Over the last 18 months one of ST's differentiating technologies has been the decision to go with phase-change memory (PCM) as an embedded memory option for automotive microcontrollers on its 28nm FDSOI process (see ST samples MCU with embedded phase-change memory).
"We are totally steady on that. There is a demonstrator car with MCU and PCM. We are working a lot on the mission profile for the chip, the chip materials. It is much more than promising and we are naturally looking to extend this to secure microcontrollers and general-purpose MCU, particularly where we require AI and lots of memory."
However, ST is not looking to research magnetic RAM, which is a popular alternative for embedded memory at advanced silicon manufacturing nodes (see IEDM: Intel embeds MRAM in FinFET process, ARM backs embedded MRAM on Samsung's FDSOI process, Globalfoundries offers embedded MRAM on 22nm FDSOI).
Chery said that when ST develops technology it does so for reasons of differentiation and competitive advantage. If ST wants to use MRAM it can get this technology from multiple foundries, Chery said. "But we don't want to rely totally on foundry for our MCU business. It would be crazy to follow a me-too strategy. If we want to use MRAM we can do it through foundry. But PCM helps us address the automotive industry and secure microcontrollers."
However, Chery is no doubt also aware that more advanced versions of MRAM under development around the semiconductor industry may yet have an impact on processor architectures by allowing an almost instant pause-and-resume functionality (see ARM, Applied, seek to replace SRAM with MRAM).
Time is always short at electronica so we were allowed one more question: Is China a good region to engage with today?
"Not especially today; but generally, yes. ST's is focused on automotive, industrial, communications infrastructure and China is very pleased to use ST's technology. We use our distribution channel and encourage investment in field application engineers in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Chengdu, all over," Chery said. "And we want to leverage the big OEMs in China." Chery said ST does not want to see tariffs as the result of any US-China trade war and added: "We expect things will be harmonized at some point," he said.
"We have some of the best technologies including 28nm FDSOI, excellent microcontrollers and with PCM coming. I am sure the Chinese will be pleased to adopt them," concluded Chery.
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