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Chipmakers unite in move to 45nm

Posted: 16 Oct 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:45nm process? Chartered Semiconductor? IBM? Infineon? Samsung?

The 45nm process technology node keeps heating up as more players make their moves. In late August, Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing, IBM, Infineon and Samsung!the most visible alliance collaborating on the development of advanced process technologies for 90-, 65- and 45nm logic chips!announced development of their first functional chips based on a low-power, 45nm process technology. The circuits are targeted at next-generation communication systems.

The chips were produced at IBM Corp.'s 300mm fab in East Fishkill, New York. Verified blocks of standard library cells and I/O elements were provided by Infineon Technologies AG.

Alliance members said their 45nm process is compatible across various fabs within the four companies. The low-power process is expected to be installed and qualified at Chartered, IBM and Samsung manufacturing facilities by the end of 2007.

The East Fishkill alliance has been cooperating for several years on a common platform foundry technology model, supported by partners from the EDA, intellectual property and design services industries. The goal is to allow customers to source their chip designs to multiple 300mm foundries with minimal rework.

The 45nm announcement signals "flexibility in accessing the technology, thanks to the GDSII compatibility across multiple manufacturing facilities," said alliance head Lisa Su, IBM's VP of semiconductor R&D. "Our early hardware results indicate that the 45nm-node device performance is at least 30 percent greater than that of the 65nm node, and that product developers can design to this process with confidence."

Infineon plans to introduce products based on the new technology more or less within the same time frame as the other alliance members!beginning in 2009, with chips for mobile applications, said board member Hermann Eul. But Eul was reluctant to detail the company's 45nm tactics.

"Depending on future market development, Infineon will decide on its fab strategy at a later point in time," Eul said. "The traditional positioning of semiconductor companies along the entire value chain, from development through production and sales for logic products, is in the process of transition and is therefore subject to optimizing capital investment and business development."

The company currently outsources part of its production to foundry partner Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing in Singapore.

Multiple fabs
"This 45nm announcement provides Infineon with three fabs where they can run communication products as well as other products that use the technology developed as part of the alliance," said Len Jelinek, IC-manufacturing analyst at market research house iSuppli Corp. Jelinek said he believes Infineon "will most likely run the majority of their products at Chartered; IBM and Samsung will have buffer capacity, which is really risk mitigation in times of high demand."

At the same time, Jelinek said, Chartered benefits because it now has three major companies that can use the foundry for manufacturing.

The East Fishkill alliance, he said, has enabled the partners "to spend less money individually than if they were to have developed the technology independently." By running the same mask set in multiple locations!Samsung's S1 operation, Chartered's Fab 7 and IBM's Building 323!"development, qualification and volume-manufacturing costs and time-to-market are significantly reduced for the partners," said Jelinek.

By putting aside some of the traditional competitive issues, he added, the partners have reached the goal faster than they would have by going it alone.

The announcement comes amid a new and strong growth cycle in IC manufacturing. The foundry industry declined 2.2 percent in 2005, but the business is expected to rebound and grow by 19.8 percent this year, according to a just-issued forecast from Gartner Inc.

In 2007, the research firm expects the foundry market to rise 18.2 percent.

Early design kits for the four companies' 45nm products are being made available to select customers.

Earlier this year, Intel Corp. disclosed initial details of its 45nm process and claimed it had produced the world's first chips based on the technology. It is expected to be ready for mass production in the second half of 2007. Intel has also announced three 300mm fabs capable of 45nm chip production, including the D1D plant in Oregon, Fab 32 in Arizona and Fab 28 in Israel. In 2005, Intel invested more than $4 billion on new fabs and upgrades to existing ones.

Bidding to get a jump on its foundry rivals, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd also recently disclosed the first details of its new 45nm process, due to go into production in Q3 2007. The foundry's 10-metal-layer technology permits gate lengths down to 26nm, according to TSMC.

Other 45nm plans
For its part, Texas Instruments Inc. plans to sample devices based on its yet-to-be-announced 45nm process in 2007, with production due in 2008, said Peter Rickert, platform manager for application-specific products at the company.

Meanwhile, Renesas Technology Corp. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd have advanced their collaboration in 45nm process development into a full integration test stage.

Matsushita and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. started joint process development back in 1998. The collaboration was taken over by Renesas after that company was formed by the merger of Mitsubishi's and Hitachi's IC operations. Through the joint R&D work, 130-, 90- and 65nm processes have been developed. Collaboration on a 45nm process started last October and is slated to be completed in the latter part of 2007. Both companies will prepare to begin volume production based on 45nm process technology starting April 2008.

Elsewhere, Toshiba, Sony and NEC Electronics have R&D activities aimed at developing 45nm process technology.

- Nicolas Mokhoff
EE Times

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