Tag Archive 14nm

ByGianni PRATA

GF’s 12nm FD-SOI With Back Bias Beats 10nm FinFET Performance (EETimes)

With back bias,12nm FD-SOI beats 10nm FinFET on performance. This excellent news comes in by way of Peter Clarke of EETimes Europe (read the whole article here). Rutger Wijburg, GM of GloFo’s Dresden fab told him, “If you look at performance with back-bias 22FDX is the same or better than 16/14nm FinFET process. With 12FDX with back bias you get better than 10nm FinFET processes.”


The Ever-Expanding 28nm FD-SOI Ecosystem (Samsung Interview, Part 3 of 3)

(New)Kelvin Low Portrait 2015

Kelvin Low, senior director of marketing for Samsung Foundry


Axel Fischer, director of Samsung System LSI business in Europe

For this 3-part series, 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 3, we’ll talk about the ecosystem. (In part 1 we talked about technology readiness, and in part 2, we talked about design.)

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ASN: Let’s talk a little more about IP availability.

Axel Fischer: The availability of IP is key for engaging these market segments. The technology itself is ready. The gating item often is the IP element.

Kelvin Low: The IP element is broadly ready. But we’re not stopping there. We’re enhancing the IP and adding on new suppliers. Most of them we can’t name yet just because of timing. But we can confidently say that multiple new IP suppliers are coming online, and many more have started to inquire about how they can get onboard.Samsung_28FDSOI_IP_reuse_14

ASN: In terms of the ecosystem, what remains to be done?

KL: The ecosystem can never end. Enhancements will always be welcome. More support – there are so many other EDA software companies out there available. We will enable them if there is a customer behind them. IP are dictated by the standards. As long as the product requires that, we’ll continue to look for partners to develop the IP.

AF: Especially as you have good support for RF/analog functionality. So, this ecosystem becomes quite important.Samsung_28FDSOI_enablement_11

KL: Back to one of the strategic decisions we made. We have immediately made available what ST Micro has in terms of IP portfolio to our customers. Then continuously build this ecosystem according to the new customers that we’re acquiring. ST Micro has developed these IPs for their own internal products, and they were gracious enough to allow these IPs to be opened up to be used by all customers without restriction.

As a group, as an ecosystem, we have to be more proactive in educating the market. What we’ve seen so far, whether it’s an initiative by Leti or an initiative by the SOI Consortium, these are very helpful. Now you have so many more knobs that you can play with, for designers we have to prepare all these PVT – which is process, voltage, temperature, and timing points so they can actually use it. It’s just a matter of preparation needed from our end, working with the ecosystem. The EDA tools must be optimized to make it as seamless, as transparent as possible.

ASN: Any closing thoughts?

KL: 28FDSOI is real. Samsung is committed. The technology is qualified already. The ecosystem is ready and expanding. This is working stuff. It’s not a powerpoint technology.

Samsung_28FDSOI_future_15~ ~ ~

This is the last installment in ASN’s 3-part interview with Samsung on their 28nm FD-SOI foundry offering. If you missed the other parts, you can still read part 1 about technology readiness (click here), and part 2 on design considerations (click here).


When to Choose 28nm FD-SOI and Why (Samsung Interview Part 2 of 3)

(New)Kelvin Low Portrait 2015

Kelvin Low, senior director of marketing for Samsung Foundry


Axel Fischer, director of Samsung System LSI business in Europe

For this 3-part series, 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 2, we’ll talk about design. (In part 1, we talked about Samsung’s technology readiness. In part 3, we’ll talk about the ecosystem.)

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ASN: Let’s start by talking about value. What do you see as the key advantages of 28nm FD-SOI?

Kelvin Low: FD-SOI is wide-ranging. What I mean by this is for the designers, there are many design knobs available that you can use to achieve either high performance or ultra low power. That’s a an extremely valuable and important proposition. The wide dynamic performance-power range is achieved with FD-SOI’s body biasing ability. Though bulk technologies allow body biasing, it has a comparatively much narrower range.

Samsung_28FDSOI_lowpower_knobs_13Another key benefit is the super analog gain and properties of FD-SOI. I think moving forward, we’ll probably start to see more customers that are analog-centric. Later on, we’ll see this as one of the key value propositions of FD-SOI. Today, there’s still a lot of digital customers that we’re engaged with right now. The analog customers are still not yet aggressively migrating to [[more advanced]] technology nodes, but when they come, this will be an important distinction in FD-SOI vs. bulk.

Another important distinction not related to power-performance-area is the robustness of the reliability. This is a well-proven fact that FD-SOI is much more robust for soft-error immunity as compare to bulk. So anything that needs radiation protection (for example, military, aerospace – but those are not really the high-volumes), as well as automotive products, you’ll see value of better SER immunity as compared to bulk. Not just memory SER but logic SER. There are available design techniques to overcome / account for that. For example, if you design to overcome SER, you incur overhead in area for example. With FD-SOI, this is intrinsic, so you don’t need design tricks to suppress it.

ASN: When should designers consider using 28nm FD-SOI as opposed moving to 14nm FinFET or choosing another 28nm technology?

KL: By virtue of one being 28 and the other being 14, if you do need a lot of logic feature integration, or die-size reduction, 14nm will obviously become more necessary. If you just are looking for power savings, both 14nm FinFET and 28nm FD-SOI are fully depleted in nature, so both are able to operate with a lower power supply. So those are similarities. 14nm FinFET does provide higher performance compared to 28nm by virtue of how the process is constructed. Lastly, cost, which is related to the number of double-patterning layers – at 28nm, avoiding all the expensive double-patterning layers and 14nm having double-patterning being necessary for all the area scaling – that presents itself as a real difference. The end-product cost can also determine the choice of the technology selection.

Samsung_28FDSOI_Vdd_9Axel Fischer: The end-product cost, plus as well the investments from the customer side: the customer has to make a certain investment to develop the chip in terms of overall cost. If you look at photomask payment, NRE* and so on – this is weighting strongly, more and more as you go forward with advanced node technologies. There’s a set of customers that are feeling very comfortable to stay on the 28nm node.

KL: There are several 28nm flavors. There’s Poly-SiON, there’s HKMG, and there’s HKMG-FD-SOI. In terms of performance, there’s really a very clear distinction. In terms of power, you see a more radical power reduction with FD-SOI. In chip area scaling, I’d say roughly the same between HKMG and FD-SOI. This is dictated not so much by the transistor but by the overall design rules of the technology. So, 14nm is the higher cost point. 28nm is a much lower cost point, so overall a given budget that a customer has can determine whether 14nm is usable or otherwise. We have to sit down with the customer and really understand their needs. It’s not just trying to push one over the other solution. Based on their needs, we’ll make the proper recommendations.Samsung_28FDSOI_PPA_7

ASN: Can designers get started today?

KL: We are moving FD-SOI discussions with customers to the next phase, which is to emphasize the design ecosystem readiness. So what we’ve been working on, and we really appreciate ST Micro’s support here, is to kick-start market adoption. We have access to ST Micro’s foundation library, and some of their foundation and basic IPs. Here, Samsung is distributing and supporting customers directly. They need to only work with us, and not with ST Micro. So they have access to the IP through us. We also provide design support, and we have additional IPs coming in to serve the customers from the traditional IP providers.

Many designers are new to body biasing. Fortunately, there are a couple of design partners that can help in this area. Synapse being one of them; Verisilicon another. Already, they have put in resources and plans and additional solutions to catalyze this market. In short, the PDK is available today, and the PDK supporting multi tools – Synopsys, Cadence and Mentor – are all available for download today. Libraries are also all available for download.

There’s nothing impeding designers from starting projects now. This is why we believe that 28FDSOI is the right node, because we are enabling the market to start projects today. If we start something else down the road, like a 14nm FD-SOI, for example, or something in between, the market will just say, hey, we like your transistor, we like your slides, but I have nothing to start my project on. So that is bad, because then it becomes a vicious cycle. We believe we have to enable 28nm designs now. Enable customers to bring actual products to the market. Eventually from there you can evolve 28 to something else.

ASN: Let’s talk some more about design considerations and body biasing, how it’s used and when.

KL: Both 14nm FinFET and 28nm FD-SOI are fully depleted. One unique technology value of fully-depleted architecture is the ability to operate the device at lower power supply. So power is the product of CV²/frequency. If you can operate this chip at lower power supply, you get significant dynamic power savings. FinFET does not have a body effect, so you cannot implement body biasing – it’s just not possible.

Samsung_28FDSOI_bodybias_8FD-SOI, on the other hand, has this extra knob – body biasing – that you can use. With reverse body bias (RBB), you can get much lower leakage power. If you want more performance, you can activate the FBB to get the necessary speed. Again, this is not possible with FinFET. So that will be one distinction. It depends on how you’re using your chip. It all depends on the system side, or even at the architecture side, how is it being considered already. If you’re already very comfortable using body biasing, then going to FinFET is a problem, because you’ve lost a knob. Some would rather not lose this knob because they see it as a huge advantage. That doesn’t mean you can’t design around it, it’s just different.

There are already users of body biasing for bulk. For customers that already use body biasing, this is nothing new. They’re pleased to now have the wider range, as opposed to the more narrow range for bulk.

AF: And probably going to FinFET is more disruptive for them. With FinFET, you have double-patterning considerations, etc. More capacitance to deal with.

ASN: Porting – does FD-SOI change the amount of time you have to budget for your port?

KL: If a customer already has products at 28nm, and they’re now planning the next product that has higher speed or better power consumption – they’re considering FinFET as one option, and now maybe the other option available is 28nm FD-SOI. The design learnings of going to FinFET are much more. So the port time will be longer than going to 28nm FD-SOI. We see customers hugely attracted because of this fact. Now they’re trying to make a choice. If it’s just a time-to-market constraint, sometimes FinFET doesn’t allow you to achieve that. If you have to tape out production in six months, you may have to use FD-SOI.

Samsung_28FDSOI_apps_6AF: Another key point for customers deciding to work with 28FDSOI is the fact that Samsung Foundry has joined the club. A few customers really hesitated on making the move to 28nm FD-SOI ST Micro is a very really advanced company, doing its own research and development, but the fact that the production capability was very limited has people shying away. Besides the technology, the presence and the engagement of Samsung is giving another boost to the acceptance.

KL: Yes, we’re recognized as a credible, high-volume manufacturing partner. That helps a lot.

~ ~ ~

*NRE = non-recurring engineering. In a fabless scenario, there are NRE for IP and design (engineering costs, up-front and royalty-based IP costs), NRE for masks and fabrication (mask costs, wafer prototype lots, tools costs, probe cards, loadboards and other one-time capital expenditures), and NRE for qualifications (ESD, latch-up and other industry-specific qualifications, as in automotives).

~  ~ ~

This is the second installment in ASN’s 3-part interview with Samsung on their 28nm FD-SOI foundry offering. If you missed the other parts, you can still read part 1 about technology readiness (click here), and part 3 on the ecosystem (click here).


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

(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.

~ ~ ~

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.

~ ~ ~

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.


GF’s 22nm FD-SOI Offering – Where to Get Lots of Excellent Info

A fast-growing body of information is now posted by GlobalFoundries on their new 22nm FD-SOI offering.

After years of asking “where’s FD-SOI on the GF website??”, it’s (finally!) there, front and center. There are some excellent new videos and documents. Here’s a rundown of what you’ll find.


The 22FDX Platform introduction is the currently the lead topic on the GlobalFoundries website.

When you click down the “Technology Solutions” tab and select “Leading Edge Technologies”, here’s how they describe their 22nm FD-SOI offering:

GLOBALFOUNDRIES 22FDX™ platform employs 22nm Fully-Depleted Silicon-On-Insulator (FD-SOI) technology that delivers FinFET-like performance and energy-efficiency at a cost comparable to 28nm planar technologies. While some applications require the ultimate performance of three-dimensional FinFET transistors, most wireless devices need a better balance of performance, power consumption and cost. 22FDX provides the best path for cost-sensitive applications. The 22FDX platform delivers a 20 percent smaller die size and 10 percent fewer masks than 28nm, as well as nearly 50 percent fewer immersion lithography layers than foundry FinFET.

  • Ultra-low power consumption with 0.4V operation
  • Software-controlled transistor body-biasing for flexible trade-off between performance and power
  • Integrated RF for reduced system cost and back-gate feature to reduce RF power up to ~50%
  • 70% lower power than 28HKMG

Here are some of the resources posted on the website as of this writing:

Product Brief: 22FDX™ – a two-page pdf summarizing the platform advantages, the various application-optimized offerings, and basic graphics explaining how body-biasing works and what advantages it provides

FD-SOI Technology Innovations Extend Moore’s Law (white paper) – NEW! Just posted in September 2015, this 8-page white paper covers the basics of the FD-SOI transistor, how body biasing works, the impact the technology has on common circuit blocks (digital, analog & RF, embedded SRAM), and the outlook for future scaling (which goes down to 10nm).


This slide is about 17 minutes into GF’s “How to build ULP chips with 22nm FD-SOI…” webinar.

Webinar: How to Build Ultra Low Power Chips with New 22nm FD-SOI TechnologyNEW! Just posted on September 24, 2015. GF’s Jamie Schaeffer, Ph.D. Leading Edge Product Line Manager is talking to designers here. After a brief overview (he looks at the features, the extensions, the IP suite, and so forth), he gets into the fundamentals of body biasing, the different transistor optimizations, specific advantages for RF & analog, the tools for ultra-low-power design, and what’s in the design starter kits that are available today. Total running time is just under 20 minutes.


This slide is shown about 12 minutes into GF’s “Extending Moore’s Law with FD-SOI” webinar.

Webinar: Extending Moore’s Law with FD-SOI Technology – this is the webinar Jamie Schaeffer gave with ChipEstimate.com the day of the company’s FD-SOI announcement in July 2015. It’s a fairly high level presentation: very useful for designers, but also accessible to those outside the design community. There’s a lot of background on FinFET vs. FD-SOI, cost comparisons, target apps, and actual results seen in silicon. It’s an especially good place to start if FD-SOI is new to you. It runs just over 35 minutes.

Tech Video: Benefits of FD-SOI Technologies – in this short video by Subi Kengeri, GF’s VP of the CMOS Platforms BU, he gives a quick rundown of the benefits of FD-SOI. It runs about 2 minutes.

Another excellent place to get more indepth info on FD-SOI is an interview with Subi Kengeri by SemiEngineering Editor-in-Chief Ed Sperling (click here to see it on YouTube). This video, entitled Tech Talk: 22nm FD-SOI, was made just after the July announcement. Subi really goes into substantial detail, and clearly explains the key differences between FinFETs and FD-SOI. He explains why FD-SOI has less variability than FinFETs, why FinFETs have higher device capacitance, and how only with FD-SOI can you dynamically change Vt. FD-SOI also comes out better in terms of dynamic power, thermal budget and RF integration. Highly recommended – it runs just over 20 minutes.

You might also want to check out GF CEO Sanjay Jha’s Shanghai FD-SOI Forum presentation, The Right Technology at the Right Time, on the SOI Consortium website. (There are lots of others there, too!) Taking a bird’s eye view of the semiconductor industry drivers and requirements, he concludes, “22FDX and RFSOI have the power, performance, and cost to drive growth in mobile, pervasive, and intelligent computing.”

Which is great news for the SOI ecosystem and the entire industry.

ByFanny Rodriguez

Great line-up planned for IEEE S3S (SOI, 3D and low-voltage — 5-8 October, Sonoma, CA). Advance Program available. Registration still open.


Now in its third year, the 2015 IEEE S3S Conference has evolved into the premier venue for sharing the latest and most important findings in the areas of process integration, advanced materials & materials processing, and device and circuit design for SOI, 3D and low-voltage microelectronics. World-class leading experts in their fields will come to this year’s S3S Conference to present, discuss and debate the most recent breakthroughs in their research.

This year’s program includes:


The conference also features several events tailored for socialization and peer-to-peer discussions, such as the welcome reception, the cookout and the interactive Poster & Reception Session which is a great place to meet new colleagues and learn and exchange insights on technical topics. Enjoy a light snack and a beverage of your choice while meandering around to meet and discuss technical issues with long-time colleagues and make connections with new and influential experts and decision makers in your field.

Take time to visit the local attractions of Sonoma County. Sonoma is well known for outdoor recreation, spas, golf, night life, shopping, culinary activities, arts and music and wineries. It is truly my pleasure to serve as the General Chair of the 2015 Conference. —Bruce Doris

Download the Advance Program

Find all the details about the conference on our website: s3sconference

Click here to go directly to the IEEE S3S Conference registration page.

Click here for hotel information. To be sure of getting a room at the special conference rate book before 18 September 2015.

S3S Conference

The DoubleTree by Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, One Doubletree Drive, Rohnert Park, CA 94928

October 5th thru 8th, 2015

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LIgroupS3SJoin the IEEE S3S Conference group on LinkedIn to follow the news — click here or search on LinkedIn for IEEE S3S.


Yes! FD-SOI IP Ready for GF, Samsung; Ecosystem Now a Force to Be Reckoned With

The recent LetiDays FD-SOI workshop in Grenoble was the biggest show of force to date for the burgeoning FD-SOI ecosystem. In addition to a raft of excellent presentations, we learned two very big pieces of news. First, GlobalFoundries provided more insights into their upcoming FD-SOI offering. And second, designers opting for Samsung’s 28nm FD-SOI offering can get all their IP (with Samsung numbering) directly from (and supported by) Synopsys.

In fact the workshop marked the first time that the entire ecosystem took to the same stage. It was great. Here’s a recap.

GF: 22 = 14 + 28


(Courtesy: GlobalFoundries)

Although not “officially” announced yet, GlobalFoundries was there to talk about their FD-SOI offering. In his presentation on Design/Technology Opimizations for FD-SOI, Gerde Teepe, Design Enablement Director at GF in Dresden, said theirs would be 22nm FD-SOI. That translates to a 14nm front-end with two double-patterning layers, and 28nm upper interconnect layers in the back-end. Currently working on body-biasing generators, they’re on target to be completely ready for business by the end of the year (see slide below).


Most of the challenges for delivering their 22nm FD-SOI offering have been met, said Gerde Teepe, Design Engineering Director at GF/Dresden.The final phase will be completed by the end of this year. (FD-SOI Workshop, LetiDays 2015)

The decision to go with a 14nm front-end was customer driven, said Dr. Teepe. They wanted a shrink, but they didn’t want to drive up the cost, hence the 28nm back-end.


The conference made clear that there’s no more “chicken-egg” IP problem for FD-SOI. IP is ready, and everyone wants to talk about it.


(Courtesy: Samsung)

Kelvin Low, Senior Director of Foundry Marketing at Samsung said they’re driving 28nm FD-SOI to get “massive support” for the ecosystem. It’s positioned as cost-effective, low-power solution for a long-lived node, he said, and yes, they’re getting new customers. Wafer level reliability tests were successfully completed last September, and product level reliability tests finished up in March.


Synopsys Senior Director Mike McAweeney explaining their Samsung IP strategy at the LetiDays ’15 FD-SOI Workshop.

This set the stage for the big IP news from Synopsys. Senior Director Mike McAweeney said that Synopsys is supplying both ST’s IP plus their own Synopsys IP to Samsung customers, with Samsung part numbers and Synopsys support.

IP is hot at Cadence, too, said Amir Bar-Niv, Senior Group Director for Design IP Marketing. Since February they’ve doubled the number of available IP to meet customer demand.

Proof of rising demand also came from CMP, which organizes multi-project wafer runs for 28nm FD-SOI. Over 191 customers in 32 countries have requested the PDK. (Click here to learn more about the service.)

Body Biasing Goes Adaptive

New approaches to body biasing were mentioned in a number of presentations, including talks by ST, GF and Leti. GF’s working on their body-biasing generator for 22nm. ST’s got a new-generation compact body bias generator especially for IoT. And ST and Leti are working on a new generation of “adaptive” body biasing, adding another 30% in power savings.

Hot Topic: Analog


FD-SOI advantages for analog design include outstanding switch performance, said Boris Thurmann of Stanford. (LetiDays ’15)

In a very interesting keynote, Professor Boris Thurmann of Stanford looked at mixed-signal IC design. We’re about to fuse the physical and virtual worlds, he said, in a third paradigm: IoT. He cited lots of advantages of FD-SOI in meeting the ultra-low-power and RF challenges faced by analog designers.

FD-SOI attacks variability with tighter process corners and less random mismatch than competing processes. It enables “…a simpler design process, shorter design cycles, improved yield or improved performance at given yield”. You get outstanding switch performance (see slide) and better ways of dealing with junction capacitance.

FD-SOI renders a shift in RF to translational circuits (no inductors) more practical. It also enables smaller but higher performance digital blocks in apps for things like object recognition – and the list goes on.

Naim Ben-Hmida, Senior Manager of Mixed-Signal Design & Test at Ciena (they used to be Nortel), talked about optical transceivers in 28nm FD-SOI. We’re heading towards terabyte modems connecting cities, he said, putting enormous pressure on short-reach optical networks. Their 100Gb/s metro-regional transceiver integrates what was two ASICs and an FPGA into a single 28nm FD-SOI transceiver ASIC. In addition to power and performance, FD-SOI was the right solution for both time-to-market and cost, he said.

You Gotta Believe

In closing, let’s swing back to the conference opening keynote by Thomas Skotnicki, ST’s FD-SOI godfather (you can also read his 2011 ASN piece on FD-SOI here). The key to the FD-SOI success story, he reminded us, is the thin buried oxide. That’s been the essence of his work for the last 26 years.

“You must believe in what you’re doing,” he said. Proof of his perseverence: his breakthrough paper was twice rejected by the IEEE in 1999 – but once they accepted it in 2000, they named it best paper of the year.


(Courtesy: STMicroelectronics)

He gave a big thank you to Soitec for breakthroughs in SOI wafer manufacturing – the ultra-thin silicon and ultra-thin insulating BoX combination were the enabling tour-de-force.

Skotnicki added that for 14nm Soitec has taken the wafers to new heights. “At 14nm, we are very robust,” he concluded, noting that the Leti/ST VLSI Symposium 2015 (O. Faynot et al) paper showed 14nm FD-SOI matching or beating 14nm FinFET performance at low voltages. The future is wide open. FD-SOI, he says can go down to 5nm (compared to 3nm for FinFET).

And clearly, he’s a man who knows the future.


GlobalFoundries FD-SOI Webinar 24 June 2015, 10am PST: Be There!

It’s happening! GlobalFoundries is having an FD-SOI technical webinar on the 24th of June 2015. Don’t wait – sign up now – click here to get the registration document.

Here’s the information we know so far.

Title: Extending Moore’s Law with FD-SOI Technology 


  • FD-SOI technology overview
  • Power Performance Area (PPA) advantages
  • Transistor control with forward/reverse body biasing
  • The future of Moore’s Law with FD-SOI

When: June 24, 2015, 10:00 am Pacific Time

Speaker: Jamie Schaeffer, Ph.D., FDSOI Product Line Manager, GLOBALFOUNDRIES

Where: a computer or mobile device near you!

GF_DAC52_FDSOIwebinar_loresIn fact, GF made a point of inviting the crowd at the recent DAC 52 in San Francisco.

Jamie Shaeffer’s been on the front lines of FD-SOI in recent days. In case you missed ASN’s recap of EDPS coverage (you can still read it here), he was on the panel discussion, agreeing that FinFET and FD-SOI can and will co-exist. His comment (as noted by Richard Goering of Cadence) really sums it up nicely: “For some applications that have a large die with a large amount of digital integration, and require the ultimate in performance, FinFET is absolutely the right solution. For other applications that are in more cost-sensitive markets, and that have a smaller die and more analog integration, FD-SOI is the right solution.”

Also noted by Richard, Jamie was also very bullish on next-gen FD-SOI, noting that performance will climb by 40% with half as many immersion lithography layers as FinFETs. He also said that next-gen FD-SOI is 30% faster than 20nm HK/MG.

So while we’re waiting for “The Big GF FD-SOI Announcement”, we have a growing body of reports from industry events. In a SemiWiki blog (read it here), for example, Scotten Jones reported that GF’s Thomas Caulfield said that they are “…developing a 22nm process in Malta for manufacturing in Dresden. The goal is 14nm FinFET performance at 28nm costs.”

At DAC 52, GF’s Tim Dry gave what was reported to be a very well-attended presentation at the Synopsys booth. You don’t see the GF logo on the slides yet – but the source looks pretty clear….

His presentation was entitled Driving Innovation to Enable IoT Growth. Here’s a few snapshots of slides he showed.

Consider a ubiquitous security camera – a prime IoT sort of app. Here’s what FD-SOI does for it:


From GlobalFoundries presentation on Synopsys’ DAC52 stand.


And then there’s the Smart Watch. 28nm FD-SOI with Forward Body Bias gives you great performance and over a week more of battery life than FinFET. Yes, please!


From GlobalFoundries presentation on Synopsys’ DAC52 stand.


Next he looks at various applications, and the process technology needed to meet their power and performance requirements. As seen below, 55/40/28ULP and 28SLP each cover a limited segment of the range:


From GlobalFoundries presentation on Synopsys’ DAC52 stand.


To cover the full range of requirements from low static power with RF to high performance active power, as seen below, you need 28FDSOI:


From GlobalFoundries presentation on Synopsys’ DAC52 stand.


Recapping the presentation title, we see FD-SOI is the IoT growth enabler, as shown below:


From GlobalFoundries presentation on Synopsys’ DAC52 stand.


Clearly GF’s rolling with this. So will you be at their FDSOI webinar on June 24? Of course you will. See you there!


FinFET or FD-SOI? Designers have a real choice, say experts

Is FD-SOI a better choice than FinFETs for my chip? In some high-profile forums, designers are now asking that question. And the result is coming back: almost certainly.

Is there a place for FinFETs? Of course there is. If it’s a really big digital chip –  no significant analog integration, where leakage not your biggest concern because what you’re really after is the ultimate in performance, when you’ve got a mega-budget and you’re going to run in extremely high volume, absolutely, you can make a strong business case for bulk FinFETs.

But is that really where most designs are?

Cannery Row at twilight

(Photo credit: Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau)

If you need high-performance but you have to consider leakage (think battery life), if you’ve got to integrate the real world (aka analog – think IoT), if your chip is not a monster in size and will run in high volume but you don’t have an unlimited budget, you should be looking hard at FD-SOI. That’s what the experts at the recent EDPS conference in Monterey, CA said, that’s what they’re starting to tell the press, and that’s what they’re saying here on ASN.

Combined with the pretty dazzling results of the first 28nm FD-SOI silicon from cryptocurrency chipmaker SFARDS (read about it here) and the promise of very-high volume FD-SOI chips hitting the shelves in 2016, it’s a whole new ballgame.

EDA experts weigh in at EDPS

Richard Goering over at the Cadence and Herb Reiter writing for 3DInCites wrote excellent blogs covering the EDPS conference in Monterey, CA a few weeks ago. EDPS – for Electronic Design Process Symposium – is a small but influential conference for the EDA community. Session 1 was entitled “FinFET vs. FD-SOI – which is the Right One for Your Design?”, and it lasted the entire morning.

EDPSlogoThe session kicked off with a presentation by Tom Dillinger, CAD Technology Manager at Oracle. Richard covered this in-depth in Part 1 of his two-part write-up (read the whole thing here). Tom gave an overview of the two technologies, putting a big emphasis on the importance or working closely with your foundry whichever way you go.

And then came the panel discussion with questions from the audience, which Herb in his write-up (read it here) described as “heated”. Acknowledging that FinFET has the stronger eco-system, Herb noted that, “…when using FinFETs, designers complain about the modeling- and design complexities of fins, the need for double pattering (coloring), the higher mask cost and added variability the extra masking step introduces. If 10nm FinFETs will demand triple or even quadruple patterning, they may face a significant disadvantage, compared to the 14nm FD-SOI technology, currently in development.”


EDPS 2015 panelists debate FinFET vs. FD-SOI. (Left to right: Marco Brambilla (Synapse Design); Kelvin Low (Samsung); Boris Murmann (Stanford); Jamie Schaeffer (GlobalFoundries). (Image courtesy: Richard Goering and Cadence)

In Part 2 of his coverage (read it here), Richard highlighted some of the big questions put to the panelists:

  • Kelvin Low, Sr. Director Foundry Marketing for Samsung
  • Boris Murmann, Stanford professor and analog/mixed-signal expert
  • Marco Brambilla, Director of Engineering at Synapse Design
  • Jamie Schaeffer, Product Line Manager at GlobalFoundries

The two foundry guys were very much of the opinion that FinFET and FD-SOI can and will co-exist. Jamie Schaeffer’s comment, as noted by Richard, really sums it up nicely: “For some applications that have a large die with a large amount of digital integration, and require the ultimate in performance, FinFET is absolutely the right solution. For other applications that are in more cost-sensitive markets, and that have a smaller die and more analog integration, FD-SOI is the right solution.”

There you have it!

Shaeffer was also very bullish on next-gen FD-SOI, noting that performance will climb by 40% with half as many immersion lithography layers as FinFETs. He also said that next-gen FD-SOI is 30% faster than 20nm HK/MG.

Marco Brambilla noted that for Synapse, the FD-SOI choice was all about leakage, especially in IoT products where you need a burst of activity and then absolute quiet in sleep mode. (They’re working on a 28nm FD-SOI chip that will go into very high-volume production in early 2016, Synapse Design recently told ASN – read about that here).

Boris Murmann said that extrinsic capacitance in FinFETS is “a mess”, which is “a nightmare” for the analog guys. “ It’s a beautiful transistor [FinFET] but I can’t use it.” Yes, Richard reported, that’s what the man said.

So indeed, there is a choice. And with FD-SOI, the experts are seeing that it’s a real one.



Synapse Design CEO Interview: Designs Taping Out for Very High-Volume 28nm FD-SOI SOCs, Production in 2016


Satish Bagalkotkar, CEO of Synapse Design, is very optimistic about FD-SOI.

ASN spoke recently with Satish Bagalkotkar, the CEO of Synapse Design, which he co-founded with Devesh Gautam in 2003. With 800+ employees, the firm designs chips for the biggest companies in the industry. He’s very optimistic about FD-SOI. Here’s why.

Advanced Substrate News (ASN): How long has Synapse Design been working in FD-SOI? What sorts of projects have you done?

Satish Bagalkotkar (SB): We have been working on FD-SOI since 2010. We have been involved in four tape-outs so far and are working on three more now, so we’ll be at seven tape-outs by the end of this year. They are in several different sectors.

ASN: Are you getting more inquiries (and business) lately? In what areas (both in terms of types of chips and geographically)?

SB: We are engaged in negotiations with several Asian clients representing multiple market segments and are helping large US companies migrate next generation products to FD-SOI.synapse_logo_300_ppi

ASN: At what point in the design process do you typically come in? What sorts of services do you offer?

SB: Our customers are among the largest system and semiconductor companies in the world in any given sector – mobile, storage, multimedia, IoT, automotive and networking. In any of these areas, we are working with the top two or three customers. Of the 35 SoCs we completed in 2014, one-third was done from specification to GDSII; in another third, the majority of engineering was completed by us; and the final third was staff augmentation. We engage anywhere from developing the specification to complete product design including firmware and device drivers. However, we don’t deal with the production of the chips.

ASN: What do you see as the advantages of FD-SOI?

SB: The key advantage is the flexibility to optimally tune for power and/or performance. We did analysis for one customer showing that with FD-SOI they could increase performance by 25% at the same power, or decrease power by 25% and get the same performance. Those are big numbers. In battery operated IoT, for example, where battery life might be one-to-two years, getting 25% more battery life without compromising on performance – that’s huge.


An example of a PPA study Synapse Design did for a client, showing the relative advantages of FD-SOI vs. bulk at 28nm for performance, power, area and power consumption. Note that in this case, there is no forward body bias (FBB), so it is an apples-to-apples comparison. If the FD-SOI were to be implemented with FBB, the performance/power advantages would be expected to be be even greater. (Courtesy: Synapse Design) Click to enlarge.

We help our customers understand the potential advantages of any technology by analyzing the product requirements and then decide which technology is most effective taking into account the client’s requirements. To increase client confidence, sometimes we may take one of their previously taped-out designs and complete a power-performance-area study using their data and demonstrate to them the differences. Typically, we do several iterations, and then we might say, for example, “Hey, in this run you can get 25% better power, or 30% more performance,” and show them the spectrum of advantages on their own design. Once we show the numbers, it becomes an engineering decision based on facts, not just on trust. Once they agree on it, and say, “Yes, this makes sense,” we deep dive into their new projects. We can take a specification and carry it through to a device, or we can take a chip that’s already in mass production, and show the ROI of each approach.

ASN: Designers of what kinds of chips should be thinking about FD-SOI?

SB: Any product working at low voltage and low-power without comprising on performance or vice versa would definitely benefit a great deal. The biggest area from my perspective is IoT devices to improve battery life. These are simple devices with sensors that export limited data, so the battery has to last a year or multiple years. Also, FD-SOI has time-to-market advantages over many new technologies because it shares most of the same devices as Bulk process. Synapse Design has developed a methodology easy design porting to FD-SOI.

ASN: Why do they ultimately choose it? Why do they hesitate?

SB: They choose it because of the power-performance-area numbers. We’re looking at apples-to-apples comparisons, using the same design on same node. We’ve done this for customers, and we’re happy to do it for anyone who’s interested. Hesitations include: First, there’s not a single device in high volume production so there’s no proof of technology maturity; second, the ecosystem is not built-up; and finally, the costs are not yet where they need to be. With more foundries supporting FD-SOI, these things should be addressed.

ASN: Are there special considerations designers should think about before starting a project in FD-SOI?

SynapseDesign_FDSOI_diffSB: Switching to FD-SOI is not trivial and it’s important to partner with knowledgeable professionals who’ve practiced with several designs. I like to use the example of a car. In an automatic, everything is in place. But FD-SOI is like a manual shift car with a lot of knobs: to get the performance or save power you need know what you are doing. We’ve worked through 35 SOCs for the largest system and semiconductor companies worldwide – the full spectrum, from high-performance to very low-power devices. Oftentimes, a customer says, “OK, I want to use xyz technology.” We say, “Why?” “Because we need that performance.” So we look at the business case. What are the volumes, mask cost, performance, power and area requirement plus availability of the IPs etc. Then compare all options and make a decision. It’s all about ROI – we do a lot of these exercises for our clients. We tapeout several SoCs every month so can bring value to this discussion. We can generate those numbers with actual data – not just hypothesis.

ASN: Some have said body-biasing is difficult — does this concern your customers? Do you find that to be the case?

SB: Not if you have experience in this technology. It is important to have a clear plan on what you want otherwise you will waste too much time doing what-if analysis and not get the desired output.

Body Biasing (either reverse or forward) adds flexibility but also complication to the design. It requires closing timings at different corners, but it also requires learning how to adjust the bias based on the process or process/temperature corner the device is working at, which means support from the foundry, but also a good internal engineering department to optimize the strategy in production.

ASN: Between 28nm FD-SOI and 14nm FinFETS, is the choice always clear? What about 14nm FD-SOI?

SynapseDesign_FDSOI_summarySB: We’ve already done five 14nm FinFET chips, so we also know FinFETs well. But in terms of a business case, 14nm FinFETs are appropriate for a few companies who are targeting high-performance products expected to achieve ultra high volume. Many products may not need that level of performance or don’t have such high volume to support the cost. 28 nm FD-SOI might be more appropriate for IoT devices or anything that could benefit from low-power while maintaining a similar performance level. Regarding 14nm FD-SOI, we are working with a customer on a 14nm test chip, but this will take time to be available for the general market

ASN: Are you optimistic about FD-SOI based design gaining traction in the short-term? In the long-term?

SB: Yes, as long as the challenges of “proof” (volume production), a rich eco-system and cost are addressed quickly before other competing technologies become readily available. This technology definitely has merit for the long term as 28nm is here to stay for a few years.

ASN: Everyone wants to hear about high-volume FD-SOI chips hitting the street — do you see that happening? When?

SB: We will see high-volume chips from early adopters in 2016, however, the industry at large will lag as they wait to see how early adopters fare. In the meantime, we’ve actually invested in a 28nm FD-SOI chip ourselves – a chip that will be in high-volume in 2016.

We think there’s enough value and opportunity to take that risk. Devices in high-volume should set the stage for fast followers, and give the industry at large the remaining proof points to fully evaluate the merits of the FD-SOI business case.

~ ~ ~

Synapse Design is an industry leader in design services and is the engineering backbone of most top tier Semiconductor and System companies around the world. Synapse Design target customers are companies with $5+ billion in revenue, and enabling them to meet their technical & resource challenges to build the next generation products. Founded in 2003, the company is headquartered in San Jose (Silicon Valley) with operations all over US, China, Europe, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam and India. Synapse Design has over 800 employees around the globe and is aggressively growing. For more information, see www.synapse-da.com.