As the age of the ‘experience economy’ approaches, semiconductor products that support everything from cloud computing to digital convergence are particularly important. And Etron Technology’s IC products realize the dream of ‘eye-brain-nerve convergence + thumbs up’! Drawing the analogy of the human brain, the company’s niche buffer memory products act like the memory, its USB3.0 host products are like nerves that provide connectivity, and the webcam IC provides vision just like our eyes. The flash drive – commonly known as a thumb drive – is now moving from USB2.0 into the USB3.0 era. Etron’s recently launched USB3.0 device control ICs break new world records in terms of speed, adding a ‘thumbs up’ to the coming of the information age of convenient, connected and portable 3C electronics.
Dr. Nicky Lu, Chairman and CEO of Etron Technology, explains, “The experience economy is all about touching people’s hearts, which drives services, and services drive products – thinking that goes against the grain of the traditional understanding. Semiconductor products are the foundation of the IT industry. We are now moving into the age of heterogeneous integration, but Etron has consistently strived to achieve its goals in terms of designing technologies that take into account both hardware and software, and developing IC products that bring exciting experiences into development. Etron is the leading manufacturer of niche buffer memory and has developed many advanced system-on-chip (SOC) logic IC products, including USB3.0 host controller ICs, USB 3.0 flash drive controller ICs, and 3D imaging gesture-sensing integrated webcam controller ICs. These products work like the brain, nerves, thumbs and eyes of the human body, helping to promote the hot IC products that form the backbone of the ‘experience economy’ trend!”
Etron’s independently developed USB3.0 technology creates total solutions for host and device-end ICs
The USB2.0 standard is already widely used, but its limited data bandwidth is a common headache of the transfer technology; as a result, the international next generation USB3.0 data transfer standard was created. Etron’s USB3.0 solutions include the launch of a series of new products from host to device-end. SOC platforms were used to develop the dual-port and four-port USB3.0 host controller (HC) ICs – EJ168, EJ188 and EJ198. The company has also moved into the device sector with the successful development of its EV166 and EV268 single-channel and dual-channel flash memory drive controller, which combine advanced, high-performance flash storage technology with superior USB3.0 physical layer (PHY) and controller layer IP and software technologies, with seamless integration delivering the fastest USB3.0 product performance.
Etron’s EJ198 USB3.0 four-port HC is an HC for PCIe Gen 2 to USB3.0 that complies with both the PCIe Gen 2 and USB3.0 standards, and supports Intel’s official xHCI 1.0 interface standard, ensuring that systems have the highest level of compatibility, the lowest power consumption and truly outstanding performance. As the EJ198 has two PCIe Gen 2 channels (PCIe Gen 2 x 2 lanes) each supporting transfer rates of 5Gbps, it is capable of delivering overall bandwidth of up to 10Gbps in full-duplex mode – far ahead of comparable products in the industry. In terms of hardware specifications, it uses an 88-pin QFN package with external dimensions of 10 x 10mm2.
In order to deliver both speed and cost efficiency, Etron launched the EJ188 USB3.0 four-port HC, which supports a single PCIe Gen 2 channel (PCIe Gen 2 x 1 lane). While this product has only a single PCIe Gen 2 channel, it is still capable of achieving transfer rates of 5Gbps, consistent with the 5Gbps theoretical speed optimization requirements of USB 3.0. The product is already being used by major system manufacturers.
The EJ168 USB3.0 dual-port HC offers the world’s fastest access speeds. It also has outstanding compatibility features, and can be interconnected with a variety of USB3.0 products on the market, as well as being backwards compatible with all USB2.0 devices. The EH168 was awarded the ‘Outstanding IT Application and Product Award’ by IT Month in 2010, and was given SuperSpeed USB certification by the international USB-IF association in May last year, as well as receiving the ‘Innovative Product Prize for Excellent Manufacturers’ from the Science Park Administration. The product is already being stably shipped to major motherboard manufacturers in many countries and has been greatly admired by many clients. By the end of last year, total shipments had already exceeded five million chips.
Etron also moved into the USB3.0 device sector with the launch of the EV166 USB3.0 single-channel flash memory drive controller IC. Combined with MLC flash memory, the unit is capable of achieving read rates of 150MB/s, making it the world’s fastest single-channel flash drive controller IC. It is worth noting that the EV166 is the world’s first USB3.0 IC to use a 48-pin QFP package. Its tiny external dimensions of just 14 x 28 mm and dual-layer PCB design make it thin, light, short and compact, helping to reduce manufacturing costs. And as these attributes are the same as USB2.0 chips that use 48-pin QFP packages, it is a convenient choice for upgrades.
The EV268 USB3.0 dual-channel flash memory controller IC supports 16CE and is capable of world-beating read rates of 250MB/s or higher in combination with MLC flash memory. It is already being used by Etron’s major clients. It is worth mentioning that Etron’s whole range of USB3.0 flash memory controller ICs are equipped with advanced ECC (error check and correction) and support SLC/MLC/TLC flash memory on 3x nm, 2x nm and 1xnm processes from different manufacturers.
The use of application specific buffer memory KGD in SIP applications is regarded as vital to 4C electronics system design
Buffer DRAMs play an increasingly important role in electronics products. Application specific buffer memory KGD (known good die) offers 4C electronics the benefits of reduced system costs and smaller physical volume, as well as meeting performance requirements in terms of low power consumption and high-speed data transfer, and minimizing EMI (electromagnetic interference). In the age of the experience economy, application specific buffer memory KGD enables significant increases in the performance of next generation electronics products, particularly when used in 2.5D/3D SIP applications, bringing consumers a completely new user experience.
The steady development and evolution of 4C electronics products is largely the result of constant progress in the semiconductor industry in terms of reducing manufacturing costs and improving system performance. For example, the size at which wafers are produced has moved forward on average once every 10 years, from four inches to five, six and later eight inches; by 2001, 12-inch wafers had already been developed. Chip production processes have also developed according to Moore’s Law, with the density of transistors in a given area of chip increasing at such a pace that performance has doubled and costs have halved every 18 months; by 2011, the industry had already introduced 2x nm processes into mass production. These developments made it possible for the key IC components in 4C electronics – main logic controller chips and buffer memory chips – to be separately designed and optimized for specific applications and specifications, manufactured separately by different logic and memory OEMs, and then individually packaged and soldered on to PCBs to achieve system integration, thereby creating a final 4C electronics end product.
However, concerns about return on investment (ROI) resulting from the enormous sums needed to carry out R&D on the next generation wafers (18 inches) has led to considerable delays in such wafers entering mass production. Moreover, the recent trend in systems integration towards soldering separately-packaged logic controllers and memory on the PCB to carry out integration means that it is even more difficult to simultaneously meet both cost and performance requirements.
Dr. James Sung, President, Etron Technology, explains, “Based on the track record of the development of larger wafer sizes, 18-inch wafers should have entered production in 2011, but they are still nowhere to be seen today. This is because of the considerable cost of building 18-inch wafer fabs, as well the associated R&D costs. The delay is largely due to issues of ROI, rather than fundamental technical limitations. There are also very few companies that have the necessary financial resources and technological expertise in the field, and the issue of how to pass the cost of 18-inch wafer fabs on to consumers is highly unlikely to be resolved in the short term.”
Memory plays a critical role in high-end 4C electronic products, with insufficient data transfer bandwidth between logic controllers and processors (CPU) constituting the major obstacle. To get around this bottleneck, large amounts of static cache memory must be built into CPUs to cope with the large amounts of data being transferred, dramatically increasing both the manufacturing cost and physical area of CPU chips. Sluggish progress in bringing 18-inch wafers to mass production has led to the emergence of the theory and practice of ‘heterogeneous integration.’ This concept means that instead of integrating logic, memory, analog, baseband and high-voltage functions into a single SOC, different logic dies, memory dies, analog dies, baseband dies and flash memory dies are integrated in 2.5D/3D layers to produce heterogeneous vertical integration.
Dr. Sung continues: “As to how to make next generation electronic systems meet goals for high performance and low cost, the answer lies in the heterogeneous integration of the SIP, and a move towards customized buffer memory; for this reason, application specific buffer memory KGD will see major growth in the coming years. Etron Technology already has many years experience of involvement in niche buffer memory and is an industry leader, as well as being at the cutting edge of design for the KGD memory used by the world’s most important vendors. The development of application specific buffer 3D memory reduces the enormous cost of building new advanced wafer fabs; it does not rely solely on advanced processes, and can be achieved through design technology and improvements to the existing manufacturing technologies of foundries.” For this reason, Taiwan’s industrial structure of design houses and foundries will be able to use improvements in existing processes to enable the launch of 3D-IC products that meet cost/benefit requirements.
Etron has already launched single-chip SOC products and platform solutions for 3D imaging technology applications
At CES this year, Etron exhibited the eSP768 3D image capture controller and the eSP868 3D image and gesture recognition controller. These new products are single-chip solutions for 3D screens based on Etron’s webcam controllers. The eSP768 controller features unique 3D image capture technology and supports a variety of 3D displays using Anaglyph, Shuttered, Polarized and Auto-stereoscopy (Lenticular and Parallax Barrier) technologies, to provide a bright, flicker-free image that allows viewers to enjoy 3D pictures and video in comfort. The eSP868 is capable of 3D image recognition and 3D gesture recognition, making it suitable for use in applications such as 3D security monitoring and games with an interactive 3D experience.
Dr. Ben Wu, Corporate Vice President and General Manager SIP Business Center at Etron Technology, comments,”Many 3D image capture products on the market are expensive and bulky, making it difficult to bring them into general use environments. Etron’s eSP768 and eSP868 controllers use our own single -chip technology, which enables the volume of products to be significantly reduced, as well as helping to deliver a quality product at a reasonable price.”Reductions in the size and cost of gesture recognition controllers will enable today’s hottest motion-sensing games developers and manufacturers of Internet-connected smart TVs to quickly incorporate the controllers into even smaller notebook computers or screens, helping to increase market uptake for 3D imaging and gesture recognition.
Etron Technology has been involved in the 3D image capture and gesture recognition sectors for two years and has a wealth of experience of hardware development and extensive software repositories. This allows it to provide fast, comprehensive solutions, making it the perfect 3D imaging technology partner. Dr. Wu notes, “People’s eyes aren’t flat and symmetrical, plus there are manufacturing tolerances for capture devices, which all mean that every person sees the 3D effect a little differently, causing difficulties in recognition. The 3D image capture and gesture recognition solutions provided by Etron include automatic image correction that increases the precision of the 3D image and the recognition effect.” 3D image capture and 3D gesture recognition are extremely complex technologies that require ample software repositories to meet the development requirements of different application software, such as athletic training or motion-recognition games -currently a very popular area.
Etron Technology has created a very strong product line in terms of both niche buffer memory solutions and next generation webcam controllers. The combination of increasingly ubiquitous USB3.0 host and device controllers in particular makes more innovative and creative advanced IC products possible, especially in the 3D IC sector, offering a powerful tool to drive any company’s growth.
Mr. Joshua Hsu
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Ms. Justine Tsai
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