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SiC laser cut boules

Laser-Cutting the Cost of Silicon Carbide Wafers

By Adele Hars

What’s at stake:
Investors are hot on the silicon carbide market, but the high cost of the wafers is an impediment to high volumes. Halo Industries, a startup just coming out of stealth mode, claims it has a solution that saves on the time, cost, and energy required to slice the SiC boules (ingots) into wafers. It’s got a big client and strong funding, but it has an unusual business strategy and is up against some much bigger players. Will Halo be able to scale to high volume fast enough to beat the competition?

Silicon carbide wafers are extremely expensive — anywhere from 20 to 50 times pricier than silicon. The drivers of the cost differential begin at the very beginning, with the weeks that the starting SiC boules spend in furnaces that are almost half as hot as the sun. The inefficiencies mount as the boules are cut with diamond wire saws, wherein up to 40% of the boule ends up as waste (or the more technical term, kerf), in the form of SiC dust lost in the sawing process. Yields are terrible, and the sawing process takes hours per wafer. Andrei Iancu, CEO and founder of Halo Industries, told the Ojo-Yoshida Report that his company’s laser systems are intended to replace saws, virtually eliminating waste and improving yield quality.

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AlphaICs AI accelerator

AlphaICs: How to Stand Out in the AI Startup Crowd

By Junko Yoshida

What’s at stake?
The AI chip market is notoriously crowded, with many startups gunning for a share of the potentially large but highly fragmented edge AI segment. As the competitors court investors and some look down the road to an M&A exit, gaining market traction for an AI chip design will require more than a specsmanship game of “my TOPS are better than your TOPS.”

AlphaICs, an AI fabless chip startup based in Milpitas, California, is sampling an 8-TOPS edge AI inference co-processor that it says provides “the best frames-per-second (fps)/watt performance in the market for classification and detection neural networks.” The company will offer both the chip, called Gluon, and the software stack.

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Straight From the Heart: Startup Celtro Eyes Self-Powered Pacemakers

Straight From the Heart: Startup Celtro Eyes Self-Powered Pacemakers

By Adele Hars

What’s at stake?
The pacemaker envisioned by Celtro is both leadless and battery-free. The company sees a big market opportunity, but there are miles to go to get there. A prototype is three years away.

Every year, about a million people around the world get a pacemaker implant – and every single one of those implants is battery powered. Celtro, an early-stage startup in Dresden, Germany, aims to create a new generation of pacemakers that run on energy harvested continuously and directly from the biochemical reactions that produce energy in cardiac cells.  Following Celtro’s recently announced seed-funding round, the Ojo-Yoshida Report had the opportunity to speak with the CEO, Gerd Teepe.

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Farm Drones Going Hog Wild

Farm Drones Going Hog Wild

By Junko Yoshida

Drones are coming to the farm, hot above the heels of marauding wild boars.

With the explosive growth of feral hog populations that wreak havoc on crops and fields, farmers worldwide are suffering a significant uptick in crop loss.

Stepping to the front lines in this agricultural clash is Sara Nozkova, CEO and cofounder of Flox Robotics, a drone startup based in Sweden.

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EV Battery Cost/Performance Race

EV Battery Cost/Performance Race: Place Your Bets

By Jennifer Baljko (additional reporting by Junko Yoshida)

What’s at stake?
Because EV market success hinges on the cost/performance of the battery, everybody wants in on the evolving EV battery ecosystem. Nanoramic is one of the companies trying to crack the battery supply chain while the myriad factors determining optimal battery cost/performance — chemistries, binders, production equipment — remain in flux. Nanoramic argues that the lingering uncertainty about what the optimal EV battery will look like gives its chemistry-agnostic binder technology an edge. But for now, the only sure thing is that whoever picks the winning battery formula wins the EV race.

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With HD Radar, Arbe Robotics Pits Price vs. Pride

With HD Radar, Arbe Robotics Pits Price vs. Pride

By Junko Yoshida (additional reporting by Jenn Baljko)

What’s at stake?
Arbe Robotics, a 2015 Israeli startup that went public this month through a SPAC (special-purpose acquisition team), seemed to have a lot going for it in recent years. Today, it might be at a crossroads. Arbe’s overreliance on its very-high-performance 4D imaging radar could deter it from securing a spot in a more immediate automotive market, one where Tier 1s demand designs that rely on “good enough” solutions.

Read More »With HD Radar, Arbe Robotics Pits Price vs. Pride