SAN JOSE, Calif. – Globalfoundries released more details of its 7nm process, claiming it exceeds targets although it is about six months behind its chief rival, TSMC. It also gave an update on its 7nm ASIC flow and plans to use extreme ultraviolet lithography for limited functions, probably in 2019.
GF’s 7LP process will initially use immersion steppers to pack more than 17 million gates/mm2. It reduces die cost by more than 30 percent based on more than a 50 percent shrink from its 14nm node based on fully laid-out chips. The large shrink is needed to compensate for the need to use triple patterning on some levels.
The node, first announced in September 2016, is now expected to offer more than a 40 percent boost in performance and support up to 17 metal layers. Design kits are available with first customer chips expected to launch in the first half of 2018 and hit volumes late next year.
“We’re open for business on 7nm,” said Gary Patton, GF’s chief technology officer.
Rival TSMC said in March it expected to complete in May the first of about a dozen 7nm tapeouts this year. It expects its process will deliver 3.3x greater routed gate density and either 35 percent more speed or 60 percent less power than the foundry’s 16FF+ node.
At IEDM late last year, Samsung showed 7nm designs sporting FinFETs with 44-48nm contacted polysilicon pitch and 36nm metal pitch. In March, Intel said its 10nm process now in production supports 36nm minimum metal pitches, 34nm fin pitches and 54nm gate pitches and has a density of 100.8 million transistors/mm2.
“We’re not advertising what our pitches are, we are just saying we have a very competitive base 7nm offering,” said Patton. “Our customers have used our PDK to lay out significant amounts of IP and know our density, and we’ve done ground-rule tuning to make sure we’re competitive,” he said.
Samsung said it will use EUV lithography at 7nm, a move that means its node may not be ready until 2019. However it also announced in May plans for an 8nm node and made its foundry a separate business unit, potentially preparing it for a spin out.
Patton said he does not view Intel and Samsung as direct competition. “I see our competition as other pure-play foundries—that’s who we see of interest with our customers,” he said.
TSMC has announced variations of its nodes targeting the needs of different designs such as server, mobile and IoT processors. Patton said GF supports a range of threshold voltages to handle a broad range of chips including IBM’s server processors and mobile devices.
Next page: EUV starts in 2019, improves in 2020