5 Uses for Semiconductors You’ll See at Semicon West

Jul 5, 2016 1:30:00 PM

Burke Gibney

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If you’re headed to SEMICON West in San Francisco this week, chances are you already know what semiconductors are. However, I’m going to start this post with a quick run-down on the basics for the rest of us. (SEMICON pros, you can skim over this part quickly to get to the useful information. Everyone else, let’s get you up to speed!)

First, a bit of background information. Insulators are substances that do not conduct electricity well, such as glass. Conductors conduct electricity easily, such as copper. Semiconductors are a man-made concoction that can be made to do both at any given time.

Semiconductors can be used to make devices work like a switch by controlling the amount of current or electricity that is “conducted.” Thus, it is a "semi-conductor" because in certain states it conducts, and in others it doesn’t.

See how semiconductors power every aspect of our daily lives.

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 With the progression of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the reciprocal relationship between innovation and the ability to power everything smaller, faster, and smarter, semiconductors and their applications are progressing faster than ever before.

This year at SEMICON West, change is the theme of the event: “The industry is changing big time…and so is SEMICON West. $100B in consolidation. Smart manufacturing. Shrinking development cycles. Everything is changing. And that’s why SEMICON West is a must-go in today’s rapidly diversifying marketplace.”

Here are some of the breakthroughs of the semiconductor world with applications we can’t wait to see at SEMICON West 2016.

 

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1. Semiconductors in Solar Technology:

One of the companies exhibiting at SEMICON West is California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA. They recently completed a study that may change the way solar power works. They have discovered a way to grow organic semiconductor crystals vertically for the first time. Why is this important? In their own words, “It could literally reshape solar cells and electronic devices.”

Organic, or carbon-based, semiconductors are desirable because they are inexpensive, plentiful, and lightweight compared to their inorganic counterparts, such as silicon. The scientific breakthrough of the UCLA team was in creating a vertical structure for a type of organic semiconductor, a building block of a conductive polymer called tetraaniline.

This is a major step forward in improved technology for capturing solar energy because it could potentially be used for smaller and lighter antennas—thin, pole-like devices that could absorb light from all directions. This means no more large, flat solar panels on the roof of your home.


2. Semiconductors Used in Adhesives:

We weren’t lying when we said semiconductors are used in every aspect of your daily life. One of the companies exhibiting at SEMICON West is Epoxy Technology Inc. They have an extensive line of specialty hybrid adhesives, “which offer a primary UV cure for tacking, followed by a secondary heat cure for completion. This unique combination affords engineering design in areas once considered not able to be reached with conventional adhesive material.”

Why is this important? It helps hold devices that conduct energy together. The heat created by conduction often softens adhesives and makes them less effective by reducing their stickiness and binding capabilities. With this new innovation for adhesion, large semiconductors such as processors on military jets, which are exposed to the elements and under extreme pressure, will reliably remain adhered together.


3. 3D Printing Applications in the Semiconductor Industry:

SEMICON West 2016 has an entire forum discussion related to 3D printing called “3D Printing: A New Dimension in Manufacturing.” This is SEMICON West’s third annual session on 3D printing and explores how 3D printing can benefit the electronics industry:

  • How will new materials such as conductive inks/gels and graphene compound filament enable new designs?
  • How can used equipment owners take advantage of 3D printing?
  • How will 3D printing change battery technology?
  • What are some challenges still facing this emerging market?

The 3D printing supply chain is posed to impact the semiconductor industry in a significant way and this discussion will cover what those in the semiconductor industry should be considering for the future applications of 3D printing.

Related to the bullet point above, “How will new materials such as conductive inks/gels and graphene compound filament enable new designs?”—One of the companies exhibiting at SEMICON West representing the 3D printing industry is 3DXTech. They specialize in 3D printing filaments and we can’t wait to see how they use these materials to produce physical objects!

 

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4. How Self-driving Cars Use Semiconductors:

Self-driving cars are the emerging technology for the automotive industry. However, they pose huge challenges for chip makers that will be discussed at SEMICON West in July. While self-driving cars will create a large new market for electronics suppliers, they also present new regulations and challenges that the semiconductor industry has not previously faced.

Autonomous driving poses huge challenges for chip makers that will be discussed at SEMICON West!

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Some of these challenges include having to adopt automotive quality standards. Chip makers now need to demonstrate testing of up to 90-99% of random errors in design for any automotive system that could cause injury on failure.

“This is very challenging because these new ICs may have 200-300 million gates, so you would possibly need to test for 4x-5x that many faults,” says Jeff Hutton, a senior director for automotive at Synopsys who will speak at the Design Summit and is also an exhibitor at SEMICON West, July 12 in San Francisco. “Some companies estimate fault testing on very large designs will take more than a year,” he said.


5. Microchips and Semiconductors, a Match Made in Heaven:

This is the most obvious and well-known application for semiconductors. They are used in microchips to regulate the many processes that run at any given time to run a device.

Intel will be at SEMICON West 2016 and Bridget Karlin, Managing Director, Internet of Things Group, will be a panelist on the “Connect” Executive Summit. The topic of the discussion is centered around panelists from across the supply chain weighing in on how they are realigning business models, strategies, and technologies to meet the challenge.

Collaboration across verticals is extremely critical as changes in node progression must now accommodate system integrators. If you are headed to SEMICON West, you understand the importance of this discussion and probably already have it on your conference agenda.

For the rest of us, Bloomberg posted a great article and video on “How Intel Makes A Chip,” which breaks down the use of semiconductors in this process and their microprocessor applications. Check it out!


Have a great trip to San Francisco for SEMICON West 2016! If you’re looking for some travel tips and more info on Moscone Center, where the majority of the conference will be held, take a look at our post from last week with things to do surrounding San Francisco’s Historic Moscone Center.

Be sure to come back to Conventionnation.com after SEMICON West and write a review to tell everyone about your experience!

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