HYDERABAD, India -- The semiconductor industry is coming off a relatively weak year, and the landscape could be even bleaker. But a sliver of hope might lie in the increased use of semiconductors, said Walden C. Rhines, chairman and CEO, Mentor Graphics.
The dramatic price decline last year in DRAMs and flash memory greatly tempered the growth of the market. "But what I find more interesting is that people are using more and more of semiconductors and the demand for flash memory and more specialized processors is becoming insatiable," he said in an interview with EE Times.
Rhines predicts that the year 2008 could be better because of the increased capacity being set up. "Take a look at the foundries and the memory manufacturers--all have eased up on the capital expenditure. On the other hand, the unit volume demand seems to be growing," he said. "So I would expect 2008 to be a better year, probably with 5 percent growth, but there are a number of economic uncertainties, like a recession in the U.S. or a worldwide economic weakness that could spoil the party. But we usually surprise ourselves. There are so many new applications for semiconductors that I think the intrinsic underlying growth rate would be high, almost independent of the economy."
Meanwhile, talking about the challenges the EDA industry is facing today, he said they come in several different dimensions. One is the sheer complexity of managing more transistors on a chip, which requires newer tools, databases and products. The next big challenge is low power. "We are really limited in how big we can make our designs by the amount of power they dissipate, rather than by the number of transistors," he explained.
The third dimension is the challenge of device physics, as the industry moves to nano dimensions. "The way we simulate, verify, and analyze the device structure becomes much more important. For example, we have had to move from a rule-based verification to a model-based optical simulation of the whole manufacturing process in order to determine how a person should design a product," explained Rhines. "Today, physics-based simulation and design has become a completely new area for EDA and gaining more importance as we move to smaller designs."