NEW YORK — In a move that looks to broaden the adoption of 28nm technology for smartphones, tablets, and high-performance SoC designs, ARM has entered a patent partnership with SMIC, China's largest semiconductor foundry. The deal is designed to help the two companies share more intellectual property.
ARM will offer its physical IP platform for SMIC's 28nm poly SiON process for SoC designs, which seeks to strike a balance between high performance and low power. ARM also plans to offer a broad range of IP for consumer applications and for booming mobile segments, such as tablets and smartphones. In return, SMIC will offer ARM's Artisan IP and the SoCs derived from the process.
"SMIC is pleased to offer access to the popular ARM Artisan standard cells and next-generation memory compilers," Tianshen Tang, senior vice president of SMIC's Design Service Center, said in a Feb. 9 press release. "Strengthening our collaboration with ARM enables optimized implementation of cost- and power-sensitive SoCs for our customers."
ARM sees a way to extend its platform in a new direction and an opportunity to implement the technology at SMIC's foundries. "ARM Artisan standard cells and memory compilers deliver the features, quality and rigorous silicon validation that customers demand to achieve fast time-to-market," Dipesh Patel, executive vice president and general manager for ARM's physical design group, said in the release. "Extending our collaboration with SMIC on the 28nm PS process demonstrates ARM's commitment to provide the best SoC implementations at leading foundries."
Walter Keutgens, senior product manager with ARM, told EE Times that the Artisan platform contains logic, memory, and interface, alongside a general-purpose IO. By changing the metal, ARM can fix small problems on SoCs. Keutgens said that there are different kinds of memory, including single-port and two-port. The GPIO provided by ARM include bidirectional cells which can be used to build the IO ring.
The two companies would not discuss how the partnership and the technology will evolve over time, but Kreutgens said ARM and SMIC have something to gain by sharing intellectual property.
We proposed a physical platform to them. They are going to develop that platform. Since they sponsor us, that platform is free to end users… It consists of the logic, the memory compilers, and the GPIO used to get data on and off the chip. All SoCs need an IO to get signals on and off the chip.
Customers can go to designstart.arm.com to download the IP and use it in their SoC designs, Kreutgens said. Though ARM continues to build and improve upon the 28nm process, the firm is still looking for additional customers and users to move to the newer platform.
Ravi Mahatme, senior product manager at ARM, told us he expects to see "a lot of designs for 28nm for many years."
— Zewde Yeraswork, Associate Editor, EE Times