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Is there a future for FD-SOI?

16 Jun 2015  | Junko Yoshida

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Ideally, Dai said he would like to see one more company, potentially a joint venture in Shanghai, get engaged in SOI substrate production. While far from a done deal, this prospect has been actively lobbied, he explained.

IP available on FD-SOI is another issue. VeriSilicon is committed to becoming an "IP powerhouse"—also on the FD-SOI front, Dai added.

FD-SOI had another shot in the arm this week, when the Silicon Impulse collaborators were revealed at DAC. The partners include STMicroelectronics, CEA-Leti (coordinator), CEA-List, CMP, Mentor Graphics Corp., Cortus, Dolphin Integration and Presto Engineering. Those in the Silicon Impulse network will provide IC design services, IP cores, emulator and test services, along with multi-project wafer (MPW) shuttles.

Where are the customers?

The last challenge facing FD-SOI promoters is an absence of big name customers. When asked about FD-SOI-based designs, Synapse Design, however, said that the design service company has been "involved in four tape-outs so far and are working on three more now, so we'll be at seven tape-outs [based on FD-SOI] by the end of this year."

Satish Bagalkotkar, Synapse president and CEO, was quoted saying, "We are engaged in negotiations with several Asian clients representing multiple market segments and are helping large U.S. companies migrate next generation products to FD-SOI."

At this point, however, Synapse Design is silent on the names of its customers.

Finally, there is the foundry question. Who's equipped to manufacture chips on FD-SOI? To that end, both GlobalFoundries (a few years ago) and Samsung (last year) made FD-SOI foundry announcements. In addition, STMicroelectronics has had a site in Crolles near Grenoble manufacturing FD-SOI chips for several years.

But that doesn't really put an end to the questions. Frustration among FD-SOI proponents has continued, because neither GlobalFoundries nor Samsung has said anything much since.

That may be changing. Some in the industry, including Dai, suggest that the expected longevity of the 28nm node could provide an opportunity for multiple manufacturing processes and differentiation. Samsung, for example, has agreed to act as a volume foundry for FD-SOI designs. For the first time, it is actively courting FD-SOI customers, as it had in a series of presentations at DAC in San Francisco.

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