, manufacture (own factories), and sell. themselves chips
- They have their own “fabs” but sometimes use foundries
- They design chips using chip IP and electronic design software.
- They buy wafer fab equipment and use special materials and chemicals
- The Average Cost of Tapeouts for New Cutting-Edge Chips (3nm) Is Now $500 Million
- Foundries make chips for others in the “fab”
- Purchase and integrate equipment from different manufacturers
- Wafer manufacturing equipment and specialty materials and chemicals
- They designed their own process using this equipment, make chips
- but those people don’t design chips
- TSMC Logic leader in Taiwan, samsung is the second
- Other fabs specialize in making chips for analog, power, rf, display, secure military, etc.
- Building a new-generation chip (3nm) fab will cost $20 billion
- Fab is an abbreviation for fabrication plant, a factory that manufactures chips.
- Integrated Device Manufacturer (IDM) and Both foundries have fabs. The only difference is whether you make the chip for others to use or sell, or for yourself to sell.
- Think of your fab like a book printing factory (see diagram below).
- Just as authors use word processors to write books, engineers use electronic design automation tools to design chips.
- The author contracts with a publisher that specializes in that genre and sends the text to the printer. Engineers choose the right fab for the chip type (memory, logic, RF, analog).
- A printing plant buys paper and ink. Fab buys raw materials.silicon, chemicals, gases
- The printing plant purchases printing presses, presses, binders and trimmers.Fabs buy wafer fab equipment, etcher, deposition, lithography, testers, packaging
- The book printing process includes offset printing, photographing, stripping, blueprinting, prepress, binding and trimming. The chips are manufactured in a complex process that manipulates atoms using etching, deposition and lithography. Think of it as atomic-level offset printing. The wafer is then diced and the chips are packaged.
- This factory produces millions of copies of the same book.Factories produce millions of copies of the same chip
This sounds simple, but it’s not. Chips are perhaps the most complex products ever manufactured. The figure below shows 1000+ Steps necessary to make chips.
Outsourced Semiconductor Assembly and Test (OSAT)
- Companies that package and test chips manufactured by foundries and IDMs
- OSAT companies receive wafers made at the foundry, dice (cut) them into individual chips, test them, package them, and ship them to their customers.
- As chips become more dense (trillions of transistors per wafer), the cost of building fabs has skyrocketed, now exceeding $10 billion for a single chip fab.
- One reason is that the cost of the equipment needed to manufacture the chips has skyrocketed.
- Only one state-of-the-art lithography machine ASMLa Dutch company, $150 million
- Up to 500+ machines in fab (all not as expensive as ASML)
- Fab buildings are incredibly complex. The cleanroom where the chips are manufactured is just the tip of the iceberg in the complex series of plumbing that supplies the wafer fab equipment with gases, power and liquids all at the right time and at the right temperature.
- The billion-dollar cost of staying on the cutting edge has meant most companies have dropped out. In 2001, he had 17 companies producing cutting-edge chips. Today there are only two – samsung Korea and TSMC in Taiwan.
- Given that China considers Taiwan to be a Chinese dependency, this could pose a problem for the West.
Next Step – Technology
Building high-density, high-speed, low-power chips is becoming increasingly difficult.
- Instead of having a single processor do all the work, logic chip designers put multiple dedicated processors inside the chip.
- Memory chips are densified by stacking them in heights of 100 or more layers.
- As chip designs become more complex, with larger design teams, and longer time-to-market, electronic design automation companies are incorporating artificial intelligence to automate parts of the design process.
- Wafer equipment manufacturers are designing new equipment to enable fabs to produce better chips with lower power. Performance, Optimal Area-to-Cost, Faster Time to Market
Next Step – Business
Integrated Device Manufacturer (IDM) business models such as intel It is changing rapidly. In the past, vertical integration—having your own design tools and fabs—has given you a huge competitive advantage. Disadvantage today.
- Foundries have economies of scale and standardization. Instead of inventing everything yourself, you can tap into the entire stack of innovations in the ecosystem.And just focus on manufacturing
- AMD has proven that it is possible to move from an IDM to a fabless foundry model. intel I’m tryingthey are going to use TSMC As a foundry of your own chips and to set up your own foundry
Next Step – Geopolitics
Controlling advanced chip manufacturing in the 21st century may be like controlling the oil supply in the 20th century. A country that controls this manufacturing industry can hold back the military and economic power of other countries.
- Ensuring a stable supply of chips has become a national priority. (China’s biggest import by the dollar is semiconductors, bigger than oil)
- with the United States today China We are rapidly trying to separate the semiconductor ecosystem from each other. China is pouring her over $100 billion in government incentives into building factories in China, while simultaneously trying to create a domestic supply of wafer fab equipment and electronic design automation software.
- Over the past few decades, the United States has moved most of its factories to Asia.Encouraging Fab and Chip Production Back in the U.S. Today
An industry that was previously only of interest to technologists is now one of the biggest parts of great power competition.
Filed Under: Gordian Knott Center for National Security Innovation, Technology |