Analog technology has plenty of gas left in the tank, a Texas Instruments executive argues.
Over the last 20 years, the world population grew at a compound annual growth rate of 1.4 percent, recently surpassing the 7 billion mark. During the same time period, overall semiconductor unit sales grew at a CAGR of 9.2 percent, reaching 660 billion chips in 2010, according to the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics organization.
What’s interesting is that the analog semiconductor unit CAGR during the same period was 10.3 percent. That’s 92 billion analog chips in 2010, or higher than the overall semiconductor market. That’s over 13 analog chips per human on the planet – each year!
It’s safe to say that “the demise of analog” has been greatly exaggerated.
This rising growth of analog content in products is driven by new solutions to old applications (think hybrid electric vehicles, televisions and LED light bulbs), new applications such as personal computing with smartphones/tablets and smarter automobiles and new markets in personal medicine, alternative energy and safety/security.
Across all of these areas, we are seeing a rapid increase in the use of analog chips as well as sensors. An average smartphone now has more than eight sensors! Over the next five years, the CAGR for sensors/actuators is forecasted to grow 6.8 percent faster than the overall IC market, according to IC Insights. A quick look at a typical block diagram of an electronic device illustrates the number of analog and mixed signal IC’s on a circuit board. These include amplifiers connected to a data source (such as a sensor), data converters, power management chips, clocks and timing devices and interface chips.
Let’s take a look at the manufacturing technologies for analog semiconductors. Unlike digital products which march to the beat of Moore’s Law, the logic gate counts of most mixed signal and analog products do not increase significantly from generation to generation. Consequently, analog manufacturing processes migrate much more slowly from one lithography node to the next.