by Anton Shilov
09/20/2012 | 11:35 AM
Globalfoundries on Thursday unveiled the details about the world's first 14nm-XM [extreme mobility] process technology that utilizes three-dimensional “FinFET” transistors. The new tech will help to cut down power consumption of system-on-chips by about two times when compared to chips made using 20nm technology. The most surprising thing is that mass production is slated on 2014, which means at the same time with Intel Corp., ahead of other foundries.
The 14nm-XM offering is based on a modular technology architecture that uses a 14nm FinFET devices combined with 20nm-LPM process back-end-of-line (BEOL) interconnect flow. Leveraging the maturity of the 20nm-LPM technology will enable a rapid time-to-market as well as a smooth transition for customers looking to tap the benefits of FinFET system-on-chips as soon as possible. According to Globalfoundries, 14-nm FinFETs have a 48-nm fin pitch, which is identical to what Globalfoundries expects about Intel's FinFET fabrication process.
The FinFET architecture takes the traditional two-dimensional transistor design and turns the conductive channel on its side, resulting in a three-dimensional “fin” structure surrounded by a gate that controls the flow of current. A key benefit of FinFET technology is its superior low-power attributes. The 3D transistor design intrinsically operates at a lower voltage with minimal current leakage, which translates into longer battery life for mobile applications or less power consumption for plugged-in applications such as networking chips in datacenters.
When compared to today’s 20nm planar technology, 14nm-XM is expected to deliver a 40% - 60% improvement in battery life and between 20% - 55% higher performance depending on operating voltage. Technology development is already underway, with test silicon running through Globalfoundries’ Fab 8 in Saratoga County, N.Y. Early process design kits (PDKs) are available now, with customer tape-outs expected in 2013.
“We have more than a decade of FinFET R&D to build on as we prepare to bring this technology to production. We are confident this foundation will enable us to lead the foundry volume ramp of FinFETs, just as we did with high-K metal gate (HKMG),” said Gregg Bartlett, chief technology officer at Globalfoundries.
Globalfoundries said it has developed a new approach to technology definition that has resulted in a cost-effective and power-optimized FinFET technology that is well suited for the mobile SoC market. The 14nm-XM architecture strikes the ideal balance between performance and power consumption, while minimizing both die size and cost. At the same time, the technology has been architected for optimum manufacturability and ease of design, with a view to allowing designers to re-use much of their IP from previous generations. Additionally, consideration is given to SoC-level concerns beyond the transistor architecture, such as overall system-level performance and specific mobile applications needs.