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  • Highlights of the 28nm FD-SOI San Jose Presentations

    Most of the presentations from the FD-SOI Symposium in San Jose last month (April 2016) are now available on the SOI Consortium website (click here to see the full list -- if they're posted, you can download them freely from there). If you don't have time to wade through them all, here are some of the highlights. (Plus since I was there I'll also cover some that aren't posted.)

    Since there’s so much to cover, I’ll break this into two parts. This is Part 1, focusing on presentations related to some of the products hitting the market using 28nm FD-SOI. Part 2 will focus on the presentations related to 22nm FD-SOI.

    Samsung – in 28FDS mass production
    Samsung now has a strong 28nm FD-SOI tape-out pipeline for 2016, and interest is rising fast, said Kelvin Low, the company’s Sr. Director of Foundry Marketing in his presentation “28FDS – Industry’s First Mass-Produced FDSOI Technology for IoT Era, with Single Platform Benefits”. They’ve already done 12 tape-outs, and are working on 10 more now for various applications: application processor, networking, STB, game, connectivity...) and see more coming up fast and for more applications such as MCU, programmable logic, IoT and broader automotive. It is a mature technology, he emphasized, and not a niche technology. The ecosystem is growing, and there’s lots more IP ready. 28nm will be a long-lived node. Here’s the slide that summed up the current production status:


    Samsung’s foundry began commercial production of 28nm FD-SOI in 1Q2016.

    As you see, the production PDK with the RF add-on will be available this summer. Also, check out the presentations by Synopsys (get it here), which has repackaged the key IP from ST for Samsung customers, as well as Leti on back-bias (get it here), Ciena (they were the Nortel’s optical networking group) and ST (it’s chalk-full of great data on FD-SOI for RF and analog -- get it here).


    At the San Jose symposium, ST showed once again the enormous advantages FD-SOI provides in analog design.

    NXP – integration, differentiation and passion

    Ron Martino gave a talk full of energy and passion entitled, “Smart Technology Choices and Leadership Application Processors”.

    If you read Ṙon’s terrific posts here on Semiwiki recently, you already know a lot about where he’s coming from. If you missed them, they are absolute must-reads: here’s Part 1 and here’s Part 2. Really – read them as soon as you’re done reading this.

    As he noted there, NXP’s got two important new applications processor lines coming out on 28nm FD-SOI. The latest i.MX 7 series combines ultra-low power (where they’re dynamically leveraging the full range of reverse back biasing – something you can do only with FD-SOI on thin BOX) and performance-on-demand architecture (boosted when and where it’s needed with forward back-biasing). It’s the first general purpose microprocessor family in the industry’s to incorporate both the ARM® Cortex®-A7 and the ARM Cortex-M4 cores (the series includes single and dual A7 core options). The i.MX 8 series targets highly-advanced driver information systems and other multimedia intensive embedded applications. It leverages ARM’s V8-A 64-bit architecture in a 10+ core complex that includes blocks of Cortex-A72s and Cortex-A53s. (They've now posted an awesome i.MX 8 demo from FTF2016 on Twitter -- see it here.)

    In his San Jose presentation, Ron said that FD-SOI is all about smart architecture, integration and differentiating techniques for power efficiency and performance. And the markets for NXP’s i.MX applications processors are all about diversification, in which a significant set of building blocks will be on-chip. The IoT concept requires integration of diverse components, he said, meaning that a different set of attributes will now be leading to success. “28nm FD-SOI offers advantages that allows scaling from small power efficient processors to high performance safety critical processor,” he noted – a key part of the NXP strategy. Why not FinFET? Among other things, it would bump up the cost by 50%. Here are other parts of the comparison he showed:


    (Courtesy: NXP and SOI Consortium)


    For NXP, FD-SOI provides the ideal path, leading to extensions of microcontrollers with advanced memory. FD-SOI improves SER* by up to 100x, so it’s an especially good choice when it comes to automotive security. Back-biasing – another big plus – he calls it “critical and compelling”. The icing on the cake? “There’s so much we can do with analog and memory,” he said. “Our engineers are so excited!”

    Sony – GPS (with 1/10th the power!) now sampling
    You know how using mapping apps on your smartphone kills your battery? Well now there’s hope. Sony’s getting some super impressive results with their new GPS using 28nm FD-SOI technology. These GPS are operated at 0.6V, and cut power to 10x (!) less than what it was in the previous generation (which was already boasting the industry’s lowest power consumption when it was announced back in 2013).

    In San Jose, Sony Senior Manager Kenichi Nakano presented, “Low Power GPS design with RF circuit by the FDSOI 28nm”, proclaiming with a smile, “I love FD-SOI, too!” All the tests are good and the chip is production ready, he said. In fact, they’ve been shipping samples since March.


    Analog Bits – Lowest Power SERDES IP
    SERDES (Serializer/Deserializer) IP is central to many modern SOC designs, providing a high-speed interface for a broad range of applications from storage to display. It’s also used in high-speed data communications, where it’s had a bad rep for pulling a huge amount of power in data centers. But Analog Bits has been revolutionizing SERDES IP by drastically cutting the power. Now, with a port to 28nm FD-SOI, they’re claiming the industry’s lowest power.


    With the port to 28nm FD-SOI, Analog Bits now has the industry’s lowest power SERDES.

    In his presentation, “A Case Study of Half Power SERDES in FDSOI”, EVP Mahesh Tirupattur described FD-SOI as a new canvas for chip design engineers. The company designs parts for multiple markets and multiple protocols. When they got a request to port from bulk to 28nm FD-SOI, they did it in record time of just a few months, getting power down to 1/3 with no extra mask steps. Plus, they found designing in FD-SOI to be cheaper and easier than FinFET, which of course implies a faster time to market. “The fabs were very helpful,” he said. “I’m pleased and honored to be part of this ecosystem.”

    Stanford – FD-SOI for the Fog
    Listening to a presentation by Stanford professor Boris Murmann gets you a stunning 30,000 foot view of the industry through an amazing analog lens. He’s lead numerous explorations into the far reaches of analog and RF in FD-SOI, and concludes that the technology offers significant benefits toward addressing the needs of: ultra low-power “fog” computing for IoT (it’s the next big thing – see a good Forbes article on it here); densely integrated, low-power analog interfaces; universal radios; and ultra high-speed ADC.

    Next in part 2, we’ll look at the 22nm FD-SOI presentations in San Jose.