United Microelectronics Corp. has announced that it has licensed IBM technology to expedite the development of the foundry's next-generation 20nm process with FinFET 3D transistors. Under the terms of the agreement, IBM will license its 20nm process design kit and FinFET technology to UMC so the foundry can use these technologies in order to accelerate the availability of these processes for UMC customers.
This agreement between UMC and IBM is only inclusive of IBM's 20nm CMOS and FinFET. UMC's internally developed 20nm planar process will be aligned to IBM's design rules and process/device targets, while UMC's FinFET will be offered as a low-power technology enhancement option for mobile computing and communication products. Implementation will take place at the company's Tainan, Taiwan R&D site.
"We are happy to engage with a recognized technology leader such as IBM for this technology advancement effort. UMC's position as a world-leading foundry involves timely introduction of leading-edge processes to enable next generation customer chip designs. Leveraging IBM's technology expertise to shorten our 20nm and FinFET R&D cycle will create a win-win situation for UMC and our customers," said IC Chen, vice president of advanced technology development at UMC.
It is necessary to note that UMC does not currently enter the so-called "IBM fab club", or Common Platform alliance between IBM, Globalfoundries and Samsung Semiconductor that develops common process technologies for all three companies' semiconductor manufacturing facilities. As a result, UMC will not be able to align its manufacturing processes with CP members.
Nonetheless, licensing technologies from IBM demonstrates inability of UMC to design competitive process technologies fully on its own. Potentially, it means that going forward UMC may either join the Common Platform alliance or to continue licensing fabrication processes from others.