How Smart Chips Are Enhancing Engineers’ Productivity

With governments around the globe increasing investments in chip manufacturing, AI is transforming the industry.

Written by Ateet Dhawan
Published on May. 21, 2024
How Smart Chips Are Enhancing Engineers’ Productivity
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The semiconductor industry is marked by a relentless drive for innovation, stringent quality standards, cost efficiency and rapid market delivery.

But it has its challenges, as well: escalating design complexities, diminishing feature sizes, surging defect rates and an insatiable demand for novel materials and products. Let’s look at how AI is helping overcoming these obstacles.

How Does AI Improve Chip Manufacturing?

  • AI drastically reduces chip manufacturing costs.
  • Generative AI simplifies manufacturing processes.
  • It streamlines wafer fabrication.
  • It drives sustainability in the industry.

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What Is the State of Chip Manufacturing Today?

To meet the high chip demand, many nations have announced plans to build new semiconductor manufacturing units, with some already in the construction phase.

In a coordinated push to achieve this, the United States is attempting to ramp up semiconductor manufacturing, as it currently only accounts for 12 percent of the world’s modern chip manufacturing capacity.

To catch up with the prominent players, the U.S. government proposed in the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 to invest $52.7 billion in semiconductor manufacturing and research as part of its broader infrastructure plan in the country.

With a looming global investment of approximately $1 trillion earmarked for the industry’s expansion over the coming five years, the stakes have never been higher. Traditional approaches to bolstering supply chain resilience seem increasingly inadequate in this high-stakes arena. 

As the cost of transitioning complex chip designs to cutting-edge nodes skyrockets and the engineering talent gap widens, AI-driven tools are rapidly ascending the priority ladder for semiconductor firms. These tools, soon to become indispensable for chip design, promise to amplify engineers’ productivity.


Algorithms Optimize Costs

Generative AI is optimizing costs through advanced reinforcement learning techniques like Deep Q-Network, or DQN, which uses historical data and reward mechanisms to refine decision-making processes. Simultaneously, Monte Carlo tree search, or MCTS, contributes by enabling AI to meticulously assess various placement options, predicting the most promising outcomes.

These algorithms empower AI to continuously enhance its chip designs by learning from past iterations. This boosts accuracy and efficiency in floor-planning, which is the process of organizing the components of a computer chip, such as processors and memory units, on the semiconductor wafer — like planning the layout of a house.

This meticulous optimization of floor-planning slashes production costs by curtailing the time and resources engineers need for each chip’s design and manufacturing and ensures adherence to stringent quality benchmarks.

Also, generative AI’s analytical capabilities pinpoint areas ripe for cost reduction, either by optimizing production flows or by more judicious material utilization, cementing its role as a pivotal tool in cost effective semiconductor manufacturing.

In fact, the application of AI delivers the most value, at about 40 percent, in optimizing semiconductor manufacturing cost. This sets new benchmarks in quality and speed, scaling AI’s potential to new heights.


AI Streamlines Manufacturing Processes

In the semiconductor industry, scaling AI transcends technological advancement, venturing into supplier network optimization. Generative AI streamlines the Herculean process of sifting through a plethora of documents to craft multi-sourcing strategies.

It also facilitates sourcing from a diverse array of suppliers based on multifaceted criteria like demand, availability and proximity. Plus, AI-powered bots excel in negotiating costs.

By distilling vast volumes of data into coherent insights, generative AI navigates through a labyrinth of extensive contracts, unstructured supplier communications and intricate performance metrics, empowering supply chain professionals.


Generative AI Improves Wafer Fabrication

In the semiconductor industry, scaling AI presents transformative opportunities, particularly in enhancing the robustness of the wafer fabrication process.

This intricate procedure transforms a non-conducive silicon wafer into a substrate brimming with identical integrated circuits through stages like oxidation, lithography, etching and doping. Each phase, however, has the potential for anomalies, compromising the chip’s integrity.

Enter generative AI. Unlike traditional methods that rely on labeled data, generative AI, integrated with advanced imaging techniques, promises a leap in anomaly identification, amplifying defect detection rates.

This mirrors successes from the logistics sector, where AI has revolutionized picking routes, delivery frameworks and cost structures. Using insights from logistics, the semiconductor industry can anticipate a similar renaissance. 

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Smart Chips Cut Carbon Emissions

In the face of growing environmental concerns, generative AI to is ushering in a new era of sustainability. This technology is pivotal in reducing the sector’s considerable CO2 emissions by optimizing energy use and predicting demand, preventing excess consumption.

Additionally, generative AI drives the development of energy-efficient chip designs and streamlines supply chains, further minimizing environmental impact. Its role in advancing carbon capture technologies represents a crucial stride towards reducing atmospheric CO2.

As a result, generative AI addresses the immediate challenges of sustainability and sets the foundation for a greener, more sustainable future in semiconductor manufacturing.


A Pivotal Moment

Integrating generative AI into the semiconductor industry promises unparalleled efficiency, innovation and sustainability.

As we navigate the challenges and harness AI’s potential, we’re at a pivotal moment of redefining the overall landscape.

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