GloFo, Samsung in race to 14 nm
2/6/2013 5:00 AM EST
Race to 14-nm FinFETs
Meanwhile a race to next-gen node continues. To accelerate progress the Common Platform partners agreed that starting this year technology developed at the group’s Albany, New York, facility will be directly transferred to partners. Previously it went first to IBM’s Yorktown, New York fab, then to partners.
“We just eliminated a step to market,” said IBM’s Patton.
Globalfoundries and Samsung are both running test shuttles this year for 14 nm with FinFETs. Both aim to have their first production wafers out by the end of the year if all goes well.
Globalfoundries reported more than 60 percent improvements in power or performance at 14 nm compared to 28 nm, based on a test chip using a dual-core ARM Cortex A9. In addition, it is working with Synopsys on an EDA flow and with Rambus on migrating 28 nm IP to the new node.
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Globalfoundries says a dual-core A9 test chip showed 14 nm gives 60%+ boost over 28 nm.
K.H. Kim, executive vice president of Samsung's foundry business, said the company will run 14 nm test shuttles for select customers in April and September. It has 14 nm IP partnerships with ARM, Synopsys and Analog Bits.
Meanwhile, Samsung is converting its Austin, Texas fab from memory to logic, expecting the first 28 nm wafers from it this year. It also will produce 20 and 14 nm wafers starting as early as the end of 2014 in a new fab in Korea.
“We will have enough capacity to serve you,” Kim told attendees in a keynote.
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Samsung readies two 14 nm shuttles this year with hopes for production wafers before January.
It’s not clear how much chip designers will demand the 14 nm FinFET process which carries significant costs and marginal advantages over a coming 20 nm node.
The 20 nm node is the first to require double patterning, a cost adder. The 14 nm node is essentially a 20 nm process with FinFETs, another cost, said IBM’s Patton.
“It’s not a true shrink, but when you get to 10 nm it is a true shrink and I expect significant cost benefits,” Patton said. “Is there still a cost benefit [with 14 nm]? Absolutely, it just won’t be as large as it was historically,” he added.
“We believe 28 nm will be a very long node, a very cost competitive solution,” said Kim.
Market watcher Handel Jones of International Business Strategies (Los Gatos, Calif.) said FinFETs present real challenges for mixed-signal designs, potentially delaying the node’s ramp.
Nevertheless, he said Globalfoundries and Samsung have a significant opportunity to grab market share from TSMC. In addition, IBM’s Burlington fab is doing “extremely well” in RF, he added.