Just like other contract makers of semiconductors, GlobalFoundries is already developing its next-generation 10nm process technology. However, despite of the fact that GlobalFoundries is about to acquire IBM’s semiconductor manufacturing business and the company’s close ties to Samsung Electronics, the 10nm fabrication tech is developed completely internally at the moment.
GlobalFoundries was late with its 28nm process technology and development of its 14nm-XM manufacturing tech took longer than expected. In a bid to offer its customers a leading-edge technology in 2015 – 2016 timeframe, GlobalFoundries licensed Samsung Electronics 14nm LPE [low power early] and LPP [low power plus] processes last year. At present, the company is ramping up production of one 14nm chip and it is expected to hit high volumes later this year.
In October, 2014, IBM announced a definitive agreement to divest its microelectronics business and manufacturing operations to GlobalFoundries. IBM’s semiconductor production unit employs a lot of world-class engineers, who could take part in creation of GF’s 10nm process tech, at least on the late stages. However, at this time 10nm-related research and development activities are conducted completely internally, said Shubhankar Basu, product line manager for leading edge technologies at GlobalFoundries, in an interview with SemiWiki. He did not reveal when did the company start its 10nm development, but it is likely that initial R&D operations began in late 2013 – early 2014.
Since the deal to acquire IBM’s microelectronics business has not yet closed, there are limits, beyond which the companies cannot collaborate. As a result, IBM’s engineers are not currently involved in development of GlobalFoundries 10nm fabrication process.
Modern semiconductor process technologies cost over a billion of dollars to develop and companies tend to use all resources available to make their manufacturing processes better. As a result, it is a pity that GlobalFoundries could not design its 10nm process using IBM’s engineers and intellectual property. Potentially, this means that the company might need to redesign certain parts of the process to add technologies developed by IBM. Alternatively, GlobalFoundries could offer two versions of its 10nm technology to clients: one designed fully in-house and another developed in collaboration with IBM engineers.
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KitGuru Says: Given the fact that TSMC seems to be very aggressive with 10nm, it made a lot of sense for GlobalFoundries to start designing 10nm as early as possible.