When I first heard about a foundry possibly licensing FD-SOI I would have bet it was SMIC in China. What better market for a low cost, low power, easy to manufacture alternative to FinFETs? The foundry of course was Samsung which also made complete sense since they have 28nm gate-first capacity that matches up nicely to 28nm FD-SOI. Same thing goes for GlobalFoundries and the Dresden Fab with gate-first 28nm capacity ready to be converted to 22nm FD-SOI.
Instead of taking the short road to FD-SOI, SMIC will take the long road to 14nm FinFETs and in my opinion they will fail miserably yet again. Seriously, how competitive will a first generation 14nm FinFET process be in 2020? Remember, third generation FinFETs will hit the new Nanjing TSMC fab in 2018.
The other bet I lost was on FD-SOI and ARM. For the life of me I have no idea why ARM did not champion FD-SOI from the very beginning. Seriously, what better fit for FD-SOI than ARM IP and IoT? That all changed at the FD-SOI Symposium in San Jose last week. Will Abbey of ARM presented “Realize the Potential of FD-SOI in Growing Markets”with the opening line “An honest confession is good for the soul, but not for the reputation”. The quote originated from Thomas Robert Dewar, 1st Baron Dewar founder of the Scottish whisky distiller by the way.
Will Abbey admitted that ARM had been on the FD-SOI sidelines before presenting data from a skunk works project that had never been seen before. Unfortunately his slides are not on the FD-SOI Symposium website as of yet (hopefully they will be soon) but I did get a picture of the summary slide:
Another presentation worth viewing that is not up yet is “Enabling Next Generation Semiconductor Product Innovations with 22FDX”by Subramani Kengeri, VP CMOS Business Unit, GLOBALFOUNDRIES“. Fortunately Subi and I go way back so he gave me his slides. You can find them HERE.
I was at the 22FDX Launch in Dresden last year and was very impressed not only by the technology, but also by the conservative approach of the launch. Everything I was told in Dresden is right on schedule according to the PDK releases I have seen thus far so congratulations to GF and I look forward to the official 22FDX HVM launch in 1H 2017 as planned, absolutely.
An interesting note, in looking at the many badges on the table I did not see anyone from SMIC or UMC which is a mistake. I did see people from TSMC so that was interesting and lots of people from the fabless semiconductor ecosystem. More badges that I could easily count actually, it was standing room only.
Another interesting note, the EDA, IP, and ASIC companies I know and love are fully behind FD-SOI so it is not just press release fluff going around. I have counted close to 100 FD-SOI tape-outs that are in progress and a dozen or so of those have already taped-out (Samsung 28nm FD-SOI) so I hereby declare 2017 the year of FD-SOI HVM!