32nm SOI is GloFo Fab 8′s 1st Silicon

Huge fab vastly increases designers’ access to cost-effective power and performance advantages.


Excellent news for the fast-growing SOI community:  the first chips produced at GlobalFoundries’ “Fab 8″ in upstate New York are based on IBM’s latest, 32nm SOI chip technology. In a joint press release, the two companies announced that the chips will be used by customers in networking, gaming and graphics.

While the new chips began initial production at IBM’s 300mm fab in East Fishkill, GF’s Fab 8 in Saratoga County will ramp production in the second half of 2012. With 300,000v ft2 of cleanroom space, overall capacity will total about 60,000 wafers/month.

GlobalFoundries new Fab 8 campus, located in the Luther Forest Technology Campus about 100 miles north of the IBM campus in East Fishkill, stands as one of the most technologically advanced wafer fabs in the world and the largest leading-edge semiconductor foundry in the United States. (Courtesy: GlobalFoundries)

“GlobalFoundries’ Fab 8 running IBM’s 32nm SOI technology represents a terrific opportunity for accelerating SOI innovation into broader markets,” explains Horacio Mendez, Executive Director of the SOI Consortium.  “SOI is a cost-effective technology, and a huge facility like Fab 8 enables an even wider segment of the design community to benefit from the increased performance and lower power it offers.”

SOI: Front and Center

The press release put SOI front and center, saying, “The technology vastly improves microprocessor performance in multi-core designs and speeds the movement of graphics in gaming, networking, and other image intensive, multi-media applications.”  IBM’s 32nm SOI technology was jointly developed with GF and other members of IBM’s Process Development Alliance, with early research at the University at Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.

(By the way, they’re sticking with “gate first” HKMG here, which they say both boosts performance and cuts costs.)

The release also notes that the chips rolling off this new line feature IBM’s embedded DRAM (eDRAM).  ASN readers will remember that IBM’s eDRAM guru Subu Iyer wrote in ASN about the role that SOI plays therein back in 2006.   He noted that while eDRAMs had previously been done in bulk silicon, “The complexity adder is about half in SOI compared to bulk for deep trench based eDRAMs.”

Interesting, too, that the announcement cites networking, gaming and graphics.  IBM, of course,  has its own successful SOI foundry business, and owns the high-end gaming market, fabbing SOI-based chips for the big three: Sony PS3, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii (and the upcoming Wii U).

For its part, GF has all the AMD SOI-based business, including all the Opterons, the FX and the “A-series” APUs – including the upcoming “Trinity” for desktops & high-end laptops, with the new Bulldozer core.

Deep Roots, High Gear

“Today’s announcement is a natural extension of our longstanding partnership with IBM that includes production of 65nm and 45nm chips at our fabs in Singapore and Germany,” said GlobalFoundries CEO Ajit Manocha. “With the addition of our newest factory in New York, we will now be jointly producing chips with IBM at four fabs on three continents.”

GlobalFoundries Fab 8 Clean Room, NY

Workers prep Global Foundries' newest semiconductor factory, "Fab 8" in Saratoga County, New York State. The fab comes on line for the first time with a maiden production run of microprocessors based on IBM's latest, 32nm SOI. The chips will be used by manufacturers in networking, gaming and graphics. (Courtesy: GlobalFoundries and IBM)

The New York-Dresden-Singapore SOI triumvirate goes way back.  IBM launched SOI in Fishkill back in 1998.  AMD followed with 130nm SOI out of Dresden in 2001.  Singapore – which was first Chartered – started turning out 90nm SOI chips for IBM back in 2004, and adopted AMD’s highly touted Automation Precision Manufacturing (APM) in 2005.

Would it then be fair to surmise that the SOI foundry business is now into high gear?  GF’s been turning out 32nm SOI chips at its other fabs since June ’11.

It makes good business sense to have a leading technology like 32nm SOI available in a pure-play foundry scenario at key locations across the globe.  If GF’s new Fab 8 chose 32nm SOI for its first silicon, the technology must now be robust, and demand in North America and elsewhere on the rise, don’t you think?


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