Multi-die systems define the future of semiconductors

Few business leaders, however, are keeping pace with the latest developments in this arena. Multi-die technology is still a mystery to many executives. A recent poll by MIT Technology Review Insights asked business leaders about their understanding of this design strategy—and found that 62% of respondents were uninterested, unaware, or somewhat familiar with the capabilities of this technology.

A few industries that rely on chips should be closely watched: automotive companies, artificial intelligence firms, hyperscale data processing firms, and smart device manufacturers in semiconductor technology, to name a few. But because advanced semiconductors are the foundation of modern businesses, even executives whose jobs don’t directly touch the technology need to worry about chip design trends — including those that define the sector’s next phase.

Why are semiconductors important?

In the year Although the global semiconductor shortage that began in 2020 has proximate causes in natural disasters and geopolitics, the consequences have drawn widespread attention that all industries depend on chips. And pandemic-related ripple effects aside, the state of silicon has been changing for some time. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), which require greater computing power and performance, have overwhelmed traditional systems in recent years.

With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), customers are increasingly expecting intelligence in everything from refrigerators to light bulbs. Creators are responding accordingly. Our poll found that nearly one-third (31%) of business executives plan to upgrade their company’s smart products, and another third (29%) confirmed that they plan to add AI/ML capabilities to their products soon. Only 9 percent of respondents said they are not manufacturing IoT or connected devices.

This type of technology, however, requires strong edge computing and on-device processing, which requires more and more efficient hardware performance. Complicating matters, the cloud data centers that drive this computing revolution are also voracious power users. This is another area where traditional silicon stands out: durability. The cost of producing too much silicon isn’t bad for business – it has an environmental impact. And despite the continued push toward net-zero carbon emissions in the semiconductor supply chain, the industry is not yet on track to meet the emissions standards set by the UN’s 2016 Paris Agreement.

An industry shift to multi-die design may be part of the solution to these challenges. Rather than a single monolithic chip (“System on a Chip”), multi-die designs consist of collections of chips (chiplets or dies) connected in sophisticated packages (“Systems of Chips”), which may include stacking in 3D. Setup for more density. Multi-die system designs are capable of supporting AI/ML emission rates, and can improve silicon yield, reducing waste during chip manufacturing.

As for business use cases for multi-die systems, Patrick Moorhead, founder, CEO and principal analyst at global technology consulting firm Moore Insights and Strategy, notes that these custom designs may soon be a key distinguishing feature for companies looking to stand out. Stand out from the competition. “When a lot of people are looking at custom silicon to differentiate what they bring to the table, that’s what marketers need to look at,” he said. “Chiplets allow smaller companies with smaller wallets to use semiconductors for a distinct competitive advantage.”

Gerry Talbot, a corporate partner at semiconductor company AMD, explores the chiplets’ commercial value for the technology’s widespread use. “i don’t think so. [business leaders] “He’s really excited about the technology itself,” he says, “as far as enabling a unique user experience that helps sell the app and their product.”

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This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It is not written by the MIT Technology Review editorial staff.

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