At the Semicon China conference earlier this week Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. unveiled plans for sub-40nm process technology development. The company, which earlier licensed technologies from others (45nm/40nm was licensed from IBM), promises to start making chips using 28nm fabrication process next year and is already working on 20nm tech.
SMIC did not reveal a lot of details about its 28nm process technology at the conference, but indicated that it will eventually have two options: low-power 28nm with poly/SiON gate as well as high-performance 28nm with high-K metal gate (HKMG). Just like Intel Corp., TSMC and UMC, SMIC uses gate-last approach, unlike IBM and Globalfoundries, who utilize gate-first approach to manufacturing to get smaller chips, reports ElectroIQ web-site.
Currently it is unclear whether SMIC developed its 28nm process technology completely by its own, or licensed it from other foundries. What is known is that SMIC has the right to license 32nm process technology, which is similar to 28nm fabrication process, from the U.S.
At present SMIC expects to complete development of its 28nm HKMG process technology in June, 2012, and start qualification of the tech sometimes in June, 2013. The new manufacturing process is expected to be production ready in the second half of 2013 with SPICE [simulation program with integrated circuit emphasis] version 1.0, a standard way to verify circuit operation at the transistor level before starting production, available in August, 2013.
It is rather remarkable that SMIC, a relatively small and young foundry will be a just quarter or two behind United Microelectronics Corp., one of the world's largest contract maker of semiconductors, with the 28nm fabrication process.