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The Leading Edge Foundry Landscape

The Leading Edge Foundry Landscape
by Scotten Jones on 07-22-2014 at 7:00 pm

 There have been a lot of interesting announcements and presentations lately from the leading edge foundries. Looking at all of this information, a pretty interesting picture begins to emerge.

TSMC
TSMC is far and away the world’s largest foundry. In their 2014-Q2 conference call TSMC outlined their expectations for the balance of 2014 out through 2015.

At 28nm TSMC has LP (low power), HP (high performance), HPL (low power with HKMG) and HPM (high performance mobile). All four processes are bulk planar process with gate-last HKMG except LP that is polysilicon and SiON. At 28nm TSMC had the dominant market share, Samsung captured the Apple processor business and TSMC pretty much had everything else.

TSMC is now ramping 20nm (bulk planar process), they are expecting 20nm to be 10% of revenue in Q3 and 20% in Q4. Furthermore TSMC expects 20nm to be >20% of revenue for 2015. TSMC expects to dominate 20nm and discussed a major competitor skipping 20nm (without naming names, but we will get to who it is later). On TSMC’s web site they report that 20nm gives a 1.9x density improvement over 28nm.

At 16nm TSMC will not be ramping until Q3 of 2015 (FinFET on bulk process). Due to competitors having 14nm in the market in the first half of 2015 TSMC expects to initially have no share and lower share for 2015 in total. Longer term, TSMC expects to catch up and they expect that the combined 20nm/16nm market share will be higher than anyone else throughout 2014, 2015 and 2016. As a side note the development and design cycles are long enough that TSMC has a lot of visibility on who their customers will be all the way through 16nm. The 16nm process is a 16nm FinFET on bulk front end with the 20nm backend. I haven’t seen any statements from TSMC on overall density improvements but I have heard approximately 1.05x

For 10nm TSMC is forecasting 2.2x density improvement (FinFET on bulk). They declined to give any specific guidance on timing.

Also read: The Great 28nm Debacle!

Samsung
Samsung is the world’s third largest foundry. Dan Nenni recently published an interesting article on Samsung on Semiwiki and that article includes a link to a Samsung foundry presentation. The presentation discusses 28nm and 14nm but not 20nm so presumably Samsung is the competitor TSMC is referring to as “skipping” 20nm. This is particularly interesting because I had seen reports not that long ago that Samsung was going to be making at least some 20nm processors for Apple. I can only guess, but perhaps Apple went 100% with TSMC at 20nm and Samsung abandoned 20nm due to lack of customers.

At 28nm Samsung has 28LPS (cost effective), 28LPP (low power RF enabled), 28LPH (high performance) all planar on bulk and 28FD-SOI high performance “20nm performance at 28nm cost”. Given that Samsung is skipping 20nm it looks very likely that Samsung has licensed 28 FD-SOI technology to fill the 20nm gap. Samsung is gate-first for HKMG.

At 14nm Samsung has 14LPE (FinFET on bulk) as their fast time to market product and 14LPP (FinFET on bulk) as their second generation performance boosted product. 14LPE is qualified now and 14LPP is due in Q1-2015. Dan Nenni has suggested that Apple will go sole source with TSMC at 20nm and then jump back to Samsung at 14nm. Samsung’s 14nm should ramp late 2104 and early 2015 and represent the 14nm/16nm market share loss TSMC mentioned.

Samsung also reports that 14nm will have 0.55x the area of 28nm (for both LPE and LPP), that is a 1.82x density improvement. If TSMC sees a 1.9x improvement for 20nm over 28nm and another 1.05x at 16nm over 20nm, they would see a 2.00x density improvement for 16nm versus 28nm (please note TSMC’s 16nm process is really what everyone else is calling 14nm, the number 14 is apparently unfavorable in Taiwan). Assuming both companies have similar density at 28nm then TSMC could potentially have a density advantage at 16nm.

Also Read: Samsung Foundry Explained!

Global Foundries
Global Foundries is the world’s second largest foundry.

At 28nm according to the Global Foundries web site they have 28HPP high performance and 28SLP super low power. These appear to both be bulk planar processes. Global Foundries is also known to have FD-SOI technology but I don’t see it listed. I have heard Global Foundries is backing off of FD-SOI but I haven’t seen anything from the company one way or the other. It may be that their 28nm FD-SOI is supporting ST Micro (I have heard they have a manufacturing agreement with ST Micro) and they aren’t pushing it for general foundry usage. Global Foundries is gate-first HKMG.

At 20nm Global Foundries also has a bulk planar process 20LPM listed on their web site but I have heard they are abandoning it.

At 14nm Global Foundries has licensed Samsung’s FinFET on bulk technology and the two companies will offer capacity from Global Foundries Fab 8 and Samsung fabs S1, S2 and S3.

Also read: Samsung ♥ GLOBALFOUNDRIES

UMC
In recent years UMC has fallen from second in the foundry rankings to fourth just behind Samsung (although some rankings still have them slightly ahead of Samsung).

According to UMC’s web site they have 28LP low power, 28HLP high performance low power and 28HPM high performance mobile. These are all bulk planar processes. UMC use gate last HKMG.

I see no signs of a 20nm offering from UMC. I have heard they are working on 14nm FinFET on bulk technology with partners.

SMIC
The fifth largest foundry, SMIC is just now ramping 28PS and 28HK 28nm bulk planar processes. Reportedly SMIC has gone to gate last HKMG to be TSMC compatible. There are also rumors that SMIC is looking at 28nm FD-SOI but since FD-SOI is gate first this would be challenging to adopt. FD-SOI at 28nm does make a lot of sense to me for SMIC because it gives them a 20nm competitor without having to develop 20nm.

IBM

IBM is the eleventh largest foundry in the world. Traditionally IBM has offered leading edge capability but with the semiconductor unit rumored to be up for sale and shrinking it isn’t clear how long IBM will be available as a source.

Also Read: IBM and GLOBALFOUNDRIES Deal!

Intel
Intel is currently pretty far down the foundry ranking but with leading technology, the world’s largest semiconductor company has the potential to be a player. Intel currently has 22nm FinFET on bulk production and 14nm FinFET on bulk prototype foundry parts shipping to customers. We should see production 14nm foundry parts late this year or early next year.

Also read: Intel Custom Foundry Explained!

Discussion
Reviewing all this information there are several interesting observations I would like to make:

  • TSMC has had the leading market share at 28nm since the technology was introduced. 28nm options now include TSMC, Global Foundries, Samsung, UMC, SMIC and IBM plus 22nm from Intel. I would expect significant price erosion at 28nm going forward as these companies compete for share. I do think TSMC as the first company to ramp 28nm has a lot of designs locked in and they will be insulated from a lot of the competition due to the difficulty of moving to another foundry once a part is qualified. Samsung is also somewhat insulated due to the Apple business at 28nm. The rest of the competitors will likely end up fighting it out on price.
  • At 20nm I expect TSMC to again have the largest share. The only other options I currently know of are Global Foundries for 20nm bulk planar (if they are even still pursuing it) or a 28nm FD-SOI design at Samsung. Depending on whether you position Intel’s 22nm process against 28nm or 20nm that is another possible option. The bottom line is TSMC appears to be positioned to dominate this node.
  • At 14nm, Samsung with Global Foundries as a second source are first to market and will likely yield some benefit from this. Later on TSMC should build share as their committed customer’s ramp up in the second half of 2015. Intel also has announced customers but they are lower volume. It looks like the big battle here will be TSMC versus Samsung with Global Foundries and Intel playing smaller roles.
  • 10nm is a wide open battleground right now and the race will be interesting to watch.
  • ​I have not seen any of the foundries talk about or commit to 14nm FD-SOI. Clearly ST Micro is pursuing it but I will be very interested to see whether any of the Semiwiki readers are aware of any of the foundries pursuing it.
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