SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) has rolled out its 28-nm process and revealed a surprise: It has pushed out--or delayed--its initial high-k/metal-gate offering until 28-nm, putting it slightly behind its rivals in Chartered, IBM and Samsung. TSMC was originally supposed to have its high-k/metal-gate offering at the 32-nm node.
Silicon foundry giant TSMC (Hsinchu, Taiwan) also provided details of its yet-to-be-introduced 32-nm process. The 32-nm process is a cost-down version of its 40-nm technology, while 28-nm is considered by TSMC as a ''full-node'' offering. As expected, both the 32- and 28-nm processes make use of 193-nm immersion lithography, copper-interconnects, ultra low-k dielectrics, strained-silicon and other features.
At 28-nm, TSMC plans to offer two separate options for the gate stack: conventional silicon oxynitride (SiON) and a newfangled high-k/metal-gate technology. It will offer two 28-nm versions with high-k and metal gates: a low-power and high-performance technology.
But at 32-nm, the company will only offer a SiON for the gate stack, which appears to be a change in direction for TSMC.
Earlier this year, TSMC CEO Rick Tsai vowed that the company would bring out its initial high-k/metal-gate technology at the 32-nm node. Now, TSMC's high-k/metal-gate offering has been pushed out to 28-nm. High-k and metal gates are key building blocks for scaling the critical gate stack, enabling the next-generation transistor.
TSMC declined to comment on the specifics of the technology. Perhaps the Taiwanese company is still developing high-k and is stalling for time. But in any case, TSMC is slightly behind its rivals for the first time in recent memory.
TSMC's first high-k/metal-gate offering is slated for the first quarter of 2010. In comparison, IBM's Corp.'s ''fab club,'' including Chartered, IBM and Samsung, is supposed to ship the technology based on 32-nm feature sizes by the second half of 2009. The other big foundry vendor, Taiwan's United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), has yet to announce its high-k/metal-gate technology.
Singapore's Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Pte. Ltd. has also tipped its 32- and 28-nm processes--both of which have high-k and metal gates. "I would not say we're behind'' the competition, said John Wei, TSMC's senior director of the Advanced Technology Marketing Division.
''During the course of TSMC's advanced technology development, we concluded that we could now offer our customers a full-node 28-nm process with both high-k/metal-gate and silicon oxynitride at the same time as our competitor's 32-nm,'' Wei said.
''TSMC's 32-nm is re-positioned as a cost-down solution for customer 40-nm products and really does not need high-k/metal-gate,'' he said. ''We are offering customer a choice at'' 28-nm.