The Week In Review: Manufacturing

New node metrics; DDR5 standard; fab tool service awards; IC forecasts.


At an event, Intel’s Technology and Manufacturing group outlined the company’s vision. As part of the event, Intel reiterated what many are saying—the current node designations are meaningless and misleading. “For example, Intel estimates that its 14nm solution that has been out in the market since 2014 should be equal to 10nm solutions released by competitors in the near future,” said Amit Daryanani, an analyst with RBC.

In other words, Intel claims to have a three-year lead over GlobalFoundries, Samsung and TSMC in terms of process technology. But still, the industry requires a new set of node metrics. “Intel suggests resurrecting a metric (0.6*(NAND2 Transistor Count/NAND2 Cell Area) + 0.4*(Scan Flip Flop Transistor Count/Scan Flip Flop Cell Area) = # Transistors/mm2),” Daryanani said. “By this measure, Intel estimates that its 10nm solution will have 100M transistors/square millimeter when released, while competitor ‘10nm’ solutions could have a transistor density half of Intel’s solution.”

Besides Intel, it’s unclear if anyone will follow these metrics. If not, there will be more confusion regarding the nodes. If they follow these metrics, it’s possible that companies will still fudge the numbers.


Also at the event, Intel also provided more details about its 10nm process and rolled out a new version of its 22nm finFET technology. The technology, dubbed 22FFL, is targeted for low-power IoT and mobile products. “22FFL technology could accelerate growth in Intel’s custom foundry business,” Daryanani said.

As previously reported, troubled Toshiba plans to sell all or part of its chip unit, namely its prized NAND and 3D NAND businesses. Who are suitors? Western Digital is the likely buyer, according to Daryanani. Other bidders include SK Hynix with Japanese financial institutions and a surprising offer from the team of Silver Lake and Broadcom, according to the analyst.

Conventional DRAM technology continues to scale. The JEDEC Solid State Technology Association is developing the standard for DDR5 (Double Data Rate 5) and NVDIMM-P design standards for planar DRAMs. Publication for both is forecast for 2018. DDR5 will provide double the bandwidth and density over DDR4.

Analog Devices has announced the acquisition of OneTree Microdevices. OneTree Microdevices provides GaAs and GaN amplifiers for next-generation cable access networks. In addition, MaxLinear has agreed to acquire Exar for $13.00 per share in cash. The total value is approximately $700 million.

Mask and tool vendors
VLSI Research recently issued its annual ranking of the top semiconductor equipment suppliers based on worldwide system and service sales for calendar year 2016. Applied Materials was at the top of the list, followed by Lam Research and others.

Lam Research was recently honored to receive Infineon’s “Supplier Award 2016” during the chipmaker’s Global Supplier Day in Malaysia.

In a video, Greg McIntyre, director of advanced patterning at Imec, talks about lithography and Imec’s recent move to join the eBeam Initiative.

Market research
IC Insights has raised its worldwide IC market growth forecast for 2017 to 11%—more than twice its original 5% outlook. The revision was necessary due to a substantial upgrade to the DRAM and NAND flash memory markets.

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