Leading pure-play foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. has announced the existence of three reference design flows for FinFET and 3D-stacked ICs that have been taken to silicon. The silicon validation of these flows signifies the opening up of the manufacturing processes for the design of production volume chips.
Intel was the pioneer of the FinFET in commercial production and remains the only company with such a manufacturing process. However, TSMC is reported to have signed to supply Apple with processors on a three-year contract that will include some FinFET production (see TSMC signs up Apple for three-year FinFET deal).
The three TSMC design flows are: a digital design flow for TSMC's 16FinFET process; a custom design flow for 16FinFET that offers transistor-level design of analog, digital, mixed-signal, custom digital and memory; and a 3D-IC flow for the design of vertically stacked structures and multi-die assemblies.
EDA software vendors collaborated with TSMC to develop and validate these design routes using silicon test vehicles, TSMC said in a press release. However, TSMC did not indicate which companies' tools had been proved effective at which stages of the design process.
The 16FinFET digital design flow uses the Cortex-A15 multicore processor, licensed from ARM Holdings plc, as its validation vehicle for certification. It helps designers adopt the FinFET by addressing such issues as RC modeling, power-performance-area trade-offs, low-vdd operation, electromigration, and power management.
Integrating multiple components in a single stacked component can provide benefits in terms of physical scaling and power consumption. TSMC's 3D-IC design flow addresses such items as through-transistor-stacking (TTS) technology; through silicon vias (TSVs) plus microbumps, back-side metal routing; and TSV-to-TSV coupling extraction.
"These reference flows give designers immediate access to TSMC's 16FinFET technology and pave the way to 3D-IC Through-Transistor-Stacking (TTS) technology," said Cliff Hou, vice president of R&D at TSMC.