UPDATE: The story has been corrected to reflect clarifications made by Globalfoundries. Apparently, EUV will not be used for 20nm and 22nm fabrication processes, but is aimed at sub-20nm technologies, e.g., 16nm. As a result, the announcement does not have any negative consequences for Globalfoundries customers.
In a keynote address today at Semicon West, senior vice president of technology and research and development at Globalfoundries, revealed details of the company’s plans to drive Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography to high-volume production. The company intends to start using EUV commercially in 2014 – 2015 when it starts to produce chips using sub-20nm process technologies. The plan does not impact timeline for previously announced 20nm and 22nm process technologies.
Globalfoundries: Only EUV for Sub-20nm
Thanks to Globalfoundries’ collaboration with the so-called IBM’s fab club, the company can skip usage of pre-production manufacturing tools for and install the production EUV tools into Fab 12 sometime in 2012 in order to initiate design of new process technologies. A move seems to be quite risky, but with the support from IBM and other partners within the alliance, the company may not face many troubles.
“Our strategy is to move past the pre-production tool step and straight to purchasing a production-level tool for installation in Fab 8 – our new leading-edge fab currently under construction in upstate New York. We are planning to install this tool in the second half of 2012 so we can immediately begin the development work to enable volume production by the 2014/2015 timeframe. It is our collaborative approach to R&D that has put us in a position to make such a move, a move that will accelerate the charge to volume production for the entire industry,” said Gregg Bartlett from Globalfoundries.
Globalfoundries claims that it decided not to use immersion lithography with sub-20nm fabrication processes (e.g., 16nm) because that would bring the costs up.
“We can take what we learned with immersion and apply it to ramping EUV to high volume. From our perspective, we see immersion lithography getting us through the 22/20nm node, but not without some serious cost challenges and added complexity. We need another solution [for more sophisticated process technologies], and in our view EUV is the most promising candidate,” explained Mr. Bartlett.
Initially, Globalfoundries planned to start production of chips using 28nm process technology at Fab 2/Fab 8 when it becomes operational in 2012. The company intended to quickly transition the fab to 22nm fabrication process after that. That plan has not changed, apparently. As a result, with today’s announcement, Globalfoundries confirms intention to start making chips using 16nm process technology in 2014 – 2015 timeframe.
EUV Ready for Mid-Decade Mass Production
Intel Corp., the leading maker of semiconductors, does not reportedly plan to use EUV lithography for 22nm fabrication process and it is highly likely that it will start to manufacture 22nm chips in volume sometimes in 2012. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the world’s largest contract maker of chips, also does not seem to mix 20nm process technology (due in 2013 for mass production) and extreme ultraviolet lithography (due sometimes in 2013 - 2014).
Both Advanced Micro Devices and Globalfoundries have been investing heavily in driving collaborative research and development for EUV for many years.
“We were one of the early founding members of EUV LLC, and our researchers have been behind several important milestones in EUV research, including the production of the first full-field EUV test chip. We are committed to continuing this leadership and helping drive the industry to volume production with EUV,” said Mr. Bartlett.
AMD needs a new process technology for central processing units and graphics processing units every two years; it is very likely that AMD and its ATI units hoped for 20nm/22nm mass production in late-2012 – 2013, which is something they are likely to get. Moreover, AMD will even find itself in a rather comfortable position in terms of availability of different process technologies for different products in case 16nm comes online sometime in 2014.