NXP: the force behind innovation
Contactless payments, connected cars, wearable devices, the Internet of Things – just to name a few applications of NXP’s highly advanced technology. Innovation is what drives NXP, and NXP drives innovation. As the world’s number one supplier of automotive semiconductors and general-purpose microcontroller (MCU) products, the company has a strong focus on secure connectivity solutions. As CEO Rick Clemmer puts it: “We are emerging as the leader in the Secure Connections – and the supporting infrastructure – for the Smarter World domain.” Key industries using NXP’s solutions are automotive, healthcare, security, mobile and wireless technology. Some of the company’s largest clients include Amazon, Apple, Bosch, Continental, Huawei and Samsung.
NXP originates from the Semiconductor Products Division of Philips. In 2010, the company started trading independently on the NASDAQ stock exchange. In December 2015, the merger with US-based Freescale Semiconductors was completed. With combined revenue of over $10 billion, the new company proceeds under the name NXP. Headquartered at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, NXP leads operations in over 35 countries with a total workforce of 45,000 employees.
In the semiconductor industry, major targets in the manufacturing roadmap are called ‘nodes’. The node is named after the smallest spacing between repeated features on a chip (the ‘gate’) along one direction. So if the gate between is 14 nanometers across, that chip meets the 14 nanometer node. That space would be too narrow for most viruses to fit through. The technology used to create these chips is called electron beam lithography. At every scale reduction, it encounters different material behavior and challenges. A team of world-class engineers and experts is dedicated to the quest for the next node.
So far, the progress of reaching new nodes has been dictated by Moore’s Law, although a recent article in Nature explains why the industry is researching alternatives to today’s silicon technology and new predictive models. Expectations are that by the early 2020s, the industry may reach the 2–3 nanometre limit, where features are just ten atoms across. At that scale, electron behavior will be subjected to quantum uncertainties that will make transistors quite unreliable.