Why FD-SOI? What can you do with it that you couldn’t do before? That was the big question from IHS Markit’s Matthew Short that kicked off the first panel discussion at the SOI Consortium’s Silicon Valley Symposium. And there were some great answers.
Here in this final part of our coverage of the event, we’ll detail who said what in the two panel discussions, as well as the presentations by Leti, Intento Design & the SOI Consortium’s IP/EDA roundup.
If you missed the previous two installments of our coverage, you can catch up on the rest of the presentations in part 1 (NXP, Samsung & more) here and part 2 here (Synaptics, GlobalFoundries & more). Almost all of the presentations are now freely available under “events” on the consortium website – or just click here to get them.
The presentation by Matthew Short, Sr. Director of IoT Technology at IHS Markit, was not specific to SOI, but it sure did lay out out the market opportunities. Entitled IoT, 5G, ADAS and AI Market, it’s available on our website. Matt spent most of his career in chip design at NXP/Freescale, so he really has an engineer’s perspective on where this all is going. At IHS Markit, they define IoT as anything with an IP address. Over the past year more than 10 billion devices were shipped, and there were more “things” than cellular handsets, so the world has really changed. He outlined the growth drivers, suggested that 5G won’t be a “wow” thing for consumers, and noted there is a lot of debate raging regarding how smart sensors should be (the Tier 1’s want smart).
He was then joined on the stage by the participants in the first panel discussion, which looked at product and application drivers. That included: NXP Fellow Rob Cosaro; Tim Dry, Director of Edge & Endpoints Marketing at Samsung Foundry; ST biz dev director Roger Forchhammer; CoreAVI biz dev VP Lee Melatti; Nokia VP Michael Reiha; and Analog Bits EVP Mahesh Tirupattur.
First Short asked why customers wanted more integrated solutions. For CoreAvi, it’s about safety, for ST in automotive it’s about security, for Analog Bits, it’s about integrating more analog, for Nokia it’s just a necessity.
Then he asked Why FD-SOI? What can you do that you couldn’t do before? For ST, which is doing MCUs for automotive, it’s about energy efficiency, speed, the density of non-volatile memory and the robustness of the technology. For NXP, it’s back biasing, low voltage and power numbers never seen before. “FD-SOI really makes a difference in the products we can bring to market,” said Cosaro. For CoreAVI, it’s the long-term power impact. And for Analog Bits, “Customers see huge benefits,” said Tirupattur, for cost sensitive applications. He has customers selling their technology in high volumes in FD-SOI.
What about edge vs. cloud? For Nokia, it’s monolithic integration for best-in-class RF, advanced memory, biasing and voltage regulation adding a layer of intelligence. Samsung sees edge as distributed cloud, and CoreAVI sees safety in the edge, because you can’t completely rely on the cloud.
Where are the weak points in the FD-SOI ecosystem? For Samsung, more people need to use back biasing. “People need to use the knobs,” said Dry. For Analog Bits, the next step is innovation around back biasing, as many in logic don’t understand the benefits, so the ecosystem needs to promote the value proposition. ST suggests that with more products out there, customers will see the benefits. NXP did “a lot of the heavy lifting” at 28nm – now you need more people using these nodes, not just the cellphone nodes.
How will the architecture change? For NXP, it’s all about memory bandwidth. For Samsung, it’s the promise of analog and interconnect. Nokia sees the back-end and heterogeneous integration with FD-SOI and RF enablement. Analog Bits’ Tirupattur said he’s pushing his engineers for even lower power in a still smaller form factor, noting that most analog engineers had been more focused on performance than power, but now that’s changed. For ST, it’s AI/ML throughout automotive, and FD-SOI is beneficial there.
Research giant Leti’s presentation was entitled Applications Around the Connected Car. 85% of Leti’s €315M budget comes from R&D contracts with its 350 industrial partners. Truly a driving force in FD-SOI, Leti is involved in a dizzying array of projects. For the connected car, they cover (much of it on SOI): high precision & smart sensing, embedded processing & fusion, new computing paradigms and deep learning, ultra-low power computing nodes & framework, ultra-low power connectivity for IoT, energy management and scavenging, and security. They do vision at the edge, 3D technology for smart imagers, and ways to dramatically reduce power. They’ve got a Qbits platform on FD-SOI for AI at the edge, a super low power neural network accelerator, and ULP connectivity. Check out the presentation for lots of details.
SOI Consortium Executive Co-Director Jon Cheek gave a quick round-up presentation aggregating various IP and EDA offerings entitled , SOI EDA/IP Overview. It is taken from recent member presentations including Cadence, Silvaco, VeriSilicon, Synopsys and GlobalFoundries, giving you an idea of how dynamic the ecosystem has become.
While the logic side of the design equation has long had robust automation tools, some consider the analog side as sort of black magic. New consortium member Intento Design aims to fix that. Here at ASN we covered their work with ST briefly a few months ago here. At the SOI Symposium, the company’s CEO Dr. Ramy ISKANDER presented their solution in ID-XploreTM: A Disruptive EDA for Emerging FDSOI Applications. Intento, a partner in GlobalFoundries FDXcelerator program, has cognitive software for first-time right analog design. It determines the appropriate static and dynamic body biasing ranges to meet PVTB (Process/Voltage/Temperature/Body Bias), and is fully integrated into the Cadence Environment. They produced multiple correct-by-construction FD-SOI designs, and the total time spent to generate eight candidates FD-SOI designs took less than a day.
The last panel discussion, entitled Are the Tools in the Box? was moderated by the Consortium’s Jon Cheek. Participants included: VeriSilicon SVP David Jarmon; Arm PDG Marketing VP Kelvin Low; NXP’s Stefano Pietri, Technical Director of the company’s Microcontrollers Analog Design Team; Jamie Schaeffer, who’s GF’s Sr. Product Offering Manager for 22FDX and 12FDX; and Cadence Strategic Alliances Director Jonathan Smith.
Yes, the tools are in the box. Smith of Cadence said they’re providing them, and NXP’s Pietro said that they’re very well positioned in his specialty, analog. VeriSilicon has IP, and anything they don’t have in house they’ll license.
So why be afraid of body biasing? NXP has proof by example – they see such huge cost advantages that they try to leverage it as much as possible. GF’s doing training, since each area (automotive, IoT, etc.) has different needs. Some VeriSilicon customers already see such substantial benefits from FD-SOI that they’re not bothering to do biasing. Cadence points out that the Arm POP announcement is huge, and Arm’s Low wondered if the SOI Consortium could do an IP portal? “Our sales departments need to explain the advantages to our customers!” said NXP’s Pietro.
From the audience, NXP VP & longtime FD-SOI proponent Ron Martino (who, btw, wrote some great articles for ASN when they first got into FD-SOI – read them here), asked why designers think FD-SOI means a lot of corners? How do we convince the industry that FD-SOI simplifies design? Cadence is working with GF, responded Smith, and will have some big new at Arm’s TechCon this fall. “We need more training and marketing to show it’s not scary,” he added. For GF, the corners don’t get more complicated, and they’re working with Dolphin Integration on getting them covered early in the planning. Ease of access to IP will help, per Arm.
And in a great concluding remark, VeriSilicon’s Jarmon said, “The craft is being automated. The more we work together, the greater success of FD-SOI.”
Takeaway #1: As NXP VP Ron Martino noted in his opening keynote at the recent SOI Symposium in San Jose, FD-SOI is the technology platform for enabling edge computing, and ultra-low power is the sweet spot.
Organized by the SOI Consortium with support from our members, the recent SOI Symposium in Silicon Valley was an enormous success. Close to 300 decision makers signed up – more than double what we saw just a couple years ago. Attendees spanned the ecosystem: from end-users to design to foundries and right up to the investment community. The presentations and panel discussions were absolutely terrific, and almost all are now freely available – click here to get them.
The focus was heavily on FD-SOI this time, but some very interesting RF-SOI talks were given as well. This was a day packed with presentations by players from across the SOI ecosystem. In this post, we’ll only cover a few. But the others will follow quickly, so watch this page. And now without further ado, let’s dive in.
NXP is designing FD-SOI into many new products, said Martino, GM of the i.MX Processor Application Product Line. There’s a new wave of products – generically you could call them IoT but in fact they’re found throughout the industry. It’s about interacting with the cloud, so edge processing is critical. His presentation, Embedded Processors for Future Applications, is now freely available for downloading from our website.
The new i.MX7ULP is a great example of ULP in the sweet spot. From a design standpoint, it leverages IP, power optimization, and what he described as “starter biasing”. That gets them the long battery life with 2D & 3D graphics they need for wearables and portables in consumer and industrial applications.
Having deepened their expertise in biasing, NXP has now moved on to “advanced biasing” for the next generation of products. For example, the i.MX RT ULP (real-time, ultra-low-power) series are “cross-over” processors, which Martino says are the “new normal”. They deal with a high number of sensor inputs. The i.MX RT 1100 MCUs, which have been qualified for automotive and industrial applications, are breaking the gigahertz performance barrier with a low-power, 28nm FD-SOI process.
Another new product leveraging advanced biasing is the i.MX RT 600. They’ve done hardware acceleration on specific functions and optimized around visionand voice integration at low cost and power.
Likewise for the i.MX 8 and 8X subsystems for automotive and industrial applications. At Embedded World, they showed it driving advanced OLED screens, cameras (for parking, for example), V2X, audio, user monitoring (like driver pupil tracking), and integration into the windshield in a heads-up system. This is the high end of the capability of 28nm FD-SOI, he said. It’s a 6 CPU core system with multiple operating systems, about which he said: “It’s the dashboard…it’s amazing.”
FD-SOI enables a scalable solution for real-time and general compute with the lowest leakage memory, the best dynamic and static power, Martino concluded. NXP’s leadership in body biasing is enabling edge compute, and we can expect to see more content coming soon.
In another NXP presentation later in the day, Stefano Pietri, Technical Director of the company’s Microcontrollers Analog Design Team caught a lot of people’s attention. A wave of cameras went up to capture each of his slides in Analog Techniques for Low Power, High Performance MPU in FD-SOI – but you can get the whole thing now from our website. It’s a very technical presentation, in which he details the many ways FD-SOI makes the analog team’s job easier, enabling them to get performance not available from bulk technologies. They developed a lot of in-house expertise and IP (see slide 16 for a catalog of the IP).
Tim Dry, Director of Foundry Marketing: Edge and End Point presented Samsung’s FDS with MRAM: Enabling Today’s Innovative Low Power Endpoint Products. In a telling first, Samsung has made this presentation available on our website.
FD-SOI covers the wide range of requirements for intelligent IoT, he explained: from high to low processing loads; and active to dormant processing duty cycles. That includes chips that will last for ten years, and need to be able to wake up fast and kick right into high performance. These products are 50% analog, and packaging is part of the solution (especially for the RF component).
Samsung has been shipping 28nm FD-SOI (which they call 28FDS) since 2015, first in IoT/wearables, then in automotive/industrial and consumer. Yields are fully mature. In March 2019, they announced mass production of eMRAM on 28FDS. It’s a BEOL process, adding only 3 masks. It cuts chip-level power by 65% and RF power by 76% over 40nm bulk with external memory. Beyond the fact that it’s 1000x faster than eFlash, eMRAM also has other advantages that make it especially good for over-the-air updates, for example.
Samsung also has RF and 5G mmWave products shipping in 28FDS. The company has a fantastic ecosystem of partners helping here, said Dry. In AI at the endpoint, they’re shipping IoT products for video surveillance cameras: some are high speed, but some are also low speed – it depends on the detection use case. And most importantly for the design ecosystem, the IP is all ready.
Next up for Samsung is 18FDS, which will ship this year with RF, then in 2020 with eMRAM. 18FDS, Dry said, is optimized for power reduction. Compared to 28FDS, it’s got 55% lower power consumption, 25% less area and 17% better performance at the same power. You’ll hear more about it as well as their design services if you’re at the Samsung Foundry Forum in May (registration info here).
Kelvin Low, VP of Marketing for Arm’s Physical Design Group (PDG) gave a presentation entitled Biased Views on the Industry’s Broadest FDSOI Physical IP Solution. By way of background, Arm and Samsung Foundry recently announced a comprehensive, foundry-sponsored physical IP platform, including an eMRAM compiler for 18FDS. In case you missed it, at the time Arm Senior Product Marketing Manager Umang Doshi described the offering in an Arm Community / Developer physical IP blog, which Arm graciously agreed to share with ASN readers.
At the SOI Symposium, Low emphasized to the audience that Arm now has the broadest range of FD-SOI + IP solutions. It addresses mobile, consumer, IoT, automotive and AI/ML.
There are 18FDS POP (processor optimized pipe) packages for Arm Cortex-A55, Cortex-R52 and Cortex-M33 processors. IP integrates biasing and a number of standard PVTs (corners). And since the Samsung platform is foundry-sponsored, it’s free.
Arm did a test chip with eMRAM, which they’ve just gotten back. It’s functional (some details are available in slide 14 of their presentation), and the company is now preparing a demo board that they’ll be showing shortly. Watch this page!
That’s all for this post. The next post — part 2, covering presentations by Synaptics, GlobalFoundries, STMicroelectronics, Dolphin Integration and Anokiwave — is now available. Click here to read on.
The world’s SOI wafer leader, Soitec is posting strong sales and issuing a steady stream of compelling announcements. This is clearly good news for everyone in the SOI ecosystem, as the outlook for the various families of SOI wafers is excellent.
Soitec CEO Paul Boudre told ASN, “I’m excited because of the fundamentals behind the growth. Reaching down the supply chain gives us the ability to help our customers with the next generation. We’re not in a technology push, but in a technology pull. It’s long-term growth we’re seeing.”
Soitec has brought people from the device side into the company to better understand the solutions customers need, he said. They’re talking to the carmakers, telcos and more, working one-on-one with them to understand the constraints and the problems they are trying to fix, in order to deliver a solution based on the Soitec product roadmap. Boudre is particularly excited about 5G. It’s not just new handsets and systems: the entire infrastructure will require a massive upgrade, across which Soitec has a role to play supplying SOI wafers.
They also have other SOI and engineered substrates for specific markets like filters, displays, imaging and power. He adds that they’re seeing nice growth in SOI wafers for photonics, driven by cloud computing, and for smart power in markets like automotive and white goods.
Here’s a roundup of some recent developments. Chips made on RF-SOI wafers are in every mobile phone made on the planet these days, so lets look at what they’re doing there first. We’ll follow that with an update on the surge of activity on FD-SOI wafers.
It’s no secret that the runaway success of RF-SOI for front-end modules (FEMs) in mobile phones has stretched wafer capacity mightily. To help address this, in February 2019 Soitec and China’s SOI wafer leader Simgui announced an enhanced partnership and increased production capacity of 200mm SOI wafers in China, securing future growth. The two companies redefined their manufacturing and licensing relationship to better serve to better serve the growing global market for RF-SOI in mobile and Power-SOI in automotive and consumer electronics.
Since the two companies signed their original licensing and technology transfer agreement in May 2014, Simgui has mastered Soitec’s Smart Cut™ proprietary process to deliver world-class RF-SOI and Power-SOI products. Simgui’s strategic partnership with Soitec allows them to use the same tools and processes to deliver the same products meeting the same specifications.
Simgui has invested in their Shanghai fabrication line in order to double annual 200mm SOI wafer production capacity from 180,000 to 360,000. The fab is production ready, having been qualified by multiple key customers inside and outside China.
Simgui CEO Dr. Jeffrey Wang notes, “China has design, wafer manufacturing and good momentum in the IC industry. We are committed to our strategic partnership with Soitec to keep advancing SOI as China’s key differentiator.”
China Mobile’s interest in the SOI ecoystem is clear: they’ve presented at the SOI symposia in Shanghai for two years running now. In a February 2019 press release, Soitec announced that they’ve joined the China Mobile 5G Innovation Center – and they’re the first materials supplier to do so. The China Mobile 5G Innovation Center is an international alliance chartered to develop 5G communication solutions for China, the world’s largest wireless communications market with 925M mobile subscribers. The Center aims to accelerate the development of 5G by establishing a cross-industry ecosystem, setting up open labs to create new products and applications, and fostering new business and market opportunities.
Soitec’s RF-SOI wafers have been critical in the deployment of 4G communications, and the opportunity in 5G is even bigger. Plus the company’s FD-SOI wafers enable the technology that brings unique RF performance, making it an ideal solution for many applications including mmWave communications such as 5G transceivers. They are also enabling full RF and ultra-low-power computing integration for IoT and edge computing.
In January 2019, Soitec announced that they have expanded their collaboration with Samsung Foundry on the FD-SOI wafer supply, securing the high-volume Samsung needs to meet industry’s current and future demands in consumer, IoT and automotive applications. The agreement is built on the existing close relationship between the companies and guarantees wafer supply for Samsung’s FD-SOI platform starting with the 28FDS process.
“Samsung has been committed to delivering transformative industry leading technologies,” said Ryan Lee, Vice President of Foundry Marketing at Samsung Electronics. “FD-SOI is currently setting a new standard in many high-growth applications including IoT with ultra-low-power devices, automotive systems such as vision processors for ADAS and infotainment, and mobile connectivity from 5G smartphones to wearable electronics. Through this agreement with Soitec, our long-term strategic partner, we hope to lay the foundation for steady supply to meet high-volume demands of current and future customers.”
“This strategic agreement validates today’s high-volume manufacturing adoption of FD-SOI,” said Christophe Maleville, Soitec’s Executive Vice President, Digital Electronics Business Unit. “Soitec is ready to support Samsung’s current and long-term growth for ultra-low power, performance-on-demand FD-SOI solutions.”
In February 2019 Soitec announced they’d become a strategic partner in Silicon Catalyst’s start-up incubator. Silicon Catalyst is a Silicon Valley-based incubator providing silicon-focused start-ups access to a world-class network of advisors, design tools, silicon devices, networking, access to funding and marketing acumen needed to successfully launch their businesses.
Soitec will engage in this start-up ecosystem to gain insight into the newest technologies and applications across high-growth markets, and to guide nascent technologies to successful market penetration.
“As a Strategic Partner of Silicon Catalyst, Soitec has a unique opportunity to grow our visibility among early-stage semiconductor companies,” said Thomas Piliszczuk, Executive VP of Global Strategy for Soitec. “Engineered substrates give semiconductor related start-ups a competitive edge in developing new high-performance, energy-efficient solutions.”
Pete Rodriguez, CEO of Silicon Catalyst said, “Soitec is creating technical advances that are enabling the next generation of products across many market segments. Their SOI technology is a key ingredient to meet the diverse challenges for breakthrough differentiated semiconductor products, combining ultra-low power with excellent analog/mixed-signal performance.”
And finally, jumping back a few months, at the end of 2018 Soitec announced that their SOI wafers are at the heart of a new Renesas SOTBTM energy harvesting chipset, opening a self-powered future for IoT devices. SOTB is how Renesas refers to its FD-SOI technology.
(BTW, here at ASN we’ve been covering the work that Renesas has quietly done on this technology since 2005 (!). And we did a piece about an EETimes Japan article back in 2015 that revealed the launching of the 65nm work. )
Soitec supports the Renesas SOTB chipset with a special version of its FD-SOI wafer product line. The new Renesas SOTB-based chipset overcomes the energy constraints of IoT devices and reduces the power consumption to approximately one-tenth that of the existing products in the market today. That makes the chipset perfectly suited for extreme low-power, maintenance-free and energy harvesting applications including wearable devices, smart home applications, smart watches, portable appliances, infrastructure monitoring systems, industrial, business, agricultural, healthcare, as well as health and fitness apparel, shoes, drones and more.
Renesas has developed its energy harvesting chip using its unique SOTB 65nm process technology that achieves both low active current of 20 μA/MHz and deep standby current of 150 nA. As a result, Renesas’ SOTB chipsets offer enhanced control of the transistor electrostatics and reductions in both the standby and active currents to levels never before achieved. Additionally, Renesas has successfully delivered the dopant-less channel to suppress Vth variability for the ultra-low voltage operation, and the ultra-low power back bias control to reduce the standby current at the same time.
“To spur innovations in IoT and consumer applications, we have integrated our exclusive energy-harvesting SOTB technologies into our Energy Harvest Controller,” said Mr. Toru Moriya, Vice President of Renesas’ Home Business Division, Industrial Solutions Business Unit. “We are confident that our SOTB technology built on Soitec’s ultrathin substrates can deliver unmatched capabilities for developing maintenance-free IoT devices that never require power supply or replacement, giving rise to a new IoT global market based on endpoint intelligence.”
The new R7F0E Embedded Controller is the first device based on Renesas’ SOTB technology. Developers can now design applications that need no battery or recharging. The R7F0E features: an Arm® Cortex® -M0＋; operating frequency up to 32 MHz, and up to 64 MHz in boost mode (that’s body bias in action!); memory of up to 1.5 MB flash, 256 KB SRAM; and active current consumption while operating at 3.0V of just 20 µA/MHz, and in deep standby of 150 nA with real-time clock source and reset manager. As of this writing, Renesas indicates it’s engaging select customers through July 2019, with mass production in 4Q19. Read more about the R7F0E on the Renesas website.
STMicroelectronics is now sampling 28nm FD-SOI microcontrollers (MCUs) with embedded non-volatile memory (eNVM) based on ePCM to alpha customers. Field trials meeting the requirements of automotive applications and full technology qualification are expected in 2020. These MCUs—the world’s first to use ePCM, which stands for embedded Phase-Change Memory—will target powertrain systems, advanced and secure gateways, safety/ADAS applications, and Vehicle Electrification. (Read the full press release here.)
“Having applied ST’s process, design, technology, and application expertise to ePCM, we’ve developed an innovative recipe that makes ST the very first to combine this non-volatile memory with 28nm FD-SOI for high-performance, low-power automotive microcontrollers,” said Marco Monti, President Automotive and Discrete Group, STMicroelectronics. “With samples already in some lead-customers’ hands, we’re confirming the outstanding temperature performance of ePCM and its ability to meet all automotive standards, further assuring our confidence in its market adoption and success.”
ePCM presents a solution to chip- and system-level challenges, meeting automotive MCU requirements for AEC-Q100 Grade 0, operating at temperature up to +165°C. In addition, ST says its technology assures firmware/data retention through high-temperature soldering reflow processes and immunity to radiation, for additional data safety.
Architecture and performance benchmark updates were presented the most recent IEDM (December 2018 in San Francisco) in a paper entitled Truly Innovative 28nm FDSOI Technology for Automotive Micro-Controller Applications embedding 16MB Phase Change Memory (F. Arnaud et al). As of this writing, the IEDM 2018 papers are not yet posted on the IEEE Xplore Digital Library site. However, the ppt that ST presented at the conference is available here.
For more in-depth information on ePCM, see the ST PCM page. To learn more about how it compares with competing technologies such as eMRAM, read Embedded Phase-Change Memory Emerges by Mark Lapedus of SemiEngineering. Papers describing other eNVM solutions on FD-SOI were also presented at IEDM 2018. Samsung’s is entitled Demonstration of Highly Manufacturable STT-MRAM Embedded in 28nm Logic (Y. J. Song et al). GlobalFoundries’ is entitled 22-nm FD-SOI Embedded MRAM Technology for Low-Power Automotive-Grade-1 MCU Applications (K. Lee et al).
It should be a good year across the SOI ecosystem, with new products, players, IP, technologies and tools — and high volumes.
What’s new? Let’s start with the people, as the Consortium welcomes new team members. Jon Cheek of NXP will join Carlos Mazure as Executive Co-Director. He’ll be replacing ST’s Giorgio Cesana in that role – and goodness knows those are some big shoes to fill. Giorgio has given of his time and expertise so tirelessly over many years. He’ll of course still be a key resource for the SOI ecosystem, and though we’ll miss him here at the Consortium, we know he’ll be doing great things in SOI at ST. So a heartfelt thanks to Giorgio Cesana from all of us.
Jon Cheek has a long history in engineering management at companies that have been leading users of SOI: AMD, Freescale and now NXP. As such, he understands what companies need to design great products, and how the Consortium can help further build, promote, connect and support the ecosystem. The Consortium team also welcomes Jean-Eric Michallet of Leti, who’ll bring deep bizdev expertise and a keen sense of what it takes to reach further into the ecosystem. (Astute long-time ASN readers might remember his post from five years ago about 3D monolithic integration – now dubbed “Cool Cube” by Leti.) And finally, look to hear more from and about the Consortium, as our team is rounded out with the addition of the comm & marketing savvy of Erin Berard of Soitec.
In addition to new team members, the Consortium is very pleased to welcome new member Applied Materials. Though new to the Consortium, AMAT has a long history in the heart of SOI ecosystem – in fact they’ve been working with SOI wafer-leader Soitec for over 25 years. AMAT ion implanters are a key enabler to what became and is Soitec’s industry-leading Smart CutTM SOI wafer manufacturing process. And of course AMAT equipment is used to make virtually every chip in the world, so their breadth of vision as a consortium member is clearly a fabulous addition.
2019 will also be marked by the expansion of the highly successful SOI Academy series, the first of which was held this past fall in Shanghai. We’ll keep you posted as these and other Consortium events are announced throughout the year. In fact, 2019 marks a decade of (excellent!) SOI Consortium events events around the world: our first symposium was held back in 2009. Kicking off this year, save April 9th on your calendar for our Annual SOI Silicon Valley Symposium. Then watch this page for more events across the globe.
What will the year bring? On the product side, RF-SOI for 5G is of course super hot. Last summer, a SemiconductorEngineering headline proclaimed RF-SOI Wars Begin. And what we heard at the International RF-SOI Workshop last fall in Shanghai (presentations here) certainly confirmed that in the coming year the race will continue unabated.
And for FD-SOI, you might want to read the SE series published over the last six months. The latest, published a couple of weeks ago looks at FD-SOI at the Edge. There are some great insights from SOI Consortium members there. In terms of products, too, there’s lots of activity.
Last summer, Samsung indicated they’d taped out over 60 products since they first began offering 28FDS three years ago. It’s a trend they see accelerating. Full production of 18FDS is slated for this fall.
And also last summer GlobalFoundries indicated they had over 50 client designs on 22FDX. “We’re only just beginning,” said GF CEO Tom Caulfield at the time. “We have found a way to separate ourselves from the pack by emphasizing our differentiated FD-SOI roadmap and client-focused offerings that are poised to enable connected intelligence. ”
For its part, ST, as we learned at the last SOI Consortium Japan Workshop, has been doing FD-SOI for five years now. And while we don’t have number, we learned that some of those products are now in their second and third generations, and that some big FD-SOI chips coming out this year with embedded memory and RF, with especially good traction in mmWave, automotive and IoT.
So while the outlook for the overall industry is anyone’s guess for the coming year, the outlook for chips built on SOI technologies is very good indeed.
Lots of great information came out of the two days of workshops in Japan recently organized by the SOI Consortium. Some of the presentations are now posted on the consortium website (get them here).
The first day (held in Yokohama and sponsored by Silvaco) focused on FD-SOI and RF-SOI design. The second day (held at U. Tokyo) focused on More than Moore (especially silicon photonics, MEMS & sensors), and the SOI manufacturing ecosystem.
The 1st day panel discussion was so interesting we’ll give it a post of its own, then follow up with round-ups of the presentations from both days.
The morning panel discussion on end-user deployment for FD and RF-SOI was moderated by SOI Consortium Executive Director Giorgio Cesana. GF’s CTO Subi Kengeri led off saying that that 2017 had been the year of FD-SOI adoption. Samsung Director Adam Lee noted that in the beginning nobody believed it would get traction, but now everybody does, and Samsung is commercializing it: chips coming out this year will ramp in volume in 2019.
VeriSilicon CEO Wayne Dai said he sees great potential in IoT, where the volumes are high but fragmented. In IoT, he said, you need RF, but you really only need very high performance about 20% of the time, which is a perfect fit for FD-SOI.
ST Director John Carey noted that ST’s been using FD-SOI since 2014. They’ve fabbed products for cryptocurrency and infrastructure. Now in their second and third generations of designing with it, they’ve got some big FD-SOI chips coming out next year with embedded memory and RF. He sees it being particularly successful in mmWave, automotive and IoT.
The conversation then shifted to RF-SOI. Mostofa Emam, CEO of Incize, explained that since RF-SOI is already in every smart phone, it’s in a different situation from FD-SOI. The emphasis here is now on adding more blocks. “RF is an art,” he said. “It takes an artist. You need talented artists and tools.” One of the biggest challenges for fabs that are newcomers is models – not just at the transistor level, but also at the substrate level. The big players have addressed this, but Incize is working to support more foundries with new, innovative approaches, and helping them develop robust PDKs. The industry needs more good RF designers as well as better RF design flow, he concluded.
Coming back to FD-SOI, Cesana asked about non-volatile memory (NVM). Samsung’s Lee said they’ve already got NVM options including eMRAM for 28nm, and customers are now requesting eMRAM PDKs for the next node (18FDS). ST’s Kengeri added eNVM is important for FD-SOI, especially since flash is not scaling. While there are lots of options, MRAM gives you all the value, and in FD-SOI it only adds three more mask steps, so cost savings are maintained.
With respect to local computing for AI with FD-SOI, everyone agreed on the importance of the edge. In addition to RF, FD-SOI gives you density even at 28nm, explained Carey. You can manually control power with back biasing, so you get something very flexible, especially for NB-IoT applications where the battery will have to last for 10 years. In fact Kengeri sees FD-SOI as enabling fog/edge computing.
The next question was about 5G: which applications would we be seeing first, and how does FD-SOI help? Lee said Samsung’s seeing it for apps up to 10GHz as well as mmWave. Customers are telling them they want FD-SOI for technical reasons.
Kengeri expanded on that point, saying it comes down to fundamental physics: gate resistance, capacitance, mismatch. FD-SOI has lower Vmin and better Fmax compared to FinFETs, and that’s what tier-one players want.
Carey brought it back to RF-SOI (noting that ST’s introducing a 45nm version), which supports a large number of elements and increased complexity with smaller power budgets. Emam then asked the foundry guys about mmWave. Substrates won’t be the bottleneck he said, so what’s the FD-SOI/mmWave roadmap? Kengeri responded that GF’s ready. Lee said Samsung is also ready, and you’d see it next year on handsets. Samsung has engaged with customers on 30GHz for the middle of next year, he added: it’s qualified. Carey said ST sees it first in consumer premises equipment that’s connected by satellite.
Cesana then asked about image sensor processors (ISPs), noting that analyst Handel Jones has said this is a big opportunity for FD-SOI. You can do 3D integration with sensors, but heat makes noise, so you need technology that decreases heat production and doesn’t give you hotspots (which would be visible in the image). Kengeri pointed to challenges in power density, thermal envelopes and the RTS (random telegraph noise signal). Although there are a lot of options, FD-SOI plays well for thermals and noise, so GF sees a good opportunity here. Dai added that the industry needs volume applications for FD-SOI, and ISPs need to bring more logic closer to the camera. And he concurred that you need FD-SOI for the thermals: it’s very important.
In closing, Dai noted that as a design house, “We walk on two legs: FinFETs and FD-SOI.” 28, 22, 18 and 12nm FD-SOI all enable differentiation. In particular, you need something between 20nm and 7nm: FD-SOI is here. Asked about Japan in particular, Dai said beyond automotive he saw lots of potential in ULP for AVR. Kengeri added that for any applications besides performance-at-any-cost, FD-SOI is the right enabler.
Manuel Sellier, Product Marketing Manager at Soitec for the FD-SOI (and some other) SOI product lines has written an absolutely terrific primer entitled FD-SOI: A technology setting new standards for IoT, automotive and mobile connectivity applications. It’s in the August edition of the GSA Forum (the GSA is the Global Semiconductor Alliance).
If you know anyone who needs to quickly glean an understanding of FD-SOI that is both in-depth and broad, you’ll want to share this piece with them right away.
Before joining Soitec, Sellier was a chip designer at ST, where he gained deep experience designing FD-SOI chips. What’s more, he holds a Ph.D. in the modeling and circuit simulation of advanced MOS transistors, including FD-SOI and FinFETs. So, he really knows his stuff. But don’t worry that this might be too technical: Sellier’s writing is thoroughly accessible (and engaging!) for anyone in the industry.
He starts with the wafer history, then quickly moves on to the features from the designer’s standpoint. And he puts it all in a business perspective. I can’t recommend this piece enough – even if you think you know everything already yourself, you’re sure to learn something new.
Per Arm, the industry’s first eMRAM compiler IP is now on Samsung’s 28nm FD-SOI technology. The announcement was made in a post by Kelvin Low, VP Marketing for ARM’s Physical Design Group (read it here). He said that ARM has successfully completed their first eMRAM IP test chip tapeout. The Arm eMRAM compiler IP will be available from 4Q 2018 for lead partners.
Samsung Foundry’s 28nm FD-SOI process technology is called 28FDS. eMRAM (which stands for embedded MagnetoResistive RAM) is a novel non-volatile memory (NVM) option positioned to replace incumbent NVM eFLASH, which has hit its limits in terms of speed, power, and scalability.
Arm’s new eMRAM compiler IP gives Samsung’s 28FDS customers the flexibility to scale their memory needs based on the complexity of various use-cases, explains Low. “What drives the cost-effectiveness of this compiler IP is that eMRAM can be integrated with as few as three additional masks, while eFlash requires greater than 12 additional masks at 40nm and below,” he says. “Also, the eMRAM compiler can generate instances to replace Flash, Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM) and slow SRAM/data buffer memories with a single non-volatile fast memory – particularly suited for cost- and power- sensitive IoT applications.”
At the SOI Consortium’s 2017 Silicon Valley Symposium, Arm said that they were stepping up their support of FD-SOI (read about that here) – and clearly they are! At that event, Arm VP Ron Moore gave a great presentation, which is freely available on our website: Low Power IP: Essential Ingredients for IoT Opportunities.
Samsung, btw, has been offering 28FDS for about three years now. (ASN did a 3-part interview with Kelvin Low back in 2015 when he was a senior director of marketing for Samsung Foundry. It’s still a useful read – you can get it here.) As of last fall, Samsung said it had taped out more than 40 products for various customers. And at the SOI Consortium’s 2018 Silicon Valley Symposium, Hong Hoa, SVP said they’d already taped out another 20 this year (read about that here).
Samsung says the write speed of their eMRAM is 1000x faster than eFlash. They actually announced the industry’s first eMRAM testchip tape-out milestone on 28FDS in September 2017 (you can read the press release here). They also did an eMRAM test chip with NXP. (BTW, Samsung has a really nice video explaining their eMRAM offering – you can see it above or on YouTube here.)
As noted in ASN’s Silicon Valley 2018 symposium coverage, the basic PDK for the Samsung 18nm FD-SOI process (18FDS) will be available in September 2018, with full production slated for fall of 2019. It will deliver a 24% increase in performance, a 38% decrease in power, and a 35% decrease in area for logic. RF for the 18FDS platform will be ready by the end of this year, and eMRAM beginning in 2019.