Augmented reality (AR) tyrannosauruses towered on-screen as I interacted with the creatures in a mix of prehistoric and cutting edge. Or, rather, my AR double was doing the playacting. Minutes later, virtual doppelgangers of a small lineup of chip industry executives cut the ceremonial ribbon.
Seemingly sweeping away the winter chill, the opening of SEMICON Japan 2019 dazzled with smart technology and the promise of lives, cities and workplaces transformed, with uber-intelligent applications in full display at Tokyo Big Sight. But what resources does the industry need to harness to drive the next era of innovation? The semiconductor industry’s unwavering passion and young talent are key, said Hiroshi Imano, Chairperson of the SEMICON Japan Initiatives Committee, in his opening keynote. And hardly any region of the world is in a better position to help realize that future than Japan, Imano said. The region supplies one third of the equipment and more than half of all materials to the global semiconductor manufacturing industry.
Talent was also top of mind for SEMICON Japan 2019 keynote speaker Makiko Eda, Japan's Chief Representative Officer at the World Economic Forum (WEF). Serving as a platform for public-private partnerships, the organization's mandate is to tackle global issues such as climate change and geopolitical strife in making world more resilient to risk and, by extension, more sustainable.
Spanning ecology, economy, technology, society, geopolitics and industry, that mission includes reskilling and upskilling a billion people over the next decade, a high priority for WEF, which hosts a conference every January in Davos, Switzerland. The theme of this month's conference – Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World – reflects the vital importance of building the international partnerships and global consensus necessary to achieving WEF's goals.
One key to that sustainability will be technology and Arm, a global chip design company, will play a key role, with the company’s chips touching over 70 percent of the world’s population, Arm president Yuzuru Utsumi said in his keynote. Today, Arm is driving toward an ambitious goal: Ship 100 billion chips from 2017 to 2021 – the same number produced over the previous quarter century – by powering advances in mobile computing, server and networking infrastructures, and automotive applications.
Arm’s innovation ecosystem of more than 1,000 partners will deliver these chips as they continue to work together to develop differentiated technology. Arm plans to increase investments not only in its primary processor business to accelerate market share gains but in the company’s new IoT business to create new revenue streams. The goal: Deliver long-term sustainable growth, Utsumi said.
SEMICON Japan 2019 showcases SMART manufacturing and transportation
Billed as a showcase of smart technologies, SEMICON Japan 2019 delivered with an array of eye-grabbing exhibitions in the popular SMART Applications Zone. In the SMART Transportation area, the automatic operation pavilion featured a car equipped with open-source software for autonomous driving. The exhibitor, Tier IV, aims to help lead the early commercialization of self-driving vehicles through the adoption of its software, Autoware, which makes it easier to develop self-driving vehicle prototypes using low-power platforms.
Sony Semiconductor Solutions demonstrated a vision sensing processor designed to guide autonomous drones. Using two cameras, the processor measured the changing distance between visitors moving about the exhibit and stationary objects in real time, indicating proximity in hues of red (nearby) and blue (at a distance). Many visitors were wowed, describing the multichromatic display as futuristic.
Others rode a simple wooden swing hanging by two ropes, but from dizzying heights thanks to Solidray’s Duo-Sight, a virtual reality (VR) system that projects 3D images stretching from wall to floor for immersive experiences. One visitor thrilled at how riding the swing, suspended only a few feet from the floor, felt like soaring on a flying trapeze. Target applications for the technology include virtual rides at amusement parks and presenting interior design options to homeowners.
In the SMART Manufacturing area, one highlight was the demonstration by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) of a remote-controlled Minimal Fab System designed for low-volume, high-mix chip production with little staffing. Designed to increase production efficiency, the system allows a circuit designer to manufacture a semiconductor by singlehandedly operating equipment up and down the production line. Controlling nearly 50 pieces of equipment, the Minimal Fab System on display manufactured chips that were verified for functional operation and exhibited afterwards.
On the SMART Applications stage, exhibitors DENSO and Toyota Motor Corporation announced a new joint venture to conduct research and advanced development of the next-generation in-vehicle semiconductors critical to electric and autonomous vehicle innovation. The venture, operating as MIRISE Technologies, will combine Toyota’s mobility expertise with DENSO’s in-vehicle component prowess. The goal is to build a rapid, competitive development system by 2030, said Yoshifumi Kato, executive director of the DENSO Research and Development Center, and president and representative director of the venture. On track to begin work this year, MIRISE will span three fields of technology development: power electronics, sensing and SoC (System-on-a-Chip). The name MIRISE combines word the Japanese word "mirai" (future) with "rise."
Business Continuity Planning
Natural disasters and other emergencies are an ongoing threat to uninterrupted business operations across the semiconductor manufacturing supply chain and particularly in earthquake-prone Japan. To better prepare for business disruptions and restore normal operations as soon as possible after disaster strikes, more companies are teaming on Business Continuity Planning (BCP).
THK's Seismic Isolation Experience Car demonstrated one technology designed to help – a seismic isolation device. The car shakes like an earthquake to give people inside a taste of how a building heaves and sways during a quake with and without the device deployed. Visitors were struck by how much the isolator dampens tremors to prevent or minimize damage.
In the BCP seminar, representatives from Sony Semiconductor Manufacturing, THK, DISCO and Team Engineering Consulting shared lessons learned from actual disasters and discussed the critical importance of daily disaster drills. Yukihide Keigo, Executive Engineer in charge of Products and Development at Sony Semiconductor Manufacturing, recounted how the company’s Kumamoto Prefecture plant struggled for 96 days to restore full operations after the facility sustained heavy damage in the 2016 earthquake. Keigo said the plant lacked the structural reinforcements necessary to withstand the impact and fell prey to poor planning and accountability. The Kumamoto plant has since implemented measures – structural and procedural improvements – that more accurately account for seismic risks to ensure full recovery within 56 days. The plant’s new procedures include emergency drills for staff including night-shift workers.
Innovation abounds at six SuperTHEATER forums
SEMICON Japan 2019 was held in the West and South Halls of Tokyo Big Sight as organizers of the Tokyo Olympics occupied the East Hall, the exhibition's usual home at the venue, to prepare for the 2020 games. For the first time, the main stage, SuperTHEATER, was set up in the cavernous arena near the main entrance. The SuperTHEATER featured six forums over three days.
- Semiconductor Executive Forum – View by Top Two in the Era of Digitalization with thought leaders from IHS Markit and Sony Semiconductor Solutions
- SMART Connectivity Forum – Infinite World Brought by 5G Innovation with experts from Softbank and Nokia Solutions & Networks
- SMART Transportation Forum I – Front-line of Automated Driving featuring speakers from Intel and DENSO
- SMART Transportation Forum II – Revolution of Sky Transportation, supported by the U.S. Commercial Service in Japan, with presenters from Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Subaru and Bell Helicopter
- Manufacturing Innovation Summit – Issues and Innovation: What will Drive Growth to 2030 featuring thought leaders from VLSI Research, Applied Materials, KLA, Nikon and Tokyo Electron
- Mirai Vision Forum – Future Relation of Technology and Body 2.0 with speakers from Leave a Nest, Ory Lab and Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory
The Mirai Vision Forum highlighted advanced technologies that could lead to societal improvements. One presenter, Kentaro Yoshifuji, CEO at Ory Lab, recalled how, as a child, he once stayed home from school while recovering from an illness. His imagination in full flight, the youngster imagined having a clone that could attend school and be with his classmates. The experience eventually inspired him to develop OriHime, a robot that gives socially isolated people a way to communicate with friends or colleagues remotely.
Originally developed for physically impaired people, OriHime today is used to help the able-bodied. The robot is situated with the companion and the user operates OriHime remotely. A camera and monitor in OriHime’s face provide the visual and audio connection and the user controls the device with a smartphone or tablet or, for those who are paralyzed, through eye movement. One potential application: With OriHime stationed at a business office, working mothers could use OriHime to telecommute to better balance their careers with their parenting responsibilities at home. The robot would be a mother’s go-between, enabling her to communicate directly with colleagues.
The next generation of innovators also took the stage as five teams presented innovative business ideas in friendly competition. The top prize in The TECH CAMP Hackathon went to the group that hatched an ingenious plan to develop a jacket that trains users to move their bodies in preprogrammed ways. For example, legendary Japanese professional baseball player Shigeo Nagashima could wear the gear while batting to program the device, then give the jacket to someone who’s never swung a baseball bat. The jacket would help the user replicate Nagashima’s swing. Now comes the real work of any innovator – executing on the vision.
And then came two soccer-playing artificial intelligence (AI) robots that squared off and ... Scored! The demonstration by the Toyota National College of Technology started as a research project by Toyota National College students in 2002. The young innovators designed and developed all the robotic hardware and software from scratch.
Looking ahead to SEMICON Japan 2020!
SEMICON Japan 2019 not only gathered leading Japanese semiconductor materials and manufacturing equipment providers to demonstrate their latest innovations. The premiere regional event also provided insights on key trends critical to the entire electronics manufacturing supply chain. This year’s event drew more than 51,000 visitors and 695 exhibitors from 15 regions filling more than 1,700 booths.
SEMICON Japan 2020 returns to East Hall at Tokyo Big Sight in December 2020. I look forward to seeing you there!
Jim Hamajima is president of SEMI Japan.