LONDON – Foundry United Microelectronics Corp. (Hsinchu, Taiwan) has taped out a first process qualification chip for its 14-nm FinFET manufacturing process with support from Synopsys Inc. (Mountain View, Calif.).
The test chip is an essential first step in calibrating the manufacturing process and generating the IP cores that will be used to design in that process. UMC has previously said it intends to be in production with the 14-nm FinFET process in the second half of 2014.
In recent years UMC has fallen back in the rankings of foundries as such companies as Globalfoundries, Samsung and Intel have entered into competition with market leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. UMC was behind market leader TSMC in offering 28-nm CMOS with high-K metal gate but has entered into an agreement to collaborate on development 14- and 10-nm FinFET process technology with the IBM Technology Development Alliances group.
EDA support is also necessary to allow engineers to design ICs in a timely manner. The test chip was designed using Synopsys' DesignWare logic IP cores and StarRC parasitic extraction software, a part of the Galaxy design flow.
"We selected Synopsys for this important collaboration based on their FinFET experience and expertise as well as their track record of developing high-quality DesignWare IP in the most advanced nodes," said, Arthur Kuo, UMC vice president of corporate marketing, in statement.
The StarRC parasitic extraction tool uses 3-D modeling to model parasitic capacitance and resistance values which enable 14-nm IP developers to optimize their designs for maximum performance and lowest power. The Galaxy design flow is also described as being "FinFET-ready."
Good questions, and I look forward to hearing many answers.
Here are mine:
TSMC is the main source for the fabless world so they already hold the top ranking with the exception of Intel that is the sole source of a FinFET capability today but limited to a few cherry-picked customers. The issue for TSMC is not to lose its position by letting GloFo or others get to the next major semiconductor capabilty before them.
As for chip designers, only a few dozen groups that still do custom IC layout will need to understand and leverage the details of FinFETs. The rest of the chip design crowd will probably just see FinFETs as a term roughly synonomous with an advanced process versus a legacy one. That said, anyone in electronics who follows the underlying semiconductor technology and speifies foundry servcies probably knows and tracks milestones like this one.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.