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Yes, 28nm FD-SOI Silicon Is Running (Samsung Interview, Part 1 of 3)

Posted by on December 19, 2015
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(New)Kelvin Low Portrait 2015

Kelvin Low, senior director of marketing for Samsung Foundry


Axel Fischer, director of Samsung System LSI business in Europe

ASN spoke with Kelvin Low, senior director of marketing for Samsung Foundry and Axel Fischer, director of Samsung System LSI business in Europe about the company’s FD-SOI offering. Here in part 1, we’ll talk about technology readiness. In parts 2 and 3, we’ll talk about design and the ecosystem.

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ASN: Where does Samsung stand in terms of rolling out your 28nm FD-SOI offer?

Kelvin Low: We have completed key milestones. Wafer level qualification was completed in September 2014, and then product level qualification in March 2015. So, the good news is the technology is fully qualified now.

What we have additionally in terms of overall technology readiness is production PDKs available right now. We have run a couple of MPWs already, and we’re scheduling more for next year. Silicon is really running in our fab. I think many may not have grasped that fact. Silicon is running, and we are running production for ST as one of our lead customers.

Samsung_28FDSOI_PDKS_12Axel Fischer: We already have a long relationship with ST – since 32 and 28nm HKMG bulk. We had a press release where we stated that more than a dozen projects had been taped out. EETimes published an article at the time. Adding 28 FD-SOI was a natural extension of an existing relationship

KL: That’s right –This is not a new customer scenario – it’s an existing customer, but an expansion of technology. And, in this case, it’s also a collaboration technology and IP solutions.

We are ST Micro’s primary manufacturing partner; this is one reason that it’s mutually beneficial for both of us. Crolles is not aiming for high volume. They prototype well. They do MPW and IP well, but they are not a high-volume fab. So, we complete the production rollout at Samsung Foundry.

ASN: Do you have other customers lined up?

KL: The short answer is yes. Beyond ST, Freescale can we talk about, since they have openly stated that they are using FD-SOI with us. Other customers, unfortunately, we just can’t say.But, they are in all the market segments (especially IoT) where the cost and ultra-low power combination is a very powerful one.

ASN: What about technology readiness and maturity?

KL: We have a couple of different 28 variants: the LPP, the LPH with more than a million wafers shipped. And because of that, our D0 – defect density – is at a very mature level. 28FD-SOI, sharing almost 75% of the process modules of 28 bulk, allows us to go to a very steep D0 reduction curve. We are essentially leveraging what we already know from the 28 bulk production experience. Defect density is essentially the inverse of yield. So, the lower the D0, the higher the yield.

Samsung_28FDSOI_process_costThis slide [[see above]] show the similarities between our FD-SOI and our 28 HKMG bulk. You can see how more than 75% of bulk modules are reused. The BEOL is identical, so its 100% reused. On the FEOL, some areas require some minor tuning and some minor modification, but anything that is specific to FD-SOI is less than 5% that we have to update from the fab perspective. All the equipment can be reused in the fab. There may be a couple of pieces related to the FD-SOI process that need to be introduced.Other than that, the equipment is being reused and can depreciated,.which is essential for any business. We leverage another lifetime for the tools.

ASN: When will we see the first high-volume FD-SOI chips? Next year?

KL: It depends on what market segment. Consumer, yes, I fully agree, they can ramp very fast. But other segments like infrastructure, networking or automotive, they’ll take a longer time to just qualify products.

AF: It’s not just us. If our customer needs to prove that the product is compliant with certain standards, you have to go through test labs and so on, this can be a very lengthy process. Product can actually be ready, and we’re all waiting to produce, but they’re still waiting for reports and the software that’s goes on top – this can be a very long cycle.

KL: We’re already starting to support the production ramp for ST. They’ll be on the market very soon.

[[Editor’s note: ST has announced three set-top box chips on 28nm FD-SOI– you can read about them here.]]

Samsung_28FDSOI_wafersAF: ST is our first partner for high-volume production. We started working together very early, so they have a time-to-market advantage.

KL: Everyone’s waiting for ChipWorks or TechInsights to cut away an end-product device that has FD-SOI. It’s just a matter of time.

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This is the first installment in ASN’s 3-part interview with Samsung on their 28nm FD-SOI foundry offering. Part 2 will cover design considerations, and Part 3 will look at the ecosystem.