Friday, June 6, 2014

Semiconductor Industry Markets in the Economic Hay Stack I'm known for publishing lengthy blog articles on the leading edge technologies unique to the semiconductor industry, I want to call your attention to an economic article which speaks to our nation's on-going job market concerns.
On June 5, 2014 the New York Times published an article by Jeremy Ashkenas and Alicia Parlapiano titled, "How the Recession Reshaped the Economy, in 255 Charts".
The article graphically illustrates job market data and salary trends since 2004 and provides an extraordinary window on sector trends in our nation's economy. Although the US economy has recovered significantly since the bottom of the recent recession, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has correctly observed that resolving the on-going unemployment dilemma imposed upon millions of Americans is the most effective means of correcting the economy and restoring the fiscal health of our nation. The New York Times article features an interactive graph which plots trends over 255 segments of the US economy. The chart appears to be a scrambled vector map (perhaps a fitting description of our economy). Hovering a mouse pointer over a singular market trend line will reveal a chart and its respective economic data in greater detail. Dragging a mouse along an inset chart displays monthly job data and average salary scale for the selected industry segment from 2004 through January 2014.   A larger/higher resolution computer screen will further enhance the display of the charts. Clicking on the series of vertical dots to the right of the screen enables the selection and break out of specific sectors of the economy, while scrolling further downward in the article we are presented with a table of the individual graphs comprising the report.  In total, the report provides incredible detail on the employment and salary trends comprising our complex economy. 

From a semiconductor industry perspective, it is necessary to study the trend lines specific to end user markets of interest, as our complex economy consumes/reflects the many specialized industries and broader consumer base comprising our econosphere.  Closer examination of trends in three key electronics industry markets reveal that since 2004, the semiconductor electronic component manufacturing sector has lost 77,000 jobs and $1,233 per year in average salary.  Communications equipment manufacturing has lost 43,200 jobs, and the computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing sector lost 44,200 jobs and $17,676 per year in average salary.  Analysis of the New York Times article illustrates that in total, these three market sectors have shed 164,400 jobs since 2004 and have yet to recover.  In spite of these examples and similar declining trends in other business sectors, the stock markets are returning to pre-recession levels of capitalization.  

Whether you're preparing a safe harbor statement for your quarterly/annual financial review, or an unemployed student of the economy, I think you'll find great interest in this New York Times report.  While not as complex as a semiconductor wafer map and related statistical process control data (SPC), its an impressive representation of our economy.

Thomas D. Jay 
Semiconductor Industry Consultant

Corporate, private entities or publications referenced or linked in this article are the respective owners of their logos, trademarks, service marks, media content and intellectual property.  Unless otherwise disclosed, Thomas D. Jay has no financial interest in companies referenced in blog articles or other published media communications. No representation is made to either buy or sell securities. Opinions expressed by Thomas D. Jay are his own. Thomas D. Jay does not employ or otherwise utilize/authorize third party agents to express his opinions, represent his interests or conduct business on his behalf except where formally contractually designated.

Acknowledgements and Reference Links


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Perspective on EUV Lithography Feb. 2014 The NIF Shot Heard Around the World Advanced Lithography V 2014 provided no encouraging news on further development of EUV power output for advanced semiconductor HVM. During the week of the conference it was announced that a recently shipped ASML NXE:3300B [A] stepper/scanner with a 30 Watt EUV source failed during its trial run at TSMC. Accidents happen. Over the years I have witnessed several spectacular meltdowns of high energy/high value wafer fab equipment. Recovery is rapid as wafer fab crash teams resolve such incidents in short order. 

The quest for higher power EUV has been a greater challenge than originally anticipated. Unfortunately this latest occurrence at TSMC punctuated a ten year continuance of forward looking statements in which ASML/Cymer repeatedly anticipated imminent arrival of EUV power levels of 100 watts or more.

The Ultimate Shot Noise

Interestingly, the search for advanced, future semiconductor EUV lithography technique has been an on-going effort that began many years ago. In 1994 the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory began the Laser Science and Technology (LS&T) Program [1] whose research would chart the course for many future advanced technology projects. The National Ignition Facility  [1A] team is to be congratulated on their most recent August 13, 2013 experiment which produced output power greater than that of input levels. The NIF utilizes 192 individual high energy lasers focused on a small deuterium target with the goal of emulating the physics of our sun and unleashing large amounts of fusion energy.

See Wikipedia NIF photos:


A subset of the Laser Science and Technology program was AMP, the Advanced Microtechnology Program, providing research and development resources in semiconductor imaging and detection. AMP was considered a show case example of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) efforts to transfer and commercialize newly developed technologies to U.S. commercial interests. The semiconductor industry now had the attention of world experts in plasma and light source technology.
The Birth of Laser Produced Plasma EUV 

The NIF began work on Laser Produced Plasma EUV. Plasma produced from Sn (tin) or Xe (xenon) enables the creation of a 13.5nm EUV light source, an item of key interest to next generation lithographers in the semiconductor industry. The NIF built a 13.5nm Laser Produced Plasma (LPP) test stand which successfully provided this desired wavelength of vacuum EUV. AMP and its associated EUV research and development would become LS&T's largest program. 

Later, three DOE laboratories; Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, and Sandia Laboratories in California went on to form the Virtual National Laboratory (VNL) to further research and develop extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) technology. The VNL was funded by the Extreme Ultraviolet LLC, a consortium of Intel, Motorola, Advanced Micro Devices, and Micron Technology. Semiconductor industry heavy weights were now interacting commercially with the formidable technology base of the U.S. Department of Energy. The three year, $250 million venture was dedicated to developing EUVL for commercial manufacturing of computer chips and to foster migration of the technology to semiconductor production facilities by 2010. Each national laboratory contributed expertise to this effort; Lawrence Livermore (optics, precision engineering, and multilayer coatings), Sandia Labs (systems engineering, photoresists, and light source). Berkeley contributed its Advanced Light Source capability, generating EUV light to characterize optics and resists at the nanometer scale. SEMATECH now similarly sponsors and benefits from the development of actinic EUV metrology at the Lawrence Berkeley Center for X-ray Optics (CXRO). 

A Fifteen Year Chronology of EUV
Source Development 

- On May 6, 1998 Arthur W. Zafiropoulo, Chairman, CEO and president of Ultratech, formed United States Advanced Lithography LLC, and reached an agreement with EUV LLC (the consortium of Intel, Motorola, Advanced Micro Devices, and Micron Technology) in order to further develop and transfer EUV technology to American lithography manufacturers. Zafiropoulo wanted to ensure U.S. semiconductor equipment vendors remained competitive in the world economy by producing EUV lithography tools on American soil. [1B]

- On June 24, 1999 ASML of the Netherlands reached an agreement with EUV LLC, (the consortium of Intel, Motorola, Advanced Micro Devices, and Micron Technology) to participate in the further development and transfer of EUV technology to semiconductor lithography manufacturers. By participating in the EUV program facilitated by EUV LLC, ASML became a defacto beneficiary of the EUV research conducted by the U.S. DOE. Martin van den Brink, executive vice president of marketing and technology at ASML was later quoted as saying “While EUV is expected to have the highest throughput and most extendable resolution, the complexity of non-optical techniques requires the parallel evaluation of multiple options."  ASML moved rapidly to secure its position in the future lithography market place.

- In June, 2006 Cymer put its first LPP EUV source into operation.

- In November 2007 Cymer reported achieving 100 watts of EUV burst power on its LPP source. [2]

- On May 14, 2008, Cymer reported the achievement of continuous EUV source operation for over one hour at an average power level of 25 watts. [3]

- In July 2009 Cymer announced the shipment of an LPP source to ASML, claiming it had achieved 75 watts of “EUV exposure power” and anticipated 100 watt power levels within 90 days enabling 60 wafer/hour throughput on 300mm wafers. [4] 

- In 2010 Cymer reported achieving 100 watts of EUV peak power for brief periods but was only able to provide 10 watts of continuous EUV output. ASML began evaluating three potential suppliers of EUV sources; Cymer, Gigaphoton and Extreme Technologies. [5]

- In July 2011, at a company earnings conference call Bob Akins, then Cymer's Chairman and CEO reported “As a result of increased source availability and stability improvements, the eight (EUV) sources have cumulatively produced greater than 40 megajoules of EUV since March of this year and it is sufficient to expose greater than 3,000 wafers”. [6]

- In February 2012, Cymer reported shipping three 8 Watt EUV sources but 20 watt upgrade shipments for NXE-3100 systems were delayed. [7]

- In May 2013, Cymer's EUV source power output was still short of HVM targets. ASML completed the Acquisition of Cymer in a cash and stock transaction estimated to be $3.7 Billion. [8]

- As reported on February 24, 2014 during SPIE Advanced Lithography V, an NXE:3300B, was shipped to TSMC with an integrated 30 Watt EUV source from ASML/Cymer, failed during testing but was later repaired. [9]

A Perspective on Extreme Ultra Violet Lithography 
March 11, 2014  

In 2008 Arthur W. Zafiropoulo, Chairman, CEO and President of Ultratech, estimated that EUV lithography systems could be premium priced as high as $15 to 20 million each, affording a significant market opportunity. The interplay of the NIF and EUV programs promulgating the current lithography initiative has exposed two starkly differing cost center/ROI models. The National Ignition Facility took tewlve years to build and houses 192 high power laser bays 300 yards long, producing 500 Terawatt laser “shots” (500 Trillion watts) focused on a single deuterium pellet with the goal of replicating the fusion energy created in the core of our sun. Funded by the U.S. Government's Department of Energy, the NIF facility cost $3.5 Billion to construct. Given current ASML pricing at $120 Million each, a quantity of 25 ASML EUV stepper/scanners, each anticipated to produce 150 watts of front end LPP EUV illumination, are now estimated to cost $3 Billion. If we utilize Mr. Zafiropoulo's original high end estimate of $20 Million per stepper, the cost for the same 25 EUV steppers is reduced to $500 Million (the number to the right of the decimal point on the NIF's construction cost). The collective investments in ASML made thus far by Intel, Samsung and TSMC actually exceed the NIF's $3.5 Billion construction cost. Is an ASML equipped semiconductor front end EUV lithography fab (25 EUV steppers) really at cost parity with a U.S. government sponsored fusion energy project?  Given current wafer fab construction costs approximating $5 to 6 Billion, ASML's recently quoted EUV lithography pricing is unprecedented.  This singular discrepancy in the semiconductor industry's cost continuum has displaced Moore's Law as a viable operand.  EUV technology originally developed within the U.S. DOE/NIF program has been transferred to cooperative multinational interests outside any U.S. based cost control infrastructure.  Electron beam lithography as an alternate HVM solution was never funded on a large scale leaving ASML as a defacto sole source for nanometer scale HVM. This is why the EUV program is on hold. It's time to call the accountants, get costs under control, and restore U.S. based best of breed lithography competition to the semiconductor industry.  We all applaud the efforts of our friends at ASML who have made extraordinary strides in the development of EUV.  However, with ASML as the primary beneficiary of the NIF's EUV Laser Produced Plasma program, the U.S. based semiconductor equipment industry should be competing with them for both economic and strategic considerations.
The current and on going status of EUV endures as a great drama for those of us with keen interest in the semiconductor industry and the phenomenon of Moore's Law. Although ASML stock holders should continue to benefit from their dominate front end market share, it would appear ASML's customer/investors are getting less return on their subsidy of EUV as progress on HVM power output development has stalled. Although there are few remaining EUV players (none with ASML's front end market share), the current economic complexity of the EUV program compounded by the throttling of the 450mm initiative has quashed enthusiasm for large scale investment in new, competitive EUV and alternative lithography technologies targeting CDs <28nm. The current over capacity status at many fabs has also delayed further investment in tweaking strategic product positioning, best illustrated by Intel's idling of newly constructed fab 42. 

With regard to next generation semiconductor products, we might choose to continue optimizing cloud based CPUs and servers as another way of offsetting increasingly heavy processing demands until nanometer scaling enabled by restoration of the EUV initiative or SEMATECH's alternate choice, electron beam lithography enables us to re-institute the spirit of Moore's Law.

Please join me in supporting the National Photonics Initiative, SPIE and the United Nations proclaimed International Year of Light 2015.

Thomas D. Jay 
Semiconductor Industry Consultant
Thomas D. Jay YouTube Channe

Corporate or private entities mentioned in this article are the respective owners of their logos, trademarks, service marks and intellectual property. Unless otherwise disclosed, Thomas D. Jay has no financial interest in companies referenced in blog articles or other published media communications. No representation is made to either buy or sell securities. Opinions expressed by Thomas D. Jay are his own. Thomas D. Jay does not employ or otherwise utilize/authorize third party agents to express his opinions, represent his interests or conduct business on his behalf except where formally contractually designated.

Acknowledgements and Reference Links

 Photonics for a Better

National Photonics Initiative

 [A] ASML NXE:3300B, ASML Web Site

[A1] Ultratech

[1] Extreme Ultra Violet Lithography, Imaging the Future

[A-G] NIF Photos, Wikipedia 

[1A] National Ignition Facility, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory  

[1B] May 6, 1998 Business Wire

[2] November 30, 2007 Business Wire 

[3] May 14, 2008 FABTECH

[4] EE Times July 13, 2009 

[5] August 19, 2011 Engineering and Technology Magazine, by Chris Edwards

[6] July 21, 2011, Morning Star 

[7] February 3, 2012 Semiconductor Engineering, by Mark LaPedus

[8] May 30 2013 UT San Diego, by Mike Freeman

[9] February 24, 2014 Semiconductor Engineering, by Mark LaPedu

Related blog articles of interest
by Thomas D. Jay

August 2013
The SCRUM of All Fears 

January 2013


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Thomas D. Jay Joins Guidepoint Global, February 18, 2014

Thomas D. Jay is now an advisor with Guidepoint Global. Guidepoint Global is a primary market research network that delivers critical insight to business and investment professionals via on-demand interactions with a global network of subject matter experts.  Guidepoint Global offices are strategically located in New York, London, Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong.  Mr. Jay joined Guidepoint Global on January 23, 2014.

As a Guidepoint Global Advisor Mr. Jay advises clients on the advanced technologies utilized in the manufacture of today's "smart" semiconductor electronic products. He provides consulting expertise in technology marketing and analysis to corporate level managers and financial industry analysts. In addition to consulting Mr. Jay actively traded technology and energy stocks on the NASDAQ and NYSE/Euronext exchanges.  He previously served as Director of Marketing for Veeco Instruments, Inc. and as Sales and Operations Manager for KLA-Tencor/Prometrix. His semiconductor industry expertise extends to ion source technology, optical and ebeam lithography, ion implantation, deposition, ion beam etch, photoresist processing, robotic automation, AFM, confocal, FPP and thin fllm metrology. His professional blog commentary on the semiconductor, nano-technology and capital investment community brings focus to the critical economic and engineering issues challenging the extension of Moore's Law.

Known as the "great explainer" Mr. Jay is recognized for his ability to communicate complex technologies and concepts in a format consumable for a wide range of audiences. This critical skill set enables him to monitor, report and comment on the development, commercialization and transfer of new and emerging technologies in support of advanced semiconductor manufacturing, while assessing the resulting impact on the consumer electronic markets and broader based economy.  Mr. Jay is a frequent participant and contributor to industry webinars and forums inhabited by the brain trust of the world's leading technology companies. He is quoted as saying: "I think there's tremendous synergy created empowering industry and the media with evolutionary technology while enabling a global communications presence for the average consumer."  For additional information, visit and

Thomas D. Jay
Semiconductor Industry Consultant
Thomas D. Jay YouTube Channel

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Cloud of Nations
Our world has been transformed by photonics. Our government, businesses and many of our personal activities are assisted or managed by what has been termed a “cloud” based infrastructure of computers, servers and a global communications network enabled by advanced photonic devices, lasers and fiber optics.  (Students: Click on the blue TDJ logo above for more on advanced photonics; become a scientist or engineer and help design our photonic future)  It can be argued that in addition to the physical world, governments and society also maintain a shadow, hyperspace existence in the cloud. The continued research, development and evolution of these technologies is integral to the growth of our economy, society and national defense. In recognition of this significance, SPIE, (The International Society for Optics and Photonics), OSA (The Optical Society), LIA (Laser Institute of America), IEEE Photonics Society and the American Physical Society have teamed to form the National Photonics Initiative (NPI). The NPI has embarked on a campaign to gain visibility with our government, key funding agencies and other industry partners to:

• Drive funding and investment in areas of photonics critical to maintaining US competitiveness and national security.

• Develop federal programs that encourage greater collaboration between US industry, academia, and government labs.

• Increase investment in education and job training programs.

• Expand federal investments supporting university and industry collaborative research.

• Collaborate with US industry to review international trade practices.

The discussion points above were excerpted from the NPI's recent white paper. For a more detailed description of the NPI agenda visit [1]

Photonic technologies have made a major impact on our society, simultaneously enabling advanced capabilities in computing, communications, manufacturing and their disruptive derivatives. Disruptive derivatives can vary in magnitude, yielding both laser guided weapons and unexpected video calls on your smart phone. For the purpose of this article, I will briefly review the history and development of the significant photonic technologies which have enabled what we now call the “cloud” and discuss some of the social-political ramifications.

The Development of the Laser

The fundamental physics behind the laser were theorized by Albert Einstein and Max Plank. Their theories were later confirmed by Rudolph W. Leydenburg, Valentin A. Fabrikant, Willis E. Lam and R.C. Retherford. In later years Charles Hard Townes developed the MASER (Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) a microwave amplifier, and later at Bell Laboratories worked with Arthur Leonard Schalow to conceptually define infrared and optical lasers. In 1958 Bell Labs applied for a patent on an optical MASER based on their work. At Columbia University Gordon Gould was conducting graduate work on thallium emissions and in November 1957 coined the acronym LASER to define Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Conducting concurrent competitive research, Theodore H. Maiman operated the first solid state flash lamp pumped 694 nanometer synthetic ruby LASER at Hughes Research in Malibu California on May 16, 1960. [2]

The Fiber of the Cloud

Ten years later in 1970, Corning, Inc. announced that researchers Robert D. Maurer, Donald Keck, Peter C. Schultz, and Frank Zimar had developed and tested an optical fiber with a low optical attenuation of 17 dB per kilometer by doping silica glass with titanium. After conducting additional research they later produced a fiber with an attenuation of only 4 dB/km, using germanium oxide as the core dopant. This low loss quality over longer distances made fiber optic cable practical for telecommunications and networking. Corning became the world's leading manufacturer of optical fiber. [3]  

Continued improvements in fiber-optic materials have reduced line losses and capacity is being further optimized by utilizing multi-wavelength lasers for data transmission.  In 1990, Bell Laboratories transmitted a 2.5 Gb/s signal over a distance of 7,500 km without repeater regeneration by utilizing a soliton laser and an erbium-doped fiber amplifier.  In 1998, AT&T researchers transmitted 100 simultaneous optical signals, each at a data rate of 10 gigabits per second over a distance of 400 km utilizing dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) technology, allowing multiple wavelengths to be combined into one optical signal.  This technique increased the total data rate on one fiber to one terabit per second. [3A]

Our Global Photonic Schematic

Today, the backbone of our global communication system is comprised of an interconnected fiber optic cable infrastructure spanning the oceans, continents and civilized peripheries. The first undersea cable networks laid by ships supported telegraphy only, later evolving and expanding to accommodate voice communications via telephone. Network traffic was limited by the number of conductor pairs in the cables and long distance communication was sometimes problematic. Electronic relays were required to maintain call quality over long distances and troubleshooting was challenging as transoceanic cables lying on the sea bottom were difficult to locate, retrieve and repair. Over time, copper conductors were replaced with fiber optic cables and the communications revolution we are witnessing today began in earnest.  The AT&T Tech Channel features an informative video describing the evolution of the undersea fiber optic cable system [4] currently connecting our world.  Today there are over 250 major cables connecting the continents [5] (most under the sea) providing audio, high definition video and data transmission for our global community. Access to this advanced network can be had for the price of a smart phone. Utilizing services like Apple's FaceTime, Google Voice or Microsoft's Skype, it's possible to make real time two way video calls to friends, relatives or businesses almost anywhere on the Earth. This connectivity extends to most of the 3G and 4G cellular networks as well as the Wi-Fi systems we find at the corner coffee shop.

The Cloud of Nations

The early 1980s began the evolutionary period in our history in which we saw the rapid expanse of the internet along with the conception and realization of the “Cloud”. E-commerce and the idea of utilizing large data storage centers to strategically manage inventory and facilitate business transactions changed a fundamental business model which continues to evolve. The concept of in-country brick and mortar manufacturing sites and retail store distribution are being rethought every day. The acceleration to a web centric existence has transformed banking, trading, manufacturing, retail markets, personal communications and governments.  How so?

The internet connected cloud enabled by photonics has become the continuum in which multinational corporations and many governments reside. Independent of the necessity for fixed, localized manufacturing and distribution, large multinational corporations and small businesses can participate in an electronic global market place. A company in the US can own factories in Asia which produce and ship products world wide. Similarly, many foreign based companies own large manufacturing facilities in the US simplifying the distribution of their products here. The financial industry has been transformed as the international stock exchanges and banking institutions can now complete transactions in milliseconds or less. The undersea cable system made overnight international wire transfers possible. After business hours, banks in the U.S. can wire transfer large monetary holdings to banks in Australia or Asia where a more favorable overnight interest rate might be obtained (Australian banks typically pay a better overnight interest rate). Having earned significant interest overnight, these large monetary sums can be returned to the originating U.S. bank restoring local liquidity in time for opening business hours the following morning. The evolution in global business and trade among nations has brought our world closer together as an inter-dependent community made possible by the ubiquity of the world wide web, complements of advanced photonics.

Recent history has taught us that idealistic global business models don't always work to resolve disputes.  During the first Persian gulf conflict there was an exodus of Kuwait's displaced population to Europe and the United States. Interestingly, the Kuwaitis took their country with them. With electronic access to their country's wealth and the international banking system, Kuwait continued to function as a country and business entity in the cloud [6] via the web. For the first time in the world's history a nation existed and functioned electronically in hyperspace, untethered from its physical geography. Kuwait's political existence extended to its world wide connectivity with banking institutions, embassies and the United Nations. Similarly, Kuwait's finances and trading activities were all remotely accessible through the stock exchanges and SWIFT computers connecting the international banking system. Many of Kuwait's displaced citizens abroad established temporary residency in Europe and the U.S. aided by the continued financial support of their Kingdom which was fully functional on the web. This impressive logistical feat was managed remotely from hotel suites and conference rooms with laptop computers and direct access to major financial institutions outside the middle east.

Partly Cloudy

We like to think our internet system is fast and efficient, however high speed data crossing the oceans in milliseconds from distant continents at the speed of light are often stalled during local distribution and routing by network hubs which provide last mile connectivity to your home or business. A good example of this phenomenon can be found at fast food restaurants or coffee shops which provide wireless internet service to patrons. Sometimes while having coffee at a local establishment I'll use the wireless service to watch business news often featuring live programming feeds from Asia or Europe. Although this programming reaches the US in a fraction of a second, local network and distribution routers ration the data packets as they time share the program feed among thousands (or millions) of on line recipients. The resulting multiplexing and buffering of the programming can start and stop the video program on your computer every few seconds revealing the latency in the local distribution server as it slows to accommodate everyone, sometimes providing only a few program frames at a time. In these situations some news programming and streaming movies are not viewable and must be downloaded or viewed later on a faster network. Having experienced this phenomenon, I sometimes find myself exclaiming the virtues of 35mm movie film which runs at full program speed without interruption. Much of our wired internet infrastructure has not kept pace with 4G wireless and new 802.11ac distribution speeds and needs to be upgraded.

As compared with much of the world, the US is behind the curve in providing high speed Internet service.  A November 27, 2013 study reported by indicates the U.S. currently ranks 31st place in the world's Internet connection speed rankings. [7]  Current international speed ranking data can be found here [8] as conducted by  In addition we are behind in implementing the new IPv6 internet protocol which will enhance security and network standardization with the rest of the world.  As a technology leader among nations, we can do much better. Some might think this comparison unfair as the United States has a much larger land mass and population making a continual nation wide upgrade of Internet capacities and ISP inter-connectivity a capital intensive proposition. Realistically this cost consideration is not an impediment as our larger U.S. economy and consumer markets will rapidly consume any capacity upgrades made by Internet service providers. An abundant dark fiber infrastructure (previously installed and underutilized fiber optic cable) is readily available for augmentation of existing internet capacity. Rather than reconstruct my thoughts on this subject I will quote myself from recent comments I made while responding to an article appearing on Seeking, an investment newsletter web site.  Thomas D. Jay commentary posted on Seeking September 12, 2013 [9]

“Demands for Internet bandwidth will grow rapidly as new technology comes on line. The new Samsung S4 smart phone and Apple MacBook Air both feature the new 802.11ac wireless standard which operates on both 2.4 and 5 GHz at three times the speed of 802.11n. New 802.11ac routers are now available for commercial and home use. New smart phones and computers will soon get a wireless speed upgrade of 3X. Cable companies will be shifting strategies to accommodate consumers who stream video on the net in addition to those who subscribe to the standard menu of channels on their systems. The move is toward the wide scale implementation (much capacity has already been installed) of 256 bit QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) providing a greater number of cable channels and capacity. 4K video (4X 1080P resolution) is here now with 16K expected in about 18 months. Kudos to Verizon Fios and Google's 1 Gbit fiber optic system, however Sony is already deploying a 2 Gbit system in Tokyo [10] in anticipation of the need for extra system bandwidth. The US has been far behind in upgrading internet bandwidth and is in need of enhanced server center capacity in addition to fiber-optic distribution networks to homes and businesses. Fios 500 Mbit bandwidth at your home is of no use if the server you're connected to is overwhelmed with the demands of thousands of 20 Mbit subscribers. The price of bandwidth will gradually decrease if network capacity successfully paces growth forecasts. [18] An old programmers' law states that computer programs will grow in size to consume all available processing power and memory. Similarly, streaming internet applications and on line services will grow to consume all available bandwidth. The challenge is to build capacity ahead of the bandwidth demand curve and reduce cost. The principal of Moore's Law should be adapted by Internet Service Providers, by doubling network capacity every two years. Big data and network demand will require it.”  An additional note on QAM:  Where high spectral bandwidth and speed is required, networks usually employ 4096 QAM which has a greater constellation density (see Wikipedia, QAM) [11].

The Need for Speed

Latency in program distribution for both national (the US) and international carriers is problematic. The cumulative wide ranging delays in program arrival time experienced by viewers on the Internet can create an unfair playing field for consumers as well as private investors. On Wall Street, investment firms strategically locate their trading computers and servers as close as possible to the NYSE/EURONEXT and NASDAQ exchanges to gain precious millisecond (or better) advantages in price quote retrieval time and trade execution speed. Investment firms closest to the exchanges have an unfair (but legitimate) trading speed advantage over competitive firms and their investors. While monitoring the media, a slow internet connection can delay the arrival of streamed investment news by as much as twenty seconds or more. As a concerned former trader I've actually confirmed this phenomenon by comparing the arrival time of CNBC's cable broadcast programming with the identical program content streamed on the Internet. Again, the big investment houses win this scenario by employing the use of supercomputers which monitor stocks, market conditions, news events, and other exchanges in real time.  IBM has worked with TD Bank Financial Group to develop high speed computer architectures for use in financial decision making and transactions. [12]  A TD Financial Group computer can monitor markets, quotes, international news, and a wide range of critical investment decision parameters. Programmed with carefully developed algorithms the system makes trading decisions dynamically based on real time data input to the system. Investment firms utilizing supercomputers enable high frequency trading which is frowned upon by some, while many exchanges welcome the liquidity these trading firms provide.

Recently the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) Asia's largest bourse operator, expressed interest in attracting a larger number of high speed traders to help bring additional volume and liquidity to their market. SGX has invested over $250 Million in a computer trading platform which can execute transactions in 90 microseconds. Before large scale high frequency trading takes root on Singapore's SGX, trading circuit breakers must be implemented to prevent unforeseen market volatility from adversely impacting the market. Interestingly, high frequency traders have also avoided the SGX as it extracts a transaction fee of 20 basis points (0.2%) for shares traded on the exchange. (Source: Bloomberg News 10/29/2013) [13]

Global Clock Skew

For the purposes of global trading, communications and navigation, it is imperative that clocks are synchronized everywhere on the earth. In addition to navigation assistance, our GPS (Global Positioning System) satellites also provide a time standard beacon, complements of our friends at NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology). You can program your PC clock to sync directly with NIST instead of your network server. On a global scale we observe that light travels approximately 186,282 miles per second and can circle the earth in 134 milliseconds (about one tenth of a second). If we consider the earth as a large computer, the continents might be compared to microprocessors interconnected by our global internet, milliseconds apart. If we observe our immediate, personal photometric sphere of existence, we find that in one nanosecond light travels one foot. How precise must our world be?

Chip Level Clock Skew

In the metrics of semiconductors nanosecond measurements are woefully imprecise and we must calibrate metrology in picoseconds in order to measure the speed of data traversing millimeter sized computer chips. In the semiconductor industry we refer to differences in data arrival time on a computer chip as clock skew. On a real semiconductor device, electrical signals on copper conductors travel at approximately 66-70% of light speed. An acceptable clock skew range approximating 20 to 200 picoseconds (pico = 10^-12) usually provides acceptable device performance but this specification can vary across device types and design. For each tick of the chip's master system clock, billions of transistor gates must be switched on and off in precise unison. A microprocessor operating at a 2 gigahertz clock speed must have sufficient temporal uniformity across the device so that the arrival time of gate switching signals are all within an acceptable time window. If the switching signal's arrival time falls outside this window, the microprocessor and the program it's running will crash. Careful design considerations go into device fabrication technique and wafer processing to ensure product and performance quality. More information on computer chip clock skew can be found in the paper “Skew Variability in 3-D ICs with Multiple Clock Domains” [14] Hu Xu, Vasilis F. Pavlidis, and Giovanni De Micheli, LSI - EPFL, CH-1015, Switzerland Email: {hu.xu, vasileios.pavlidis, giovanni.demicheli}

As clock speeds increase and device geometries decrease, the <10nm design node will pose additional technical challenges in device timing and data throughput. Recognizing this challenge, IBM designed computer chips that are interconnected with photonics, [15] enabling superior, high speed inter and intra-device communication utilizing beams of light instead of electrical signals carried on copper conductors. The evolution of light speed photonic interconnects for on and off chip communication will minimize concerns with clock skew across chips and networks as device structures shrink to critical dimensions (CD) <10nm and become stacked in dense arrays.

Free Space Optical Communications (FSO)

Free Space Optical Communication refers to the use of optical (visible) and the near optical (near visible) spectrum of light for line of sight transmission of communications and data. FSO is advantageous in areas where traditional radio frequency (RF) traffic is dense precluding the efficient use of available radio spectrum. FSO can also enable precisely directed communications by laser providing undetected, low profile communications for military or other secure communications. An FSO device is also a cool way of describing your infra-red TV remote control.

Wi-Fi and now Li-Fi

Recently there has been much hoopla over new computer networking hardware utilizing Li-Fi, a complementary technology to Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity). Li-Fi (Light Fidelity) utilizes LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) producing visible or near visible infra-red light to propagate data transmissions in place of the typical RF (Radio Frequency) based 2.4 or 5 GHz 802.11n routers that have become ubiquitous. Some time ago I watched a TED presentation in which LED propagation of voice and data was pitched as a visionary concept. The fact is, the semiconductor industry recognized the significance of this idea and put it to work in the wafer fab many years ago.

Wafer Fab Free Space Optical Communications (WFFSO)

In the 1980's a major wafer fab equipment manufacturer provided automated guided vehicles to transport wafer lots and load process tools. The vehicles featured robotic arms and transported wafer cassette boxes. The mobile robots could open an on board cassette box and load/unload a process tool while communicating the wafer lot's status to the fab's Work In Process (WIP) tracking computer. The robots' communications with the fab was achieved with FSO cellular infrared LED clusters which were immune to radio frequency noise and interference from nearby process tools. The high intensity IR LED signals also bounced off the fab walls and ceilings to reach vehicles that were sometimes outside a direct optical path, or in shadowed areas created by fab technicians or equipment. Upload and download of vehicle and WIP programming was easily achieved using the IR data links. RF plasma etchers and other fab tools can create RF interference at their fundamental and harmonic frequencies and sometimes create “birdies” (spurious emissions) all over the RF spectrum. In most cases FSO/IR communications effectively eliminates this problem. The infrared cellular transceivers were ceiling mounted and unobtrusive. Quick visual confirmation of the system's activity was accomplished by “eyeballing” the ceiling mounted IR transceivers with a special IR sensitive viewing lens. Today it's easy to confirm IR LED activity with a smart phone. Most smart phone cameras are sensitive to a wide range of IR LEDs. Point your smart phone camera at an active IR LED (your TV remote for example) and you can see a corresponding bright white spot on your phone's display which is otherwise invisible to the human eye.

More recently it's been possible to operate long distance point to point FSO computer networks using lasers. The GeoDesy [16] wireless, directed laser system was introduced in 1996 and has been improved to provide competitive error free network connectivity without wires or radio frequency devices providing gigabit speeds. Two stationary laser units target each other with narrow directed beams at distances up to five kilometers to create a network link.

The First Cloud Over the Moon

Although fiber optic cables connect the continents of our earth, there has been no such lunar connectivity. However, very recently an earth based laser system was utilized to establish long distance connectivity with a space craft orbiting the moon. In October 2013, NASA's LADEE Laser Communications Demonstration [17] (LLCD) experiment made history by pulsing laser data 239,000 miles from the moon to the earth at a rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps). The LLCD is on aboard NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), launched in September from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. The LLCD is NASA's first laser based communication system for use with space craft. A ground station in New Mexico also successfully uploaded data to the LLCD system on board the LADEE lunar orbiter at an error free rate of 20 Mbps. LLCD is the precursor to future laser communications in space. In 2017 NASA plans to launch the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) as part of an expansive effort to advance communications in the space program.

Closing Thoughts

The National Photonics Initiative has established a presence in Washington, DC and is engaging key political figures, government agencies and seeking alliances to pursue policies which can accelerate the funding and development of advanced photonic technologies. Although the NPI is a lobbying advocate for a wide range of industrial photonic applications, the development of fiber optic and laser based communications systems have probably made the most significant contribution to improving our daily lives.  A major subset of the NPI agenda might also include a National High Speed Internet Initiative similar to the government's subsidized interstate highway projects started in the 1960s. The world wide migration to the cloud has altered the landscape of the globe. The concept and coexistence of cloud based commerce and national sovereignty is continuously changing in complexity as borders can be breached electronically with no passport required. We are able to trade internationally while probing a potential adversary's information systems, currency exchanges, and telecommunications. Thus the current debate concerning computer network sovereignty at national and international levels are complicated by the security and intelligence gathering initiatives of the many nations populating the web in a dynamic global market place. The solution set to this concern is problematic, engaging heads of state, and established international law. As Americans we also value personal privacy. Our government security agencies and commercial entities must be vigilant and ensure a delicate balance of national security and personal privacy. In addition to NPI's opening white paper discussion points the National Photonics Initiative must also assist in speeding the development of complementary photonic technologies which will ensure the security and integrity of our communications infrastructure.

The speed of light is sufficient for most of today's technological endeavors.  As we extend our reach further from the Earth with instruments and manned space craft, interplanetary clock skew will become (is) the next challenge. Exceeding the speed of light as defined by Einstein's limit will soon become a priority as our need for speed accelerates.  A quantum level initiative may define our future. In the interim I invite you to join me in supporting the National Photonics Initiative.

Thomas D. Jay
Semiconductor Industry Consultant
Thomas Dale

Thomas D. Jay YouTube Channel 


Corporate or private entities mentioned in this article are the respective owners of their logos, trademarks, service marks and intellectual property. Unless otherwise disclosed, Thomas D. Jay has no financial interest in companies referenced in blog articles or other published media communications. No representation is made to either buy or sell securities. Opinions expressed by Thomas D. Jay are his own. Thomas D. Jay does not employ or otherwise utilize/authorize third party agents to express his opinions, represent his interests or conduct business on his behalf except where formally contractually designated.

Acknowledgments and Reference Links

[1] The National Photonics Initiative White Paper

[2] The history of the laser, Wikipedia

[3] The history of fiber optics, Wikipedia


[4] AT&T Tech Channel, "Lightwave Undersea Cable System"
Courtesy AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ

[5] Telegeography Submarine Cable Map

[6] Kuwait conducts business in exile 1990, New York Times

[7] Techspot reports world internet speed rankings

[8] Current World Internet Speed Rankings,

[9] Thomas D. Jay Commentary, on Seeking

[10] World's fastest internet arrives in Tokyo, Tech

[11] Quadrature Amplitude Modulation, Wikipedia

[12] "From Gigahertz to Systems to Solutions; Our Industry in Transition", Bernard S. Meyerson, Ph.D., IBM, .PDF Published 2010

[13] Singapore SGX High Speed Computer Trading, Source:  Bloomberg News

[14] Skew Variability in 3-D ICs with Multiple Clock Domains” Hu Xu, Vasilis F. Pavlidis, and Giovanni De Micheli, LSI - EPFL, CH-1015, Switzerland Email: {hu.xu, vasileios.pavlidis, giovanni.demicheli}

[15] IBM Silicon Nanophotonic devices, IBM

[16] GeoDesy FSO PTP Laser Networking

[17] LADEE Laser Communications Demonstration, NASA

[18] Telegeography News Update 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Florida's Governor Rick Scott and the Space Coast Economic Development Commission Announce Expansion of Embraer S.A.'s Business Jet Manufacturing in Melbourne

High High technology manufacturing is integral to Brevard County Florida's economy. On Friday October 29, 2013,     TDJ Technology Group provided special media coverage of an event hosted by the Space Coast Economic Development Commission. The EDC and regional political leadership welcomed Florida Governor Rick Scott and Embraer S.A. President and CEO Frederico Curado to make an important announcement. Ebraer S.A. is a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer with a major presence in the United States and intends to expand its facilities in Melbourne Florida where it currently employs 260 aerospace workers and customer service staff. The announcement celebrates Embraer's plan to expand its local manufacturing to include its newly developed Legacy 450 and 500 series business jets. The project will create 600 new jobs and add 250,000 square feet to Embraer’s facilities in Melbourne.  A new Engineering and Technology Center is planned to open in the second half of 2014.

The Space Coast Economic Development Commission is a Brevard County group of industry professionals who have teamed with community leaders and Florida's Governor Rick Scott to enhance the economic growth of the region. The commitment by Embraer exemplifies the confidence many have in the community, heavily weighted with aerospace and technology companies employing scientists, engineers and information technology professionals.  Brevard County Florida is a home to the NASA space program and many aerospace defense contractors.   Governor Scott acknowledged that the termination of the space shuttle program and more recent sequestration of federal funding has had a marked impact on the local aerospace and technology based economy.

I spoke with Lynda Weatherman, President and CEO of the Space Coast Economic Development Commission and Andy Anderson, Chairman of the Brevard County Board of Commissioners.  Both spoke to the urgency and commitment echoed by county political leadership to revitalize the local economy.  The economic recovery here has been slower than anticipated and challenging.  The announcement by Embraer S.A. is the result of community teamwork and a yet to be approved incentive package fomented by the EDC, local political leaders and Governor Scott.  The incentive package must be approved within 180 days but given the enthusiastic support by the region, expeditious approval is anticipated.   The special announcement joined by Governor Scott speaks to the confidence and broad based support for this project. Revitalization of the Brevard County economy is an on-going concern with Embraer S.A. marking an important inflection point in this effort.

Additional TDJ Technology Group media coverage of this Space Coast Economic Development Commission event can be found on the Thomas D. Jay YouTube Channel.

Thomas D. Jay
Semiconductor Industry Consultant
Thomas Dale Jay YouTube Channel


Special thanks to Julie Roslin, Business Manger at the Space Coast Economic Development Commission.

Referenced Web Links