SAN JOSE, Calif. — Samsung expects to be in production late this year with a 14 nm FinFET process it has developed. GlobalFoundries has licensed the process and will have it in production early next year.
The news puts heat on TSMC, the world's largest chip foundry. The two competitors are just months behind its schedule for a similar 16 nm FinFET process. Missing from the race is IBM, a former partner in the Common Platform with GlobalFoundries and Samsung. It is now reportedly looking to sell off at least part of its semiconductor group.
Samsung qualified its 14 nm process in February and has multiple customer chips in production in hopes of volume shipments by the end of the year. GlobalFoundries will qualify the process this year and provide volume production in early 2015.
The initial 14 LPE process targets early time-to-market products, delivering 20% more performance, 35% less power, and 15% less area than a planar 20 nm process. The two companies plan a follow-up LPP process that will sport 15% better performance than LPE and an undetermined advantage in power.
By contrast, TSMC qualified its 16 nm FinFET process in November, and multiple customer chips now in development are using it. It expects a fivefold or bigger increase in the number of its 14 nm designs in 2015.
A representative of UMC, TSMC's smaller rival in Taiwan, told us it is running test silicon in a 14 nm process with "early PDKs available." Its first customer product tapeouts are expected this year with a production ramp in 2015.
Analysts expect challenges in getting the 16/14 nm processes ready, since this process node is the first to use 3D transistors. Intel is at least four months behind its original plans for its 14nm process, one analyst said. It hopes its second-generation FinFET process will be in production in June.
"IBS is expecting foundry-fabless companies also will experience delays on FinFETs similar to Intel," said Handel Jones, chief executive of the market watcher International Business Strategies Inc. "Also, Intel has experience of FinFETs at 22 nm, and foundry-fabless companies do not have same expertise." He called the Glofo/Samsung deal a win/win for the companies.
IBS expects a significantly longer rampup for the 14/16nm node.
Both Samsung and GlobalFoundries use a single 14 nm process development kit, which is available now. They have also started to explore the possibility of collaborating beyond the process itself, developing common IP blocks and libraries for standard cells, compilers, and I/Os.
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