Foundry 2.0: New White Paper and Video Interview with CEO Ajit Manocha

Today our friends over at VLSI Research released two thought-provoking commentaries on the evolution of the foundry industry.

The first is a video featuring GLOBALFOUNDRIES CEO Ajit Manocha being interviewed by G. Dan Hutcheson, VLSI’s chairman and CEO. In the video, which can be viewed on the weSRCH.com web site, these two industry veterans discuss the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and why a new foundry model is needed to enable continued innovation.

Today VLSI also released a new white paper by Hutcheson that delves into the historical development of the semiconductor foundry business model, how things went wrong in the 2000s, and why a new model of foundry partnership is needed—precisely the “Foundry 2.0” model that Manocha has called for since taking the helm at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. The white paper can be downloaded here (registration required).

After discussing the inception of the industry in the 1980s, Hutcheson reviews some of the key infrastructural shifts in the early 1990s that led to the rapid growth of the foundry segment—the most important of which was the rising cost of leading-edge semiconductor fabs. “The foundry movement hit high gear in the early nineties, when the cost of a fab was just passing the one-billion dollar mark,” Hutcheson writes. “The cost of a fab was roughly rising at about half the rate of Moore’s Law, or a doubling every two nodes. Moreover, it was not just the cost of building a new fab, because existing ones had to be upgraded every node for a chip maker to stay in the game. The incremental cost of keeping a fab up-to-date was a growing capital burden, which became another big barrier to entry.”

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But just as the foundry industry was beginning to hit its stride, the fast-moving semiconductor marketplace continued to evolve. “By 2000, the foundry business model had moved from an idea for companies who could not afford fabs to being front and center in the mainstream of manufacturing,” Hutcheson writes. “Many had come to believe the foundry was the future of manufacturing. But the nature of the business was changing as storm clouds formed on the horizon. These storm clouds grew darker as conflicting market and technology pressures were forcing change.” Hutcheson reviews these market and technology pressures, which include rising competition, increasing emphasis on cost, and the daunting challenges presented by new wafer sizes, transistors, and materials. All of these factors led to an erosion of trust between foundries and their customers and opened the door for some to speculate that the foundry model might be dead.

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To solve these problems, Hutcheson calls for a new working relationship that melds the seamless collaboration of an IDM with the flexibility of the fabless-foundry model. This “collaborative device manufacturing” approach must be structured to collaborate seamlessly, allowing the fabless company to innovate on the foundry’s platform as an extension of its own strategy starting early in a new process node’s development. “GLOBALFOUNDRIES, to a great extent, was perfectly positioned to address the emerging need for a new foundry model,” Hutcheson writes. “Its roots were as an IDM, having spun out from AMD in 2009. Having acquired Chartered, it also gained deep roots in the foundry 1.0 model, allowing it to bridge both worlds. Its CEO, Ajit Manocha, deeply understood the issues. . . . So it was no surprise that Manocha would be the first foundry CEO to address the issue, spelling out a new model he called Foundry 2.0.”

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Readers of this blog will be no stranger to the Foundry 2.0 concept, but Hutcheson brings a fresh interpretation as he describes the intricacies of the new business model and puts Foundry 2.0 in its proper historical context.

Bringing MEMS to the Mainstream: Latest Milestones and Future Trends

By: Rakesh Kumar

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The MEMS market is set to explode: by 2017 the market is expected to be worth $12.2 billion, a 50 percent increase from 2011, according to IHS iSuppli. Driving this growth will be the continued usage of MEMs devices for consumer applications, such as smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and cameras. Additionally, new products such as silicon timing devices, tunable capacitors for antennas, autofocus actuators and pico-projectors are also emerging as market drivers.

In 2011, GLOBALFOUNDRIES laid the basis for our work in MEMS technology by qualifying products for our established customers and creating new customer relationships for the manufacturing of their products. Check out our previous post to learn more about the development of our MEMS technology in 2011.

We took the opportunity to ramp up our MEMS products in 2012. We observed that some of the unique MEMS tools on the market still lacked a level of ruggedness or maturity. To resolve that issue, we worked with our tool supplier to make improvements and optimize MEMS technology for large volume manufacturing. In 2012, we were also able to provide our customers with products for final reliability qualifications with very high yields.

The majority of MEMS devices require some degree of customization and standardized platforms may not be possible for all kinds of devices. Therefore, our initial focus was to develop key module and integration capabilities that would allow us to provide some form of reproducible and reusable building blocks for various MEMS devices. Some examples of such building blocks include cavity SOI wafers, poly TSV for interconnects, and hermetic sealing for wafer level encpasulation . In addition to these building blocks, we are working with A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics in Singapore to develop some platform technologies for specific applications as part of their MEMS consortium.

We are currently working on new processes and products that are on schedule for manufacturing by the 3rd and 4th quarter of this year. Many integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) and fabless companies have started process development with GLOBALFOUNDRIES. It is one of our biggest achievements that we have not only satisfied our customers, but also attracted potential new customers because of our capabilities and success.

Looking ahead, MEMS companies can only be successful if they offer a full solution to the end customer from design to application development, firmware, software etc. In the past, IDMs fulfilled this role; however, fabless companies are now beginning to meet the integration requirements, either by themselves or in partnerships with companies. Thus, we will begin to see fabless companies posing a big challenge to IDMs. The challenge will be the ability to get suitable MEMS foundries that can provide development support, shorter time to market and can build the capacity required to meet the demands of the consumer market.

We see an important role for foundries to play in order for the market to meet that challenge. We’re capable of using our processes to enable new product development, provide a fast ramp to production and offer competitive costs of manufacturing. We envision taking the role of a single supplier to provide the complete manufacturing solution that will allow our customers to focus on product design, firmware, applications and system level support. We can achieve this by not only offering device fabrication services, but also extending it to complete back end solutions in partnership with OSAT houses. With the careful selection of products and partners, we can create a pipeline of products that can provide a stiff competition to IDMs.

Throughout 2013, our focus will be on ramping up the production of MEMS significantly for the qualified products. We also plan to simultaneously continue our efforts to qualify more customer products. We see a number of challenges and growth opportunities in MEMS development, including the recent wave of MEMS sensors in relation to consumer applications areas. However, with increasing awareness of MEMS sensors and actuators and decreasing costs of system/subsystems use of MEMS devices, the MEMS market will grow significantly for automotive, industrial, safety/security and healthcare applications. With continued progress in the field, we hope to see motion sensor adoption in systems, tools which can detect variations for maintenance, energy harvester and bio-MEMS. 2013 will be another exciting year for MEMs and we look forward to the ride.

Rakesh Kumar is senior director of the MEMS program at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. Based in Singapore, he has over 25 years of experience in semiconductor process technology development for CMOS, MEMS and Silicon based opto-electronics devices. 

This entry was originally posted on SemiMD.

What’s In A Name?

By Subi Kengeri

Consumers continue to demand smaller, faster and more energy-efficient electronic devices, driving the semiconductor industry to accelerate development of commercially viable chips on more advanced nodes. However, these new nodes don’t just appear by magic. It takes a great deal of careful planning to develop and deliver a process technology platform that offers competitiveness, differentiation, and manufacturability. This is the job of my team at GlobalFoundries. It always has been difficult, but the transition to 20nm and beyond presents a host of new challenges, requiring a fundamentally new approach to technology architecture and definition.

Over the past few nodes, SoC designers have grown accustomed to a roughly 30% reduction in die cost from node to node. But 20nm is the first node on which foundries introduced true double-patterning lithography, which increases manufacturing costs, largely dependent on the target application. So there has to be something else to prompt customers to adopt this new node. For example, it is critical that a technology platform deliver SoC product value and designability, and has to be optimized for the customer’s target application. At 20nm, we really began looking at the product level value for customers, which we define in terms of the optimum combination of performance, power and cost (PPC), in addition to other customer care-abouts.

We took this to a whole new level with our recently launched 14nm-XM offering. Once we had optimized PPC for our 20nm planar SoC offering, we looked at what it means to incorporate 3D FinFETs on the next node. Going from planar to FinFET gives us a step jump in performance and power, but minimal benefit in die size because we chose to use the fully optimzed middle and backend of line from 20nm-LPM. The key was to architect 14nm-XM to ensure the performance and power advantages outweigh the lack of area improvement and to ease designability on the first generation FinFET offering. Leveraging the 20nm-LPM competitive density advantages and using the most optimal 3D fin structure, we expect to get back on the historical 60% to 70% SoC PPC improvement trajectory. We also expect to see a big benefit in time-to-volume (on a node to node basis) because we will leverage key technology modules and PDKs from 20nm-LPM, which we believe will allow our customers to design concurrently and accelerate our FinFET high volume ramp by about one year.

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But one question I often get asked is, ‘Why do we call it a 14nm technology if it relies so much on 20nm?’ First of all, we are using a true 14nm-class FinFET as the front-end device, which qualifies it as a 14nm technology. But in reality the naming of nodes has become somewhat arbitrary over the past several nodes. A node used to be named based on the smallest transistor feature size, which was typically the channel length. But channel length scaling stopped at about 45nm, so the industry does not actually have a 28nm gate in a 28nm technology. Secondly, the point of moving to a new node is the delivery of value to the customer. They need to see a SoC level product value, which really translates to the PPC, and 14nm-XM offers a full node value. As long as customers see at least this level of value, they frankly don’t care what the technology is called or what is inside.

Now we need to find a way to deliver this same product level value at 10nm. The whole industry has quite a few challenges going to 10nm. FinFETs are scalable and will have a long life, but we will have already realized the performance and power value from the front-end device with 14nm-XM. We don’t expect extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography will be ready, at least not at the beginning of the node, which means we will have more layers that require multiple patterning and therefore significant cost increases. We will need to find other ways to provide performance and power benefits to deliver a total PPC to stay on the SoC value trajectory. We have been working on this and 7nm technologies for several years and we are very close to nailing down a competitive 10nm technology architecture. We are running 10nm devices in silicon and I am confident we will deliver the value our customers have come to expect.

For more detail on this topic, check out the recent interview with SemiMD’s Mark LaPedus, where we talk about FinFETs, EUV, and Moore’s Law.

Subramani “Subi” Kengeri is vice president of advanced technology architecture at GLOBALFOUNDRIES.

This post also appeared on Chip Design Magazine