STMicroelectronics Advances 60 GHz Communications

HPC technologies from Intel and Ansys help STMicroelectronics advance 60 GHz contactless communications.

At a glance:

  • STMicroelectronics creates and manufactures semiconductors that are integrated into electronic devices that enable smarter mobility, more efficient power and energy management, and the wide scale deployment of the Internet of Things and 5G technology.

  • STMicroelectronics meets the challenges of creating and validating millimeter wave devices for close-range wireless communication by using HPE ProLiant servers based on Intel® Xeon® Gold processors on-premises and similarly configured systems in Microsoft Azure cloud.

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Executive Summary

Operating at very high frequencies, millimeter wave devices for close-range wireless communications are complex to create and validate. STMicroelectronics (ST) meets the challenges with HPE ProLiant servers based on Intel® Xeon® Gold processors, on-premises and similarly configured systems in Microsoft Azure cloud.

Ansys HFSS handles ST’s electromagnetic (EM) analysis and simulation requirements for its new product family. Ansys HFSS takes advantage of Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions 512 (Intel® AVX-512) and Intel® oneAPI Math Kernel Library (oneMKL) to keep performance high.

Together, Ansys software and Intel® technology-based infrastructure help ST produce innovative 60 GHz products within schedule requirements. Simulations are completed faster, leaving more time to analyze difficult aspects of the design and helping reduce validation costs.

STMicroelectronics utilizes Ansys HFSS, a 3D electromagnetic (EM) simulation software for high-frequency electronics, to design and validate its 60 GHz contactless communications products.

Challenge

Devices such as STMicroelectronics’ ST60 RF transceiver are opening the door to an exciting world of close-proximity, point-to-point wireless communications.

Operating in the 60 GHz V-band, the ST60 is a low-power product that offers contactless, short-range communications at data transfer speeds of up to 6.25 Gbits/second. 

Using the ST60, smartphones and smart watches can deliver fast data exchange for wireless docking and charging, mobile gaming, and more. Industrial designers can replace short-range and board-to-board Ethernet connections with fast, low-power 60 GHz transceivers, streamlining their designs and avoiding physical cables and connectors. 

ST is an independent silicon and electronics device manufacturer with headquarters in Switzerland and main design centers in France and Italy. The company has more than 100,000 customers, as well as thousands of partners who collaborate to design and build products, solutions, and ecosystems.

STMicroelectronics creates and manufactures semiconductors, which are integrated into electronic devices that enable smarter mobility, more efficient power and energy management, and the wide-scale deployment of the Internet of Things and 5G technology. The ST60 product family covers needs in all the end markets featured above.

Not surprisingly, a new generation of high-frequency antennas brings fresh challenges for the engineers developing them and creating new products that incorporate them.
 
“The very high frequency of 60 GHz means that both environment and variation in the manufacturing process can significantly affect the performance of the antenna,” says Olivier Bayet, a leader in silicon packaging co-design, signal integrity, and power integrity at ST. “We need to ensure the robustness of the antenna design and make sure the package and system elements work together correctly to ensure fast, reliable data transmission.” 

Olivier Bayet’s work focuses on the codesign and integration between the silicon component and its package components, by doing physical and electrical verification of the integrated system. 

“The challenges come from the complexity of integrating the various contributors to the wireless communication system,” he explains. “The antenna and its surroundings are the biggest part. The proximity of radio frequency (RF) and digital processing on a single silicon device is another part. The component and antenna are in close proximity when integrated in a package, and that presents another set of challenges. We need more computer power to solve the challenges of integrating more components in such a small area of the package.” 

ST uses its HPC resources to simulate and analyze the antenna in the same package as the silicon device, as well as the component integration on its board. This work also involves simulating and analyzing thousands of cases to confirm the antenna’s robustness with respect to manufacturing tolerances. 

Time-to-market is a critical consideration. “We want to bring products to market within a shorter development cycle,” Olivier explains. “We need HPC capacity to run all the analysis and simulation within our desired time frame. Without more capacity, several aspects of the robustness analysis would have not been feasible. Other aspects, like the detailed antenna characterization in the whole bandwidth, would have taken too much time compared to our time-to-market plan.” 

Solution 


To provide the performance for its design and validation requirements, ST expanded its on-premises HPC infrastructure, which is based on HPE ProLiant servers with powerful Intel Xeon Gold processors. These processors deliver robust four-socket performance, built-in workload acceleration, and advanced security technologies for cloud and networked clusters. HPE powers innovation through a broad range of HPC solutions, including scale up and scale out platforms, as well as purpose-built storage and software technologies. 
 

“Azure cloud has been a good way for us to take advantage of more systems running in parallel. We have the capacity we need for our critical analysis and simulations, and we don’t have to worry about disrupting other ST workloads.” —Olivier Bayet

“Most of the servers used in this activity have 512 GB of RAM, but some runs require up to 800 GB of RAM per analysis,” Olivier says. “In addition, we couldn’t use all the machines in parallel without impacting other ST workloads. We needed more capacity to perform the required analysis (CPU and RAM).”

ST upgraded its HPC infrastructure from an 18-core Intel Xeon Gold processor to a 20-core Intel Xeon Gold processor. The company gained additional capacity through Microsoft Azure, creating the ability to burst into the cloud when the load on its on-premises compute farm got too high. The engineering team accesses dedicated resources in the Azure cloud, and the machines are configured with the same Intel technologies and Ansys HFSS software as the on-premises systems. 

“Azure cloud has been a good way for us to take advantage of more systems running in parallel,” says Olivier. “We have the capacity we need for our critical analysis and simulations, and we don’t have to worry about disrupting other ST workloads.” 

Olivier says having Intel hardware and Ansys software in the cloud and on-premises helped ease the switch between the two environments. Ansys HFSS is a leading package for designing and simulating high-frequency electronic products, including antennas. It is one of the many Ansys engineering simulation software packages used by engineering teams across ST. 

Ansys works closely with Intel to optimize performance on Intel technologies, and the company’s simulation software takes advantage of the growing capabilities of each generation of Intel Xeon Scalable processors. Ansys software uses Intel AVX-512 and oneMKL to optimize efficiency and performance for a wide range of users. 

“With Intel and Microsoft Azure, Ansys helps customers turn their design concepts into successful, innovative products,” says Wim Slagter, strategic partnerships director at Ansys. “Ansys HFSS simulation software running on Intel Xeon Scalable processors and taking advantage of Intel AVX-512 and oneMKL can save weeks of development time while increasing design robustness. Running simulation applications faster also means more time to iterate and improve designs, as well as reduced time to market.” 

Results 

Upgrading its Intel Xeon Scalable processors and adding Azure’s elastic capacity have produced dramatic speedups that helped ST launch its 60 GHz products in the expected time frame. 

“With our Intel-based HPC and the performances increases of the last few years, we have been able to perform analyses that would not have been feasible before,” Olivier explains. “We can analyze the robustness of a millimeter wave component with an integrated 60 GHz antenna. We can perform channel characterization of a millimeter wave system with the antenna integrated in the component package and the board on which the component is mounted.” 

The analysis and simulation workflow runs significantly faster now. “An analysis of 512 cases that would have taken five days in June 2020, can now be done in two days,” says Olivier. “An analysis of 6,561 cases that previously took 11 days is now finished in less than a week.”1

Taking advantage of its expanded capacity and enhanced performance, Olivier Bayet’s team redesigned its workflow to perform more analysis and simulation during the design phase. This move shortens the development cycle and reduces the number of cases to analyze during the product validation phase. It lowers costs by reducing the number of required samples. And it identifies areas that may need further focus once physical samples are in hand.
 
This streamlined development process also helps heads off manufacturing tolerance errors. It contributes to a more reliable product that maximizes data transfer rates and minimizes power consumption. 

Those characteristics make ST’s 60 GHz V-band family a winner for STMicroelectronics, design partners, and customers who are eager to explore the world of next-generation wireless. 

Product and Performance Information

1Current HPE ProLiant server configuration is based on the HP DL360 Generation 10 rack servers equipped with Intel Xeon Gold 6242 3.1 GHz processors, 40 cores with 292 machines available. Previous CPU setup included Intel Xeon Gold 6254, 36 cores with 210 machines available; there were multiple changes from the beginning to the end of this work that enabled this performance, including changing tool versions, hardware setup, tool setup and more. STMicroelectronics notes that when submitting a job on the compute farm, it can start on any type of machines which is why jobs are often using both types at the same time. Data provided by STMicroelectronics.