Companies that manufacture and test out semiconductors are critical contributors to a country’s growth. This is because semiconductors are a component that is essential in almost any industry as it is present in various types of electronic devices. From mobile phones, computers, automobiles, gaming hardware, medical equipment and more, semiconductors are incorporated into devices to conduct electricity. A typical semiconductor includes a set of electronic circuits known as an integrated circuit (IC) or microchips on a small flat piece of silicon.
Semiconductors can conduct electricity more powerfully than an insulator but less than pure conductors such as copper. In addition to converting electricity, a semiconductor has variable resistance, reacts to light and heat and passes current in one direction more easily. Note, however, each semiconductor varies with the type of industry. Hence, communication platforms like Zoom use semiconductors differently from the automobile sector. The main types of semiconductors include memory chips, microprocessors, graphic processing units (GPUs), commodity integrated circuits, analogue chips, and mixed-circuit semiconductors. As the demand for microchips is high, making it a highly competitive industry, manufacturers must consistently develop new ways of advancing their microchips by reducing their size, speed, and price while simultaneously ensuring the production cost is less. This article will describe everything there is to know about microchip semiconductors.
What Is the Hype About Semiconductors?
As almost any industry works with electronics, semiconductors are essential for manufacturing a product. Essentially any device that requires it to compute or process information contains a semiconductor. Since Singapore is a global technological hub, it is no surprise that the country plays a vital role in the semiconductor supply chain. Singapore accounts for approximately 11 per cent of the global semiconductor market share and manufactures around one-fifth of global semiconductor equipment. According to an article by TS Lombard, semiconductors surpass oil as the world’s key commodity input for growth with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT). The profitability of semiconductors was high even before COVID-19. As stated in a 2022 article by McKinsey & Company, an annual average of 25 per cent in total shareholder returns (TSR) was received between 2015 to 2019. Since COVID-19, the demand for semiconductors has increased, leading the world to face a semiconductor shortage, although TSR increased by 50 per cent. The reason behind this is the rise and popularity of cloud computing. According to Forrester’s research, this shortage cannot be solved anytime soon and will expand to 2023. More manufacturers, therefore, are required to build semiconductors.
Technologies That Can Help Manufacturers to Meet the Global Demand for Semiconductors
There are a few emerging technologies that can help manufacturers meet the global demand for semiconductors. Here are a few creative ways manufacturers are infusing advanced technologies to make semiconductors more speedily and in a cost-effective manner:
IoT is a great way to reduce unnecessary costs for semiconductor manufacturers that want to take their innovation to the next level. Several key players have noted IoT to be a top key driver. As noted in an article by McKinsey & Company in 2015, using IoT to manufacture semiconductors will require companies to move away from traditional methods of producing semiconductors that rely on silicon. If manufacturers are willing to do so, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates IoT could generate USD 4 trillion to USD 11 trillion globally in 2025.
AI (Artificial Intelligence)
Manufacturers in the US are currently infusing AI and cloud technology to address some of the problems the semiconductor industry is facing. Hence, this has proven to help in maximising the performance of computing for chip design, optimising manufacturing operations, streamlining supply chains used for the retrieval of components and raw materials and significantly helps to monitor the logistics and sales to downstream customers. As AI has been at the heart of automation, manufacturers can eliminate mundane and repetitive tasks to get rid of the challenges faced in labour shortage and reduce overall costs by integrating predictive and prescriptive data capabilities. Since semiconductors are extremely small, it is hard for humans to find defects on time. AI, therefore, helps with maintaining quality control. As AI works together with machine learning (ML) capabilities that tap into historical data, AI is also an asset to keep up with the growing changes and demands in the semiconductor industry. AI can therefore be utilised to provide expert insights that predict consumer and market changes, thereby allowing manufacturers to prioritise the number of semiconductors made per industry accordingly.
As the latest initiative, the USA is implementing digital twin technology into its operations to manufacture silicon chips with greater durability. It specifically helps in the chip fabrication process, allowing manufacturers greater flexibility to test out designs and other production processes instead of wasting resources on physical prototypes. It helps to implement traceability tools internally and externally, thereby monitoring lifecycle activities, the data generated at each phase and the processes between suppliers and integrators. Manufacturers can guarantee higher ROI as it offers visualisation tools that contribute to data decision-making and allows you to move away from tool-specific optimisations by adopting fab-centric optimisations.
EUVL (Extended Ultraviolet Lithography)
Traditionally, silicon chips have been the go-to product when making integrated circuits in semiconductors which are developed using deep-ultraviolet lithography. Lithography is similar to photography as it uses light to transfer images onto a substrate. While in a camera, the substrate is a film, in the context of semiconductors, it is silicon. In order to create robust micro processes, the light wavelength should be shorter as it can be etched more into the silicon wafer. While Deep ultra-violet lithography provides shorter light wavelengths, the problem is that the glass lenses absorb the light. As a result, the silicon-required circular pattern is not created in the wafer. A more modern form of microchip manufacturing includes EUVL, which essentially expands the life of silicon to at least a decade or more. It is therefore required to make state-of-the-art high-end microchips in semiconductors. According to Vivek Bashini, EUVL is a form of multi-node patterning technology expected to take manufacturers to the end of Moore’s Law. In other words, it helps manufacturers make chips even smaller, more agile and cheaper. Manufacturers in Intel and Samsung are leading players already adopting this technology in their operations.
A popular concern among manufacturers in integrating technologies such as AI and IoT has been security. Although blockchain is a relatively new concept, it has significant potential to aid semiconductor manufacturers in decreasing costs & counterfeits and enhance visibility into the value chain. It has a variety of security features which helps manufacturers to trace goods, regulate compliance, transparently manage records, and offer flexible and secure payment mechanisms. By combining blockchain with radio frequency identification (RFID), manufacturers can gain increased visibility in their supply chains. It is also increasingly used to protect a manufacturer’s intellectual property, eliminating counterfeiting and enhancing the predictive maintenance capabilities offered by the integration of AI, ML and IoT. Hence it helps manufacturers to verify the sources of raw materials and trace all materials.
Imagine A World Where Manufacturers Can Meet the Increasing Global Demand for Semiconductors
With the rise of digitalisation and automation efforts in each industry, the demand for semiconductors will only get higher. Although manufacturers are struggling to meet the global market, the good news is that if they tap into the right advanced technologies, they can increase their profit and surge ahead in the industry. As Asia is currently a hub for semiconductor manufacturing, equipping yourselves with powerful tools is necessary. Cerexio, one of the leading technology vendors that houses AI, ML, digital twin, and a range of other industrial technologies, is a key player in Asia, recognised for its solutions offered to different manufacturing industries. Connect with us for more information. Are you willing to invest in technologies that can help you increase your ROI?