SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Four companies in IBM Corp.’s ''fab club’’--IBM, Samsung,
GlobalFoundries and STMicroelectronics--said that they are in collaboration to
''synchronize’’ the production of chips, based on its previously-announced,
28-nm low-power process.
The group will begin shipping 28-nm wafers starting by the later part of
2010. IBM’s group has also come out of its shell and launched a subtle verbal
attack on the rival foundry camp, reportedly Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing
Co. Ltd. (TSMC).
The group did not mention TSMC by name, but the Taiwan foundry giant has been
critical of the high-k technology implemented by IBM’s group. IBM’s 28-nm
process is based on a high-k/metal-gate scheme, built around a gate-first
In contrast, TSMC uses the rival gate-last technology in its high-k
technology. Members of IBM’s fab club defended its technology, saying that it’s
superior over competitive offerings.
In any case, leading-edge foundries are rushing to bring their latest and
greatest processes to the market--and for good reason: The IC market is hot and
the outsourcing specialists hope to capitalize on the up cycle. Many of the
foundries have also boosted their capital spending and launched marketing
campaigns to gain mindshare.
At present, leading-edge foundries are shipping their 45-/40-nm processes,
which do not include high-k and metal gates. All are gearing up to ramp their
32- and/or 28-nm processes, which brings the foundries into the high-k era.
In the foundry space, IBM’s fab club, TSMC and UMC have separately announced
28-nm processes based on high-k. IBM’s group and TSMC claim to be the leaders in
To some, IBM’s group is slightly ahead in the foundry space. IBM's ''fab
club,'' which includes IBM, Samsung and GlobalFoundries, first announced its
32-nm process in 2008. Last year, the group announced the 28-nm process. The
club jointly developed the process and high-k technology.
Recently, South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. said its foundry
business has qualified a 32-nm low-power process with high-k/metal-gate
technology. The company lays claim to being the first foundry to ''qualify'' a
high-k/metal-gate technology. Samsung said the bulk process has completed
reliability testing at its 300-mm logic fabrication line in Giheung, South Korea
and, is now ready for production of customer designs.
GlobalFoundries will not ship a 32-nm bulk technology with high-k. Instead,
it will ramp a 32-nm silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology with high-k for a
customer, namely Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Not long ago, AMD spun-off its
manufacturing unit into a new company called GlobalFoundries.
Meanwhile, at 28-nm, IBM, Samsung, GlobalFoundries and ST are collaborating
to synchronize their fabs to roll out the previously-announced 28-nm low-power
process. The synchronization process helps ensure that customers’ chip designs
can be produced at multiple sources in three different continents with no
redesign required, according to the group.
The group is working with ST to develop and standardize the 28-nm process
technology. The low-power, 28-nm process technology is designed for the
next-generation of smart mobile devices, enabling low standby power and longer
In the later part of 2010, IBM will be the first company to ship the 28-nm
process, said Gary Patton, vice president for IBM's Semiconductor Research and
Development Center, during a conference call.
Following IBM, other members of the group will ship wafers starting in the
second half of 2010 and first part of 2011, he said. “IBM has extensive
experience synchronizing multiple fabs, where we match rigorous manufacturing
specifications to critical design parameters,” he added. “ The result is that
our advanced technology can be implemented in many fabs around the world and
produce the same results, providing clients with multiple suppliers for their
Also during the call, IBM’s club defended its high-k technology, which has
taken shots in the media, namely from TSMC. This has created ''FUD (fear,
uncertainty and doubt) about gate-first,’’ said Suresh Venkatesan, vice
president at GlobalFoundries.
Competitors, he said, claim that gate-first is hard to manufacturer and has
''pinning issues'' in threshold voltage (Vt).
On the contrary, he said that gate-first has several advantages over rival
gate-last. First, it enables 10-to-20 percent smaller die sizes, he said.
Second, it is easier to manufacturer, and, contrary to popular belief, there are
no ''Vt pinning issues,’’ he said.