LONDON – ARM CEO Warren East is not concerned that Intel Corp. is developing a lead in process technology over the foundries that ARM licensees usually deal with. This is despite the fact that FinFET technology for ARM processors may not be in volume production until the second-half of 2015, according to foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
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The use of FinFETs, where transistors stick up above the wafer surface, is considered to offer improved performance of transistors and to reduce leakage current in the off-state. Intel is already manufacturing in volume using in a 22-nm FinFET CMOS process while TSMC is attempting to ramp up planar 28-nm CMOS for is customers.
Nonetheless East told EE Times that ARM and TSMC together lead Intel in the system-on-chip (SoC) technologies where they compete with Intel. "We are concerned about integrated SoC. For SoC Intel is manufacturing using 32-nm high-k metal gate planar CMOS. TSMC is manufacturing using 28-nm high-k metal gate. That doesn't sound like a massive lead to me. If anything you could argue that TSMC is ahead."
East said that Intel's 22-nm FinFET is being used for high-volume PC chips but it would be no easy matter to make an SoC device with an extensive range of peripheral circuits in that process.
Intel has smartphone and tablet computer designs based on its Atom-based 32-nm Medfield processor. Intel is expected to manufacture its Atom low-power processor in the 22-nm FinFET CMOS process in 2013 in an architecture called Silvermont. Merrifield could be a 22-nm FinFET implementation for high-end smartphones.
With regard to the 16-nm FinFET process from TSMC and a 20-nm FinFET process from UMC East said: "It's hard to say exactly when it [FinFET for ARM] is going to arrive."
ARM processor cores are also supported on a 28-nm fully depleted SOI (FDSOI) process developed by STMicroelectronics NV and being transferred to foundry GlobalFoundries Inc. (Milpitas, Calif.) that is expected to subsequently shrink to 20-nm.
Related links and articles:
Intel rewrites Atom road map
Intel tips Medfield specs, Lenovo, Motorola deals
ARM, TSMC sign deal to ease FinFET process introduction
UMC licenses IBM technology for 20-nm FinFETs
ST opens up 28-nm, 20-nm FDSOI with GlobalFoundries
Ecosystem emerges around new mobile chip tech