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Although there has been always a strong relationship between Kilopass and Chartered Semiconductor, this relationship has been even enhanced after the acquisition of Chartered by GLOBALFOUNDRIES, allowing Kilopass’s customers to integrate NVM IP on advanced technology nodes, down to 40nm or even 28nm in the near future.
Before going more in detail into the NVM technology and type of IP available on GLOBALFOUNDRIES technologies, I would like to understand to which extent NVM is –and will be in the future- a strategic piece of a SoC design. To do so, let’s try to quickly build a forecast for IC, ASIC or ASSP, which will integrate at least one NVM IP. This NVM can be used for:
Chip Identification (unique ID per IC)
Trimming or calibration (usually for mixed signal IC)
Coefficient storage (specific to Image sensor)
MCU code storage
We will look at the two major market segments where NVM is commonly used: Mobile Electronic Devices (Wireless handset and Media Tablet) and Consumer Electronics (Set-Top-Box and HDTV), simply because the applications from these two segments are generating huge production volumes. Using information from the very good article: “Reap the Benefits without the Cost: Mobile Handset Chips Utilize Antifuse NVM from Configuration to Code Storage” that you can find here (***), we have been able to evaluate the number of IC using NVM in a Smartphone, as well as in the more traditional feature phone and low cost handset. We have used the Wireless Handset 2010-2015 forecast built by IPnest to evaluate the number of systems, as well as some data from ABI research for the Media Tablet, so we have built the following table:Let me be precise and state that we had to make some approximation: the Automotive and Industrial segments have been neglected; in the Consumer Electronic segment I have only counted HDTV and STB. Nevertheless, the result is impressive! The number of IC manufactured in 2010, including a NVM IP is above 3 Billion units growing up to almost 9 Billion units in 2015 and the cumulated forecast for 2010-2015 suggest that more than 37 BILLION IC will be manufactured, including one or more NVM IP. Are you still questioning whether NVM is strategic for a Silicon foundry? You should not, as the answer is clearly “Yes, it is!”As usual, looking at the history helps to better understand GlobalFoundries positioning in respect with NVM. Having worked for Atmel, a company founded by one of the patent holder for the Flash technology, Georges Perlegos (when he was on Intel payroll) — I know that offering Flash function to an ASIC or ASSP customer using a CMOS process was very attractive. The issue we had at that time (in 1999-2002) was that we could only offer a lagging CMOS process (0.25um when the market was on 0.13um), with an added cost of about 40% (the number of extra masks you need to support Flash on top of the native CMOS process). Finally, ASIC with embedded Flash was a very good marketing argument, but such projects were very few, and did not bring that much revenue. This was 10 years ago… If we look today, in 2011, GLOBALFOUNDRIES is able to support IC integrating NVM from Kilopass not only on the mature technology nodes supported by Chartered Semiconductor, from 130nm to 110nm, but also on 40nm and soon on 65nm. (A test chip integrating NVM IP has been recently taped out on 40nm process with GlobalFoundries), and in the near future on 28nm technology also. The technology barrier has been broken. It is now possible to design SoC on the most advanced technology nodes, for Media Processor or Wireless Processor platforms, integrating NVM IP, to support trimming or calibration (a few hundred bits) or to integrate large capacity code storage. NVM is available on pure CMOS technologies, on the latest technologies, and is able to scale. The offer from Kilopass, as we can see below, covers the majority, if not all the needs, whether in term of code size (from 16b to 4 Mb) or in term of supported technologies, from 180nm down to 28 nm: According to Kilopass, their differentiation in the crowded NVM IP market is linked to the fact the company was created in 2001. This makes them the Innovator on this market. They also insist on the Quality of their solution, going with a high level of Reliability. Also, as it is not possible to reverse engineering, thus the technology is Secure. Finally and probably the most important, their NVM IP is Scalable, allowing it to support customer product evolution through several process nodes, like one of their customer who has ported the NVM IP from 150nm down to 40nm, passing through 130nm, 90nm and 65nm, this guaranteeing real Longevity.