SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Globalfoundries and Samsung are in a dead heat to get their first 14 nm production wafers out before the end of the year, aiming to beat rival Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. by as much as a year. Meanwhile, an IBM building in New York sits empty, waiting for an extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machine to light the way to the industry’s longer-term future.
That was the picture from the annual event here of the trio’s Common Platform alliance.
The companies said they now expect EUV will not be ready until the 7-nm node. It remains their primary bet on the future of chip making, but it will require advances in physics on several fronts to succeed, said a top IBM technologist.
“We’re in the most complex business in the history of human kind,” said Mike Noonen, vice president and marketing at sales at Globalfoundries.
Mike Cadigan, head of IBM’s semiconductor group, told New York state officials he needed before the end of 2012 a new building to house the latest EUV prototype tool. Now the building is complete, but the tool may not arrive until April or later.
“The industry voted [with investments in 2012] that we need to make this work, but there continues to be a lot of unknowns,” Cadigan told press. “You can continue to view EUV as next to impossible, but the industry needs it,” he said.
Developers improved the strength of EUV’s laser light tenfold to 30W, but they still need to improve it another tenfold to 250W before it is ready, said Gary Patton, a chief technologist in IBM’s chip group.
In addition, engineers need to eliminate problems in resists, mask defects and inspection processes. Patton compared that to searching for golf balls in an area as large as one tenth of the state of California.
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IBM detailed physics challenges ahead for EUV.
“You actually drop molten tin at 150 mph, zap it with a laser, blast it with a CO2 laser to generate plasma, eliminate the debris from that, collect the light, purify and then bounce it back and forth off six mirrors,” he said. “These are real physics problems we have to solve,” he added.
Patton described several advances in double patterning that aim to at least reduce the need for triple or quad patterning with today’s immersion lithography at 14 and 10 nm nodes. Those tools could also be used at the 7-nm node if needed, he said.
Cadigan and Noonen suggested the fully depleted silicon-on-insulator technology promoted by STMicroelectronics could form another alternative. Globalfoundries aims to have volume production of FD-SOI before June 2014, Noonen said.
EUV also gates the move to 450 mm wafers, now expected about 2020, said IBM’s Cadigan. “With immersion you are challenged on the return on investment in 450 mm,” he said.
Scalability of the planer bulk technology ends at 28nm because world major foundries; TSMC, Samsung, GlobalFoundries, and UMC all get on to Intel’s FinFET bandwagon after falling behind Intel. They all plan to introduce FDFinFETs at 14nm node in 2014, skipping the 22nm, at the same time of Intel’s 14nm introduction. The foundries schedule looks unrealistic, and planed aggressively not to behind falling too far behind Intel. It leaves IBM being the only major company adopting FDSOI scaled to 10nm. For 22nm FDSOI about 6nm SOI thickness is required to suppress transistor leakage current, while for 22nm FDFinFET the fin width as large as 22nm is required to suppress the transistor leakage current. In my opinion that is the main reason why Intel’s 22nm FinFETs are in high volume manufacturing today for more than a year, but 22nm FDSOI is not. For 14nm FDSOI about 4nm SOI is required while for 14nm FinFETs the fin width as large as 14nm is required to suppress transistor leakage currents. Thus, FDFinFETs show large advantages in manufacturability as transistor is scaled. Soitec can deliver today only the 28nm SOI wafers with 12nm SOI and 25nm buried oxide. Skim
Some of us have been saying for years that the pursuit of x-ray lithography, whether hard x-ray (~1nm) or soft x-ray (~13nm), a.k.a. EUV, was a supreme waste of millions of man-hours and billions of dollars. There were source/mask/resist issues 25 years ago, and there are source/mask/resist issues today. The pursuit of shiny penny alternatives continued, each of them with source, mask, and/or resist issues. The latest distraction is direct self-assembly. Good luck with that. Meanwhile, the choice was clear: shut down Moore's Law and its replenishable pot of gold, or extend optical. If optical was to be extended beyond what most folks thought possible, it would be essential to integrate design and manufacturing, which would result is the re-integration of the disaggregated semiconductor industry, and consequently, the ultimate supremacy of the old-fashioned IDM. Wonder if EUV/x-ray will be ready at 500 angstroms? Let's see: how large will the OPC features be. Or is that XPC?
I would say that there are several more customers. People are willing to pay for advances in consumer and industrial electronics, but more products will become commodities with only software and firmware to provide differentiation. Many cell phone designs are already starting to look and feel similar to each other. I would not be surprised though to see people sneak in a special 28nm chip for example into their designs for some hardware customization for say a 8 inch or larger tablet form factor device.