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FD-SOI gets approval from Freescale, Cisco, Ciena

Posted: 02 Mar 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:FD-SOI  28nm CMOS  FinFET process 

The reputation of fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator (FD-SOI) had gained some credit after Freescale, Cisco and Ciena revealed their own experience with the process technology, which generated notions that other companies might soon follow.

Freescale Semiconductor last week during the Embedded World conference in Nuremberg, Germany, acknowledged that it's designing chips with FD-SOI process technology.

Geoff Lees, Freescale's senior vice president and general manager responsible for microcontrollers, told EE Times the company's plan to use 28nm FD-SOI for its next generation microprocessor iMX7.

A principal engineer at Cisco Systems, last Friday (Feb. 27), also discussed Cisco's experience with FD-SOI process technology in a panel at the FD-SOI workshop in San Francisco.

Guntram Wolski, Cisco's principal engineer managing implementation and physical design, said on the panel that he sees value in FD-SOI, since it offers only a quarter of the leakage in bulk performance, allows a simpler cooling system and provides form-factor flexibility.

Similarly, Ciena, too, came out of closet at the same event in San Francisco that it is using FD-SOI.


Source: STMicroelectronics

Freescale, Cisco and Ciena have joined the FD-SOI club, along with Sony Corp. who revealed in January that its next-generation Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) chip will use a 28nm FD-SOI process.

STMicroelectronics, which developed the technology, had hoped GlobalFoundries would use the occasion to publicly state its support for the process, but in a late change the foundry decided not to speak at the San Francisco event. Separately, a representative from Samsung's foundry group announced plans for multi-project wafers using FD-SOI, a service STMicroelectronics has been providing for some time.

FD-SOI provides significant power advantages over bulk 28nm CMOS, but needs more tool support, speakers from Cisco and Ciena said. Both companies appear to have follow-on chips planned using the process.

Freescale adopts FD-SOI for IoT

 Internet IoC

Internet IoC

Freescale announced at the Embedded World a number of new processors, including i.MX 6 SoloX. The heterogeneous multi-core i.MX 6 SoloX application processors, featuring device-level security, are being pitched to "secure" IoT applications, including automotive (telematics, V2V, entry-level infotainment) and smart devices (healthcare, home appliances and factory automation).

While i.MX 6 processors are built on a 40nm process, the next-generation i.MX 7 will be 28nm FD-SOI, according to Freescale's Lees.

Asked why Freescale is choosing the FD-SOI path, Lees told us that for purposes of analogue integration Freescale is requiring on chip (as much as 40 per cent), the FinFET process used by high-density digital "will not be suitable."

Freescale is already pursuing FD-SOI in pre-design, but full involvement is waiting for Samsung to production qualify its process. Freescale is hoping the wait won't be long, perhaps no later than May, 2015.

 IoT SoC power consumption comparison

IoT SoC power consumption comparison. Source: STMicroelectronics

Cisco, Ciena also use FD-SOI

Meanwhile, Cisco's Wolski, asked on the panel how many FD-SOI chips Cisco is developing, acknowledged one, but suggested more might be in the works.

Timing is a recurrent question when the industry debates FD-SOI, especially with a number of companies already designing chips on 14nm FinFET. Can companies be swayed to consider FD-SOI?

Wolski at Cisco, which has been working with multiple foundries and is certainly not married to one process technology, said 28nm FD-SOI, for example, should see many high volume and low power opportunities.

Speaking of its FD-SOI experience, Wolski said that Cisco was not able to use forward body biasing capabilities in the node due to the lack of EDA support. However, he said he expects such tools will be available for a follow-on device.

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