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Biotech Hardware

The Birth of Semiconductor 2.0 89

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the printing-your-hardware dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "According to several articles in the press, an Austrian company has opened a new chip printing factory. But there is a twist. The chips produced by this factory, dubbed Semiconductor 2.0 by the company, will be organic semiconductors, and will be produced by inkjet printers. According to the company, the new factory will be able to produce 40,000 square meters of semiconductors per year, mainly for the biotech, clean tech, and defense industries."
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The Birth of Semiconductor 2.0

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  • by 26199 (577806) * on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:54PM (#18354803) Homepage

    The feature size (10-100 micrometres) is 100-2000 times what you'll get from a modern silicon fab plant (50-100 nanometres). Call it 1000 times for the sake of argument. So for every organic transistor you could instead have 1,000,000 in silicon. It's not exactly going to be a revolution in processing power. (In fact it puts us back in the early 60s).

    The market is apparently cheap, disposable logic. From the sound of it, the fab plants are about 100 times cheaper for the same chip-area/year output. That means each transistor will be up to 10,000 times more expensive; it's going to have to be very simple logic to be cost-effective.

    The process sounds like it could be well suited to doing small runs, so I suppose that's something.

    Ah well. I will go on record as saying that this is not hugely exciting. When in 50 years' time organic semiconductors have taken over you can all mock me as appropriate :)

    • by MITEgghead (570541) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @05:11PM (#18355013)
      There are actually cases when you want one cheap big transistor as opposed to a million tiny ones. For instance, if you have a display, also made of organics, with pixels around a millimeter then you can manufacture driving circuits on the same substrate even directly below the pixel. This keeps costs low and allows new flexible substrates to be used for mobile applications. Other applications from the article are biotech and military where the transistors would be used as part of real-time biological/chemical detectors which need relatively large areas to pick up enough of the substance to be detected.

      The bottom line is that no one thinks these things are going to be doing heavy-duty logic. But they can certainly do easy logic cheaply and in novel applications.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MobyDisk (75490)
      When I was taking Computer Engineering at University of Maryland, 3 students were allowed to have their chip designs fabricated. We used a 250nm feature size, which was fine for what we were doing. Perhaps something like this could eventually be good enough that every student could have their chip fabricated. The larger feature size would be sufficient for a learning excercise. 10 micrometers does seem kinda big, but if the wafer is larger, it might still be good enough for academics.
    • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @05:29PM (#18355213) Homepage Journal
      If you RTA or if, say, the people who modded you up to +5 had RTA, you'd see why feature size is terribly unimportant.

      Fuckin' Slashdot.
      • by 26199 (577806) *

        I did read the article. I was just pointing out that the headline+summary are pretty misleading; this is not even trying to be a silicon replacement.

        • by QuantumG (50515) *
          Seems to me the headline and summary were provided by the company, via the article.. your interpretation may have been that they were trying to replace current microprocessors in all the various markets of which microprocessors are sold, but that certainly isn't what the summary or the article says. You're just arguing with yourself.
    • It's not exactly going to be a revolution in processing power. (In fact it puts us back in the early 60s).


      Well, considering that silicon semiconductors must be somewhere around "Semiconductor 10.0" or so by now, calling something that reminds us of the early 60s "2.0" seems all right to me...

    • by Brigadier (12956)


      the idea of degradable logic is pretty enticing for the military. Say you have a spy drone which is down in enemy territory. it woul d be nice to be able to destroy it relatively easy. ie being able to protect technology.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        the idea of degradable logic is pretty enticing for the military.

        This isn't news, our military has been using degraded logic for years.
    • by ericrost (1049312)
      Except you're assuming that the cost to PRODUCE the transistor is the same per fab. The operating costs of inkjet printers are far lower than the sputtering chambers, CMP equipment, lithography equipment, doping equipment, and any of the other high power, high cost materials that go into operating a traditional semiconductor fab. (I've worked in them for years)
    • by hartz (731979)
      So if you accidentally pipe a binary file to the semiconductor-squirting inkjet printer and lightning strikes at the right moment, does the printer produce a self-aware circuit? Need more input......
  • injet (Score:3, Funny)

    by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:55PM (#18354813) Homepage
    Inkjet printers? Man they are going to be expensive.
    • yeah and imagine a leaky refill...
    • by ArcherB (796902) *
      Inkjet printers? Man they are going to be expensive.

      Not if they go to InkSell.com [inksell.com]. Well, that or they could start their own squid farm.

      (for those who don't get the squid bit, inksell has the most anoying commercials in the world. One has a girl that tells about her favorite pet saying that it is her squid "Inky. Dad says it's the only way we can afford ink refills". Another has a guy trying to save his office money by having a squid farm to produce ink. The nasal sounding secretary is whining because a
    • You will never be modded up with a delivery like that. You need an unexpected twist. For example:

      Organic circuits will create a groundswell of competition. The manufacturing plants are so inexpensive that they will be sprouting up everywhere; especially since it will likely be cheaper to build them new than to re-fill the ink cartridges.
    • by luder (923306) *
      Yeah, by the time their ink runs out it will be cheaper to buy a new factory instead of more ink...
  • by StefanJ (88986) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @04:59PM (#18354855) Homepage Journal
    . . . will go to the folks who supply the ink cartridges.

    Seriously, this is good news. Cheap, low performance electronics could play a big role in "leapfrogging" in the developing world. Going straight from low-tech to whoa!-tech, leaving out the capital and infrastructure intensive middle.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by veganboyjosh (896761)
      not only developing world. i was thinking more along the lines of cheap-o electronics inside cereal boxes, happy meals, etc...a lot of overlap, tho, i'm guessing there is.
    • Why is it that westerners think that the developing world has to start way back in the 1960s and slowly work forwards towards the current time? That thinking is plain ignorance and does nobody any service. It is highly disrespectful of the industries that are blooming in developing countries. It also give the westerners a false sense of superiority/security: "Bah! Don't worry about them. Their technology is still stuck in 1963." One day you'll wake up and start whining because your job went to India/China/R
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @05:52PM (#18355497) Homepage Journal

        Why is it that westerners think that the developing world has to start way back in the 1960


        Have you ever been to a "developing" nation? Many of them are "starting" way before "1963". The technological revolution in Europe and the West came after most of the residents of those regions were reasonably well-fed, healthy, had some plumbing, indoor refrigeration for food, etc. That is not the case in much of the "developing" world. I was in Tanzania a few years ago, and traveled through some of the countries along the Western coast of Southern Africa a few years before that. I've been to Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and have seen much of Central America. They wish they had 1963 technology in many of those places.

        It's not about the level of technology, it's about how widespread it is among the population. Believe me when I tell you that just because the friends of the Prime Minister all have Mercedes, iPods, satellite phones and Playstations does not mean that their country has technology.

        And just because the gluttonous creeps who run global corporations decide to set up factories or call centers or even code farms CERTAINLY doesn't mean that those countries have any technology. It just means that there's someone so despicable that they'd suck what little wealth is in those countries for themselves and their shareholders while taking advantage of the fact that the life expectancy is 49 so they won't have to worry about paying retirement benefits.

        I wish I could write vividly enough to express how disgusting the exploitation of the "developing world" by global corporations is and how badly it's misusing the people in those places. And remember, once they can drive down the middle class here in the US so that Americans will accept those wages, they'll deign to come back here, but only after we promise never to utter the word "union" or "collective bargaining" again.

        Strangely, what computers are in those countries mostly seem to be running Windows. Hmmm.
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by mobby_6kl (668092)

          I wish I could write vividly enough to express how disgusting the exploitation of the "developing world" by global corporations is and how badly it's misusing the people in those places.
          You don't really need to, this topic has been done to death by hippies countless times over by now.
        • It just means that there's someone so despicable that they'd suck what little wealth is in those countries for themselves and their shareholders while taking advantage of the fact that the life expectancy is 49 so they won't have to worry about paying retirement benefits.
          agreed. see appropriately named [bbc.co.uk]
    • Sure dude... we were all looking for whoa! tech... time to upgrade!!!
  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary&yahoo,com> on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @05:02PM (#18354893) Journal
    2.0 is so 1.0 these days, isn't it time to move on to 3.0 yet?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Oh look! It is Roland Piquepaille providing another link to his ad filled blog. FUCK OFF Roland Piquepaille! We don't like you!

    Oh wait. Never mind.
    • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @05:35PM (#18355313)

      Oh wait. Never mind.
      Exactly. I think he deserves a little credit for turning over a new leaf. He's not the click-whore of old, and like him or not, he always did have a talent for finding stories that appealed to the /. crowd. I used to hate him, but these days, I have more tolerance for him than I do for Zonk.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        Ever since he stopped making posts that were basically a crap summary of a lousy blog post that contains a bunch of weblinks, he's been not entirely unuseful. Most of his content is even interesting. In fact, I wouldn't even have minded him sending people to his blog to try to make money if only there had been some value added. He is no longer doing that, so he need not add value - since he's not adding a pain in my ass by making me visit his stupid blog.
    • Oh look! It is Roland Piquepaille providing another link to his ad filled blog. FUCK OFF Roland Piquepaille! We don't like you!

      You actually look at who submitted the story? Why?

  • by vrmlguy (120854) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [esywmas]> on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @05:17PM (#18355085) Homepage Journal
    ...that you can wear!!!
    • Never mind wear, how about tatoos?
    • Now if these chips can be safely supported and powered by my organic self, that might be something truely interesting. A chip that can allow me to turn on the OLEDs in my hand, all powered by oxygen and gluecose would be quite interesting. The super downside? Powered organic RFIDs.
    • ...or one that you can eat!
      • ...or one that you can eat!
        it's organic, perhaps it'll eat you. or is that the 3.0 version that they're only releasing in Soviet Russia?
  • Now with OLED's i can order electronic food, display the picture in my OLED display and eat it.
    Simple.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    FINALLY, I'll have something to run my web2.0 on.
  • ...the term "printed circuit," doesn't it? :o)

    --Tomas
    • by adtifyj (868717)
      Not really; it just brings back memories of a time when circuit boards were "printed" using photoengraving.
  • FTA: "the company has also formed alliances with water testing companies and other industrial concerns"

    "The meter is showing that there's ink in the water, sir."

    "Good thing we had Nanoident semiconductors; better order some more."
  • by nick_davison (217681) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @06:04PM (#18355655)

    According to the company, the new factory will be able to produce 40,000 square meters of semiconductors per year.
    Given that the whole goal of semiconductors has been to make them smaller and smaller, boasting about how much area you can use up isn't necessarily a good thing.

    It's worse when you consider this tech is roughly micrometers to silicon's nanometers. 10^3x10^3 means you're looking at a millionth the area utilization of silicon. Divide 40,000 by a million and you're looking at the equivalent of 0.04 square meters of silicon or roughly that of a single 12" wafer. A whole factory to produce the equivalent of one silicon wafer a year? Not such a great boast.

    Yeah, I'm sure I've got meters squared and square meters confused, messed up an area calculation or somesuch... But you get the idea.
    • Given that the whole goal of semiconductors has been to make them smaller and smaller, boasting about how much area you can use up isn't necessarily a good thing.

      What if you want things big, like Big Screen TV's? Of if it doesn't matter how dense things are (at semiconductor sizes), like DNA chips, but cost per unit is the most important factor?

      This obviously isn't good for making CPU's, but where size isn't important or large is the goal - those would appear to be the addressed niches.
    • Maybe, if they're really successful at miniaturisation, they can move into a smaller factory.

  • No one posted a virus joke about the organic components. I mean its one thing to see something as totally cliche, but for a mass amount of people to think something is so cliche that everyone avoids it, now that's something.
  • Why can't I get these orgasmic semiconductors printed directly on me? Or on the GF and save me some time?
  • But consider a company the bit in the article regarding one-time use applications could be a gold mine. Think food safety and "biosecurity" -- I'm seeing biochem companies jumping all over this.
  • by treeves (963993) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @06:53PM (#18356205) Homepage Journal
    meters are used as the measure of production, rather than #transistors or some other more meaningful measure. Hiding the fact that 1 sq cm only has 1000 transistors instead of 1,000,000?
  • by 7Prime (871679) on Wednesday March 14, 2007 @08:30PM (#18357085) Homepage Journal
    I can just imagine 20 years from now:

    "Congradulations! You have just downloaded a new video card. Print video card? [Yes] [Cancel]"
  • Organic semiconductor technology is for the low end application. The fast is for large-scale application such as solar cell. Nowadays crystalline silicon semiconductor tech cannot meet the demand, and amorphous silicon tech is so expensive, but organic solar cell efficient is low (5~6%). The second is for easy disposed application such as smart labels especially for 13.56MHz RFID tig. IMEC demonstrated organic diode that approached 50MHz at the year 2005, and Philip showed the fast 13.56MHz organic RFID tig
  • Most companies have to worry about depreciation when they can't keep their fabs running at capacity.

    So does this one need to worry about the ink cartridges drying out? Moreover, how soon before their cartridges start shutting themselves off claiming they've "expired"?
  • Man, I hope that Staples will still give me $3 off when I bring in my empty ink cartridge - I'm not looking forward to paying a few thousand to refill my Semiconductor printer!
  • Produced without artificial pesticides and antibiotics. Raised on open ranges with loving care and professionally slaughtered by vegetarians. No genetic modifications.

    We care.

  • The size limits the number of useful applications for now but that will improve. What concerns me is that this will be used to produce consumer products with a limited shelf life.

He who steps on others to reach the top has good balance.

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