PARIS – Will fully depleted silicon on insulator (FDSOI) become a viable alternative to FinFET?
Semiconductor industry insiders have been asking this question for months. FDSOI, is an approach that supposedly delivers the benefits of reduced silicon geometries while enabling a simplification of the manufacturing process.
So far, STMicroelectronics was viewed as the only company tilting at the FDSOI windmill.
That perception, and a lonely market landscape, are about to change.
Since ST last week announced three design wins from its unnamed FDSOI customers, evidence is mounting for the emergence of an FDSOI “ecosystem.” The momentum is slowly but surely building on a global scale, extending from Europe to Japan and China.
Beyond ST, companies on the FDSOI bandwagon today include IBM, GlobalFoundries, design service companies such as VeriSilicon (Shanghai) and unnamed chip companies in Japan.
Of course, it can be argued that today’s emergent industry trend is not the “proof” of how well the finished system using an FDSOI-based processor might function. Rather, it’s evidence for the industry momentum that’s now propelling FDSOI.
But FDSOI at the current 28-nm node, and especially at future nodes like 14 nm, will have far-reaching ramifications in the semiconductor market of the future. As Dan Hutcheson, CEO of VLSI Research Inc., noted, “If FDSOI really does prove to be a competitive advantage at 14 nm, there could be an upset throughout the fabless/foundry supply chain, with GlobalFoundries and its customers coming out on top.”
That, of course, is not a given.
Betting against the semiconductor technology leaders such as Intel Corp. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp., who are throwing a lot of money at FinFETs, is rarely a wise course of action.
Indeed, many chip companies today are still cooling their jets on FDSOI, or at least avoiding public comment. The financial community isn’t exactly pulling for the idea of FDSOI, either. If questions posed at ST’s financial analyst meeting last week in London are any indication, financial analysts were clearly wary of ST, which is not letting go of its manufacturing ambitions and its pursuit of FDSOI technology.
That said, industry/technology analysts are agreed on the following.
“FDSOI is plan B for chip vendors because it is far easier to execute than FinFET,” said VLSI Research’s Hutcheson. “Planar CMOS is likely to have too high a leakage and will need a lot of transistor engineering to overcome its speed and power deficits.”