In a bid to better compete against Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Samsung Semiconductor and GlobalFoundries earlier this year agreed to unify one of their 14nm process technologies and offer their foundry services collaboratively. Apparently, the tactics has worked out and the two companies recently landed orders to make chips using the 14nm FinFET fabrication process for Apple.
While Apple has been using Samsung’s foundry services for many years, its volume requirements are constantly increasing. The company needs hundreds of millions of system-on-chips made using advanced process technologies every year. Both GlobalFoundries and Samsung Electronics are considerably behind their arch-rival TSMC in terms of production capacities, which is why Apple eyed the Taiwanese contract maker of chips many times.
In a bid not to lose its largest customer, Samsung earlier this year inked a deal with GlobalFoundries under which the two companies will jointly produce chips using the same 14nm FinFET fabrication process. According to DigiTimes, GlobalFoundries and Samsung will jointly produce Apple’s A9 chips in 2015.
The two companies agreed to synchronize actual production facilities and will use a coordinated copy-smart approach involving materials, process recipes, integration and tools. The companies will also run fab-sync test chips on a regular basis to ensure that the fabs making chips using 14nm FinFET process are exactly the same. As a result, GlobalFoundries and Samsung will give their customers the ability to produce a single GDS II design at multiple manufacturing facilities, which is exactly what Apple needs.
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KitGuru Says: TSMC has been the primary maker of chips using 28nm and 20nm technologies for some time now. Since the company is significantly ahead of the competition in terms of leading-edge capacities, it can set almost any prices for its services, which means increased manufacturing costs for chip designers and higher prices for end-users. Perhaps, the alliance between GlobalFoundries and Samsung will be able to offer strong competition to TSMC’s 16nm FinFET process technology, which will positively affect manufacturing costs of GPUs, SoCs and other chips that are made using advanced nodes.