Globalfoundries’ FDSOI processes target IoT, Wearables

Globalfoundries’ FDSOI processes target IoT, Wearables

Globalfoundries Inc. has announced that it is offering a fully depleted silicon-on-insulator (FD-SOI) manufacturing platform with a nominal 22nm minimum geometry design rule that can operate down to 0.4V.
By eeNews Europe


Globalfoundries (Santa Clara, Calif.) claims its 22FDX platform delivers FinFET-like performance and energy-efficiency at a cost comparable to 28nm planar technologies. It will be a boon to the mainstream of applications that do not require the high performance and high cost of leading edge in digital ICs and in particular will benefit power- sensitive applications in wearable equipment and the Internet of Things (IoT), the company said

The 22FDX platform includes four differently optimized manufacturing processes that span a range of applications from entry and mid-tier mobile SoCs to IoT, RF and networking. The FDSOI process allows the use of back-biasing voltages, which means that transistor characteristics can be put under software control. This, in turn, allows real-time trade-offs between static power consumption, dynamic power consumption and performance, the company said.

The four manufacturing variants under Globalfoundries 22FDX banner are: ULP, UHP, ULL and RFA covering different variations on low power, high performance, low leakage and analog performance at radio frequencies.

Across these various corner cases the platform operates down to 0.4V and can offer a 20 percent smaller die size requiring 10 fewer lithography photomasks than a 28nm planar CMOS process, Globalfoundries claims. Compared with a foundry FinFET process it requires only half the immersion lithography layers. As power consumption scales with the square of voltage operating down to 0.4V can produce considerably lower power consumption and greater power efficiency than conventional operation at around 1V.

The FD-SOI manufacturing process originated in research at IBM and was developed into a commercial process by STMicroelectronics NV (Geneva, Switzerland) ST has in turn licensed its FD-SOI intellectual property to foundry manufacturers Samsung and Globalfoundries.

Next: transistors under software control

"In an industry first, 22FDX provides real-time system software control of transistor characteristics: the system designer can dynamically balance power, performance, and leakage. Additionally, for RF and analog integration, the platform delivers best scaling combined with highest energy efficiency," said Sanjay Jha, CEO of Globalfoundries in a statement.

Sanjay Jha, CEO of Globalfoundries.

"Globalfoundries’ FDX platform, using an advanced FD-SOI transistor architecture developed through our long-standing research partnership, confirms and strengthens the momentum of this technology by expanding the ecosystem and assuring a source of high-volume supply," said Jean-Marc Chery, chief operating officer of STMicroelectronics, in the same statement.

Globalfoundries is launching the 22FDX platform at its wafer fab in Dresden, Germany, where the company plans to run the processes. It claims to have spent $250 million to develop the technology and on initial 22FDX manufacturing capacity. Globalfoundries said it plans to make further investments to support additional customer demand but did not indicate how much or how soon.

Globalfoundries’ involvement with FD-SOI dates back to June 2012 when STMicroelectronics NV (Geneva, Switzerland) announced that it had signed up the foundry to be an additional source of devices made using 28- and 20nm FDSOI. However, that second sourcing didn’t materialize and eventually in May 2014 it was revealed that Samsung would offer ST’s 28nm FD-SOI design platform, thus making the process accessible to the broader semiconductor industry.

Although Globalfoundries abandoned its own FinFET process development to second-source the 14nm FinFET process developed by Samsung there are at present no signs that Globalfoundries wants to share its take on FD-SOI with anyone.

However, Globalfoundries did not roll out any new customers for FD-SOI.

Freescale Semiconductor Inc., (Austin, Texas) acknowledged in March 2015 that it’s designing chips with FD-SOI process technology. The company said it plans to use the 28nm FD-SOI process with its iMX7 microprocessors. The company recently launched the first iMX7 processors on 28nm bulk CMOS but was welcoming of the 22FDX process.

"Globalfoundries 22FDX platform is a great addition to the industry which provides a high volume manufacturing extension of FD-SOI beyond 28nm by continuing to scale down for cost and extend capability for power-performance optimization," said Ron Martino vice president of applications processors for Freescale’s MCU group.

Globalfoundries was also able to garner support from processor IP licensor ARM, which has been polite about FDSOI in the past while stressing that when the customer demand is there it will be ready. Will Abbey, general manager of the physical design group at ARM, said: "We are collaborating closely with Globalfoundries to deliver the IP ecosystem needed for customers to benefit from the unique value of 22FDX technology."

Next: More process option detail

Globalfoundries is offering design starter kits and early versions of the process design kits as well as multiproject wafer runs with a view to risk production starting in the second half of 2016. Commercial volume will start in 2016 with a volume ramp taking place in 2017 the company said.

Four FD-SOI processes

22FD-ulp: For the mainstream and low-cost smartphone market, the base ultra-low power offering provides an alternative to FinFET. Through the use of body biasing, 22FD-ulp delivers greater than 70 percent power reduction compared to 0.9V 28nm HKMG, as well as performance equivalent to FinFET. For certain IoT and consumer applications, the platform can operate at 0.4V, delivering up to 90 percent power reduction compared to 28nm HKMG.

22FD-uhp: For networking applications with analog integration, this offering is optimized to achieve the same ultra-high performance capabilities of FinFET while minimizing energy consumption. 22FD-uhp customizations include forward body bias, application optimized metal stacks and support for 0.95V overdrive.

22FD-ull: The ultra-low leakage offering for wearables and IoT delivers the same capabilities of 22FD-ulp, while reducing leakage to as low as 1pA/micron. This combination of low active power, ultra-low leakage, and flexible body biasing can enable a new class of battery-operated wearable devices with an order of magnitude power reduction.

22FD-rfa: The radio frequency analog offering delivers 50 percent lower power at reduced system cost to meet the stringent requirements of high-volume RF applications such as LTE-A cellular transceivers, high order MIMO WiFi combo chips, and millimeter wave radar. The RF active device back gate feature can reduce or eliminate complex compensation circuits in the primary RF signal path, allowing RF designers to extract more of the intrinsic device Ft performance.

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GlobalFoundries’ FD-SOI revolution

Freescale, Cisco, Ciena Give Nod to FD-SOI

Samsung’s fabs to back adoption of ST’s 28nm FD-SOI

Globalfoundries commits to FDSOI process

ST opens up 28-nm, 20-nm FDSOI with GlobalFoundries