TSMC Begins 16nm FinFET-based 3D Chip Production

Subject: General Tech, Processors | December 14, 2013 - 03:08 AM |
Tagged: TSMC, process node, 16nm

Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) is one of the few chip fabrication companies in the world (especially when you omit the memory producers, etc.). Their customers include: AMD, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Broadcom, and even a few Intel Atom processors have come out of their lines at one point. They will take money from just about anyone who wants a chip.

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According to Bit-Tech, a few customers will even have access to 16nm before the end of the year.

The catch, which of course there is one, is that production runs will be very small. We would love to see a gigantic run of new AMD or NVIDIA GPUs based on 16nm but that will not be the case (and not just because Volcanic Islands and Maxwell are both 2Xnm products). The first customers, while otherwise anonymous, will be interested in mobile systems-on-a-chip (SoCs).

On the plus side, when future 1Xnm designs come out, TSMC's production could be reasonably caught up to make a smooth launch.

Intel, the current leader in the fabrication world, targeted a slightly smaller 14nm process and have already begun producing a few odds and ends at that level. Full production has not even really started yet.

Just so you can get an idea of the complexity we are dealing with: 16nm fabrication creates details that are just ~32 atoms in width.

Source: Bit-Tech

Micron Is Now Sampling 16nm NAND Flash, And Drives Using the Smaller Chips Are Expected in 2014

Subject: General Tech, Storage | July 18, 2013 - 02:29 AM |
Tagged: nand, micron, flash, 16nm

Micron recently announced that is has begun sampling 16nm NAND flash to select partners. Micron expects to begin full production of the NAND chips using the smaller flash manufacturing process in the fourth quarter of this year (Q4 2013). Drives based on its new 16nm MLC NAND flash are expected to arrive as early as next year. (PC Perspective's own storage expert is currently overseas, but I managed to reach out over email to get some clarification, and his thoughts, on the Micron annuoncement.)

The announcement relates to new NAND flash that is smaller, but not necessarily faster, than the existing 20nm and 25nm flash chips used in current solid state drives. In the end, Micron is still delivering 128Gb (Gigabit) per die, but using a 16nm process. The 16nm flash is a pure shrink of 20nm which is, in turn, a shrink of 25nm flash. In fact, Micron is able to get just under 6 Terabytes of storage out of a single 300mm wafer. These wafers are then broken down into dies in individual flash chips that are used in all manner of solid state storage devices from smartphone embedded storage to desktop SSDs. This 16nm flash still delivers 128Gb --which is 16GB-- per die allowing for a 128GB SSD using as few as eight chips.

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A single 16nm NAND flash die with a SSD in the background

Micron expects the 16nm MLC (multi-level cell) flash to be used in consumer SSDs, USB thumb drives, mobile devices, and cloud storage.

The 16nm process will allow Micron to get more storage out of the same sized wafer (300mm) used for current processes, which in theory should mean flash memory that is not only smaller, but (in theory) cheaper.

high_res_micron_16nm_nand_wafer.jpg

A single wafer of 16nm NAND flash (just under 6TBs)

As Allyn further notes, the downside to the new 16nm NAND flash is a reduction in the number of supported PE cycles. Micron has not released specific information on this, but the new 16nm MLC flash is expected to have fewer than 1,000 P/E cycles. For comparison, 25nm and 20nm flash has P/E cycles of 3,000 and 1,000 respectively.

In simple terms, P/E (program-erase) cycles relate to the number of times that a specific portion of flash memory can be written to before wearing out. SSD manufacturers were able to work around this with the transition from 25nm to 20nm and still deliver acceptable endurance on consumer drives, and I expect that similar techniques will be used to do the same for 16nm flash. For example, manufactuers could enable compression that is used prior to writing out the data to the physical flash or over-provisioning the actual hardware versus the reported software capacity (ie a drive sold as a 100GB model that actually has 128GB of physical flash).

I don't think it will be a big enough jump that typical consumers wil have to worry too much about this, considering the vast majority of operations will be read operations and not writes. Despite the reduction in P/E cycles, SSDs with 16nm NAND MLC flash will still likely out-last a typical mechanical hard drive.

What do you think about the Micron announcement?

The full press release can be found below:

Source: Micron

16nm FinFET ARM processors from TSMC soon

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2013 - 05:57 PM |
Tagged: arm, FinFET, 16nm, TSMC, Cortex-A57

While what DigiTimes is reporting on is only the first tape out, it is still very interesting to see TSMC hitting 16nm process testing and doing it with the 3D transistor technology we have come to know as FinFET.  It was a 64-bit ARM Cortex-A57 chip that was created using this process, unfortunately we did not get much information about what comprised the chip apart from the slide you can see below.

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As it can be inferred by the mention that it can run alongside big.LITTLE chips it will not be of the same architecture, nor will it be confined to cellphones.  This does help reinforce TSMC's position in the market for keeping up with the latest fabrication trends and another solid ARM contract will also keep the beancounters occupied.  You can't expect to see these chips immediately but this is a solid step towards an new process being mastered by TSMC.

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"The achievement is the first milestone in the collaboration between ARM and TSMC to jointly optimize the 64-bit ARMv8 processor series on TSMC FinFET process technologies, the companies said. The pair has teamed up to produce Cortex-A57 processors and libraries to support early customer implementations on 16nm FinFET for ARM-based SoCs."

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Source: DigiTimes