back to article 5nm? Pah. Texas Instruments focuses on 45nm+ analog, embedded electronics – and makes bank

Texas Instruments is focusing its fabrication efforts on analog chips and embedded processors – and seeing growing revenue from the components – amid an insatiable demand for the electronics by automakers, industrial system manufacturers, and others. "Our industrial and automotive customers are increasingly turning to analog …

  1. martinusher Silver badge

    TI has got a very strong, if somewhat ecletic, portfolio

    TI has a very wide range of parts but what it does and what these parts are used for seems to pass technology journalists by. Most embedded devices don't need the kind of general purpose hardware that you'd find in a phone or PC, they need a combination of a medium performance general processor along with a lot of specialist peripherals in order to build cost effective product solutions.

    These days it seems that a processor is useless unless it has several 53 bit cores running with at least a 1GHz clock combined with several gigabytes of memory. The reality is that a mid-range C2000 series TI microcontroller, the sort that's you'd use for motor or power control, is a collection of complex peripherals tied together with a rather weird architecture 16 bit processor. Most programmers who work on generic applications would not know where to start using one of these things. (TI does provide extensive documentation, training and technical support but that in itself can be intimidating.) I'd recommend everyone to have a look at their website, ti.com, to get a feel for their huge range.....and then realize that they're only one of several manufacturers in this business.

    I think this may point to a weakness in our technology. Entrants to programming tend to be focused on applications, invariably mobile applications, to the neglect of the rather more prosaic business of making things out of these types of devices. These end up being imported because its so difficult to get people that either know the technologies in these parts or are willing to put in the time training to use them. We're just too focused on the 'latest and greatest' that we don't understand what really makes the money.

    1. Russ T

      Re: TI has got a very strong, if somewhat ecletic, portfolio

      I’d argue working on devices such as Arduinos, Pi hats, PoKeys type devices etc could be seen as a good entry to working with TI type devices.

      Sure, the architectures and languages might be different, but gaining the understanding of how analog inputs, measures and so forth work is a good step away from mobile apps where you only focus on user inputs.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: TI has got a very strong, if somewhat ecletic, portfolio

        Absolutely agree. I've done some pretty obscure I/O sanitising then control all within a single Arduino. Fun to work with and low stress.

        1. pavel.petrman Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: TI has got a very strong, if somewhat ecletic, portfolio

          I read obscure IO satanizing.

      2. steelpillow Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: TI has got a very strong, if somewhat ecletic, portfolio

        Indeed. Learning about the maximum power transfer theorem the hard way is a salutory experience!

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  3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    nm != state of the art

    TI has some amazing chips in the tiny part of their catalog that I'm familiar with. Vast expanses of traditional supporting components have become unnecessary. Sometimes the magic comes from an internal microcontroller that performs adjustments and dynamic configurations to virtualize physics-defying perfect systems.

    Some other chip makers are still selling analog chips with early 1970s or 1980s architectures. They're essentially a bunch of darlington and long-tailed pair transistor clusters with taps for vast expanses of external supporting components.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "a new 300-millimetre wafer fab in Sherman, Texas"

    Okay, it is Texas Instruments, but still, yet another water-gobbling plant in a state that has no water.

    One of these days, guys, you're going to find out that it wasn't such a good idea.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: "a new 300-millimetre wafer fab in Sherman, Texas"

      Texas has access to plenty of water, if they build desalination stations they can even use it.

  5. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
    Holmes

    The analog and microcontroller market and process nodes.

    This market is enormous and probably much larger in terms of volume than the latest and greatest fabrication processes when support parts are included.

    Flash memory (in particular NOR flash) reached the practical process limit at 65 nm but it is still sold in the millions as are fast SRAMs. The tunnel oxide thickness in flash memory is typically 5nm to 15 nm and has been for a long time.

    The list of suppliers for these markets is quite long (especially when mergers / acquisitions are considered) and they all seem to be very profitable.

    Analog Devices (which recently bought Linear Technology and Maxim integrated) is possibly the largest that has a principal focus on Analog, although their parts tend to be more expensive because they don't cater to the commodity market.

    Then there are ST (STM32 microcontrollers and much more), Nexperia (was Philips, spun out of NXP), On semi (spun out of Motorola sps, bought Fairchild a few years ago), Microchip (lots of acquisitions including Microsemi [high reliability parts] who had bought Actel), Diodes Inc (which includes Zetex), Infineon (bought International Rectifier a few years ago), Renesas, Silicon Labs (Microcontrollers with autonomous peripherals which are perfect for really low power stuff although that is only a part of what they make) and more.

    Not every application is listed for the (non exhaustive list of) various semiconductors below as that would be enormous.

    Then there are other technologies. Silicon Carbide (high voltage parts), Gallium Nitride (some high voltage, very efficient in switch mode converters, used a lot by EPC), SiGe (microwave), Gallium Arsenide (microwave, phototransistors), Gallium Aluminium Arsenide (also microwave) are all very popular. Let's not forget Indium phosphide (LEDs, lots of materials here depending on the output wavelength).

    So a far wider market than many imagine.

    Lots of companies out there that many a 'mainstream' tech reporter has probably never heard of.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: The analog and microcontroller market and process nodes.

      Thanks for the rundown, I always wondered what happened to all those names from the past.

      I am old and ugly enough to have sourced much stuff like that, back in the days when all sensors were analogue and the first thing you did was bung the signal through an op-amp, while the nearest we had to digital output was a relay.

      This Reg story is a beautiful example of what goes around, comes around.

    2. herman Silver badge

      Re: The analog and microcontroller market and process nodes.

      There are also companies that still make things like traveling wave tubes, magnetrons and klystrons. Hollow state electronics is still important!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still some life

    Does this mean there is still some life in the 741 ?

    1. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Still some life

      There are 741s being sold and used today in large quantities for existing equipment.

      One system I work with (designed several decades ago) uses them by the boatload.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Still some life

        Still available from both Farnell and RS at around 70p each

    2. herman Silver badge

      Re: Still some life

      Don’t forget the 555 timer!

  7. herman Silver badge

    Nuvistors anyone?

    300 nm process? Pretty soon there will be robust demand for Nuvistors again.

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: Nuvistors anyone?

      Can't help but fear those sockets will become even more difficult to get.

      Speaking as someone with a half-dozen 4CX250's and no air-system sockets.

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