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SMIC braces for 32nm collaboration with IBM

Posted: 07 Oct 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:foundry service? 32nm node? 45nm process?

Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) has presented its process road map, tipping its 45nm and 40nm technology for delivery in 2009.

The Shanghai-based firm wants to develop a 32nm process by 2011 and said it is "engaged" in discussions to license IBM Corp.'s 32nm technology. However, SMIC did not elaborate the procedure.

Along with the 65nm node, SMIC developed its own technology in-house. Instead of developing its own and costly 45nm process, SMIC late last year allowed licensing its 45nm process for IBM.

In any case, SMIC is slightly left behind from its major foundry rivals such as Chartered, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd and United Microelectronics Corp. For example, IBM's members, like Chartered and Samsung, plan to ship a 32nm process by end of 2009. IBM's 32nm process includes high-k and metal gates.

SMIC claims that it is comfortable with its position in the market, saying it prefers to be a "fast follower" in the digital foundry space. "Besides, the overall 65nm and 45nm process markets will last longer than past nodes, partly because of the design, mask and other costs for the technology," said Lip-Bu Tan, founder and chairman of venture capital firm Walden International, during the presentation at the 2008 SMIC Technology Symposium.

Striving to move at par
SMIC is not standing still along with its rivals. "We're one generation behind in leading-edge technology, but we're catching up," said Sam Wang, president of SMIC's U.S. subsidiary, SMIC Americas, at the event.

It is also pushing hard in logic. The company once had a large percentage of its foundry capacity in DRAMs, but it has recently exited that space amid the memory downturn.

But now, the overall foundry business is slowing down. "Silicon foundries are experiencing a significant reduction in wafer initial activity that will likely lead to sub-75 percent capacity usage rates in Q4," said Steven Pelayo, an analyst with HSBC Global Technology Research in Hong Kong.

SMIC has maintained its forecast for Q3, but has not commented on Q4, according to Wang. Regarding the roadmap front, SMIC is shipping wafers based on 0.35?, 0.25? and 0.18? processes, as well as 90nm technology.

Starting in 2H 08, SMIC shifted into the 65nm era. Currently, SMIC seeks to offer three 65nm flavors such as low-leakage, generic, and mixed-signal/RF. The process, which was produced in-house, ranges from four to ten metal layers, with copper interconnects, triple-gate oxide options and other features.

Climbing higher
By Q3 08, the company was said to have moved into "process qualification" for its 65nm low-leakage process. "Process qualification" shows that the technology is ready for "risk production." Production is slated by the end of the year.

The 65nm generic process is predicted to shift into "process qualification" in Q1 09, while the 65nm mixed-signal/RF technology is expected to shift into "process qualification" in Q2 09.

By Q3 09, SMIC will move into the 45nm era. The 45nm technology was recently licensed from IBM. The process is a four to ten metal layer process, with copper interconnects, ultra low-k dielectrics and other features. The process will make use of 193nm immersion scanners, believed from ASML Holding NV.

The 45nm low-leakage process is expected to move into "process qualification" by Q3 09. The 45nm generic process is predicted to move into "process qualification" in Q1 10, while the 45nm mixed-signal/RF technology is said to move into "process qualification" in Q2 10.

Based on customer requests, Robert Tsu, associate VP marketing and sales for SMIC, said the company is also creating a 40nm process. "After the 45nm rollout, the initial 40nm process will be available by the end 2009," he said. The process is also based on the IBM technology.

"SMIC's 45nm and 40nm processes will be ramped up within the company's 300mm fab in Shanghai," he added.

SMIC does not expect to deliver its 32nm process until Q2 11. On its roadmap, the company is looking to move into "process qualification" for the low-leakage process by that time. No other processes were listed on the roadmap.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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