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  • Positive pointers from Samsung, GF, Renesas, NXP/Freescale, ST, Soitec – so will 2016 be the year of FD-SOI?

    A little over a month into 2016 and we already have a raft of FD-SOI news from Samsung, GlobalFoundries, NXP/Freescale, Renesas and more. Quite a bit of it came out of the recent SOI Consortium forum in Tokyo. Many of the presentations are now available on the SOI Consortium website (click here to see what’s there) – but keep checking back for more.

    Formal basis for characterizing and comparing commercially available FPGAs.-logo_soi.pngThere were also a number of interesting presentations on RF-SOI – we’ll touch on those here, too.

    Samsung: 28nm FD-SOI hits maturity, mass production starts 1Q2016

    Yongjoo Jeon, Principal Engineer in SEC Foundry marketing, Samsung, gave a talk entitled, The industry’s first mass-produced FDSOI technology for the IoT era, with single design platform benefits.
    Here are his key messages with respect to 28nm FD-SOI:
    • The technology, which was qualified in 2015, is now ready for mass production, with the first commercial production set for 1Q2016.
    • Yield levels are excellent.
    • There were 12 tape-outs in 2015 in connectivity, security, games, set-top boxes, application processors for consumer and automotive, plus CMOS image sensors (aka CIS — for an excellent explanation of why FD-SOI is right for CIS and why leaders in this arena are considering it, see Junko Yoshida’s recent EETimes piece here).
    • The 16 tape-outs planned so far for 2016 expand to a wider range of automotive apps, plus we see the first in IoT and wearables, MCUs and programmable devices.
    • A production PDK for a version of 28nm FD-SOI with RF integration will be available in 2Q16.
    • eNVM (embedded non-volatile memory) will be ready in 2018.

    For other key Samsung slides showing data on their success in manufacturability, check out EETimes.

    GlobalFoundries: RF-SOI for 5G, FD-SOI Customers Engaged

    Subramani Kengeri, VP of Global Design Solutions at GlobalFoundries talked about their 22nm FD-SOI, in his presentation Enabling SoC Innovations with 22FDXTM. He indicated that they’ve got over 40 customers engaged on it. Key points they’re hitting on that make them bullish on their prospects include:
    • FinFET-like performance and energy efficiency at 28nm cost
    • Ultra-low power consumption with 0.4V operation
    • Maximum flexibility in power/performance trade-off with software-controlled body biasing
    • Integrated RF cuts RF power in half and means designers don’t need an extra RF chip.
    • They’ll reach high-volume production by the middle of 2017.

    For more on how GF see 22FDX as very well-positioned for IoT, see their Foundry Files blog. There’s also a really good piece in EEJournal by Byron Moyer entitled, A Non-FinFET Path to 10 nm – GlobalFoundries’ FD-SOI Alternative.

    GF is of course also a dominant RF-SOI player, as seen in RFSOI: Defining the RF-Digital Boundary for 5G by Peter Rabbeni, Sr. Director RF Product Marketing and Business Development, GlobalFoundries. The presentation, which is available on the SOI Consortium website, notes that, “Significant R&D has been done in evaluating the application of SOI to 5G architectures, with very positive results,” so that, “SOI holds great promise in delivering on the key requirements of 5G systems.” (For an overview of GF’s RF-SOI position, see RF-SOI is IoT’s Future, and the Future in Bright on their Foundry Files blog.)

    (BTW, RF-SOI and RF on FD-SOI are different technologies for different apps. If you're not clear on the difference (and a lot of people aren't), I explained that in a pretty high-level piece I wrote recently for ASN -- click here to read it.)


    Renesas: in FD-SOI production at 65nm this year

    Shiro Kamohara, Chief Engineer, Renesas Electronics Corp., lead off the Tokyo presentations with Ultralow-Voltage Design and Technology of Silicon-on-Thin-Buried-Oxide (SOTB) CMOS for Highly Energy Efficient Electronics in IoT Era.

    A Nikkei article reported from the conference that Renesas will be in mass production of 65nm FD-SOI – which they call Silicon-on-Thin-Box, or SOTB – for IoT products this year. Renesas reports the move cuts power to a tenth of what they’d seen in bulk. You can see the original article in Japanese here or a version translated to Google-English here.


    Soitec: wafers ready for mass adoption

    Formal basis for characterizing and comparing commercially available FPGAs.-soitec_soisourcing.jpg

    In the presentation Substrate maturity and readiness in large volume to support mass adoption of ULP FDSOI platforms, Soitec Sr. VP of Digital Electronics Group Christophe Maleville, Senior Vice President, Digital Electronics BU provided data on every conceivable aspect of SOI wafers for FD-SOI and RF-SOI. He explained adaptations in the company’s Smart CutTM manufacturing technology that achieve astonishing levels of uniformity and thickness (or thinness, really!). With new metrology, they can predict and protect against variability in devices. And they are now producing FD-SOI wafers for 28nm processes with uniformity of +/- 1 atomic layer.


    ST: making the case

    For analog/RF, RF/mmW and mixed-signal/high-speed designers, Andreia Cathelin, Senior Member of Technical Staff at STMicroelectronics explained how and why FD-SOI makes their lives easier. Her presentation, FDSOI Technology Advantages for Analog/RF and Mixed-Signal Designs drills down to the technical for those of you looking for details.

    Pietro Maestri, ST’s RF Product Line Director presented ST H9SOI_FEM: 0.13µm RF-SOI Technology for Front End Module Integration. (BTW, ASN had an excellent high-level article by ST when H9SOI_FEM was first announced, describing the challenges faced by designers of smartphone front-end modules (FEMs) and how their H9SOI_FEM solves them – you can read it here.)

    For anyone wondering about the status of FD-SOI following the just-announced company reorganization, COO Jean-Marc Chery told EETimes’ Peter Clarke that they remain fully committed to the technology. As noted in the article (read the whole thing here), “Chery emphasized that, following the announcement of ST’s withdrawal from STB and home gateway markets and of a proposed redeployment of 600 engineers, the company is now focused on automotive and Internet of Things applications and that therefore FDSOI is a core manufacturing process. Indeed it could be argued that moving engineers familiar with FDSOI from the STB group into MCUs and automotive will help to proliferate the technology through the company.”

    NXP/Freescale: Loving FD-SOI

    In another recent EETimes article, Peter Clark reported from the NXP “Smarter World Tour” that the newly merged NXP-Freescale is very bullish on FD-SOI (see the full article here).

    He cites Goeff Lees, the GM for the MCU part of the merged businesses, who especially likes 28nm FD-SOI for IoT and MCUs. Ticking off the reasons, he lists energy efficiency, cost, analog support, security, temperature control and lower leakage current. In fact, he says, “I believe all MCU vendors could move to FD-SOI.”

    Now that’s a pretty impressive statement.

    (NXP, btw, is no stranger to SOI -- in fact, they first partnered with Soitec almost 20 years ago (when they were still Philips) to drive SOI for smart power and automotive apps, and they continue to be a driving force in those areas. Freescale also has very deep SOI roots.)

    So all things considered, yes, it looks like 2016 should be a good year for FD-SOI.