When will 10nm happen? Answer: Follow the fabs.
When will the 10nm logic node happen?
Analysts believe that foundry vendors will move into 10nm finFET volume production around 2017. Still others say the 10nm finFET ramp could take place anywhere from 2018 to 2020.
The predictions are all over the map. One way to predict the timing, progress and demand for 10nm is simple: Follow the fabs.
In fact, Intel, Samsung, TSMC and GlobalFoundries are currently in various stages of building their next-generation fabs for the 10nm node.
So, what will a 10nm fab cost and what will it look like? The fab alone could run $12 billion or higher. There are other challenges as well. “A new 10nm fab is more expensive than a 14nm fab. The construction does not change much, but the equipment does. The 10nm node is much more complex, which requires more process steps and multiple patterning,” said Christian Gregor Dieseldorff, an analyst at SEMI. “But we do not see that 10nm fabs will become huge monsters. In fact, I see a trend that companies will build more modules with cleanroom sizes large enough to have some good volume production, but not too large.”
So when will 10nm fabs move into production? Of course, the fab plans at a given company could change at a moment’s notice, based on a number of factors. But here’s the latest on the progress at the various companies:
Intel is currently setting up a small 10nm pilot line in its D1C fab in Oregon. The idea behind the low-volume pilot line is to ship early samples to customers.
In Kiryat Gat, Israel, Intel is currently converting its Fab 18 plant from 200mm to 300mm wafers, according to Dieseldorff. This fab is a good candidate for 10nm production. The data is based on SEMI’s World Fab Forecast report.
Once the conversion is completed, that fab will be integrated with Intel’s other 300mm plant in Kiryat Gat, dubbed Fab 28, Dieseldorff said. All told, the combined Fab 28, which could be geared for 10nm finFET production, is expected to have a capacity of 30,000 to 50,000 wafers a month, according to SEMI.
Intel was originally supposed to install the high-volume equipment for that fab this summer. But now, Intel won’t move the tools into the fab until the second quarter of 2016, according to sources in the IC equipment industry.
Intel, in fact, has pushed out the volume ramp for its 10nm finFET fab by several quarters, according to sources. Intel was late in terms of ramping up its 14nm finFETs. The 14nm delay threw off Intel’s 10nm schedule, sources said.
TSMC’s Fab 12 plant is located in Hsinchu, Taiwan. Within Fab 12, TSMC is currently constructing a new fab module within Fab 12, dubbed Phase 7. Phase 7 will be the startup site for the company’s 10nm finFET production.
TSMC will shortly move in the tools in Phase 7. The Phase 7 fab module will have a capacity of 20,000 to 30,000 wafers a month, according to Dieseldorff.
Separately, TSMC this month will break ground on a new fab module within its Fab 15 complex in Taichung, Taiwan. That module, dubbed Phase 5, is also targeted for 10nm finFET capacity. Total capacity of that fab is 25,000 to 35,000 wafers a month, he said.
Samsung is ramping up 14nm finFETs in its S1 fab in Korea and the S2 plant in Texas. Meanwhile, Samsung is currently building its so-called S3 fab facility in Korea. “We expect Samsung’s S3 to start with 10nm. Final capacity is probably 50,000 to 60,000,” he said. “Samsung also has the S2 fab in Austin at 14nm, which may be a possible candidate for 10nm upgrades.”
Samsung also has Line 17 in Korea. “The facility is in a big building with two cleanrooms on separate floors,” he said. “I would not consider the cleanrooms to be huge, but together they are said to produce up to 180K DRAMs. The big question is will they make DRAM or LSI chips on the third floor. Behind Line 17, there is S3, a recently completed building.”
And not to be outdone, Samsung recently broke ground on a new fab in the company’s Godeok Industrial Complex in Pyeongtaek. It’s unclear what Samsung will make in that fab.
GlobalFoundries is ramping up its 14nm finFET processes within its Fab 8 plant in New York. “They have plan for module 8.2, which was approved. But it is unclear when the company will build a new fab for 10nm in that location,” he added.