With the anticipated migration from 4G to 5G networks, and the explosion of “smart” everything, the number of chip-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) devices is expected to grow from 23 billion in 2018 to 75 billion devices by the year 2025. These devices fall into several industries critical to our health and safety, including medical, smart home, smart city and transportation.
The opportunities enabled by these devices are endless. For instance, chip-enabled medical devices and “smart” pharmaceuticals will provide real-time health data to doctors and patients. Law enforcement and traffic regulations will be enhanced with widespread use of internet connected sensors, cameras, and control systems. And in addition to our homes having smart appliances, lighting, and security systems, numerous sensors can be found today in modern vehicles and, eventually, in self-driving cars.
This explosion of data will also require more highly efficient data centers to collect and process the data from the smart devices, leading to a projected growth in data processors of roughly 350% by the year 2025.
This industry transformation, referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, brings exciting opportunity for the semiconductor industry and related ecosystem. But this next wave of computing also presents many critical challenges, especially for the semiconductor fabs racing to keep up with the demands that IoT devices and related applications require: increases in process complexity, and material quality, stability, and purity from manufacture through to point of use.
Some of these critical challenges include:
- Capacity & Cost -- Fabricators must increase their capacity while also supporting increasingly complex chips. This will require significant capital expenditure to add or upgrade their facilities.
- Performance and Complexity -- Chip designs have grown increasingly complex in their geometries and use of materials, requiring more process steps and more care in handling. Perfection is required at every step.
- Yield and Reliability -- Put simply, “every chip matters.” Material and environmental purity will be scrutinized at every step to ensure high yield and high reliability, particularly for chips in critical applications.
Put simply, “every chip matters.” Material and environmental purity will be scrutinized at every step to ensure high yield and high reliability, particularly for chips in critical uses.
Jim O’Neill is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Entegris. For more details, visit Entegris.