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Archive for October, 2014

Is China Interested in FD-SOI? You Bet.

Monday, October 27th, 2014

By Adele HARS

At the recent FD-SOI Forum in Shanghai, the IoT (Internet of Things) was the #1 topic in all the presentations.

The event was sponsored by the SOI Consortium, the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology / Chinese Academy of Sciences (SIMIT/CAS), and VeriSilicon. By all accounts it was a great success. Speakers included experts from Synopsys, ST, GF, Soitec, IBS, Synapse Design, VeriSilicon, Wave Semi and IBM (see below for key slides and links to the full presentations). The goal was to gather IC industry decision makers, technology owners, opinion leaders and market analysts to exchange and assess the opportunities that FD-SOI technology brings in terms of ultra-low power operation at high performance for mobile and IoT.

A panel discussion during the SOI Consortium’s Shanghai FD-SOI Forum brought whole ecosystem onto same stage – a clear sign of FD-SOI becoming mainstream solution. (Courtesy: SOI Consortium)

Here are some of the points made by the speakers:

  • FinFET is a tough (Intel is running 15 months behind) and capex consuming technology (exponential situation in terms of costs), so not everybody will be able to go for it
  • FD-SOI will be a game changer
  • the FD-SOI ecosystem is now ready but industry still seems a bit too conservative to get started
  • FD-SOI is a great opportunity for China to take the lead
  • need a big fabless house with a high-volume application and then foundries building capacity
  • promising outlook: designs are underway in China; in 6 to 9 months there could be significant volumes. It is no longer a question of why FD-SOI – now we are at when FD-SOI.
  • 28nm will be a long lifetime technology node (2012-2024)
  • IoT: a good opportunity for FD-SOI
  • work is being done by the ecosystem to improve FD-SOI IP
  • FD-SOI is not only for 28nm but also 20/22nm and 14nm (ST discussed its 14nm FD-SOI)
  • the industry acknowledges ST and Soitec’s commitment to developing FD-SOI technology

We know that FD-SOI 28nm has moved into the manufacturing and volume production phase. It offers the chip industry the unique features of being able to fabricate at competitive cost, ultra low power, high speed ICs. It is a game changer technology platform that brings new powerful elements to the designers and a strong differentiation potential at IC and system level. But the speakers acknowledged that challenges remain, in particular:

  • the willingness of the mainstream to accept a different process
  • the supply chain is not as strong as should be or could be
  • there’s a need for greater commitment from industry
  • there are not yet any very big customers (but that’s going to change)

The presentations

Here are brief summaries of the presentations. Click on the presentation names to download the full pdfs, or on the slides for enlarged images.

Market Overview and Opportunities by Handel Jones, CEO, International Business Strategies

Starting from a bird’s-eye view of the world, this presentation them zooms down deep into the nitty-gritty of chip manufacturing costs. Considering the various technology options for current and future nodes, it looks at costs per gate and per wafer, costs for design and for tooling, yield impact and fab life. The world’s largest chip consumer, China currently imports about 90% of the chips used there. The government has targeted 2020 as the year by which Chinese semiconductor companies should be supplying 40% of semiconductors consumed in China. IBS sees FD-SOI as the most astute choice, especially for IoT.

Slide 5 from the IBS presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: IBS)

FD-SOI Technology by Laurent Remont, VP Technology & Product Strategy, STMicroelectronics

This presentation gives an overview of FD-SOI technology, roadmaps and markets. One of the points made is that 28nm will be the longest process generation with the highest volume manufacturing. FD-SOI extends the 28nm offering with improved power and performance rivaling existing 20nm bulk.

Slide 13 from the first ST presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: ST)

Design with FD-SOI, Innovation Through Collaboration by Marco Casale-Rossi, Product Marketing Manager, Synopsys

The Synopsys presentation detailed FD-SOI/EDA readiness, with illustrations from an ST design. Among the many impressive results, time-to-good-floorplan was reduced 10x, and leakage was reduced by 59% through advanced EDA in the flow.

Slides 20 and 34 from the Synopsys presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: Synopsys and ST)

Designing with FD-SOI for Power Efficiency by Haoran Wang, Associate General Manager, Synapse Design China

Synapse Design is an industry leader in design services for most top tier semiconductor and system companies around the world. They have been working on designs in FD-SOI for over four years. In fact, they’ve already had four tapeouts in FD-SOI and are working on three others. The presentation noted that “…FD-SOI has more degrees of freedom than bulk” conferred by device physics. They recommend starting with a deep power analysis at RTL, looking carefully at performance requirements vs. battery life. They conclude, “At 28nm, FDSOI does show the benefits of speed/power advantage. It is a viable solution from technology point of view and easy to be integrated in current design flow.”

Slide 2 from the Synapse Design presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: Synapse Design)

Leveraging FD-SOI to Achieve Both Low Power AND High Speed by Pete Fowley, CEO, Wave Semiconductors

Wave is a fabless semiconductor startup “commercializing a programmable solution addressing power, concurrency, design time, design cost, and deep submicron challenges facing the semiconductor market.” The founders come from a veritable who’s who industry background* (the CEO was one of the first members of Apple’s original Mac chip design team). They bill their FD-SOI based Wave Threshold Logic (WTL) as their “secret sauce”. WTL can use both very fast flip-well LVT devices with Forward Body Bias (FBB) and Standard VT devices that have very low leakage through very high Reverse Body Bias (RBB). According to Wave, “WTL‐ BB represents a unique differentiator for FD‐SOI: enabling significant performance and power advantages over bulk processes. This strategic advantage will persist into deeper nodes.” Clearly one to watch!

The FD-SOI Technology for Energy Efficient SoCs by Giorgio Cesana, Director of Marketing, STMicroelectronics

Here ST gives a FD-SOI primer, explaining the technology, design considerations and Forward Body Bias (FBB) use and results. Examples from both fast CPU/GPU and ultra-low power designs are given.

Slide 19 from the second ST presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: ST)

The presentations SOI Ecosystem – Strategic Opportunity for China by Tom Reeves, VP Technology Alliance, IBM and Foundry Business Opportunities by Paul Colestock, Sr. Director of Segment Marketing, GlobalFoundries, have not yet been posted as of this writing. But keep checking back – they should be there soon.

Also, look for another ASN post on the SOI Consortium’s Shanghai 2014 RF-SOI Workshop, coming up shortly.

~~

Special thanks to the folks at the SOI Consortium for their help in compiling details for this piece.

*A tip of the hat to Eric Esteve at Semiwiki for first pointing this out in his recent piece on Wave Semi’s technology, which you can read here.

FD-SOI Front and Center at Very Successful SEMICON Europa

Friday, October 17th, 2014

By Adele HARS

An ST key ring sporting their new FD-SOI logo (Semicon Europa 2014)

Yes, GlobalFoundries is hot on FD-SOI. Yes, Qualcomm’s interested in it for IoT. Yes, ST’s got more amazing low-power FD-SOI results. These are just some of the highlights that came out of the Low Power Conference during Semicon Europa in Grenoble, France (7-9 October 2014).

This was Semicon Europa’s first time in Grenoble, the heart of FD-SOI country, and it was a terrific success. There was a ton of energy, a raft of very well-attended conferences, and vendors on the show floor were clearly pumped up by the high-quality lead generation they reported.  Attendance (over 6K visitors) and floor space were both up (>40%). Highlights follow.

Low Power Conference

It was standing-room only for ST COO Jean-Marc Chery’s keynote. In addition to apps in FD-SOI for mobile, consumer and network infrastructure, he was very bullish on automotive, noting that this is a place FinFETs can’t go.  He indicates a major announcement is impending.

ST slide on an automotive app on FD-SOI (Semicon Europa 2014 Low Power Conference)

Next up, Manfred Horstmann, Director of Products & Integration for GlobalFoundries in Dresden said that FD-SOI would be their focus for the next few years. They’re also calling it ET-SOI (for extremely thin), and he said it’s the right solution for SOCs, especially with back biasing. Plus, it’s good for the fab because they can leverage their existing tool park. Asked if they were seeing interest, he said yes. Asked if they have customers lined up, he said yes. So watch this space – there’ll be news soon!

GlobalFoundries slide on the FD-SOI value proposition (Semicon Europa 2014 Low Power Conference)

ST Fellow and FD-SOI guru Thomas Skotnicki gave an excellent talk  — he’s been ST’s champion of the concept for 26 years, and noted that the breakthrough by Soitec a few years ago in making the ultrathin SOI wafers with ultrathin box made industrialization a reality.  He sees it having a very long life, with monolithic 3D stacking replacing scaling.

The Qualcomm Technologies talk by Senior Program Manager Mustafa Badaroglu was largely about FinFET challenges, and while he observing that SOI was the best solution for leakage, cost concerns remain. With respect to FD-SOI, however, he did note that 28nm is very attractive for IoT apps. Interesting, too, that he stayed for all the other presentations and asked a lot of incisive questions about FD-SOI.

Fabien Clermidy, Sr. Expert at Leti, looked at low-power multiprocessing for markets spanning embedded through servers.  His team’s working at full bore on the Euroserver project, which leverages FD-SOI, ARM cores, monolithic 3D – you name it. He also gave some impressive details on the FRISBEE DSP, which operates from 0.3V to 1.2V, getting performance of 200MHz at the low end of the power supply and 2.7 GHz at the high end.

Leti slide on the Euroserver (Semicon Europa 2014 Low Power Conference)

Shiro Kamohara, Chief Engineer of the Low Power  Electronics Association & Project (aka LEAP) and Renesas gave a compelling talk about their vision of FD-SOI, which they call SOTB (for silicon-on-thin-box) for IoT.  They see lots of possibilities, including for getting more life out of older nodes and fabs. They have even demonstrated a 32 bit CPU on 65nm SOTB with back bias that operates eternally (that’s right!) with ambient indoor light – clearly something to watch for.

LEAP slide on SOTB (aka FD-SOI) for IoT (Semicon Europa 2014 Low Power Conference)

A talk by Soitec CTO, Carlos Mazure focused on the SOI wafers for current and future generations of FD-SOI and FinFETs, as well as for RF. He noted that RF-SOI wafers for switches and antenna tuners enjoy a >80% market share.  For 28nm, he cited VeriSilicon’s figures from the recent Shanghai FD-SOI forum that indicated FD-SOI savings of 19% in area, 71% in standby power and 58% in power over bulk.

A fascinating talk by Handel Jones of IBS (see his ASN articles here) looked at IoT. We need to be thinking about billions of chips – not millions – at under $10, he said.  He sees the industry at a tipping point now, with more local intelligence coming. IBS is convinced that FD-SOI is the best technology for IoT apps, in large part because of memory driving cost, size and power consumption requirements.

Power (high & smart), power (very low), 3D and more

During the Semicon Europa Power Electronics conference, Soitec BizDev Manager Arnaud Rigny looked at high voltage devices on SOI, in “smart substrates for smart power”.  While these wafer substrates can be either “thick” or “thin” SOI (referring to the top layer of silicon), smart power (which includes analog, logic & power) typically uses a relatively thin SOI. However, in this case the top silicon uniformity needs to be greater. He said it’s a good growth area for Soitec, which is seeing an uptick of 20% in thin SOI wafers for smart power. The biggest market there is automotive.

Soitec slide on SOI for smart power (Semicon Europa 2014 Power Electronics Conference)

There was a great turnout for Leti’s talk by Senior Scientist Claire Fenouillet-Béranger in the TechArena showing their monolithic 3D integration scheme. They’re reporting savings in area of 55%, performance of 25% and power of 12%.  Look for more breakthroughs in their paper at IEDM this December, she said.

Leti’s presentation on monolithic 3D integration (Semicon Europa 2014 Tech Arena)

And finally, out on the show floor, in addition to their great FD-SOI keying (see above), ST had a cool – make that freezing – demo showing the effectiveness of back biasing in FD-SOI at very low power and very, very cold temperatures. Officially titled “Temperature self-compensation on 32b RISC FDSOI28 thru dynamic body biasing down to 0.35V”, we saw the chip could run stably at 20MHz with a supply voltage of just 0.45V – that’s amazing in itself – but that it should maintain stability at -22oC is absolutely phenomenal. Body biasing dynamically compensates for the temperature fluctuations. This points up just how important FD-SOI will be for ultra-low power IoT, and in this case for things like medical apps. (If you’re very patient, you can watch this blogger’s attempt to capture the ST demo on her iPhone here.)

ST’s FD-SOI demo (Semicon Europa 2014)

So it was a great show – kudos to the folks at Semi.  Next year it will be in Dresden, and alternate between Grenoble and Dresden from then on. And now we know that interesting things are promised for FDSOI in Dresden, we’ll certainly look forward to 2015.


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