At its annual Technology Summit, chipmaker GlobalFoundries announced a number of processes. . technological improvementsics designed to make key carrier chips used in 5G phones more efficient.
Hidden in today's most popular 5G phones, such as Apple's recently announced iPhone 13, are several critically important, but little understood, semiconductor chips that power a lot of power. part of these devices. impressive capabilities. Components like RF (RFFE) front-ends, 6 / 6e WiFi-enabled power amplifiers, display drivers, audio amplifiers, and stacked image sensors certainly don't catch the eye of something like the A15 Bionic, but they're relatively essential to delivering the kinds of high-quality experiences we've come to expect from these new phones.
With that in mind, it's a lot easier to 'appreciate and understand the value of new innovations announced bychipmaker GlobalFoundries at its annual GF Technology Summit event. The company has made a name for itself by focusing on manufacturing specialized chips like these that have very specific requirements, often power sensitive, but don't need the smallest size of transistor node used for processors and SOCs like the A15 Bionic SOC from Apple.
At the event, GlobalFoundries (GF) announced innovations in all of these areas, as well as significant advancements for data centers, AR / VR headsets and the automotive industry. All of these solutions take advantage of the unique process capabilities that GF has chosen to specialize in, such as FD-SOI (Fully Depleted Silicon On Insulator) and other technologies that often have an analog component. The company's 22FDX manufacturing process, for example, allows chips to deliver signals to transmet be stronger and more robust, as well as better reception characteristics, while operating at lower power. This and other types of related process technologies make GF ideally suited for manufacturing wireless application chips of many types, especially 5G. , supplier of the 5G modem for the latest Apple iPhones, as well as high-end smartphones from Samsung, Motorola and others. The agreement expands the company collaboration in the manufacture of 5G-focused RF front-ends that Qualcomm designs and builds by GlobalFoundries. RF front-ends provide the critical connection between the antennas inside smartphones that receive airborne signals from cell phone towers and the 5G modems that feed the connections. (An interesting note is that it was the confusion over the capabilities of the latest RF front-ends of the new iPhone 13 that led some to mistakenly speculate that it might havesatellite phone functionality.)
One of the many unique requirements of 5G modems is the need to support both frequencies below 6 GHz (sub-6) as well as frequencies above 24 GHz which are at the heart of millimeter wave (mmWave) technology. As it turns out, building RF front-ends capable of supporting both types of frequencies requires different types of chip manufacturing process, as well as different types of chip wafers. At its GF Summit event, the company showcased further improvements in both its RF-SOI (Radio Frequency Silicon on Insulator) technology, optimized for applications such as working with signals below 6 GHz, and FDX-RF (radio frequency completely exhausted). , which is intended to improveer transmission and reception of signals of mmWave frequency.
In addition, the company also described new advances in solutions designed for Transmission and reception of the WiFi signal, specifically allowing connections WiFi6 and WiFi6E more faster and more reliable.
On the audiovisual side, GlobalFoundries has launched its latest advances in several areas. For displays, GF has unveiled technologies that enable the creation of display driver ICs, which can provide varying refresh rates on OLED displays (a feature that Samsung has on its latest S21 Ultra and Z Fold smartphones. 3 and which Apple has just announced as ProMotion for its iPhone13 Pro). Not only does this allow for super-smooth scrolling and gaming action with fast 120Hz refresh rates, it can also save power by switching to lower and less power-hungry refresh rates.energy when little or nothing is happening on the screen. GF's enhanced audio solutions give audio amplifier circuit designers more options to create unique solutions, including a non-volatile memory option for storing pieces of audio or music, as well as 'improve the overall sound quality. Finally, in the field of cameras and image sensors, GF has enriched its existing offers to allow the creation of stacked image sensors with a resolution greater than 200 megapixels. Stacked image sensors are an essential part of today's sophisticated smartphone camera solutions, as they enable higher light sensitivity and integrated image processing, as well as lower costs.
In the data center world, GF has announced a brand new manufacturing platform for creating light-driven silicon photonic chips called Silicon Photonics 45nm. As the demands of cloud-based computing and high-performance, data-intensive AI applications continue to grow, the need for ultra-fast interconnection between components increases, hence the interest for silicon photonics. The GF platform, which is expected to be ready for technical qualification in the first quarter of 2022, combines both CMOS and optical RF components on the same chip. One of its unique features is the support for a Micro Ring Resonator (MRR) - an essential piece of optical components that provide the light source for the chip, on 300mm wafers.
Going forward, GF also discussed new possibilities for smaller, more energy-efficient micro-displays that could be used in future ARs (augmented reality glasses). The new chips would take advantage of the improved pixel drivers made possible by theimprovements to its 22FDX + process.
Finally, the company also announced that its 22FDX process at its Fab 1 in Dresden, Germany is automotive-grade ready, delivering a punch-necessary for help start to cope with the current shortage of automotive-focused chips.
In summary, the event highlighted not only the range, but also the flexibility of the different solutions of semiconductor manufacturing that GlobalFoundries has worked to create and evolve over time. As mentioned earlier, the company doesn't always create the most prestigious components, but it does deliver essential behind-the-scenes functionality that is at the heart of a vast array of devices we all use.
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