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HV733ATTE1435F_Datasheet PDF

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LONDON – Mike Bryant, technology analyst with Future Horizons Ltd. has said that foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. is in trouble with its 28-nm manufacturing process technologies, which are not yet yielding well. Bryant referenced un-named contacts made with multiple companies waiting for designs to be produced by TSMC on 28-nm processes.

Bryant said that there are 10 designs in manufacture from seven companies. We're now hearing none of them work; no yield anyway,” he told an audience at a one-day market forecast conference organized by Future Horizons, here on Thursday (Jan. 19). Ten designs going through; we have heard about problems on six of them,” Bryant added. Bryant's comments echo those made by Bob Johnson, research vice president at market research firm Gartner in November 2011.

HV733ATTE1435F_Datasheet PDF

However, Bryant's description of the situation at TSMC is quite different to that of the company's CEO and chairman Morris Chang. Speaking to analysts about TSMC's fourth quarter financial results on the previous day, Chang said: Our 28-nm entered volume production last year and contributed 2 percent of 4Q11's wafer revenue. Defect density and new progress is ahead of schedule and is better than 40-45-nm at the corresponding stage of the ramp-up. We expect 28-nm ramp this year to be fast and we expect 28-nm will contribute more than 10 percent of total wafer revenue this year.”

Nonetheless Bryant of Future Horizons asserted that Intel has a clear technology leadership position as it has been running 32-nm manufacturing process for some time and that pressure to keep up with Intel had caused some miss-steps by TSMC, while Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., with experience gleaned running 20-nm class memories, had successfully brought up its 28-nm low power logic process.

In contrast, TMSC is in a similar situation to Globalfoundries Inc. which saw problems with its 32-nm/28-nm processes in 2011 that appeared to drive its primary customer, Advanced Micro Devices Inc., towards TSMC as a source of integrated circuits. Bryant acknowledged that the TSMC 28-nm process is now in true volume production and the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 has won the highest proportion of available design slots. However, there are recent comments of major yield problems with their 28-nm process actually being even worse than at GF [Globalfoundries],” Bryant told the audience.

HV733ATTE1435F_Datasheet PDF

Intel's lead in process technology has put foundries under pressure, Bryant said. The 18-month to two-year time scales needed to develop processes, and design complex ICs mean that both are being begun before the other is completed and stable. While that process can be managed in-house by an IDM such as Intel, foundries are finding it more difficult as they have to work with customers on chips and physical design kits at the same time.

Foundries have come under pressure to release cell libraries too early – which end up with designs that don't work,” Bryant said. And now TSMC is trying to launch ten 28-nm designs from seven companies because they wish to be seen to be even-handed with all comers, Bryant said. At 45-nm, only Nvdia was affected. At 28-nm any problems for TSMC will be problems for many customers.”

HV733ATTE1435F_Datasheet PDF

It was reported in late 2011 that Samsung was ramping production of the A6 quad-core application processor for Apple because TSMC had not yet stabilized its own production of the same chip. Apple's continued reliance on Samsung came despite an increasingly litigious battle between the companies at the system level where both are seeking to prevent the sale of the others smart phones because of alleged patent infringements.

In August 2011 TSMC was reported to have begun trial manufacturing of an A6 processor design for Apple but to be redesigning the chip for volume production in the first quarter 2012. One potential reason of the respin is that TSMC plans to use 3-D stacking technologies along with its 28-nm manufacturing process in the production of the A6 for Apple. The use of a specialized silicon interposer and bump-on-trace interconnect may produce specific requirements in the main processor die.

Eric Meurice, AMSL's president and CEO, said  through a statement that more than 5,300 wafers have now been exposed using the pre-production EUV tools.

ASML reported fourth quarter sales of 1.2 billion euros (about $1.54 billion), down 17 percent from the third quarter of 2011. For the year, the company reported sales of 5.65 billion euros  (about $7.3 billion), up 25 percent from 2010.

ASML reported a fourth quarter net income of 285 million euros (about $366.5 million), down 19 percent from the third quarter. The company posted a net income for the year of 1.47 billion euros (about $1.9 billion), up 30 percent from 2010.

ASML said it sold 35 new lithography systems in the fourth quarter, down from 46 in the third quarter. The company said it sold six used systems in the fourth quarter, down from nine in the third quarter.

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