Samsung and Globalfoundries have announced a partnership to collaborate on a global scale to deliver 14nm FinFET technology to their customers. This partnership is different from the already existing Common Platform Alliance which includes Globalfoundries, Samsung and IBM, but is likely a product of that relationship considering that IBM is mostly a research fab and doesn’t really produce many commercial wafers. This 14nm FinFET collaboration is an effort by both companies to build up enough fab capacity in order to satisfy the demand of their customers on this leading-edge technology.
As you can see from the slide above Samsung and Globalfoundries’ partnership means that the two companies are able to deliver both choice, supply, compatibility and to do it all on a global scale with multiple fabs around the world. This 14nm FinFET partnership will cover both 14LPE and 14LPP processes which will allow for multiple products across the board to be manufactured with either Samsung or Globalfoundries’ 14nm FinFET. In the past, Samsung and Globalfoundries talked about how the Common Platform would enable such partnerships to occur and to be honest many didn’t believe that it would be possible, especially with Samsung being so tightlipped at the Common Platform Alliance last year.
According to Globalfoundries and Samsung, their new 14LPE 14nm process will boost performance by 20% while simultaneously delivering a 35% power savings over competitor’s 20nm solutions (clearly targeting TSMC and their 20nm here). They also compare themselves against other FinFET solutions and 20nm solutions, specifically targeting the value proposition of switching to 14nm FinFET indicating a 15% smaller chip with the switch from 20nm Planar to 14nm FinFET.
In terms of the capacity itself and the fabs capable of delivering this capacity, there will be a total of 4 fabs in 3 locations delivering this 14nm capacity to customers. Those come in the form of three Samsung fabs and one Globalfoundries fab. The locations of these fabs are actually in two countries, the US and Korea, even though Globalfoundries does have fabs in Singapore and Germany as well. However, those are not part of Globalfoundries current 14nm plans so they aren’t counted as part of the fab capacity for 14nm.
In addition to the four fabs on two continents, Samsung and Globalfoundries also talked about their expectations for 14nm FinFEt with the Design In phase already ready and a ramp of the process expected to occur by the end of 2014. They have already qualified the 14LPE process back in February and have already released the 14LPE and 14LPP PDK along with all of the libraries and IP design kits. Essentially, now is the finalization phase of various processes with certain chip designs with mass production occuring by the end of this year. What this could mean is that some of TSMC’s customers building for their 20nm process could see themselves leapfrogged by this new Samsung and Globalfoundries 14nm collaboration, especially if they can deliver enough volume to the customers that matter. Obviously, we probably won’t be seeing any 14nm products this year, but a Q1 release wouldn’t be out of the question, which could mean that we may end up seeing some products in time for MWC.
Samsung and Globalfoundries have quietly been working together to steal customers from TSMC, their biggest competitor, meanwhile Intel has been chugging away at their own 14nm process trying to maintain their foundry leadership. If Samsung and TSMC are able to deliver 14nm early enough and to fill their capacity, they could give their customers an advantage that many of them have been hoping for. Parity with Intel’s own processes. While it remains to be seen who will be utilizing Samsung and Globalfoundries 14nm processes we have already been hearing some murmurings about some large semiconductor companies exploring this new collaboration’s 14nm process. It will be interesting to see how chips built on this 14nm FinFET process will compete against Intel’s 14nm process as well as how TSMC will answer today’s announcement considering that their 20nm appears to be having some problems with some partners. We do know that there’s a good chance that a lot of TSMC’s 20nm will be occupied by Qualcomm and their new chips, but I have a feeling that 20nm will be a fairly shortlived node.
Samsung and Globalfoundries have also created a video that talks about this 14nm FinFET partnership and what it means to the companies, their partners, and the industry as a whole.