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RMAs: Root Problem Found

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For decades, costs of production and maintenance have been driven down through manufacturing, process and logistical innovation, creating more breathing room for margin to maintain viable growth. There are other costs, however, that we seemingly accept as inevitable and simply get better at factoring in as par-for-the-course, or ‘eggs broken’ to make the omelet. The ubiquitous presence of Return Material Authorization (RMA) is a testament to this fact. It’s a status-quo the value chain has learned to live with, budget for, and upkeep.

For an advanced electronic system to function reliably in the field, countless contributions are made from multiple sources. All of them need to align in precise detail along the value chain for outcomes to remain robust and feasible at scale and over time. However, despite staggering progress in many corners, gaps still exist that create critical blind spots in the value chain, compromising field reliability.

How does the industry fill those gaps? The RMA process – a somewhat cumbersome and labored set of forensic sub-processes that keep semiconductor manufacturers and OEMs up at night. If a system fails in the field, the race is on to determine why, how and mainly who’s to blame. Engineers are on a perpetual hamster wheel of recreating problems in the lab, instead of focusing on creating new innovations. The case for a seamless, at-the-root solution couldn’t be clearer.


The cost-benefit equation of RMAs
In an ideal world, the benefits and lessons to fall out of the RMA process would bring an upward trend in process and test quality. RMA would undergo continuous improvements and become a minimal, negligible consideration over time. But this has yet to happen.

From customer defect data and out-of-box audits, to functional verification and in-circuit tests, the RMA process creeks and aches under the strain of its own painstakingly granular complexity, as it is asked to push the likely failure point and moment of accountability further and further back up the value chain.

As much as the insight of RMA can add value through iterative testing or post-mortem reenactments on failed hardware, it can also escalate into an overactive process of rising costs passed around the value chain, from system to board to chip manufacturers. You need only look at the many stakeholders in the process and the slow, granular nature of the RMA methodology to realize the potential for flareup into an active pain point in need of treatment.

No trouble found
At the risk of ending up with a tarnished brand, manufacturers work diligently to determine the cause of the problem to make sure it doesn’t turn into a recurring event. But this is difficult to do if the part refuses to fail in retest, and all too often the root cause is never found.

We are left with a situation where many parts fail for no apparent reason, leading to frustratingly high No Trouble Found (NTF) rates, commonly above 50%. FutureDial has found that within the consumer electronics sector, 68% are classified as NTF. If we look at Facebook’s intra data centers’ study between 2011 and 2018, an eye-watering 29% of incidents involving a technician resulted in an inconclusive root cause.

In an industry that holds reliability and innovation at such high standards, this should be unacceptable to everyone down the value chain. But it seems to be an unavoidable and accepted statistic.

Universal chip telemetry and the future of RMA
As electronics advance and complexities scale, quality-related issues peak. The cost-benefit ratio of RMA starts to skew. Before long, the opportunity cost quickly becomes hard to ignore. The ‘elephant in the room’ nature of RMA is staring data-centric industries in the face. It’s time we started making direct eye contact.

For too long RMA has been heavily reliant on outdated modes of operation that contrast as obsolete against a backdrop of breakneck innovation in other areas. Chip telemetry is starting to fill the gap of innovation around how electronics value chains can integrate reliability assurance through deep data. Rather than retrospective forensics and after-the-fact RMA inquisitions, suppliers, manufacturers and customers could all be on the same digital page.

Universal Chip Telemetry (UCT) empowers the chip with its own means of data creation and interpretation to play an active role in its own production, maintenance and function. The mystery of what went wrong can be solved at the click of a button, it doesn’t have to drain the resources of the value chain and everyone can have clear visibility. Together.

With parametric precision, the exact source of the issue can be pinpointed, paving the way for commonality analysis, and preventing epidemics. Not only that, UCT provides early indication of problems in the field, and alerts on faults before they become failures. This protects against excruciating costs and liabilities associated with system failures and provides an “insurance policy” to alleviate unnecessary urgencies and stress.

How does chip telemetry work?
Integrated at the pre-silicon design stage, proteanTecs embeds on-chip Agents. These non-disruptive nano-monitors enable high-coverage parametric measurements that paint a detailed picture of the chip vital signs during application. Algorithms analyzing changes in time and expert systems are applied to the Agent readouts to provide a comprehensive analysis of the system’s health and performance.

Chips can be either the source of the issue or serve as a system sensor. With them being able to offer active status and health reports delivered through a common analytics dashboard, the value chain can start speaking the same fact-based, data-driven language to quickly converge around root issues. As mutual visibility and proactive collaboration increases, timescales drop and quality and accountability improve. We are now literally talking about milliseconds instead of months. Ultimately, RMA costs start to flatten out, finally arriving at a new destination of innovation to take its rightful place as a value contributor instead of resource consumer. Just imagine a world where for every RMA, you are sending back data, not hardware. 


Yuval Bonen

Yuval Bonen

  (all posts)
Yuval is co-founder and vice president of software development at proteanTecs. He is an experienced executive in both R&D and sales & marketing. Prior to joining the founding team of proteanTecs, Bonen was vice president of R&D and site manager at Broadsay, an end-to-end video broadcasting solution for content providers. He also was vice president of R&D at Trackimo, where he led development of an end-to-end IoT solution for tracking the location of people, assets and fleets around the world. He also was vice president of sales & marketing at PicoParts LTD and director of sales & marketing at Alpha CSP.

Source: https://semiengineering.com/rmas-root-problem-found/

Semiconductor

FBH and UVphotonics develop LED irradiation system – from disinfection to medical treatments

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2 July 2020

Berlin-based Ferdinand-Braun-Institut, Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik (FBH) and its spin-off UVphotonics NT GmbH have designed and developed a versatile turnkey irradiation system for surface treatment.

Since the compact, modular system can be equipped with both in-house-developed UV LEDs as well as commercially available UV, visible and infrared LEDs, it can be flexibly adjusted to the targeted emission spectrum.

For disinfection purposes the system can be equipped with in-house-developed LEDs emitting at 265nm to eliminate germs on critical surfaces, including personal items such as mobile phones and reusable masks as well as menu cards in restaurants. It can also be used in the professional sector, for example in healthcare clinics and laboratories.

The system is equipped with an illumination module comprising 16 UV LEDs distributed over an area of 80mm x 80mm. The LEDs provide an illumination intensity of >5mW/cm2. So, the irradiation system achieves the minimum UV dose of 500mJ/cm2 recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US Department of Health) in less than two minutes. An integrated timer ensures the correct dosage.

The module can control up to four different wavelengths separately, which can be an advantage in applications such as medical treatments and curing. To cover larger areas, the modular segments can be mechanically interconnected wire-free and therefore the system is flexibly expandable into one-dimensional as well as two-dimensional arrays. Also, individually shaped arrays are possible, which can be integrated into a large number of disinfection systems.

The overall system is a plug & play solution that can be computer-controlled or operated as standalone with constant power. Even programming a timing pattern is possible.

Tags: UV LEDs

Visit: www.uvphotonics.de

Visit: www.fbh-berlin.com

Source: http://www.semiconductor-today.com/news_items/2020/jul/fbh-uvphotonics-020720.shtml

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Semiconductor

GaN Systems participating in online PCIM Europe 2020

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1 July 2020

GaN Systems Inc of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (a fabless developer of gallium nitride-based power switching semiconductors for power conversion and control applications) says that, at the ‘virtual’ PCIM (Power Conversion and Intelligent Motion) Europe 2020 ‘Digital Days’ online event (7–8 July), its CEO Jim Witham is participating in two panel sessions, ‘GaN Devices – The Game-Changers’ and ‘Power GaN: Past-Present-Future’, illustrating how GaN power semiconductors are becoming the fundamental building block in power electronics. Furthermore, technical experts from the company are presenting papers at the event (see Table).

Additionally, at its Virtual Experience site, GaN Systems is showcasing its latest solutions and design tools as well as featuring products by companies that have used GaN Systems’ devices in consumer, industrial, automotive and data-center applications.

“While it will be a different PCIM Europe this year, the global power electronics community will once again converge to exchange knowledge and ideas on trends and technologies shaping our industry,” says Witham. “We look forward to participating in the discussions and highlight how GaN is establishing itself as a preferred solution.”

New solutions

  • 650V/60A Gen2 automotive transistors that meet enhanced AEC-Q101 performance requirements and have lifetime results of failure-in-time (FIT)<<1;
  • 650V/150A Full-Bridge Module & Driver; 650V/150A Half-Bridge IPM (intelligent power module); and 650V/300A 3-phase Module & Driver;
  • 100V integrated DrGaN device and 650V integrated Half-Bridge DrGaN power stage.

New design tools

  • 100V DrGaN module that features the highest power density and efficiency for board and brick power delivery;
  • 65W QR charger reference design that is easy to implement and meets size (18.5W/in3 cased), thermals, EMI, cost and efficiency requirements;
  • Class-D amplifier evaluation kit that includes a 2-channel, 200W-per-channel (8Ω) Class-D audio amplifier and companion 400W, continuous-power audio-grade switched-mode power supply (SMPS).

Applications

  • Consumer: Includes the industry’s smallest 65W mobile device charger.
  • Industrial: High-efficiency motor drive and power supplies from industry leaders.
  • Automotive: Leading EV powertrain performance with GaN including the ‘All GaN Vehicle’ and the latest EV power electric designs from Canoo’s onboard charger and BrightLoop’s DC-DC converter. Most recently, BrightLoop was chosen as the sole supplier of DC-DC converters for ETCR (Electric Touring Car Racing).
  • Data Center and 5G: Delivering 5G mmWave data indoors has been unsolved, until now. This GaN-based high-power, through-wall wireless power solution solves this 5G challenge.

Tags: GaN Systems E-mode GaN FETs Power electronics

Visit: www.mesago.de/en/PCIM/main.htm

Visit: www.gansystems.com

Source: http://www.semiconductor-today.com/news_items/2020/jul/gansystems-010720.shtml

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Semiconductor

GaN and SiC power semiconductor markets to surpass $1bn in 2021

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1 July 2020

Energized by demand from hybrid & electric vehicles (HEVs), power supplies and photovoltaic (PV) inverters, the global market for silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) power semiconductors is forecast to grow to $854m by the end of 2020 (up from just $571m in 2018) then surpass $1bn in 2021, according to Omdia’s ‘SiC & GaN Power Semiconductors Report – 2020’. Revenue is expected to increase at a double-digit annual rate for the next decade, surpassing $5bn by 2029.

These long-term market projection totals are about $1bn lower than those in last year’s edition of the report because demand for almost all applications has slowed since 2018. Moreover, device average prices fell in 2019. Omdia adds a note a caution: the equipment forecasts used to create this year’s forecast all date from 2019, and do not take account of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SiC Schottky diodes have been on the market for more than a decade, with SiC metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (SiC MOSFETs) and junction-gate field-effect transistors (SiC JFETs) appearing in recent years. SiC power modules are also becoming increasingly available, including hybrid SiC modules, containing SiC diodes with silicon insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs), and full SiC modules containing SiC MOSFETs with or without SiC diodes.

SiC MOSFETs are proving popular among manufacturers, notes Omdia, with several companies already offering them. Several factors caused average pricing to fall in 2019, including the introduction of 650V, 700V and 900V SiC MOSFETs priced to compete with silicon superjunction MOSFETs, as well as increasing competition among suppliers.

“Declining prices will eventually spur faster adoption of SiC MOSFET technology,” says Richard Eden, senior principal analyst for power semiconductors. “In contrast, GaN power transistors and GaN system ICs have only appeared on the market quite recently,” he adds. “GaN is a wide-bandgap material offering similar performance benefits as SiC, but with a higher cost-reduction potential. These price and performance advantages are possible because GaN power devices can be grown on either silicon or sapphire substrates, which are less expensive than SiC. Although GaN transistors are now available, sales of GaN system integrated circuits, from companies such as Power Integrations, Texas Instruments and Navitas Semiconductor, are forecast to rise at a faster rate.”

SiC and GaN power semiconductor market trends

By the end of 2020, SiC MOSFETs are forecasted to generate revenue of about $320m, matching that of Schottky diodes. From 2021 onwards, SiC MOSFETs will grow at a slightly faster rate to become the best-selling discrete SiC power device, it is expected. Meanwhile, SiC JFETs are each forecasted to generate much smaller revenues than those of SiC MOSFETs, despite achieving good reliability, price and performance.

“End-users strongly prefer normally-off SiC MOSFETs, so SiC JFETs appear likely to remain specialized, niche products,” Eden says. “However, sales of SiC JFETs are forecast to rise at an impressive rate, despite having very few active suppliers.”

It is estimated that, in 2019, hybrid SiC power modules (combining Si IGBTs and SiC diodes) generated $72m in sales and full SiC power modules generated $50m. Full SiC power module revenue is forecasted to exceed $850m by 2029, as they will be preferred for use in HEV powertrain inverters. In contrast, hybrid SiC power modules will be used mainly in PV inverters, uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems and other industrial applications, delivering a much slower growth rate.

What has changed since 2019?

There are now trillions of hours of device field experience available for both SiC and GaN power devices. Suppliers, even new market entrants, are demonstrating this by obtaining JEDEC and AEC-Q101 approvals. There do not appear to be any unexpected reliability problems with SiC and GaN devices; in fact, they usually appear better than silicon, notes Omdia.

SiC MOSFETs and SiC JFETs are available at lower operating voltages, such as 650V, 800V and 900V, allowing SiC to compete with Si Superjunction MOSFETs on both performance and price.

End-products with GaN transistors and GaN system ICs inside are in mass production, particularly USB type-C power adaptors and chargers for fast charging of mobile phones and notebook PCs. Also, many GaN devices are being made by foundry service providers, offering in-house GaN epitaxial crystal growth on standard silicon wafers, and potentially unlimited production capacity expansion as volumes ramp, concludes the report.

Tags: GaN SiC Power electronics

Visit: technology.informa.com

Source: http://www.semiconductor-today.com/news_items/2020/jul/omdia-010720.shtml

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