A New Open Foundry Source for FD-SOI? Soon, Says ST. Watch This Space.


STMicroelectronics will soon be announcing a “major foundry player” that will be both a dual FD-SOI manufacturing source for ST, plus an open source for the industry.  This important piece of news came out of the company’s Q4 and FY13 presentation in Paris on January 28th.

While ST signed a licensing agreement with GlobalFoundries a year ago, it was not exclusive, Jean-Marc Chery reminded attendees. Chery is EVP and GM of the Embedded Processing Solutions (EPS) division.  The company has racked up 15 active designs in FD-SOI, including multiple design wins in ASICs for networking and consumer markets.

While they weren’t naming names, ST was very bullish about their prospects.  They expect FD-SOI to be a significant contributor to the goal of doubling the Digital Convergence Group revenues by Q415. Ramp to volume production begins in Q4 of this year, said Chery, noting with some clear pride that “FD-SOI has moved from a technology opportunity to massive revenue generator in 2015.”

The 15 wins are complex, high-volume, high-ASP products, he said, and there are lots more in the pipeline. They are major wins with major customers, and fall into two main categories:  network infrastructure and consumer.  He outlined why the two groups are choosing FD-SOI.

For the networking infrastructure customers, there are three major factors of merit:

1. FD-SOI gives them the right performance vs. power trade-off. This is especially true with FD-SOI’s wider flexibility vs. bulk and FinFET because of the greater Vdd range and forward body biasing, which increases energy efficiency and can modulate performance depending on equipment load, he said.

2. Analog performance – for high-speed communications, this is very important, and things like SERDES do much better on FD-SOI than FinFETs.

3. Reliability – especially for memory, where the extremely low error rate makes design of embedded memories and TCAM much simpler and efficient.

For the customers in consumer markets, he cited four things they especially like:

1. As with their confreres in the networking world, they like the performance/power trade-off.

2. But they also really like the low, low leakage in SRAMs, which is key for SOCs, where it’s an important part of the mission profile.

3. There’s huge flexibility in the usage – and when the transistors operate at very low voltages, power consumption is next to nil.

4.  FD-SOI is simpler than FinFETs.

Volume production of 28nm FD-SOI will be ramping in Q4 of this year. They will also soon be ready with 14nm prototypes, and he cited the groundwork laid by the alliance in Albany (with IBM, Leti, GF and Samsung).

ST_FY13slide33

This slide from the ST FY13 presentation outlines the advantages of FD-SOI for key markets.

(The full ppt is available with the webcast – register here. Courtesy: STMicroelectronics)

Chery sees the volume ramp coming in two waves. After 28nm, the first will be 14nm for set-top boxes. ST, of course, is using FD-SOI in a new generation of chips for advanced set-top boxes based on 64-bit ARM cores (click here for more on that). The second wave will be more ARM-based solutions for complex, high-volume consumer apps.

Writing for Electronics360, Peter Clarke reported that Chery told him, “Crolles can support a selective list of customers that need high complexity and low- or mid- volume. ST will be the preferred manufacturer for those customers.”

Clark also reported that “Of the 15 design wins six are in the communications infrastructure category and 9 are for consumer applications and ST’s STB design is only counted as one of these.” One of the designs is running at 0.6V, he said.

In the course of his presentation, Chery also cited other SOI-based revenue boosters for 2014, including RF-SOI and silicon photonics.

So, we’re looking forward to getting the name of the major foundry that will be both a second-source for ST, and will open up FD-SOI to the industry – watch this space!

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