It would be wrong to assume that analog ICs do not improve in
performance or get smaller with each subsequent generation of
manufacturing process. Improvements are achieved through device
architecture, integration, packaging and materials optimization of
separate process technologies for specific types of products. Texas
Instruments has more than 50 such process platforms running in
production, manufacturing nearly 45,000 products - each process
optimized for a specific family of analog semiconductors or
- High-speed amplifiers typically need finely
tuned capacitors, resistors and SiGe bipolar processes, often with SOI
substrates to reduce noise.
- Data converters are manufactured
using analog processes with precision thin-film resistors, high
linearity capacitors and low noise, well-matched transistors.
- High-voltage manufacturing processes with thick power metal are
essential for building power management ICs. The voltage range of the
process is tuned to the application and can vary from a few volts to
several hundreds of volts.
- Micro-controllers are manufactured
on mixed-signal process technologies, with key differentiators being low
power non-volatile memories and ultra-low power transistors.
- MEMS and sensors need custom process flows and use unique equipment for
deep silicon etching, back-side wafer patterning, wafer-to-wafer
I have led deep sub-micron CMOS development and
more recently, analog technology development. The opportunities in
analog development and manufacturing are quite different. Not being
limited by a single industry roadmap, there are significant
opportunities to differentiate through design, process, packaging and
Creative ideas are welcome!
I have a
mental image of speed boats versus an aircraft carrier. Instead of a
large development team, the model is one of many small teams, working in
parallel on different market opportunities. Two recent examples of
differentiated technologies come to mind. We recently developed a
fast-write, low-power, non-volatile memory called ferroelectric random
access memory to enable ultra-low power mixed signal microcontrollers
that consume less than half the power of equivalent flash-based devices.
In another example, TI recently integrated thermocouple
elements, MEMS processing along with high precision analog data
converters and amplifiers to create a single chip infrared temperature
Moreover, development is not limited by the lack of
availability or the immaturity of process equipment, so time to market
at high yields is quite good and the cost of setting up an analog
manufacturing line is significantly lower than a CMOS line.
are others issues as well. Besides obvious technology challenges,
analog products and hence analog manufacturing processes last a long
time, sometimes over 20 years. This creates years of accumulated process
and design IP, PDKs, libraries and Spice models that have to be
maintained, updated and continuously improved. Also, managing the
diversity of process technologies and products across many factories can
be a logistical challenge - or a differentiator for those that do it
When it comes to analog, whoever coined the term “more than Moore’s Law” couldn’t have said it better.
--Venu Menon is vice president of analog technology development at Texas Instruments