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ST finds FD-SOI partner in Samsung

Posted: 16 May 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:FD-SOI  28nm  manufacturing  design 

STMicroelectronics on Wednesday signed a licensing agreement granting Samsung access to its 28nm fully depleted silicon on insulator (FD-SOI) design platform. The deal signals a possible expansion of the 28nm mode to low-power smartphones and wearables markets.

Samsung brings reliable production capacity to 28nm FD-SOI, which the companies hope will encourage designers to adopt the process. While ST is already qualified for volume production at its Crolles facility, they needed more production volume. "ST couldn't support it [28nm FD-SOI] so they needed a partner," said Len Jelinek, IHS's research director for semiconductor manufacturing, in an interview with EE Times. "Choosing Samsung was a logical move."

Also part of the enticement to designers wanting to dive into FD-SOI is that staying with 28nm mode means, in theory, no new non-recurring engineering costs. In other words, the 28nm masked set transfers to the 28nm FD-SOI and no $50-million-plus redesign needs to happen as you would see with a jump to new process node.

Viewpoint: FD-SOI supports Moore's Law
ST's Laurent Remont believes that when it comes to price, power, and performance, fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator is a viable option in the journey towards 10nm process technology.

The partnership, dubbed an "extended strategic collaboration," takes advantage of Samsung's experience with 28nm bulk CMOS. While Samsung aims for full qualification on the FD-SOI process in early 2015, the process design kit (PDK) is available now to get customers designing. The design platform Samsung is licensing includes the PDK, foundation libraries, advanced IP, and design flow. IP offered will be standard cells, memory, analogue, advanced IP, among others.

Having the PDK immediately available for designers to start using while Samsung qualifies its process is "very opportunistic," said IHS' Jelinek.

"I suspect they are going for the burgeoning cheap smartphone market, especially in China and Taiwan" where the cheap smartphone are about to explode, said Jelinek. In a year while Samsung gets ready, its customers will also be ready to start production. "I found it to be very interesting, timely, and compelling announcement."

Smartphone chip manufacturers in China are still at 40nm process and weren't planning on going to 28nm because of cost, said Jelinek. The agreement makes it less of a risk for designers wanting to try the technology.

"We heard from customers asking for FD-SOI at 28nm," said Kelvin Low, senior director of marketing, Samsung Foundry, said on a call with EE Times.


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