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Talking about the hot memory application areas in 2021.

May 17, 2021

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The 2021 Munich Shanghai Electronics Show ended last week at the Shanghai New International Expo Center. During this period, EDN was fortunate to be invited to participate in an interview with the VIP media group. Xue Ting, market manager of GigaDevice's memory division, told reporters about this year's popular memory applications.

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Key exhibits

According to Xue Ting, Zhaoyi has innovated 3 BUs, Flash, MCU, and sensors, all of which are displayed at the booth. All Flash's current product lines have transitioned to the new 55nm process. Zhaoyi Innovation has launched a full range of SPI NOR Flash from the minimum capacity of 512Kbit to the maximum capacity of 2Gbit. SPI NAND Flash is also widely used in industrial-grade products. Zhaoyi Innovation is also the world’s first company to introduce it to the world and mass-produce it. This product was first cooperated with some top operators, including Deutsche Telekom, British Telecom, etc. . On the MCU side, it is made into a platform in the form of a department store. Arm-based cores, including M3 and M4, will be complemented by more high-performance and low-power product lines in the future. Surrounding the MCU core and peripheral devices will also be gradually improved. The sensor includes its fingerprint recognition touch chip already in mass production, as well as its newly launched ToF solution (iToF) this year, with a dedicated demonstration.

Memory technology development and important markets

According to reports, in terms of memory, Zhaoyi Innovation started to promote the development of the 55nm process three years ago. After more than 3,000 wafers, the SPI NOR Flash from 65nm to 55nm has been mass-produced. Some of the world's top manufacturers have used this 55nm product this year. The technology is more advanced, the volume is smaller, and the power consumption is about 30% lower than that of 65nm. From power consumption to area, it brings more savings and brings customers more cost-effective products.

From the perspective of the application market, including PCs, last year's epidemic led to the increasing popularity of home office. "Many notebooks have begun to be used in large numbers in many homes, and a large share of the Flash used here is provided by us." Xue Ting said. This is an application in the PC industry, as well as server-side/cloud, including servers, smart network cards, and BMC baseboard management equipment. These Flashes are also widely used on cloud service equipment, and these products are being shipped in large quantities.

Consumer electronics applications are also very extensive, including popular AR and VR. An AR glasses were specially exhibited on the Zhaoyi Innovation booth. It needs image and optical conversion and recognition, so a Flash is needed to store these key data.

For automotive and industrial applications, the country now promises to peak carbon in 2030 and carbon neutral in 2060. Many new energy equipment will be used here, including solar energy and future wind power, hydropower, and hydrogen energy, and photovoltaics from last year to the present. The shipment of inverters has grown rapidly, and memory will be used here to store management programs. In addition, charging piles and new energy vehicles require a large amount of memory to store battery management programs. In order to avoid failure and burning after high temperature, battery management is very important.

"Photovoltaics is also an array of management. Many solar photovoltaic panels require sophisticated management methods." Xue Ting added.

There are also applications for electricity meters. The new 2020 version of smart meters that have been released this year have begun to go on the market in large numbers, and very reliable Flash is also needed to store critical power data. What are the benefits of the newly released smart meters? First, it records a larger amount of electricity consumption data, and the amount of user electricity consumption data is stored every few minutes. "The ultimate goal of the State Grid is that it can analyze how each household uses electricity, save electricity, and even what electrical appliances consume the most electricity, and will present such a menu to users. Its requirements for electricity meters are becoming more and more intelligent. This kind of intelligence requires more and more reliable memory chips to store local data and manage programs."

There are also some communication applications. As the whole world enters the SOHO mode, the network communication bandwidth is getting larger and larger. With the construction of 5G base stations, a large number of base stations need to use SPI NOR Flash, which requires at least 100,000 erasing and writing and 20 years of data guarantee time. Outdoor base stations are under very high temperature and require some high-reliability memories that can work continuously for more than ten years

There are also home terminals, which are now beginning to use Gigabit or Wifi6 routers, which has brought a lot of increase in memory chip capacity.

The TWS headset is a very popular new product that has appeared in the past two years. It makes it more convenient for everyone to use, no longer use cables, and become simple. But it brings another disadvantage, that is, how to make it smaller, more refined, and more reliable. The sound effect of the previous Bluetooth headsets was not good, but the current TWS headsets have been made smaller and support a variety of small applications. And there are many emerging applications on TWS headsets, including heart rate, ECG, and voice wake-up, which also means that its demand for Flash capacity is increasing. As for the storage capacity requirements of TWS headsets, Xue Ting said that it is possible from 8Mbit to 256Mbit, depending on the customer's functional requirements.

There is also a mobile phone screen. AMOLED screen has a shortcoming, it will burn after long-term use. How to adjust it? Debug some parameters before leaving the factory. Each pixel on the screen must store parameters, which requires the use of SPI NOR Flash. In this regard, Zhaoyi Innovation is also maintaining cooperation with the world's top screen manufacturers. "It has only been three years since AMOLED screens have been used on mobile phones. Now you find that there are more solutions to data processing." Xue Ting said.

Other applications include the Internet of Things, such as mobile phone industry applications. The Internet of Things is the transmission of various items, whether it is Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or NB-IoT, it is a wireless connection. Wireless connection has brought huge demand for Flash, and the market is still growing, which also brings challenges to memory chips in various scenarios.

In addition, in terms of production capacity, according to Xue Ting, although Zhaoyi Innovation has been maintaining a close cooperative relationship with the supply chain, in fact, the expansion of production capacity requires a long period of time, at least 18 months, involving bare wafers and equipment. After entering the factory, the commissioning and yield rate will not be mass-produced until a certain stage. "However, the equipment we use to produce chips is very sophisticated, and chips are also needed inside. From the upstream wafer to the downstream supply chain, packaging and testing, the equipment in every link is in a state of tension. At the same time. , Customer demand is growing violently, and it will take a long period of time to gradually meet such a strong demand from customers."

Regarding the question of "other manufacturers are also pushing ferroelectric storage in the meter application, how does it compare?", he pointed out that the ferroelectric market has been in the market for many years, and ferroelectrics have its advantages, such as erasing speed. Soon, the service life is very long, but because of its own process structure, the area of each unit is too large, so its cost is very expensive, and the electricity meter can only be used to store it when some critical data is temporarily stored. However, current electric meters require that household electricity be saved every few minutes. For ferroelectrics, this capacity is far from enough. It can only satisfy some small-capacity, timely data storage.