GlobalFoundries announces 14nm FinFET process

September 21, 2012 // 11:07 a.m.

Tags: #14nm #14xm #20nm #amd #arm #common-platform #finfet #globalfoundries #process-node #process-size #semiconductor

AMD spin-off fabrication specialist GlobalFoundries, recently freed from its parents' basement, has announced plans to offer a 14nm process with FinFET for mobile chips significantly ahead of schedule - and in apparent response to Intel's recent rumblings regarding 14nm Broadwell parts.

Despite still scaling up its 20nm process, GlobalFoundries has announced that its 14nm process is all-but ready, already running in the company's latest fabrication facility in Saratoga County near New York. While GlobalFoundries is hoping to tempt its mobile-chip customers with the new ultra-tiny process - in particular, the company is working closely with British chip design giant ARM - there is one little caveat: it's a hybrid process.

Dubbed 14XM - for, apparently, eXtreme Mobility - the process combines 14nm FinFET 3D transistors with the same interconnect used on the 20nm-LPM process. The result is a hybrid not-quite-one-nor-t'other process that combines elements of 14nm and 20nm, with GlobalFoundries claiming that the hybrid approach will give it a rapid time to market and its customers a smooth transition to FinFET parts.

FinFET, which industry group Common Platform has previously promised for the 14nm process node, takes the traditional two-dimensional transistor design and turns the conductive channel on its side, resulting in a three-dimensional 'fin' structure surrounded by a gate that controls the flow of current. The result is a field-effect transistor (FET) that can operate at a significantly lower voltage with low current leakage - exactly what mobile chips aimed at smartphones and tablets need.

One of the first chip types to benefit from the hybrid FinFET process node will be ARM, thanks to a multi-year agreement between the two companies to jointly develop system-on-chip solutions. 'In the growing era of extreme mobility, FinFET technology will be a critical enabler to the next generation of smart mobile devices,' claimed Dipesh Patel, deputy general manager of the Physical IP Division at ARM. 'Through our early engagement and co-optimisation with GlobalFoundries, we will provide our mutual customers with a new level of system performance and an easier path to the benefits from FinFET technology. The result will be a platform which is well-suited for SoCs based on the next generation of ARM processors and GPUs for the mobile market.'

More details on the 14XM process node are available on the GlobalFoundries website, but if you're hoping for details on when the first 14XM-based smartphones will be hitting the market you're likely to be disappointed.

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