Since the beginning of the year, there’s been a steady stream of excellent news around Samsung Foundry’s 28FDS, their highly successful 28nm FD-SOI offering. Let’s take a look at what’s been happening, as things do seem to be accelerating. By way of reminder, they announced the industry’s first eMRAM (embedded MagnetoResistive RAM) testchip tape-out milestone on 28FDS in September 2017 (you can read the press release here) – which was just a year after they had announced mass production of 28FDS process technology.
At the end of 2018, Arm announced the industry’s first Embedded MRAM (eMRAM) compiler IP built on Samsung Foundry’s 28FDS process technology.
Follow that with this announcement at the beginning of 2019: Soitec Expands Collaboration with Samsung Foundry on FD-SOI Wafer Supply. The two companies announced that Samsung had secured a high-volume supply of FD-SOI technology to meet industry’s current and future demands especially in consumer, IoT and automotive applications.
In March came two more big announcements. First: Samsung Electronics Starts Commercial Shipment of eMRAM Product Based on 28nm FD-SOI Process. As they noted in the PR, “Samsung’s 28FDS-based eMRAM solution offers unprecedented power and speed advantages with lower cost. Since eMRAM does not require an erase cycle before writing data, its writing speed is approximately a thousand times faster than eFlash. Also, eMRAM uses lower voltages than eFlash, and does not consume electric power when in power-off mode, resulting in great power efficiency.”
Hard on the heals of that came the news that Arm and Samsung Announce IP Platform including eMRAM for 18nm FD-SOI.
At the SOI Consortium’s Silicon Valley Symposium in April, Tim Dry (he’s Samsung’s Director of Foundry Marketing for Edge and End Point), gave a terrific presentation. Entitled Samsung’s FDS with MRAM: Enabling Today’s Innovative Low Power Endpoint Products, it details the company’s FDSOI roadmap for the IoT Endpoint Platform (and yes, you can download in its entirety).
Then in May at the big Samsung Foundry Forum in Silicon Valley, Arm, in collaboration with Samsung Foundry, Cadence, and Sondrel, demonstrated the first 28nm FD-SOI eMRAM IoT test chip and development board. The Musca-S1 test chip demonstrates a new choice in SoC design for IoT solutions, said Arm. (Sondrel, btw, is Europe’s largest independent IC design consultancy.)
In parallel, Cadence announced: Cadence Custom/AMS Flow Certified for Samsung 28nm FD-SOI Process Technology. Especially aimed at digitally-assisted analog designs, what’s new here is that the Cadence custom and analog/mixed-signal IC design flow is now Samsung Foundry certified for 28FDS. Samsung’s 28FDS PDK techfile is Mixed-Signal OpenAccess ready, enabling customers to deploy OpenAccess-integrated, fully interoperable Virtuoso-Innovus implementation flows.
For its part, at its Foundry Forum, Samsung unveiled extensions of the company’s FD-SOI (FDS) process and eMRAM together with an expanded set of state-of-the-art package solutions. They indicated that the development of the successor to the 28FDS process, 18FDS, and eMRAM with 1Gb capacity will be finished this year.
And finally, companies like NXP are shipping exciting new products fabbed on Samsung’s 28FDS. Ron Martino, VP & GM of NXP’s i.MX Application Processor Product Line covered key products in his presentation at the SOI Consortium’s Silicon Valley Symposium (see our coverage here). Among them: the i.MX7ULP for long battery life with 2D & 3D graphics for wearables and portables in consumer and industrial applications; the i.MX 8 and 8X subsystems for automotive and industrial applications; and the i.MX RT series of “cross-over” processors. The i.MX RT ULP (real-time, ultra-low-power) series, which Martino says is the “new normal”, deals with a high number of sensor inputs. The i.MX RT 1100 MCUs, which have been qualified for automotive and industrial applications, are breaking the gigahertz performance barrier.
In July, linuxgizmos.com reported that, “In June, NXP began volume shipments of its super power-efficient i.MX7 ULP, which it announced in 2017. The SoC is billed as the most power-efficient processor on the market that also includes a 3D GPU. […] the ULP version includes a 3D graphics capable Vivante GC7000.” (Vivante, btw, is a VeriSilicon company, which is an SOI Consortium member and a leading proponent of FD-SOI design and IP in China and worldwide.)
This is leading to some really nice wins for NXP. For example, they’ve got Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service (AVS) leveraging the i.MX RT crossover processor, enabling developers to quickly and easily add Alexa voice assistant capabilities to their products. The RT series has rapidly been expanded, with versions for voice-controlled devices and offline face and expression recognition capabilities for smart home, commercial and industrial devices.
Also announced this summer: NXP and Microsoft Bring Microsoft Azure Sphere Security to the Intelligent Edge with a New Energy-Efficient Processor. That collaboration includes development of a new crossover applications processor in NXP’s i.MX 8 series integrating Microsoft’s Azure Sphere security architecture and Pluton Security Subsystem. Their customers “will be able to harness the high-performance and energy efficiency of NXP’s i.MX 8 applications processors combined with Microsoft’s unequaled security and assurance provided by Azure Sphere certified chips”.
As Martino concluded in his presentation, “The future of embedded processing [is] enabled by FD-SOI.” And Samsung Foundry’s FD-SOI offerings are clearly a massive enabler of that future.