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.
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.
At the end of this article, Peter notes, "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."
There was some dicussion in the comments here re: multiVT. Thought you might be interested to know what ST has to say about that for its new 28nm FD-SOI ARM-based SOCs:"Planar FD technology allows several methods for setting the threshold voltage VT, including engineering the gate stack work function, trimming the gate length and other process engineering techniques. Thanks to this, STMicroelectronics’ 28FDSOI technology is capable of offering 3 VTs (HVT, RVT, LVT), as in traditional bulk CMOS technologies." (see http://www.advancedsubstratenews.com/2012/04/st-white-paper-excerpts-planar-fully-depleted-silicon-technology-to-design-competitive-soc-at-28nm-and-beyond/)
Also, for a succinct summary of Prof. Fossum's view on SOI for FinFETs (from a few yrs ago, but I believe still valid), see his ASN article http://www.advancedsubstratenews.com/2007/05/a-perspective-on-multi-gate-mosfets/. He concludes:"...the underlying BOX effectively suppresses the source-drain leakage current under the gated fin-body (see the figure). Bulk Si would require heavy doping to suppress this current, as well as to effect reasonable device isolation. But one of our goals with MuGFETs [note: FinFETs are part of the multigate/MuGFET family] is to get away from doping and the random effects it causes: the only pragmatic way to do that is to put the UTB [ultrathin body] FinFET on SOI."