Samsung, GlobalFoundries Announce New 28nm Collaboration

GlobalFoundries and Samsung announced today that they intend to synchronize their 28nm high-performance/low-leakage production facilities. This new agreement follows a 2010 collaboration between GloFo, Samsung, IBM, and STMicroelectronics in which all four firms agreed to cooperate in building out their low-power 28nm process nodes.

One of the differences between modern foundries and Intel (or, historically, AMD) is that foundries typically offer the same process in a variety of flavors. GlobalFoundries, like TSMC, offers 40nm production in both a generic (G) and a low-power (LP) version, with 40G designed for high-performance parts and low-power silicon meant for devices where minimal power consumption is more important than clockspeed or raw performance. Both agreements cover 28nm, but the new announcement covers a different aspect of 28nm devices.

The new agreement means that Samsung and GF are collaborating to ensure that their 28nm production facilities use common technologies and components that allow parts to be produced at multiple facilities without the need for redesign. Historically, moving a microprocessor design from, say, TSMC to Chartered, has been prohibitively time-consuming and expensive, even when both companies offered the same process node.

GlobalFoundries 28nm in action. The company declined to identify the parts in question when it released this photo, beyond noting that they were not test structures

The alliance between GlobalFoundries (which now owns Chartered), Samsung, IBM, and STMicroelectronics solves this problem by ensuring all the companies involved are on the same page, technologically speaking. It also theoretically helps spread the risk of contracting with any one foundry partner for cutting-edge hardware. In theory, GlobalFoundries would be able to help pick up the slack in any orders Samsung had trouble filling.

“We are pleased to offer smart, innovative foundry solutions to our customers through this unique collaboration. This 28nm process will be the first semiconductor technology to truly eliminate the border between desktop computers and mobile devices, said Jay Min, vice president of System LSI foundry marketing, Device Solutions, Samsung Electronics.

“With this new collaboration, we are making one of the industry’s strongest manufacturing partnerships even stronger, while giving customers another platform to drive innovation in mobile technology,” said Jim Kupec, senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. “Customers using this new offering will gain accelerated time to volume production and assurance of supply, and they will be able to leverage significant learning from the foundry industry’s first high-volume ramp of HKMG technology at 32nm in 1H2011”

The new high performance process is based on the 28nm “Gate First” HKMG technology utilized for the low power process announced in 2010. As with the low power 28nm technology that is fully design-enabled today, a comprehensive System-on-a-Chip (SoC) design platform will be implemented for the high performance offering to enable seamless customer design-in to the multiple global manufacturing sites.