Is China Interested in FD-SOI? You bet.

At the recent FD-SOI Forum in Shanghai, the IoT (Internet of Things) was the #1 topic in all the presentations.

The event was sponsored by the SOI Consortium, the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology / Chinese Academy of Sciences (SIMIT/CAS), and VeriSilicon. By all accounts it was a great success. Speakers included experts from Synopsys, ST, GF, Soitec, IBS, Synapse Design, VeriSilicon, Wave Semi and IBM (see below for key slides and links to the full presentations). The goal was to gather IC industry decision makers, technology owners, opinion leaders and market analysts to exchange and assess the opportunities that FD-SOI technology brings in terms of ultra-low power operation at high performance for mobile and IoT.

 

A panel discussion during the SOI Consortium's Shanghai FD-SOI Forum brought whole ecosystem onto same stage – a clear sign of FD-SOI becoming mainstream solution. (Courtesy: SOI Consortium)
A panel discussion during the SOI Consortium’s Shanghai FD-SOI Forum brought whole ecosystem onto same stage – a clear sign of FD-SOI becoming mainstream solution. (Courtesy: SOI Consortium)

Here are some of the points made by the speakers:

  • FinFET is a tough (Intel is running 15 months behind) and capex consuming technology (exponential situation in terms of costs), so not everybody will be able to go for it
  • FD-SOI will be a game changer
  • the FD-SOI ecosystem is now ready but industry still seems a bit too conservative to get started
  • FD-SOI is a great opportunity for China to take the lead
  • need a big fabless house with a high-volume application and then foundries building capacity
  • promising outlook: designs are underway; in 6 to 9 months there could be significant volumes. It is no longer a question of why FD-SOI – now we are at when FD-SOI.
  • 28nm will be a long lifetime technology node (2012-2024)
  • IoT: a good opportunity for FD-SOI
  • work is being done by the ecosystem to improve FD-SOI IP
  • FD-SOI is not only for 28nm but also 20/22nm and 14nm (ST discussed its 14nm FD-SOI)
  • the industry acknowledges ST and Soitec’s commitment to developing FD-SOI technology

We know that FD-SOI 28nm has moved into the manufacturing and volume production phase. It offers the chip industry the unique features of being able to fabricate at competitive cost, ultra low power, high speed ICs. It is a game changer technology platform that brings new powerful elements to the designers and a strong differentiation potential at IC and system level. But the speakers acknowledged that challenges remain, in particular that there’s a need for a greater commitment from industry and for very big customers (but that’s going to change).

 

The presentations

Here are brief summaries of the presentations. Click on the presentation names to download the full pdfs, or on the slides for enlarged images.

Market Overview and Opportunities by Handel Jones, CEO, International Business Strategies

Starting from a bird’s-eye view of the world, this presentation then zooms down deep into the nitty-gritty of chip manufacturing costs. Considering the various technology options for current and future nodes, it looks at costs per gate and per wafer, costs for design and for tooling, yield impact and fab life. The world’s largest chip consumer, China currently imports about 90% of the chips used there. The government has targeted 2020 as the year by which Chinese semiconductor companies should be supplying 40% of semiconductors consumed in China. IBS sees FD-SOI as the most astute choice, especially for IoT.

Slide 5 from the IBS presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: IBS)
Slide 5 from the IBS presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: IBS)

 

FD-SOI Technology by Laurent Remont, VP Technology & Product Strategy, STMicroelectronics

This presentation gives an overview of FD-SOI technology, roadmaps and markets. One of the points made is that 28nm will be the longest process generation with the highest volume manufacturing. FD-SOI extends the 28nm offering with improved power and performance rivaling existing 20nm bulk.

Slide 13 from the first ST presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: ST)
Slide 13 from the first ST presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: ST)

 

Design with FD-SOI, Innovation Through Collaboration by Marco Casale-Rossi, Product Marketing Manager, Synopsys

The Synopsys presentation detailed FD-SOI/EDA readiness, with illustrations from an ST design. Among the many impressive results, time-to-good-floorplan was reduced 10x, and leakage was reduced by 59% through advanced EDA in the flow.

Slides 20 and 34 from the Synopsys presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: Synopsys and ST)
Slides 20 and 34 from the Synopsys presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: Synopsys and ST)

 

Designing with FD-SOI for Power Efficiency by Haoran Wang, Associate General Manager, Synapse Design China

Synapse Design is an industry leader in design services for most top tier semiconductor and system companies around the world. They have been working on designs in FD-SOI for over four years. In fact, they’ve already had four tapeouts in FD-SOI and are working on three others. The presentation noted that “…FD-SOI has more degrees of freedom than bulk” conferred by device physics. They recommend starting with a deep power analysis at RTL, looking carefully at performance requirements vs. battery life. They conclude, “At 28nm, FDSOI does show the benefits of speed/power advantage. It is a viable solution from technology point of view and easy to be integrated in current design flow.”

 

Slide 2 from the Synapse Design presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: Synapse Design)
Slide 2 from the Synapse Design presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: Synapse Design)

 

Leveraging FD-SOI to Achieve Both Low Power AND High Speed by Pete Fowley, CEO, Wave Semiconductors

Wave is a fabless semiconductor startup “commercializing a programmable solution addressing power, concurrency, design time, design cost, and deep submicron challenges facing the semiconductor market.” The founders come from a veritable who’s who industry background* (the CEO was one of the first members of Apple’s original Mac chip design team). They bill their FD-SOI based Wave Threshold Logic (WTL) as their “secret sauce”. WTL can use both very fast flip-well LVT devices with Forward Body Bias (FBB) and Standard VT devices that have very low leakage through very high Reverse Body Bias (RBB). According to Wave, “WTL‐ BB represents a unique differentiator for FD‐SOI: enabling significant performance and power advantages over bulk processes. This strategic advantage will persist into deeper nodes.” Clearly one to watch!

 

The FD-SOI Technology for Energy Efficient SoCs by Giorgio Cesana, Director of Marketing, STMicroelectronics

Here ST gives a FD-SOI primer, explaining the technology, design considerations and Forward Body Bias (FBB) use and results. Examples from both fast CPU/GPU and ultra-low power designs are given.

Slide 19 from the second ST presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: ST)
Slide 19 from the second ST presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: ST)

SOI Ecosystem – Strategic Opportunity for China by Tom Reeves, VP Technology Alliance, IBM

The SOI ecosystem is a central theme in this presentation. It has a long history of producing successful ICs, and the SOI enabled device structure pipeline continues through 7nm. IBM sees big opportunities for China in mobile, automotive, industrial, IoT, wearable and other More-than-Moore apps. The call to action is clear: now is the time for China to accelerate the building of its SOI ecosystem.

Slides 3 and 7 from the IBM presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: IBM)
Slides 3 and 7 from the IBM presentation at the 2014 Shanghai FD-SOI Forum (Courtesy: IBM)

Foundry Business Opportunities by Paul Colestock, Sr. Director of Segment Marketing, GlobalFoundries has not yet been posted as of this writing. But keep checking back – it should be there soon.

Also, look for another ASN post on the Shanghai 2014 RF-SOI Workshop coming up shortly.

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Special thanks to the folks at the SOI Consortium for their help in compiling details for this piece.

* A tip of the hat to Eric Esteve at Semiwiki for first pointing this out in his recent piece on Wave Semi’s technology, which you can read here.

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