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STM FD-SOI Manufacturing Double Source: Samsung

STM FD-SOI Manufacturing Double Source: Samsung
by Eric Esteve on 05-15-2014 at 8:54 am

Let’s start with apologies: when guessing that SMIC would be the 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] source foundry for ST-Microelectronics 28nm FD-SOI, I was wrong. To be honest, if I had made the assumption that Samsung was this double source, I would have generated dozen of comments, calling me “crazy blogger”…for the best. Announcing Samsung as the first FD-SOI foundry partner is certainly one of the best deal that STM could make. According with private talk that I recently had when trying to know the name of this foundry, there will be other licensing agreement signed, and we can guess that SMIC is still a potential partner. Let’s have a (semiconductor) dream: TSMC could be another STM partner, and support FD-SOI!

Just a reminder, this comment made in Semiwiki a couple of weeks ago:

I really think that FD-SOI is a great technology, which can be used to fab chips at a lower cost, or at lower power-or higher performance- for the same cost. The magic is that you can gain one technology node, like stay in 28nm, but with the power or performance benefit of 20nm.
But, in the real life, to attract customers, you need to open two doors:

  • Wafer double sourcing
  • Manufacturing double sourcing

Each of these point can be a show stopper. Let’s assume that SOITEC and STMicroelectronics are working these business issues, then the next issue is to develop a large enough ecosystem around IP and EDA. This is more like a chicken and egg issue, but, as soon as the right amount of money will have been invested to make sure that the right IP are available, the design-win will generate enough cash will be invested to enlarge the ecosystem. This is not as magic as the technology, it’s just a question of business decision, strategy planning and business development!

  • SOI Wafer double sourcing: ticked since October 2012

I had a fruitful discussion today with Paul Boudre, COO of Soitec, and Christophe Malleville, in charge of the Electronic BU with Soitec. At first, they have confirmed information that anybody could find in the web, the 10 years license agreement signed in October 2012 with Shin-Etsu Handotai Co., Ltd (SEH), the world leader in the manufacturing of silicon wafers. Just an extract of the related PR: “We are very excited about the business opportunities for SOI products, and we look forward to working with Soitec to extend the global supply chain for new products, such as FD-SOI and SOI for FinFETs, which are showing potential benefits in mobile and embedded applications,” said Nobuo Katsuoka, SEH director, SOI process engineering department. According with Paul Bourde, FD-SOI target market is a mass market. The forecast for Silicon wafer in production in 2017 to support 28nm technologies is 4 to 5 million wafers, out of these, up to 25% -or above 1 million- are expected to be SOI wafers.

  • Manufacturing double sourcing: ticked since yesterday!

Just listen to STMicroelectronics: “Building upon the existing solid relationship between ST and Samsung within the framework of the International Semiconductor Development Alliance, this agreement further strengthens our cooperation by extending it to 28nm FD-SOI, while expanding the ecosystem and augmenting fab capacity for ST and the entire electronics industry. Moreover, the agreement confirms and strengthens further the business momentum that we have experienced on this technology during the past quarters through many customers and project engagements in our Embedded Processing Solutions segment” said Jean-Marc Chery, Chief Operating Officer, STMicroelectronics. “We foresee further expansion of the 28nm FD-SOI ecosystem, to include the leading EDA and IP suppliers, which will enrich the IP catalog available for 28nm FD-SOI.” On top of this very important announcement, the key-word from this message is “ecosystem”.

This Samsung-STMicroelectronics partnership applies to manufacturing, but it also encompasses Design Kit. According with this presentation, the licensing deal includes:

  • Samsung is licensing the 28nm FD-SOI design platform (Process Design Kit (PDK), foundation libraries, advanced IP, design flow)
  • Samsung and ST will support common 28nm FD-SOI library and IP
  • The PDK is available now so customers can design immediately.

If you take a deep look at the above picture (and read between the lines), you then realize that STM keeps a certain competitive advantage, at least for now, as the deal does NOT includes:

  • High Speed links (USBPHY, HDMI, MIPI D-PHY, M-PHY)
  • Memory Controller PHY: DDR3/4, LPDDR3/4, etc.
  • Very High Speed links: PCIe gen-3, SATA3, USB 3.0, 3.1, etc.

If we except ADC/DAC, these analog mixed-signal IP are 100% within the radar of IPNEST (see this survey): these are now the real IP differentiators (if we consider that ARM CPU, IMG GPU or CEVA DSP are equally available to every SoC design teams). STMicroelectronics has a long history with PHY IP development, initially to support in-house SoC design, then to support STM foundry customers. But, if you look at the customers targeted by the 28nm FD-SOI technology, a large proportion expect to externally source these high end IP (like they do when using TSMC foundry). What does that means? Just that this 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] source announcement is the starter for another race: the development, or porting, of high end IP on 28nm FD-SOI technology. Nobody may argue anymore that 28nm FD-SOI is a niche technology. IP vendors should now being motivated, as FD-SOI will be a real market generating additional licensing revenues. Developing High End IP will help creating this ecosystem which is the last condition for FD-SOI success in the semiconductor industry…

From Eric Esteve from IPNEST

More Articles by Eric Esteve…..

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