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Let the FinFET Yield Controversy Begin!

Let the FinFET Yield Controversy Begin!
by Daniel Nenni on 11-03-2014 at 8:00 am

 It never ceases to amaze me how people point fingers and create controversy to cover their mistakes. It happened at 40nm, 28nm, and again at 20nm and now it is time for the regularly scheduled yield controversy. Of course any conversation about semiconductor yield generates clicks for SemiWiki so I’m happy to play along.

It generally starts with a semiconductor equipment manufacturer missing their quarterly numbers then throwing their customers under the yield bus. Just once I would like to hear a CEO say, “Hey, we missed our number, my fault.” Of course they never name the customer so all customers come under suspicion which is exactly what is happening here. This time it is Art Zafiropoulo, CEO of Ultratech:

As we have discussed on past conference calls, the difficult implementation of 3D FinFET microprocessors to high production manufacturing. Once again a major logic manufacturer delayed their FinFET ramp. We had then requested to prepare LSA tools for shipment for the end of the third quarter which was delayed. These LSA shipments for the most part caused our third quarter revenue to be less than projected. These LSA systems have been rescheduled for shipment in the fourth quarter. Due to the continued low yield in FinFET devices for the past two years, we have seen a reduction in new LSA bookings in subsequent shipments…

I’m very sorry you missed your quarterly number Art and that your stock price is less than half what it was in January of last year. I’m also very sorry you have to blame customers using misleading statements such as this. Ramping leading edge process technologies is more difficult with every new node so delays should be expected. How does a CEO of an equipment manufacturer not know this?

Clearly Art is talking about Intel in regards to 3D FinFET microprocessors for which I understand. Last September Intel CEO BK held up a laptop that was powered by a 14nm CPU and claimed silicon would ship by the end of 2013. That chip is now shipping (about 2 Quarters late) with products due in time for the holiday season. It really is an impressive microprocessor so congrats to Intel on this one:Intel?s 14-nm Parts are Finally Here! | Chipworks Blog

Now check out this interpretation of Art’s comments from the Motley Fool’s “Senior” Technology Specialist:

However, after listening to the earnings call of chip equipment vendor Ultratech (NASDAQ: UTEK ) , it’s clear to me that neither TSMC nor Samsung quite has the FinFET transistor structure (which promises higher performing transistors at lower power) figured out. This, as far as I can tell, strongly suggests that Intel’s manufacturing lead remains intact.

Comparing the TSMC manufacturing capabilities to Samsung’s is absurd. These are two VERY different companies so don’t be a fool and lump them together. This “Senior” Technology Specialist owns Intel stock of course.

An interesting note, when comparing the density of Intel’s 14nm process against TSMC it is always pointed out that 16nm uses the 20nm process with FinFETs instead of planar transistors. When talking about yield however it is not mentioned, especially now that 20nm is in full production with a better than expected yield ramp. Weird hu

Also read: Cliff Hou at TSMC OIP

Here are some FinFET notes from Dr. Mark Liu, president and co-CEO at the TSMC OIP Forum held earlier this month:

  • Today 20nm production has a monthly volume of 60,000 wafers with good defect density
  • The yield learning on 20nm production will directly benefit 16nm production
  • 20nm capacity can quickly support the coming 16nm ramp up
  • More than 90 percent of TSMC’s equipment for the established 20nm node is being reused at 16nm.
  • TSMC’s 16nm defect learning has reached a similar level as 20nm (they are less than six months apart)
  • 10 customer 16nm tape-outs in 2014 so far, more than 45 are expected in 2015
  • TSMC is already in production with a 16nm FinFET network processor for HiSilicon Technologies Co. Ltd.
  • TSMC is ahead of schedule on their 2014 CAPEX

Look at the papers that were presented, they are all about 16nm silicon:

TSMC 2014 OIP – Paper Abstracts

Bottom line:The “major logic manufacturer that pushed out an equipment order” is not TSMC, I’m sure of that. Nor do I think it’s Samsung or Intel as they have already moved 14nm equipment in and are ramping production. If I had to pick one from the other possibilities it would be UMC. They licensed IBM 14nm and I have not heard of any production equipment moving in yet. Just my opinion of course. The truth will come out in 2-3 quarters so lets circle back then and see who is true to their word.

More Articles by Daniel Nenni…..


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