VLSI projects that a critical mass of expertise will support a fast transition to SOI designs at 32nm.
The semiconductor market recovery has helped to grow SOI demand in-line with the industry. Established applications such as AMD’s microprocessors, IBM’s high performance ASICs, and other manufacturers’ high performance computer, consumer and communications products are moving through the 45nm process node to 32nm and beyond providing additional growth for SOI.
The design pressures of power dissipation, transistor leakage and high frequency performance are making it increasingly difficult to reap the rewards of smaller linewidth processes without recourse to SOI technology.
Applications moving into SOI include high-end computing, printers, set-top boxes, applications processors, games processors, baseband communications and high performance DACs. SOI is also finding its way into some analog devices.
The constraint on growth of the SOI market is no longer the availability of SOI wafers, and the cost adder for SOI is no longer the major hurdle that it was until recently.
However, the lack of design and production infrastructure is the main limiting factor. Key industry players such as Soitec and IBM have been addressing this problem by establishing the SOI Industry Consortium. Additionally, ARM is now an enabling supplier in the SOI ecosystem, developing infrastructure and offering IP for designers to work with.
The weight of these new resources is currently focused on 45nm designs but it is expected that this will establish a critical mass of expertise to support a fast transition to SOI designs at 32nm.
With each new process node SOI will become increasingly appealing for manufacturers of high-end devices that require low power consumption alongside optimum performance. Current major users IBM, AMD, Freescale, NXP, Sony and TI provide a solid foundation for others to follow into this market.